Frederick Freeman Proctor (1851 – 1929) was an early pioneer of continuous vaudeville – 12 hours of revolving performances that opened entertainment to wider audiences. He later incorporated movies into this concept. During his lifetime, Proctor managed a circuit of some 53 theaters in the Northeast, including Schenectady’s 1912 vaudeville hall near the Erie Canal.
On December 27, 1926, Proctor opened his first new state-of-the-art movie/vaudeville palace in Schenectady at its present site. He called it the “largest, handsomest and most costly theater I have ever built.” Designed by famed theater architect Thomas Lamb in the neoclassical style that reflected illusions of grandeur and opulence. It cost $1.5 million, seated 2,700 and boasted a $50,000 Wurlitzer organ. Opening day drew over 7,100 to see top vaudeville acts and the silent film “Stranded in Paris.”
Proctor sold most of his theater chain to RKO for $16 million in 1929, just months prior to his death.