Goodwill Theater: The Curtain Is Rising On A Third Act
Impressive is the word that comes to mind when you walk into the Goodwill Theater in Johnson City. Even though the seats have been stripped out and the plaster is crumbling, you can see signs of its former grandeur.
Plaster work inside the Goodwill Theater in Johnson City.
The Goodwill opened in 1920. It was built with funds from George F Johnson as a gift to his workers and the community.
“A lot of the performances were geared toward the mass public. This was not an artsy theater, not going to have high brow theater for the highly educated.
This is aimed at the masses," says Gerald Smith, Broome County Historian.
The stage was designed with vaudeville in mind. The acoustics are so good, there's no need for microphones. Naima Kradjian, whose theater company, Goodwill Theater Inc., owns the building, demonstrated. While we stood in the balcony, Kradjian sang a few lines on the stage below. The sound quality? Clear as any sound system. Sitting in any of the 850 seats, you could see and hear everything. That's exactly how Johnson wanted it.
“He didn’t want anyone to feel like they were in a lesser section," sats Kradjian.
You can see and hear anywhere in the theater.
When motion pictures burst on to the scene in the 1930s, the Goodwill became a movie theater called Enjoy Cinema. Yes, that's like En-Joie Golf Course, but spelled "Enjoy."
Enjoy Cinema opened in the 1930s inside the Goodwill Theater building.
"For most of its existence it was the only movie theater in the village of Johnson City," says Smith.
But times would change again.
“The multiplex theaters came to pass. The Oakdale Mall had opened up a triplex. You had, the Binghamton plaza had a duplex," says Smith.
The movie theater changed hands a few times before finally closing up in the 1970s. Now, the curtain is rising on a third act. Kradjian and her company bought the building back in 2002 and have been chipping away at restorations ever since.
“There’s significant work that has to be done there but that’s been fully abated and almost all the stabilization is complete and in the spring we’ll be working on the basement and the doors and windows," says Kradjian.
The view from the wings of the historic Goodwill Theater.
The plan is to have the theater open and operating by 2022, part of a performing arts complex that will connect the Goodwill to the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage next door, ushering in yet another era for the Goodwill Theater.