“It’s Showtime” every day at the Majestic Theater during the 2019-2020 season with a diverse array of live theater shows and concerts, cinema programs, community collaborations, and Sunderman Conservatory of Music performances which create cultural capital for downtown Gettysburg. Throughout the past year, national touring artists and new community partnerships have brought more people than ever to “the grandest small-town theater in America.” On a foundation of success built over the past 15 years, beginning with our $16.5 million renovation in 2005, the Majestic is ready to “ring up the curtain” on a new decade. 

Although data from the current season is still coming in, by the numbers the 2018-2019 season set records. A total of 48,651 people attended programs at the Majestic during a season which included 12 live Celebrity Series shows, 12 Sunderman Conservatory concerts, 32 community performances and events, 12 live Metropolitan Opera telecasts, 10 plays digitally captured from London’s National Theatre, 12 summer classic films, and 79 daily first-run films with more than 1,400 showings. Of those attendees, 52 percent live within a 30-mile radius of Gettysburg. Forty-eight percent of attendees came from outside the local area of which 55 percent were PA residents and 45 percent from across the United States, which documents the Majestic’s growing regional and national reputation as a tourist destination.

Quality programming keeps audiences returning again and again. Last spring the theater welcomed charming Southern humorist Jeanne Robertson and legendary country super stars The Oak Ridge Boys. Summer brought Bruce Hornsby, followed up by a sold-out performance by rock star Elvis Costello, who rented the theater for a week to rehearse a new touring show, and enjoyed touring the battlefield.

Headliners continued to roll in throughout the fall including The Midtown Men, Chicago’s Second City improv comedy group, YouTube stars Postmodern Jukebox, and fiddlers Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy and family. A collaboration between the Majestic Theater, Gettysburg College campus partners, Gettysburg’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, and South Central Community Action Programs, resulted in a stunning 40th anniversary celebration in late January featuring the talents of musician Damien Sneed joined by the Gettysburg College choirs.

This May, Rich Little, man of a thousand voices, will close out the season with his hilarious array of impressions, and even more exciting programs will be announced in late spring.

New HD Cinema Programs

When the Majestic Theater first opened at the LeVan Performing Arts Center in 2005, the diverse line-up of live programming included cultural classics such as Shakespeare, opera and ballet, as well as country music, popular music and comedy. Unfortunately, live touring classical programming is very expensive to present because an opera company can have as many as 90 singers and orchestra musicians.

Over the last 10 years, the Majestic’s “high culture” programming has been systematically transitioned from “live on stage” to “captured live in high definition” from the world’s greatest stages at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, and London’s National Theatre productions of Shakespeare and contemporary drama.

In addition, last season introduced a new HD series of handsomely produced 90-minute documentaries about famous artists such as Van Gogh and Monet, presented in the digital cinemas which have proved very popular, especially Monday matinees. This March, the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet makes its HD debut with productions of “Giselle,” “Swan Lake,” and “Romeo & Juliet.”

Endowment Exceeds $5 Million Goal

With a 15-year track record for quality programming and friendly customer service, it is no surprise the Majestic Theater’s Centennial Endowment Campaign reached $5.3 million in late 2019. The campaign was launched on the theater’s 90th birthday in 2015 to raise dedicated funds to bring in bigger stars, and expand the diversity of its world-class programming in music, dance, theater, and film. The endowment is invested by Gettysburg College and managed under the stewardship of the College’s Board of Trustees. It will provide perpetual and significant financial resources to enhance the Majestic’s programming thanks to the generosity of over 200 donors.

Summer Theater Tours

This summer will inaugurate the launch of weekly 90-minute docent-led tours on Friday afternoons at 2 p.m. aimed at history tourists. The cost of the ticket will be $10 for adults and $6 for students. In addition to a glimpse at what goes on “behind the curtain,” guides will also tell stories about the Majestic’s rich history including when the property was used as a temporary embalming parlor in the aftermath of the Civil War battle, its fame as President and Mrs. Eisenhower’s favorite local movie theater, the great hotel fire of 1983, and the world premiere of the movie Gettysburg in 1993.

Community Partnerships

Since 1925 the Majestic Theater has been where the community gathered for vaudeville, movies, high school graduations, dances and even basketball games in the space that is now occupied by our art gallery and cinemas. In 2015, the theater launched a partnership with Totem Pole Playhouse which this past December resulted in the fifth year of the playhouse’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” featuring many local children and adults.

Also in 2019, the theater launched a relationship with Hanover-based Pennsylvania Theatrical Arts and its resident Vault Theater Company. The educational performing arts program presented “Disney’s Newsies” in June followed up with “The Wizard of Oz” in October. Two more shows are planned this spring: “Beauty and the Beast” May 16-17, and “Grease” June 13-14. Still more programs from this new partnership are on the way during the 2020-2021 season!

There are always interesting new programs going on sale at Gettysburg’s historic theater with convenient parking, delicious popcorn, and friendly staff. For the latest programming updates, visit www.gettysburgmajestic.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Jeffrey Gabel is founding executive director of Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater.

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