Welcome back, State Theatre, you couldn’t return at a better time.

The old movie palace on Congress Street has been a constant barometer for the health of its neighborhood. Built before the stock market crash of 1929, the theater was a model of Art Deco opulence when downtown was the commercial heart of the city.

Decades later, as businesses and shoppers fled the downtown for suburban malls, the State also suffered, eventually becoming an X-rated movie house in a seedy neighborhood.

But when the neighborhood came back as the Arts District in the 1990s, capped by the move of the Maine College of Art into the vacant Porteous building, the State came back too, as a renovated if slightly crumbling venue for rock concerts. Several different management companies and some door-closing physical problems later, the State is back again, this time after a $1.5 million renovation that upgraded the seats, stage and sound system. And it’s catching up with yet another rebound in the neighborhood, where a lively mix of galleries, restaurants, bars and specialty shops is providing a rival to the Old Port as an intown destination.

The State’s return also comes as a decline of CD sales means that bands will have to tour longer and go farther than they had in the past, meaning they will be looking for venues in a place like Portland.

It’s about time for another rebirth of this old theater, and the State is coming back, right on cue.


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