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Hershey Theatre Celebrates 90 Years

Historic venue commemorates 90 years of world-class entertainment in 2023

Located in downtown Hershey, Pa., the historic Hershey Theatre celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2023 with another year of world-class entertainment. Fans who have yet to attend a performance at the area's premier performing arts center have much to look forward to during its milestone year of operation. The venue first opened to the public during Hershey’s town celebration on September 1-4, 1933. 

Take a look back at the remarkable history of Hershey Theatre with information and photos courtesy of Hershey Community Archives.


In 1915, world-famous chocolatier and philanthropist Milton S. Hershey had his architect, C. Emlen Urban, draw up plans for a new community building, its star occupant, the Hershey Theatre. The building was constructed between 1928 and 1933 as part of Hershey’s “Great Building Campaign” amidst the Great Depression. Other major landmarks around the destination were also being structured during this time - including The Hotel Hershey, Hershey Arena and Hersheypark Stadium

Although Hershey Theatre was built around the same time as Radio City Music Hall, the Theatre was constructed from plans developed 18-20 years prior - giving the venue its opulence that resembles those of early 20th-century theaters.

Hershey dedicated the Community Building and Theatre during the 13th anniversary celebration of the town on September 1-4, 1933. The Theatre officially opened its doors on September 2, 1933. The program featured a showing of a popular movie, along with a vaudeville revue, complete with singers, comedians, dancers, and acrobatics. On Sunday, September 3, 1933, there was an official dedication ceremony made to an overflowing Hershey Theatre. The weekend festivities concluded on Labor Day of 1933 with three more movie/vaudeville performances.

*photos courtesy of Hershey Community Archives.


The beauty of the architecture and the workmanship is evident from the moment the doors open into the Hershey Theatre Grand Lobby. The floor is laid with polished Italian lava rock. Four different types of marble, both imported and domestic, shape the walls and exquisite series of arches. The ceiling is filled with bas-relief images of sheaves of wheat, beehives, swans, pastoral scenes, Apollo and Assyrian war chariots, attracting patrons' eyes to the beautiful art above.

The inner foyer's "canopy of gold" arched tile ceiling was patterned after St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy. Two German artisans labored for two years to create the beautiful blue and gold pin-point mosaic design leading to the main floor seating area.

*photos courtesy of Hershey Community Archives.


Atmospheric ceilings were a hallmark of early 20th-century theatre design. The Hershey Theatre "stars-and-clouds" ceiling is suspended from the roof. Utilizing the radiance of colored lights, the sky changes scenes from sunset to dusk and from dawn to sunrise. A stereopticon machine completes the evening sky by projecting floating clouds onto the ceiling.  

Though the front of the Hershey Theatre house is magnificent, its heart lies backstage, where the magic is created. The stage measures 75' from wall to wall, and 44' from the apron to the back wall. The stage has five elevators, which can rise to a height of seven feet; the back elevator moves below stage level to transfer scenery to and from storage. The elevators stop at any level to provide a variety of settings and platforms for plays and musical attractions.

Milton Hershey commissioned the Theatre's historic four-manual, 78-rank Aeolian-Skinner concert organ. Other features include a sophisticated lighting system with three super trouper spotlights, a complete house sound system, and an infrared listening system to aid hearing.

*photos courtesy of Hershey Community Archives.


From its inception, Hershey Theatre was an enigma. While some questioned the building’s success in its early years, it succeeded by being part of Milton Hershey’s plan to make Hershey, Pa. into a popular tourist destination. The 1,904-seat venue thrived by offering a broad range of attractions, as it continues to do today. 

In its 90th year of operation, Hershey Theatre is a must-visit destination for Central Pennsylvanians and beyond to enjoy world-class entertainment, from touring Broadway productions to intimate concerts and comedy shows. Explore the exciting upcoming lineup of shows coming to take the Hershey Theatre stage during its 90th year.


Partake in a 90-minute guided behind-the-scenes tour of Hershey Theatre that will take you from balcony to basement. Spotlight Tours provide lessons in history, community and architecture combined. 


Hershey Theatre opened in September 1933. It has established itself as the area’s premier performing arts center, presenting the finest in touring Broadway shows, classical music and world-renowned entertainers.