“Supertall skyscrapers and glamorous museums can boost architects’ reputations or put a struggling industrial town back on the map, but as far as architecture is concerned, one type of building should never be overlooked: the theater.
As the backbone of urban culture, theaters in the United States have been gathering places for centuries. From operas to ballets to movies, the arts required buildings that were as beautiful as the performances they housed. Early 19th-century theaters were temples to ornamentation, clad in over-the-top chandeliers, heavy drapes, and with a penchant for gold.
Today, the theater remains a crucial part of a city’s lifeblood, even as the types of performing arts have expanded. Modern theaters are technological marvels, pairing innovative architecture with state-of-the-art acoustics and video programming.
While this new class of auditoriums, performing arts centers, and concert halls prove that a theater can take many forms, they all underscore one belief: Now—more than ever—the arts matter.
It’s in this spirit that we searched far and wide across the U.S. for the most architecturally significant theaters. From our country’s oldest continually operating opera house to a brand new building in Chicago, these are the 21 most beautiful theaters in America.”