This is a great look at some of the inner workings and history of a Falls Church City landmark…The State Theatre.
The State Theatre is one of the best spots in Falls Church City to go see a show, hold a corporate event or other entertainment.
Among the most popular attractions are the Legwarmers. The native DC area band throws more of a party than a concert. Check them out here.
Read below for an interview with the theatre’s longtime marketing director and current talent scout.
Want to see what shows are upcoming in the State Theatre? (And yes, it is spelled Theatre…the cool way.)
Brief History of The State Theatre
The State Theatre in Falls Church City, VA, is a prominent concert venue with a rich history and retro ambiance. The building, originally serving as a movie theater, was built in 1936.
The theater debuted with the film, Thanks a Million starring Dick Powell. The first theater on the East Coast to be centrally air-conditioned, the State Theatre was a staple venue for movie-goers until November 27, 1988.
The theater closed its doors after a final showing of Die Hard starring Bruce Willis.
Among the Glebe, the Buckingham, and the Jefferson, the State was the paramount venue of the family-owned Neighborhood Theatres chain.
In 1999, after a multi-million dollar restoration, the State reopened its doors as a concert venue for live music and private events.
Maintaining some of its original character while also implementing 2 full service bars, and a full service restaurant area, the State quickly became a hotspot music venue.
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Interview With The Talent Director
The State Theatre’s current Marketing and Promotions Director, Brennan Giuffre, was interviewed with questions pertaining to the theater’s history, success, and overall atmosphere.
Q: What do you look for when seeking out performers?
A: There are a lot of things to consider in the talent buying process. First, we try and keep our calendar as eclectic as possible.
We don’t like to be defined as a “Rock Venue’ or a “Tribute Band Venue”. If you look at all of the bands that played the State Theatre last year, I think you will be surprised how eclectic we are!
Some months are heavy on tributes and then the next will be heavy on Blues, it all depends on which bands are coming through town, and when.
Second, since we are a business (and there are more overhead expenses than you can ever imagine), we have to seek out bands that will draw a large crowd.
Depending on the show, our capacity varies from 500-1000 and our goal is to book acts that can fill the venue!
It helps a lot when bands have a relationship with fans (usually via social media) and can let them know about the show.
Bands that treat their fans as friends and not a paycheck are usually the most successful.
Third, since there is so much competition in the area, it is important to pay attention to when the last time a certain band played the area, what venue, etc.
Overplaying certain bands can cause a decline in attendance and in the long run is bad for both the bands and the venues.
It is important not to over saturate the market.
In general, we aim for one play a year for most bands. One exception to this rule is our 80’s Dance Party with The Legwarmers. They play twice a month almost every month and usually sell out.
Q: Have you had any big names play at your venue?
A: We have had a ton of big names come through town! We have Buddy Guy coming to town on April 13th who is a 5 time Grammy winner and one of the most legendary Blues guitarists ever!
Other big names that have played the State include: Blondie, Jimmy Buffett, John Mayer, Johnny Winter, Leon Russell, Jimmy Cliff, Gregg Allman, The Psychedelic Furs, Peter Murphy Of Bauhaus and many many more!
Q: Who is your target audience?
A: Our target audience varies greatly from show to show.
For the most part we cater to an older crowd since most of our shows are 18+.
I’d say the majority of our audience is between 30 and 60 years old, but we get everything in between.
Q: What has your success looked like since you reopened in 1999?
A: One of the highest points in State Theatre history is the fact that the building still exists. Many people do not know this, but before the Theatre was transformed into a live music venue, it was a condemned building.
When Tom Carter (the owner) bought the building, it was being used as a storage facility for the neighboring plant nursery. The building was in extremely rough shape and by no means ready to be open to the public.
With the help of a couple friends and some hard work, Tom managed to transform the building into what it is today. Tom’s goal in the transformation was not to start from scratch, but instead create a new space that has an old and historic feel.
If you look around the venue, there are still some original pieces including the proscenium and trim along the ceiling.
He also made a point to leave the cinema style seating on our balcony to give people that old, movie theatre feeling.
Tom takes a lot of pride in his hard work (as he should) and we are now one of the more successful music venues in the area. We take a lot of pride in doing things ourselves. We do all of our booking in house (which a lot of venues in the area outsource) and we throw one heck of a corporate event!
Q: Describe the atmosphere of your venue:
A: The atmosphere varies from show to show. Having a friendly and helpful staff is one thing that we always try and keep consistent.
Customer service is very important to us, and we always have a manager available for any compliments or concerns from our customers.
One cool thing about the State Theatre in Falls Church is the different layout options we have. Most of our shows are half seated, half standing.
At these shows, guests can eat dinner at one of our tables, dance on the dance floor, or find seating on our balcony.
We also do all standing dance parties, where we take out all the tables (usually for Legwarmers shows).
This is more of your traditional concert experience, where everyone is up and dancing.
We do all seated shows usually for comedy and acoustic shows.
This allows the audience to focus on the musician/comedian with little to no distractions.
Whatever the layout, you are bound to have a great time at the State Theatre!
Q: You feature a lot of tribute bands. Any particular reason?
A: We get this question a lot, and I’d like to state again that we ARE NOT a tribute band venue.
We love us a good tribute, but tribute bands do not define us.
There are a lot of reasons why we bring a lot of tribute bands to the State Theatre.
Most importantly, it’s want people want! As you may know, the Legwarmers started out at the State Theatre and have been playing regularly for the last 13+ years.
People still love them! We just had two sold out nights with them this weekend.
I think the main draw with Tribute Bands is that people know what they want to hear, and they know they are going to hear all the hits!
Another argument for Tribute bands is sometimes it is not feasible (financially or otherwise) to see the real deal.
A lot of these huge Classic Rock bands that are still touring, such as The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, etc. have very high priced tickets and they sell out instantly.
On top of the expensive ticket, you can only see these bands in a stadium setting, which isn’t very intimate and usually doesn’t sound great.
We have found that a large number of people would rather come to a smaller club, with a great sound system and intimate setting than spend $500+ for a ticket to see their favorite band in a stadium setting
It is amazing to hear how spot on a lot of the Tribute Acts are (in some cases they sound better than the real deal).
A lot of the tributes that we bring in including Bruce In The USA, Lez Zeppelin, ZOSO and Almost Queen are so fine tuned, that you truly feel that you are watching the real deal!
Q: Is your venue known for any particular annual or historical event?
A: Not that I can think of. We are well known for our monthly Legwarmers shows. Besides that, we like to mix it up!
The State Theatre in Falls Church, as Giuffre indicated, offers a vastly diverse selection of performers, adhering to the preferences of concert-goers of all ages and varieties.
The State Theatre has been and continues to be a prominent location in Falls Church City.
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