Performing Arts Center
The Santander Performing Arts Center was built in the 1870s as a market, with a Masonic Temple on its upper floors. It became the Academy of Music in 1886. The Rajah Shriners purchased it in 1917 to use the building for various activities including vaudeville, motion pictures, and live appearances. The auditorium was rebuilt in 1921 after a fire destroyed most of the facility. At the turn of the 21st Century, the Rajah Theater was the only downtown movie palace of its kind to survive. Its sister palaces, the Astor, Embassy and Loew’s Colonial, had all been demolished.
In June of 2000, the Berks County Convention Center Authority purchased the Rajah Theater from the Shriners. The building was renovated and renamed the Santander Performing Arts Center. The $7 million renovations included a new air conditioning system, seating that is more comfortable, better stage equipment, improved dressing rooms, and more. These improvements, along with the building being managed by SMG, ensure that this historical center for performing arts will be preserved for years to come.
Today, the Santander Performing Arts Center is home to the Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Broadway on 6th Street series. It has also hosted numerous different events. Willie Nelson, Hillary Duff, Jerry Seinfeld, David Copperfield, Melissa Ethridge, Daughtry and Sesame Street Live are just a few of the shows that have been seen at the theater.
Together the Santander Center and the Santander Performing Arts Center have been a huge impact on the region. It has been estimated that the direct economic impact for the first ten years of operations exceeded a quarter of a billion dollars. We look forward to the continued success of bringing world class entertainment to the region to help make Greater Reading a wonderful place to live, work and play.
Santander Performing Arts Center
136 N. 6th Street
Reading, PA 19601