Modesto’s historic State Theatre starts next chapter with new leadership

See the new leadership in place for the State Theatre

Longtime board member Kirstie Boyett will take over as the State Theatre's new executive director.
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Longtime board member Kirstie Boyett will take over as the State Theatre's new executive director.

Downtown Modesto’s historic State Theatre is starting a new chapter in its leadership for the first time in over a decade.

Longtime State board member Kirstie Boyett has been named the theater’s new executive director, succeeding Sue Richardson, who has stepped down from the position. Richardson has been on a leave of absence since about June for undisclosed reasons. She had managed and operated the 84-year-old theater since 2007.

Boyett has served for 13 years on the nonprofit theater’s board of directors and spent two terms as its president. She was previously the director of strategic planning at Boyett Petroleum and customer service team leader with Pacific Southwest Container.

“Sue Richardson has been the heart and soul of The State for more than a decade; we are grateful for her service, the programs she pioneered and high standards she established,” said Boyett in a statement about her new position. “I am excited to build on the success of The State Theatre and to ensure that this historic treasure remains the gem of downtown.”

The J Street venue, which opened on Christmas Day 1934 as a single-screen movie house, has gone through numerous ups and downs over the decades. After its heyday as one of the premier movie theaters in town, the art deco building began a slow decline.

The theater was converted in 1979 into a Spanish-language film and stage venue called Cine Mexico, which operated it until it closed in 1992. Then in 1994, the nonprofit Downtown Arts Project took over and ran it as a live music venue and arthouse movie theater until 2005.

At that time, the nonprofit State Theatre of Modesto Inc., with Boyett on the board, took charge and oversaw a more than $2 million renovation that redid the facade and lobby and restored the signature greyhound and gazelle murals. Other upgrades followed, including a new surround-sound system, all-digital projection, a digital marquee and an expanded concessions area.

Under Richardson’s management, the theater has refocused on showing independent, classic and first-run films, as well as creating special and themed events. Boyett began her duties Oct. 1. The theater will next host the Modesto Area Music Association Awards on Oct. 16.