Theatre History

The Ohio Theatre

Oh how deep and rich the history of story telling is and what great lengths human beings have gone to to be sure we get the most out of the experience.  The advent of huge amphitheatres in Greco-Roman times gave way to elaborate stages for Opera, venues like The Globe for Shakespeare and large houses for Vaudeville.  And why not?  The existence of entertainment in a society showcases its ability to reflect on itself.  When there is peace and prosperity enough to escape daily life and go to a show, things are alright, so why not reflect in comfort and style?

Metropolitan Opera House NYC, 1905
Metropolitan Opera House NYC, 1905

Once Americans established a deep foothold in the new world, they began to work diligently to recreate decadent (and not so decadent) European art forms.  This pursuit included the construction of similarly decadent buildings in which to house them.  By the time the early 1900s rolled along there was a new art form in town with a not so new idea of how it should be showcased.


Norfolk, VA Highlight—>The USS Wisconsin



Enter the Moving Picture along with the requisite Moving Picture producing pioneers (primarily Mr. William Fox and Mr. Marcus Loew) who tapped a few Architects (primarily Thomas W. LambC. Howard Crane and their eponymous firms) to design some Movie Palaces, because who wouldn’t want to watch Motion Pictures in  a Palace?  By the end of the 1920s, a whole new crop of these Palaces popped up throughout the northeast, mid-west and deep south.  One even made it all the way out to San Francisco only to be demolished in the 1960s.  In fact, most of them were set to meet their demise in the 1960s, but a smattering were saved by an earmark in the National Register of Historic Places.  Few of them show motion pictures any longer, instead, they rely on big, touring, Broadway musicals like Les Miserables (!).  Ahhhh…finally she gets to her point.


Rochester, NY Highlight—>The National Museum of Play



So Michael has had the great privilege to be able to compose a random assortment of photographs from inside some of these Palaces over the years.  It wasn’t until we looked at them all together, we realized how similar they were.  This, of course prompted me to dig into Wikipedia, which led to the realization these theatres were a sort of early, opulent franchise.  Of course then I had to share this discovery, because what else am I going to do in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

Providence Performing Arts Center was originally a Loew’s Movie Palace built in 1928, designed by Thomas W. Lamb
Boston Opera House was built in 1925 for the Keith-Albee chain of Movie Palaces designed by Thomas W. Lamb
The Fox
The Fox Theatre in St Louis was built in 1929, designed by C. Howard Crane
The Benedum Center in Pittsburgh was a former Movie Palace built in 1928, designed by Hoffman-Henon
Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY is a former Vaudeville house built in 1928, designed by Thomas W. Lamb
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The Ohio Theater is a former Loew’s Movie Palace built in 1928 and considered the jewel in Thomas W. Lamb’s crown of Movie Palaces.

Ohio Theatre

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Rochester, NY Highlight—>Dinosaur BBQ

They gave G a Tattoo
They gave G a Tattoo


One can’t help but think many of these designers were inspired a little bit by the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, built in 1875 only fifty years earlier.
 The Palais Garnier in Paris.  A view form the
In the house of Palais

Of course, one also can’t help but think M. Garnier was inspired by the Palace of Versailles.
The Grand Foyer in the Palais
The Hall of
The Hall of

Bah ha ha!  Did you see how I just did that?  I just brought it all back to France!  Ha!  I love France.

Honestly most European Opera Houses look similar to the Palais Garnier, so I’m sure the Movie Palace inspiration was derived from many sources.  To see what I mean, take a virtual tour of over the top Opera Houses by clicking this link—–>

Next, we headed West.


  • Breathtakingly beautiful, I so love those gorgeous old theatre’s they are a treasure and I hope they are protected so our children’s children can enjoy their beauty. The photo’s are amazing and I really enjoyed reading the history of these great landmarks. The tummy tatoo is also really cute.

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