316 W. 3rd Street,
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Grand Theatre, Grand Island (Official)
Architects: Larry P. Larsen
Functions: Movies (Second Run)
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: New Grand Theatre
News About This Theater
- Jul 24, 2012 — Grand Theatre’s new facade steps back in time
- Jun 16, 2012 — A theater of restored grandeur
- Aug 10, 2007 — A Grand celebration
- Jul 18, 2006 — Movie Theater Documentary to open in Grand Island(NE)
Built on the site of the Lydia Theatre, which was remodeled as the New Grand Theatre and was due to reopen when it was destroyed by fire on December 8, 1936. (It has its own page on Cinema Treasures)
It was rebuilt and opened May 5, 1937 with Janet Gaynor in “A Star is Born”. Built with stadium style seating (an uncommon luxury for the time), the Grand Theatre had a reputation, at least in the 1980’s, of being absolutely immaculate, even including such non-public areas as the theatre’s basement and boiler room. The man who kept it that way was supposedly named Wally Kemp. The Grand Theatre was closed in 1986 and it was thought that would be the end of its life.
It was rescued by a community group of volunteers, who over the years have restored the building back to its original splendour, especially in their restoration of the splendid Art Deco style façade which had been rendered over.
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Recent comments (view all 33 comments)
From the 1930s a picture postcard view of the Grand Theater in Grand Island.
The Grand Theatre built in 1936 replaced an earlier house of the same name. Here’s the news from the September 30, 1936, issue of The Film Daily:
Today’s news reveals, what I feel, is ‘true showmanship’ and I hope your patrons fill the house. And P.S… I really like the old facade -it really needs to be restored to it’s art-deco appearance.
The April 24, 1937, issue of The Film Daily said that Harry Schiller’s new Grand Theatre would open on May 5. The 800-seat house was the first new theater built in Nebraska in two years.
The Historic Grand Theatre is a 487 seat movie house that was opened in the configuration it is today in May of 1937. The Grand is now a fully volunteer run theatre for the community by the community. Take a look. http://grandmovietheatre.com/
Also take a look at this clip that was done by Nebraska Stories for NET. http://www.netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/culture/nebraska-stories-keeping-grand-grand-episode-505
We actually received a tour of the renovated theater in September 2017. Happened to run into the prime mover of the effort to save her. The rehab is stunning, to say the least. They had Mohawk weave the carpet to the original designs. The place is nearly perfect in every detail only updated where it was required like ADA restrooms and digital projection.
If you get the chance to go in, do so. The non-profit runs the place with volunteers and shows movies. The interior is perfect. This has to be one of the best old American cinemas left. See if you can, they have a lot to be proud of in the city’s labor of love. If they could use original details and parts, they did. They did not scrimp or cheap out on any aspect of the restoration. Utterly amazing dedication.
ps as told to us, Wally Kemp operated the place. They have restored his basement office to near original right down to the furniture.
Updated website link: http://grandmovietheatre.com/
The former Lydia turned Grand Theatre had a major renovation in 1936 that cost as much as most small-town new theatres in 1936. Owner Harry Schiller was preparing the theatre for a Christmas 1936 relaunch as the New Grand when a fire on December 8, 1936 destroyed the theatre. A new plan was drawn up with work starting almost immediately.
On May 7, 1937, the new New Grand launched with “A Star is Born.”
My error - Lyda