Murphy Theatre

131 East Main Street,
Front Royal, VA 22630

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Murphy Theatre

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A conversion of the Front Royal Methodist Church. The Murphy Opera House was opened in 1909 and was screening motion pictures by 1914. It was used as a vaudeville and silent motion picture theatre. Taken over by Pitts' Theaters Inc. in 1930, the Murphy Theatre was closed around 1957. The building still stands and has had various uses over the years. These include a post office, a clothing store and it’s current use as Royal Oak Computers.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm

The April 4, 1930, issue of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported that Benjamin Pitts had taken a ten-year lease on Murphy’s Theatre in Front Royal and would immediately begin a remodeling which would include the installation of Western Electric sound equipment.

The theater was expected to reopen in about six weeks. It would be the sixth house in the Pitts' Theatres chain. The article said that Murphy’s was Front Royal’s leading playhouse, and one of the largest theaters in the Shenandoah Valley, seating over 1000.

The house was listed as Pitts' Murphy on a list of the twenty-five theaters operated by Pitts' Theatres in 1952. I found it mentioned in 1959, but an ambiguous context make it impossible to tell if it was still in operation at that time. Pitts' Theatres also took over the Park Theatre in Front Royal sometime after acquiring the Murphy, and appears to have operated it until at least 1960.

William Martin
William Martin on October 21, 2016 at 11:49 am

I toured the Murphy Theatre in 1967 while with my father who was an assistant manager for the Pitt’s Theatre chain. The theatre had been used for storage and the front portion had been turned into a store front. The projection room for the theatre was accessible only by a ladder and film reels had to be sent up by rope and pulley.

William Martin
William Martin on October 21, 2016 at 11:50 am

I toured the Murphy Theatre in 1967 while with my father who was an assistant manager for the Pitt’s Theatre chain. The theatre had been used for storage and the front portion had been turned into a store front. The projection room for the theatre was accessible only by a ladder and film reels had to be sent up by rope and pulley.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 21, 2016 at 8:29 pm

This web page about the Front Royal Historic District has this to say about the origin of the Murphy Theatre:

“The most prominent example of historic adaptive reuse is the former Front Royal Methodist Church at 131 East Main Street. Originally constructed as a church in 1879, the building was transformed into Murphy’s Theater in 1908-1909. The original arched, nave windows are still visible on what is now the second story of the brick building.”
An organization called the Murphy’s Theatre Project hopes to raise funds to purchase and renovate the theater. Here is their Facebook page.

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