69 Public Square,
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The Empire Theater opened on March 18, 1911 in a conversion of a plumbing & heating store in the Collins Building. It was closed on May 15, 1919 and was gutted and remodeled to reopen as the enlarged and re-named Sigma Theater in 1920. By 1941 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. It was badly damaged by a fire on March 1, 1949. In 1972, it had been closed for over ten years when William Dakota decided to reopen it as Cinema 1. The theater had been stripped of seats, projectors and screen. Restrooms were intact, and Dakota bought 325 used, self rising seats from W.S. Butterfield Theatres' Regent Theater in Flint, MI, that had closed and was to be demolished. He bought two used 35mm Simplex projectors from a collector and renovated the marquee with the new name Cinema 1.
He later sold the theater to Harold Mahoney of Durand, MI, who exhibited hardcore X-Rated films. Court action in the late-1970’s closed the theater and in 1981 the whole interior was stripped, with offices built inside. Around that time, the Ohio Theater, two blocks away also closed, as did the Quilna Theater and Ranger Theater, leaving downtown Lima with no operating movie theaters.
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