Berea Theatre

314 Chestnut Street,
Berea, KY 40403

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Berea Theatre

S.R. Seale was so impressed with the movies he took his family to see in Cincinnati, that he bought a projector, used what was then the Masonic Hall on Main Street, and rented out 200 folding chairs from a local funeral parlor and opened Berea’s first picture show in 1918.

Seale Theatre stayed there until 1925 and moved to its current local at 314 Chestnut Street (although my research shows the new theatre’s location first opened to a capacity house on May 22nd, 1928 showing “The Way of All Flesh”).

The Seale Theatre first installed a talking movie on November 11th, 1929 showing “Light Fingers”.

It’s unclear when the movie house changed its name, but clippings from movie advertisements in 1931 or 1932 show the first mention of the Berea Theatre.

Plans to add 60 feet in length to the existing 80 ft. long, 30 ft. wide theatre were to be completed by the summer of 1947. The newly renovated theatre did, in fact, re-open on May 20th, 1947 with new seating by the Standard Seating Company.

S.R. Seale died on February 12th, 1953 at the age of 68. His wife Lillie continued to run the theatre for the next five years. A new Walker Hi Silver Wide Screen was installed in 1954.

After Lillie’s death in 1958, Seale’s daughter’s Rosa Lee (and husband Paul Grainger) and Kathleen Little continued to operate the theatre until January 16th, 1974. The last movie to show under the “family-run” business was “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

The Christian Appalachian Project, under the leadership of Father Ralph Beiting, leased the theatre and re-opened it soon after on January 25th, 1974.

On September 2nd, 1983, the theatre opened under the ownership of Carlos Powell and manager/co-owner Carla Mary Powell (daughter).

I believe the theatre was officially closed in the late 1980’s, but I’ve yet to find the exact date.

The building was remodeled for use as a pregnancy help center for the area until 2006 and is now in office use.

Contributed by Jason Hardin

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

kencmcintyre on October 4, 2008 at 8:36 am

As of April 2007, the building ws being used for local government offices:

Midnightweaver on January 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The theater closed in either 1985 or 1986. I found a photo I took in 1985 which shows The Breakfast Club was playing. A second photo, which was printed in September of 1986 shows the front doors boarded shut. I’ll send more specific information if I find it.

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