Moore Opera House

110 S. Fourth Street,
Clarksburg, WV 26301

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Moore Opera House was opened on June 10, 1918 with Charlie Chaplin in “A Dog’s Life”. It was built by Jack Marks, on land donated by Frank Moore, a former mayor of Clarksburg. It was operating as a movie house until 1956.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

jflundy
jflundy on July 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

This photo from 1931, courtesy of Warren, is from the Daily News archive. It was taken during the trial of the 1nfamous Harry Power, when the trial was moved from the Courthouse in Clarksburg to the theater due to the immense crowds wanting to attend the proceedings.
Note the name is “Moore” on the vertical, not “Moore’s”.
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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 24, 2009 at 11:15 am

In 1949 Moore’s Opera House was taken over on a lease by Madge Stout, who was already operating the Robinson Grand Theatre for the estate of Claude Robinson. Madge Stout (sometimes appearing in Boxoffice items as Madge Stout Douds, or Madge Douds, her married name) was still operating Moore’s as late as 1957, as mentioned in the December 7 issue of Boxoffice- which means the theater was probably still open for at least part of 1958.

When Ralph Douds, Madge Stout’s husband, died in 1959, the notice in the May 11 issue of Boxoffice referred to Madge only as operator of the Robinson Grand, so it’s likely that Moore’s had been closed by then.

Boxoffice noted that “Colonel” Moore was still the owner of the building in 1949 when Madge Stout signed the new lease on the house. It’s likely that Claude Robinson had been operating Moore’s Opera House since the late 1930s at least. When the Grand burned in 1939, Boxoffice reported that its programs would be shifted to Moore’s until the Grand was rebuilt.

Ramona1955
Ramona1955 on May 17, 2012 at 7:54 am

I know my mom sang there in the 30’s and 40’s. Does anyone have pictures of shows or operas there?

Erasmusinwv2
Erasmusinwv2 on July 5, 2012 at 5:36 am

Is this theater still around? I am in the process of buying and rehabbing the Philippi Grand and if it proves profitable I want to work on reopening other theaters in WV, KY, OH, PA, MD, and VA. There are so many wonderful old theaters with more character than any modern cookie cutter places.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Erasmus: Moore’s Opera House was demolished in the 1990s. I believe the only old theater still standing in Clarksburg is the Rose Garden Theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

There are issues with this theater’s reported opening year. This PDF of a walking tour of Clarksburg dates Moore’s Opera House to 1917, but also says that it opened on June 10, 1911 with a Charlie Chaplin movie called A Dog’s Lips. Chaplin’s first appearance in a movie was in 1914, and he never made a movie about a dog’s lips, though in 1918 he made one called A Dog’s Life.

I believe the walking tour text is the source of the current description for this theater, as part of it is identical. However, there was evidently no donation of land involved, and Frank Moore continued to own the property long after the theater was built on it as a speculative venture. An item datelined Clarksburg in the March 27, 1918, issue of show business journal The New York Clipper said this:

“What is said to be one of the handsomest and best appointed theatres in the entire South will be opened in Clarksburg shortly. It will be known as the Opera House, and will cost $150,000.

“Frank Moore, formerly a clerk in the United States Supreme Court, is the owner of the theatre. Jack Marks, who made a fortune with a movie theatre here, is manager”

The NRHP Registration form for the Downtown Clarksburg Historic District is more accurate than the guide for the walking tour. It says that the Opera House was built by Jack Marks on land owned by Frank Moore, that it cost $54,000 to build, and that it opened on June 10, 1918, and closed in 1956. It even gets the name of the Chaplin movie shown on opening night right. The document’s estimate of the cost of the project is probably more accurate than the one in the Clipper, too. The Clipper item was most likely sent in by either Jack Marks or Frank Moore, and such press releases typically gave exaggerated estimates of costs.

Opera House was a somewhat grandiose name for this theater. It was a smaller house than the earlier Robinson Grand (AKA Rose Garden) Theatre, and was apparently intended to serve as a movie house from the beginning, though it also had adequate stage facilities. An item in the February 19, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World says “Frank R. Moore is having plans prepared for a $30,000 moving picture theatre.” This is most likely the project that evolved into the Opera House.

I’m also wondering about the reported seating capacity of 1,150. I’ve seen that exact number on other web sites, CinemaTour and Silent Era, but none cite a source for the number. I came across something about the Powers trial in 1931 (which I have since lost track of) that gave the seating capacity of the Opera House as 600. I don’t know if that was the actual capacity of the theater, or its capacity as it was reconfigured for the trial. Maybe a Film Daily Yearbook would give a different capacity (though that not-always-reliable publication might have been the unnamed source for the 1,150 the three web sites all give, of course.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 19, 2013 at 2:56 am

The report on the opening of the Opera House in Clarksburg that appeared in the June 29, 1918, issue of The Moving Picture World gives the house an even larger seating capacity than the other sources I’ve seen:

“Jack Marks Opens Opera House

“Is a 1,400-Seat House in Clarksburg, a Town of 11,000 Population and Cost $150,000.

“ONE of the finest motion picture theaters in the South threw open its doors on Monday, June 10, when a special invitation performance was followed by the first public showing of Goldwyn’s ‘Joan of Plattsburg,’ starring Mabel Normand, in Jack Marks’s new $150,000 cinema palace, the Opera House, at Clarksburg, W. Va. The Opera House succeeds as the premier screen theater of Clarksburg the Orpheum, also built and owned by Mr. Marks.

“Clarksburg, with 11,000 population, points with a show of pardonable pride to the Opera House. Its seating capacity is 1,400, 800 of which is on the main floor. Every seat in the house is 22 inches wide, insuring the maximum of comfort for patrons. The stage is 40 by 70 feet, big enough to accommodate any road attraction, no matter how pretentious. There are fourteen dressing rooms and one large chorus room, big enough for seventy-five members of a company.

“The lobby is gorgeously wrought. It is finished in Italian marble, with a floor of black and white tile. The screen is of gold fibre, adjusted to a throw of 115 feet from two motor-driven Simplex machines installed in a concrete projection booth 14 feet square. All of the seats are leather upholstered and there is not a post in the house.

“Music will be supplied by an orchestra and a large organ. The house is decorated throughout A pea green velour curtain covers in ivory and pale green the big asbestos drop.

“The Opera House is the twenty-fourth amusement place Mr. Marks has either built or owned or both. He began in the show business at Anderson, Ind., with a house seating 198. From that time success followed success. His Orpheum at Clarksburg has shown more than 700 pictures to satisfied audiences.”

The only photo of the Moore Opera House I’ve found online is this one unfortunately marred by a digital watermark and located on a web site with pop-up ads.

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