Varsity Theatre

1500 O Street,
Lincoln, NE 68508

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Early `60's photo courtesy of William.

Built on the site of the Rialto Theatre. The Varsity Theatre opened on November 1, 1934 with Grace Moore in “One Night of Love”. Davis & Wilson were the architects. The Varsity Theatre was closed in 1941, and the ‘Varsity’ name was transferred to the former Oliver/Liberty Theatre on N. 13th Street.

On September 11, 1971, Walt Jancke, built the Cinemas 1 & 2 a block away. In 1973, the Varsity Theatre was demolished to make room for the National Bank of Commerce.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

lthomas on June 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Corrections: The first Varsity Theater (there were 2) opened in 1934 on the site of the old Rialto (1500 O Street). That theater closed in 1941, and the Varsity name went to 13th & P Streets, the location of the old Liberty Theater, which, in turn, replaced the Oliver (not Olivier) in 1924. The Oliver opened in 1889 as an opera house. Walt Jancke did not own the Varsity; he was city manager for Westland Theaters (owned by Larry Starsmore), based in Colorado Springs. They also owned the State Theater in Lincoln. When National Bank of Commerce bought the Varsity site, Westland built the Cinema Twin, Lincoln’s first “multiplex”.

DavidZornig on December 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Early `60’s photo added courtesy of William.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 11, 2015 at 8:24 pm

The January 24, 1942, issue of the Lincoln Evening Journal reported that demolition of the Varsity Theatre at 1500 O Street would soon be underway. The theater and adjacent buildings were being removed for the extension of 15th Street north from O Street.

The October 28, 1934, issue of the paper said that the Varsity Theatre, formerly the Rialto, would open November 1. The house had been closed for two months for remodeling.

The house had become the Rialto around 1920, having previously been known as the Majestic. The name Majestic was adopted when the new Orpheum opened at 12th and P Streets. The newspaper referred to the Majestic with the paranthetic (old Orpheum) several times in April, 1916, indicating that the name had been changed fairly recently.

I haven’t discovered when the Bijou opened, or when it became the Orpheum, but the Bijou was mentioned in The Billboard in 1906 and 1907. There was also a 1943 newspaper article saying that the Bijou had bacome the Majestic before becoming the Orpheum, so perhaps it was called the Majestic twice, both before and after the Orpheum period.

rivest266 on July 29, 2015 at 10:37 am

November 1st, 1934 grand opening ad in photo section

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