Las Vegas Cinema
479 Wabasha Street,
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Opened in 1911, the Empress Theatre was then hailed as Saint Paul’s most modern vaudeville house. Its auditorium could seat 1,428 in Neo-Classical style splendor, and cost $300,000 to construct. Its stately, colonnaded façade, in brilliant white terra cotta (to resemble marble) rose two stories over Wabasha Street and was quite a first impression to theater-goers.
Its opening day featured seven vaudeville acts, and something called a “Laugh-O-Scope”, which consisted of several short filmed comedy sketches.
From the decade between 1916 and 1926, the Empress Theatre changed names frequently, becoming the Hippodrome Theatre in 1916, the New Liberty Theatre in 1918, and once more the Empress Theatre from 1921 until 1926.
In 1926, a contest held by the theater’s management at the time, the Finkelstein & Ruben chain, awarded $50 to the person who suggested the winning name, the Lyceum Theatre, which would be the name the theater would be known as the longest.
In the late-1920’s, the Lyceum Theatre switched from movies to legitimate theater and stage shows, but only briefly, as movies were back on the screen a couple of years later.
A major remodeling was carried out at the Lyceum Theatre in 1954, at a cost of nearly $50,000, when Cinemascope equipment was installed, including a new large screen and reduced seating.
The aging Lyceum Theatre underwent a final transformation in 1972, when its name was changed once more to the Las Vegas Cinema, and went from commercial to adult films. Four years later, the theater closed, and was demolished shortly thereafter.
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