Calvin Opera House

311 Elm Street,
Washington, MO 63090

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Calvin Opera House

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The first movie seen at the Calvin Theatre was on September 17, 1909 after two weeks of live entertainment.

The designer of the building was E.C. Little. He was the architectual supervisor of the erection of the Missouri State Building for the 1904 World’s Fair. This was a 900 seat Theatre. The Calvin Theatre has gone through a lot over it’s years of business. Commonwealth Amusement ran the Calvin Theatre from the early-1930’s through 1983. In 1983 it was purchased by Mr. & Mrs. George McLean who also owned the theatre in Sullivan, Mo. They planned to restore the theatre to it’s opera-house appearance with some success.

The theatre’s present owner lives upstairs of the theatre and continues the Calvin’s bluegrass concert series and a few movie screenings.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 13, 2007 at 6:01 am

This is a recent photo of the Calvin Theater and here is a close-up view.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 29, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Here is a photo from 1999.

history4her
history4her on September 6, 2008 at 11:47 am

Though I no longer live there, I saw my first movies at the old Calvin Opera House in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This was the only theatre in town at the time, and we lined up down the sidewalk and around the corner to see a movie. I saw my first James Bond movie staring a very young Sean Connery there. One of the last movies I remember seeing there was Sixteen Candles with Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. By then, a new theatre had opened in town and eventually added several screens. I think that put the Calvin out of bussiness, or at least they quit showing first-run movies at that time. It’s a great theatre with a full stage and a balcony. I remember the large red curtains that opened when the movie started. I think it’s unique and wonderful that a town this size has such an historic building and great history which began in 1909. I can just imagine the live shows that actors and performers presented on stage before the age of movies came around. I imagine the seats on the ground floor as well as in the balcony were filled by people laughing and enjoying Vaudville acts. I’ve seen other theatres of similar style only in large, old cities with a rich history. In St. Louis, a few places come to mind: The Shady Oak in Clayton, The Kirkwood, and The Tivoli in University City – all beautiful old theatres built long ago when St. Louis was a thriving city. I believe Shady Oak and the Kirkwood stopped showing independent films years ago when the corporate Landmark Theatre came to Plaza Frontenac. I’m curious how someone came to build the grand Calvin Opera House in a small town 50 miles away from St. Louis?

martarellac
martarellac on November 10, 2009 at 11:36 am

I heard the Calvin is for sale. Is this true?

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on November 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Nice to see thats its still being used after all this time.

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