111 S. Market Street,
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Royal Theatre, Benton (Official)
Functions: Performing Arts
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Imp Theatre
This downtown theater has been in constant operation since the 1920’s. It opened as the Imp Theatre, on Market Street. In the 1950’s, the owners acquired the neon sign from the Royal Theatre in Little Rock and remodeled the entrance.
In the 1990’s the family owned building was sold to Jerry Van Dyke (Dick’s brother and Luther on ‘Coach’). Jerry opened a soda shop next door and operated the theater as a joint movie house/live venue. When Jerry moved to Mexico, he gave the theater to a local community theater, who assumed the name the Royal Players.
The Royal Theatre no longer shows films as the screens were removed and projectors sold before the transfer to its current owners. The Royal Players have completed several projects to preserve the theater. Most of the original fixtures are still in place and an old doorless safe labeled ‘Imp’ is in the upstairs office.
An interesting note, the Royal Theatre was originally one screen with a balcony. At some point in time the balcony was enclosed and small screen installed. The original projection booth was used to show films there and a second booth was constructed downstairs for the big screen.
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