RKO Colonial Theatre

141 S. Ludlow Street,
Dayton, OH 45403

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COLONIAL Theatre; Dayton, Ohio.

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This Dayton theatre opened on November 12, 1912 to much fanfare. The owner Edward W. Hanley spared no expense and his architect obliged by traveling to several theatres in the East for ideas. The theatre had no gallery, only a first floor and a balcony which was divided into two sections by an aisle that ran parallel with the row of seats. This arrangement allowed the charging of two different prices, separating the upper row from the more desirable seats, which were reserved. The theatre also featured twenty individual dressing rooms as well as two chorus rooms.

By 1915 vaudville was replaced by “photo plays” and Keiths circuit leased the theatre and brought back vaudville. In 1921 the name was changed to Liberty Theatre and by 1923 the management was desperately trying to stay afloat and started showing a number of different programs like westerns and burlesque. The theatre name was again changed to Gayety Theatre in 1923 which did little to help the struggling theatre. In 1924 the theatre was managed by B.F. Keiths and they brought back popular stage shows and movies. On September 22, 1928 the Colonial Theatre featured Dayton’s first “talkies” the movie “Lights of New York” drew large crowds.

During its heyday the Colonial Theatre featured there own house chorus, the Colonialettes and band. Such famous acts as the Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, Ozzy & Harriet as well as many others graced the Colonial Theatre stage.

In 1930, the Colonial Theatre became part of RKO and started showing second run and B movies and by 1964 the theatre was sold to St. John’s Lutheran Church. They demolished it to build their new church. The company hired to demolish the theatre had their work cut out for them; the theatre did not die easily with it’s solid construction.

Contributed by Jon Flynn

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

FireCaptain
FireCaptain on November 7, 2004 at 12:02 am

The Colonial had large oval skylight type areas with banisters around them where theatre goers on the second floor could see others on the first. I may have been one of the last people in the Colonial. In 1965, during the demolition of the theatre, I snuck in during the dead of then night to look around. (I did the same at the Keith’s and State) I had forgotten about those oval holes and almost fell. That was one beautiful theatre. On the North wall of the church that now stands there you can see a small part of the original Colonial. It’s easy to spot as the color of the brick is completely different from the rest. There’s an alley there that makes this easy.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 5, 2005 at 6:52 am

A Wurlitzer organ Opus 1245 Style E SP was installed in the Colonial Theater on 1/9/1926.

ZookieFreddie
ZookieFreddie on July 11, 2006 at 11:13 pm

I also knew the projectionist in this theater and visited him a few times during 1960-61. I can’t remember the interior of the projection room as much as others.

twotoms
twotoms on January 16, 2007 at 7:41 am

I am looking for a picture of the ticket booth. I think I have it but it is disassembled—

Any help would be appreciated

Thanks

You can direct you email to
.com

jon6444
jon6444 on April 18, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I would try the theatre historical society…they have alot of resources…If you know the name of the architect, that would help as well….I am curious, How did you come across this ticket both? Please share any photos you might have.

Gary Smith
Gary Smith on October 12, 2007 at 5:13 am

I have been a theatre historian for over 30 years. I have many pictures of the Dayton theatres, including a photo of the auditorium of the Colonial, one of my favotite theatres. Just to set the record straight, the Colonial theatre did not have the oval skylight that was mentioned earlier. The only theatre in Dayton having that feature was the Lowes theatre on N. Main St. The skylight was closed-in a few years before the theatre closed because of people throwing things, even spitting down onto the audience below. Let me add vaudville did not die until the 1930s when talking movies opened the door for the great vaudville performers to go to hollywood and contribute to the golden age of hollywood, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland W.C Fields, Bob Hope and many more. RKO (Radio pictures, Keith, Orpheum) eventually had four superb theatres in Dayton The RKO Keiths, Colonial, State, and Strand.

Gary Smith
Gary Smith on October 12, 2007 at 10:19 am

I goofed, RKO should be RCA, Keith’s, Orpheum, and Radio Pictures.

jon6444
jon6444 on December 15, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Garygadjet,

I too am very interested in Theatres of Dayton, OH….I have searched high and low for photos of all the great theatres that use to be here….in particular interior photos…I cannot find anything on the Keiths, Colonial, State, Strand or the Lowes…I have searched the local history room, Montgomery Co. Historical Society and local newspapers…nothing..Would you be interested in sharing your collection? I can be contacted at …Thanks

jon6444
jon6444 on May 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Garygadjet…are you there? Please contact me at I would love to speak to you about your photo collection….seems that no one has many photos of dayton theatres.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 6, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Here is a photo of a Colonial Theater on Ludlow Street in Dayton.

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