RKO Colonial Theatre
141 S. Ludlow Street,
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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.
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