219 American Legion Drive,
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James L. Craig created a building in downtown Rayne that housed his local newspaper in the front and an Opera House at the back. The Opera House launched in April of 1915 with the film, “One wonderful Night.” Its booth featured two hand cranked Edison movie projectors. The music came from a Wurlitzer player piano. In 1925, the theatre had a short run as the Craig Theatre when it was remodeled under the younger Craig family members who had run the venue.
A competing operation called the Evangeline Theatre started showing movies late in the silent period. The two facilities combined as one with the Opera House being home to the operation. In October of 1929, the Opera House moved to the Evangeline Theatre as they prepared the Evangeline auditorium to play talking pictures.
On January 7, 1933, the Evangeline auditroium was discontinued as improved sound playback technology was installed in the opera house. The Joy Houck Theatre Circuit appears to have taken on the former Evangeline Theatre renaming it the Joy Theatre.
The Joy Theatre and Opera House decided to combine operations on June 11, 1937. They decide to close the Joy/Evangeline again and for the final time as C.B. “Buck” Hardy took over the management for the Houck Circuit. The thirty year old facility was aging and plans were to build a new theatre to be called the Acadia Theatre which began construction following the end of the War. Construction began in 1946.
On August 8, 1946, hours after what would become the final film showing of “Spellbound,” the theatre burned down. The American Legion was spared next door at the Opera House’s former Texas Street moniker was changed by Rayne to American Legion Drive in later years. Because the new Joy Theatre was not quite ready to open, Buck Hardy moved booked screenings to the local St. Joseph gymnasium in what was called, Gym Theatre. The enterprising operator also opened the town’s first ozoner with Buck’s Open Air Theatre.
The new Acadia Theatre opened on November 16, 1946 ending the Gym Theatre. It was renamed the Acadia-Joy Theatre before becoming, technically, the town’s third Joy Theatre location.
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