RKO Grand Theatre

57 E. State Street,
Columbus, OH 43215

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Mark_L on December 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

The GRAND ran HOW THE WEST WAS WON from April, 1963 until February, 1964, so that picture had to be taken during that period. That is the Underground Parking Garage.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Is that excavation for the State House Annex?

TLSLOEWS on June 23, 2010 at 9:50 am

Very interesting history and photos.

Ron3853 on January 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Addendum to my earlier posting above. (I completed more research while visiting Columbus last weekend.)
02/15/67 Grand Prix
09/13/67 Mediterranean Holiday
10/04/67 James Joyce’s “Ulysses"
11/01/67 The Comedians
12/06/67 Enter Laughing
12/13/67 The Love-Ins
12/20/67 Far from the Madding Crowd
02/07/68 Custer of the West
03/13/68 Sol Madrid
03/20/68 A Man Called Dagger
03/27/68 Samson and Delilah
04/03/68 Guns for San Sebastian
04/17/68 A Stranger in Town
05/01/68 Day of the Evil Gun
05/08/68 The Double Man
05/15/68 Doctor Zhivago
06/12/68 2001: A Space Odyssey
04/02/69 Ice Station Zebra

CSWalczak on September 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Oh, and also the Golden Gate in San Francisco when it was a Cinerama house, if memory serves.

CSWalczak on September 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I think Trans-Beacon also operated the Cinestage and Michael Todd theaters in Chicago in the later 1960s and early 70s.

rivest266 on September 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Trans-Beacon had theatres in Fresno CA, Chicago IL, and leased the Imperial Cinerama from Famous Players in Montréal,QC. any more?

Mark_L on November 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm

In July, 1965, RKO sub-leased the GRAND to Trans-Beacon Theatres. In ads, the theatre was listed as both a Beacon theatre and a Trans-Beacon theatre.

Contrary to information above, the theatre closed on May 13, 1969 following the run of ICE STATION ZEBRA and was destroyed by fire on January 8, 1970. The 3-strip presentation were from 11/3/60 until 2/11/64. (The previous poster reversed some digits). This information confirmed through Columbus Dispatch microfilm records.

Ron3853 on February 3, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Part of the history of a great motion picture theater is the films that played there. Listed below are the films which played at the RKO Grand in Columbus, Ohio from March 1963 to December 1966. Research is from microfilms of Variety and The Columbus Dispatch. The date listed is the Wednesday of the film’s opening week.

RKO Grand
03/06/63 The Best of Cinerama
04/10/63 How the West Was Won
02/12/64 DARK
02/19/64 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
08/12/64 Circus World
10/14/64 Topkapi
12/23/64 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
02/03/65 Marriage, Italian Style
04/14/65 Major Dundee
05/05/65 Lawrence of Arabia
05/12/65 Die! Die! My Darling/The Notorious Landlady
05/19/65 The Cardinal/The Wackiest Ship in the Army
05/26/65 Mister Moses
06/02/65 Masquerade
06/09/65 Oceans 11/The Days of Wine and Roses
06/16/65 Splendor in the Grass/Palm Springs Weekend
06/23/65 Ride the Wild Surf/The Mouse That Roared
06/30/65 The Hallelujah Trail
10/06/65 The Greatest Story Ever Told
01/26/66 Battle of the Bulge
05/11/66 Mediterranean Holiday
06/29/66 Khartoum
09/21/66 The Blue Max
01/18/67 Russian Adventure

Films which played is subsequent weeks will be listed in subsequent posts as research is completed. ‘Grand Prix" followed “Russian Adventure”, and the theater’s holiday films in subsequent years were:
1967 – Far From the Madding Crowd
1968 – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Mark_L on October 12, 2005 at 2:35 pm

Here’s a real oddity about this theatre:

In the fifties, this theatre was unable to show 3-D films because the projection booth ceiling was too low to allow for the larger reels.

My source for this is a former manager, Charles Van Fossen.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 15, 2005 at 9:06 am

A page about the Grand in its Cinerama days:


This page has many photos and a couple of articles about the theatre. There’s a great photo of the projection booth with its three projectors.

RobertR on May 9, 2005 at 5:59 am

On the page showing the 1960 pictures of the “This is Cinerama” engagement, what kind of curtain is that? How did it open?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 9, 2005 at 5:41 am

This theatre is described in an article by Melissa Starker in the weekly newspaper Columbus Alive, October 4, 2001:

A Theater Near You: The Arena Grand revives the tradition of downtown movie palaces

Scroll down to “THE GRAND: Fires, aliases and technical innovations.” An amazing number of destructive fires happened here, including one last fire while it was being torn down in 1970.

(By the way, the author of this article once managed the Somerville Theatre near Boston.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 8, 2005 at 6:19 am

The Columbus Metropolitan Library has an online historic photo collection with several photos of this and other theatres.

Grand Opera House, 1879. The caption says it was destroyed by fire in 1887. This appears to be the immediate predecessor of what eventually became the RKO Grand.

State House grounds in winter, 1898. Grand Theatre is the dark building on the right.

Bliss Business College, 1904. Located in the same building as the Grand Theatre.

The Grand Theatre was truly a “grand” experience both inside and out (3 photos show 1934 exterior, proscenium and organ, and ladies' lounge)

RKO Grand Theatre wreckage after the fire of June 15, 1934. It was quickly rebuilt and reopened October 4, 1935.

RKO Grand marquee, 1955, showing “Rage at Dawn”.

RKO Grand premieres This is Cinerama, November 3, 1960. Interior and exterior views.

Statehouse Parking Garage construction, 1963. Photo taken from above a nearby skyscraper shows the Hartman, Grand, and Ohio theatres side-by-side on State Street.

RKO Grand Cinerama and Ohio Theatres, side by side, 1969

Click on the thumbnails for full-size photos.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 9, 2004 at 6:29 am

When I lived in Columbus in the late 1960s, this theater’s name had been changed to “Grand Cinerama”. I saw 2001 there.

Randall on April 20, 2004 at 10:19 pm

The RKO Grand was our destination for holiday films – thanks to CINERAMA. I saw THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, MAD MAD MAD WORLD, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, 2001, KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA, etc. at various holidays. The interior was streamline deco, but greatly altered by CINERAMA. I remember exploring the theatre during the public sale prior to the demolition. With all the lights on it appeared very tired and much smaller than my memories.

William on April 15, 2004 at 3:54 pm

The RKO Grand Theatre originally seated 1200 people. Seating may have been reduced when they installed Cinerama into the theatre.