RKO State Theatre
32 E. Fourth Street,
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Architects: Albert Pretzinger
Firms: Pretzinger & Musselman
Previous Names: Auditorium Theatre, State Theatre
The RKO State Theatre has an interesting beginning, It was originally built as a YMCA in 1887. David Sinclair started Sinclair College here. By May 1908, the college and YMCA had outgrown the building and it became the Auditorium Theatre. There were actually two screens in the theatre, one theatre on the main floor and another theatre on the second floor called the Annex Theatre which opened on December 17, 1908. This is probably the first example of what we now know as a twin theatre. The main lower auditorium seated 1,040 on a stadium plan, with a raised section at the rear (with no overhanging balcony). The upper auditorium (known as the Annex Theatre) became the Hippodrome Theatre in 1913 but closed in 1914 and after remaining empty for a while was converted into the Auditorium Hotel in 1917. The theatre was destroyed by fire in November 1917 and was rebuilt to the plans of architectural firm Preszinger & Musselman.
The theatre was said to be haunted by a young woman that was killed in the sewing room. Strange noises and lights turning on and off by themselves were reported. The theatre also had talkies, before they were even invented! Actors behind the screen would act out the action on the screen.
The Auditorium Theatre was renamed the State Theatre in 1923 when it was managed by B.F. Keiths. It primarily ran B movies and handled the overflow of movies from the Keith’s Theatre. The State Theatre had a personality of its own. The theatre resembled an old castle and was perfect for watching horror movies.
By 1923 the State Theatre was renamed RKO State Theatre. In the 1950’s attendance was dropping off and on October 28, 1964 RKO dropped it lease on the building. The theatre opened the next day under different management and they too closed on January 18, 1965.
A year later, the Dayton Community Theatre moved in and did well. The City of Dayton had other plans. In 1970 the building was demolished and became part of the Dayton Convention Center and Hotel complex.
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