Lyric Theater

306 N. Washington Street,
Salem, MO 65560

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Frisina Amusement Company

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Lyric Theater

The Lyric Theater was opened prior to 1921, and continued to operate until at least 1950.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm

The July 1, 1929, issue of The Film Daily said that the Lyric Theatre in Salem, Missouri, had been sold to L. L. Lewis by W. A. Donaldson. The May 2, 1936, issue of the same publication said that St. Louis architect Bruce F. Barnes would soon be taking bids “…for the house to be erected by Lyric Theater Co., Salem, Mo.” I’m not sure if the theater Barnes designed in 1936 was a replacement for the old Lyric, or if it was a new theater that would operate along with the Lyric.

Given how little information about Salem’s theaters there is on the Internet, it’s possible that the Preston was the theater built in 1936, and the old Lyric might have either been closed when the new house opened, or might have continued to operate for a while. The Preston is mentioned in a community forum, but the only mentions I can find of the Lyric are the one in the 1929 journal and in the walking tour brochure. That suggests that the Lyric was closed a very long time ago.

A walking tour brochure of downtown Salem places the Lyric Theatre at 306 N. Washington Street, but doesn’t make clear if the current building on the site is the historic building or not. It might be new construction. Google Maps has no street view for the location, nor does Bing Maps have a bird’s-eye view, and it’s impossible to determine the age of the current building from the aerial shots they do have.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 19, 2012 at 3:40 am

A New Salem Theatre is listed in the Film Daily Yearbook for 1941, as well as the Lyric Theatre. By the mid-1940’s the New Salem Theatre is listed as the Preston Theatre. Both the Preston Theatre and Lyric Theatre continued to be listed in 1950.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thanks, Ken. I wonder if the choice of the name New Salem Theatre indicates that there was also an earlier Salem Theatre in town, as well as the Lyric? I haven’t found any mention of one in old publications, but towns named Salem are difficult to research on the Internet. It’s a common name, with at least one place called Salem in each of more than half the States, and multiple Salems in several of them.

Darren_Snow on September 8, 2020 at 10:02 pm

1937 articles in Salem’s daily paper referred to a “New Lyric Theater” being built on Fourth Street. At this time, the older Lyric Theater was still in operation. The opening of the “New Lyric” was never mentioned in those pages, but the Preston Theater opened on Fourth Street in 1941. Perhaps it was a remodeled and renamed New Lyric, or the New Lyric’s completion was for some reason postponed for several years and never actually opened under that name, instead being named after its owners.

Norman Plant
Norman Plant on June 1, 2022 at 5:47 pm

The 306 N Washington address refers to the side entrance of the theater which is the entrance of the Masonic Lodge. The front of the theater (H&R Block) is actually 123 W 4th Street.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 2, 2022 at 6:27 am

Here is an item from the December 3, 1921 issue of Moving Picture World: “W. A. Donaldson has purchased the Lyric Theatre at Salem, Mo., from Sankey Bros. He takes charge on November 29.”

Norman Plant
Norman Plant on June 3, 2022 at 11:00 am

It looks like the original Lyric was located at approximately at 203 W 4th Street, and this one (just across Washington on 4th Street) was originally an Opera House that was converted by the Masonic Lodge for their use. It may have been used as a theater (the New Lyric) to replace the original Lyric in the next block, or it could have just been an Opera House converted by the Masons. Either way, the Preston was some distance from these two buildings.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 3, 2022 at 7:41 pm

The building at 123 W. 4th appears on a 1900 Sanborn map as a commercial building with an opera house on the second floor. The ground floor is noted to have iron columns running the length of the center. I’m starting to doubt that the ground floor ever housed a theater, and if this building housed the Lyric it was probably in the second floor opera house space.

On this web page there is a photo of the section of 4th Street near Washington Street, and it shows an ordinary storefront where the H&R Block office is now. In the next block is a sign with a crossbar at top with the letters LY clearly readable, and the word THEATRE vertically below it. That has to have been the Lyric. It was, as Norman Plant noted above, probably at 203 W. 4th Street. The text accompanying the photo mentions the Opera House, but doesn’t mention the Lyric Theatre ever having been in the building at 123 W. 4th. Another page of that web site does mention the Lyric having been in that building, but places it at 306 N. Washington, now the entrance of the Masonic lodge, so probably originally the entrance of the upstairs Opera house and then the Lyric. The 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory gives the location of the Lyric as 4th and Jefferson Street. As there is (and was) no Jefferson Street in Salem, it was probably meant to say 4th and Washington.

This page from the downtown Salem walking tour says of the site in the next block of 4th Street that “Ken and Olive Preston purchased the property next and tore down the hotel. They had a building built to house the Lyric Movie Theater.” Unfortunately, the text doesn’t say when this happened. So the question is when was the Lyric at (probably) 203 W. 4th built? I haven’t found the name Preston in connection with Salem in the trade journals in the 1920s. In 1921 and 1929 the Lyric was owned by W. A. Donaldson, and in 1929 was bought by L. L. Lewis. It is most likely that the Lyric at 204 W. 4th was the project mentioned in the May 2, 1936 issue of Film Daily, and the earlier Lyric, owned by Donaldson and then Lewis, was the former Opera House. The 1926 FDY lists the Lyric with 210 seats, so it was smaller than the new Lyric built by the Prestons.

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