Roland Theatre

210 17th Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

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Additional Info

Styles: Mission Revival

Previous Names: Courtyard Playhouse

Nearby Theaters

Roland Theatre

The Roland Theatre opened by 1933 and may have closed sometime after 1945. In 1963 the Little Theater of Virginia Beach moved into the Roland Theatre and they renovated and re-named it Courtyard Playhouse.

I know there have been at least two different restaurants at that address. Bangkok Street Grill and Bubba’s Beach Club Restaurant. It could still be one of those restaurants or it could be something else.

It was demolished in May 2010.

Contributed by Bob Jensen

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

njaneardude on June 9, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Bubba’s, oh my goodness, don’t get me started. It’s not Bubba’s anymore though : (

AlfredWillis on April 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Over the past several days southeastern Virginia print and television media have reported the demolition of the Roland Theatre as imminent. See, for example:

View link


View link

See also the article reproduced at View link

AlfredWillis on April 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm

To appreciate this U-shaped building it is well worth using Google Maps to see a satellite image of its address, or to see an aerial view. The address to use is in both cases: “210 virginia beach boulevard virginia beach va”.

AlfredWillis on April 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm

According to Joseph Dunn & Barbara Lyle, Virginia Beach: Wish You Were Here (1983), p. 81, the “Roland Theatre, located down a court, opened in 1926.” A postcard and photographs of the exterior as it appered in the mid-1940s have been published in that book and other places. A 1946 photo shows that the U-shaped building then featured a horizontal, rectangular marquee spanning the width of its courtyard and extending over the 17th Street sidewalk. Above hung a vertical marquee bering the name of the theatre. The building itself, in Spanish mission style, has a facade continuous with that of the Morrison Building next door on the side toward the oceanfront. About 1963, 17th Street in Virginia Beach was renamed Virginia Beach Boulevard and addresses along the toroughfare wer renumbered. The U-shaped structure originally numbered 205-213 17th Street becasme 206-214 Virginia Beach Boulevard. The Virginia Beach City Directories, which beagn publication in 1962, do not appear to have ever contained a listing for the “Roland Theatre.” Instead, 210 Virginia Beach Boulevard is the address assigned to the Roland Court Apartments. (In 1957 and 1958 the Norfolk City Directory, incluiding Virginia Beach, had already listed the Roland COurt Apartments at 210 17th Street.) The Roland Theatre would therefore appear to have closed by 1957. 206-208 and 212-214 are the addresses of the retail spaces flanking the courtyard used, at least in the 1940s, as the entryway to the Roland. Above those retail spaces were the apartmants. The entrance to the Roland Court Apartments was at 210 Virginia Beach Boulevard through at least 1984. From the 1960s onward the retail spaces changed function quite often, suggesting the possibility that their (ground-floor) facades may have been remodeled at least once over time. From 1991 to 1993 the 210 address was vacant. The entire even-numbered side of Virginia Beach Boulevard appears to have fallen to speculators about 1996-97, and all of its addreses seem to have been vacant as of 1998. Plans for renovating the theatre building (206-214 Virginia Beach Boulevard) were announced in the Virginian-Pilot Beacon for 7 June 2009. The addresses, 210 (or 206-214) 17th Street and 210 (or 206-214) Virginia Beach Boulevard are equivalent. The Roland Theatre building now bears the numbers 208-214 Virginia Beach Boulevard, 206 being currently unused and 210 being the address of the entrance to the theater proper.

AlfredWillis on April 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm

When did the Roland Theatre operate? Was the Roland Court built in 1926, as one source asserts? When the Roland Court opened that year as an adjunct to the Morrison Building, did it contain a theatre space? Was the building in use for several years before a theatre opened within it about 1930? Was the Roland successful? These questions are difficult or impossible to answer from easily obtainable documentation. The earliest newspaper ad that I have been able to find for the Roland Theatre appeared in the Virginia beach News for 4 January 1935 (p. 8). This was actually an ad for the (larger) Bayne Theatre around the corner on Atlantic Avenue. The Bayne had been running similar small ads, listing the features it was playing weekly, in the Virginian-Pilot since at least December 1933. On 4 January 1933 the Bayne’s ad additonally specifies the upcomng weekend (Friday-Sturday) program of “The Roland.” In the Bayne Theatre’s ad in the Sun for 25 January 1934, some detail of the (slightly modified) management poicy is provided. The Roland is there said to be “Open 2 Days Only Showing 1 Change of Pictures Per Week on Saturday and Sunday.” These ads suggest that the Bayne and the Roland wer under the same management, and that the Bayne was being operated as a kind of overflow facility in an arrangement that foreshadows later twinning. Further research would be valuable in throwing light upon what may have been the operational connections between these two neighboring theatres. Pending the discovery of additional evidence, it can be safely said that the Roland began operation no later than 1933 and continued to operate through at least 1946. The styling of the marquee shown in photographs of the mid-1940s suggests that it might have been installed around that date. The building it occupies, containing besides the theatre retail space subdivisible into as many as four shops or restaurants, and apartments above the retail space, is an interesting example of a mixed-used structure. Mixed-use buildings were favored in the 1920s to hedge investment in theatre facilities by diversifying their rent sources.

AlfredWillis on May 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Correcting previous post: I mistakenly wrote, “These ads suggest that the Bayne and the Roland wer under the same management, and that the Bayne was being operated as a kind of overflow facility in an arrangement that foreshadows later twinning.” I meant to write: “These ads suggest that the Bayne and the Roland were under the same management, and that the ROLAND was being operated as a kind of overflow facility in an arrangement that foreshadows later twinning.”

AlfredWillis on May 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

According to an Associated Press story, demolition of the Roland Court Theater began on Wednesday, 19 May 2010. See:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Most references to this Mission style house, opened in 1926, call it the Roland Courts or Roland Court Theatre, but the vertical sign seen in this ca.1945 photo says only Roland. I thinkt he small sign under the vertical says “2 Big Films”, but it’s a bit blurry so I couldn’t swear to it.

Video of a 2010 WVEC news report about the demolition, which includes a couple of vintage photos, can currently still be seen at this link.

norfolk356 on May 14, 2015 at 11:33 am

According to the newspaper, as well as my parents memory, the Roland was used by the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach sometime in the 1950’s or 1960’s. A cousin had an efficiency(one room) apartment on the second floor when her husband was performing at the ballrooms and nightclubs at Virginia Beach. His name was Jack Ryan or John Joseph Ryan, Jr. and he was with the Dorsey brothers.

In my memory the theater was closed and not noticeable. The entrance at the end of the court or alley had become a single windowless door.

norfolk356 on July 16, 2022 at 3:31 am

In 1963 the Little Theater of Virginia Beach moved to the Roland. They renovated the theater, renaming it Courtyard Playhouse.

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