Columbia Theater

121 S. Jefferson Street,
Dayton, OH 45402

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Marcus Theatres

Architects: Gustave A. Niehus

Styles: Spanish Renaissance

Nearby Theaters

Columbia Theatre Winter

When this theater was opened on December 6, 1913 with Helen Gardner in “The Princess of Bagdad”. It was said to be the most beautifully decorated movie house in Dayton at the time. At a cost of $30,000 the paneled ceilings of the auditorium were decorated in a creme color. The beams and all ornamental plaster work were white and gold. The upper walls were of a gold tone with Renaissance style decoration in the style of the 15th century art. The lower walls were decorated with a Spanish leather effect which was done by overglazing with different colors.

The entrance of the theater featured a horseshoe shaped entrance, lit by a number of electric bulbs, a rather new invention at the time. A Wurlitzer Automatic Orchestra provided music for the films.

As the years went on, the theater started to decline, both due to neglect and B-grade movies. By the 1940’s the theater rarely advertised and was considered a cheap alternative to the more expensive downtown theaters. In 1948, the theater was purchased and remodeled. It was too late. The once beautiful theater was considered by many to be gaudy and outdated.

The Columbia Theater shut its doors in May 1955 and was demolished shortly there after to become a parking lot. The original site is now part of green space/park in downtown Dayton.

Contributed by Jon Flynn

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

rivest266 on August 23, 2008 at 11:32 am

Lost Memory, It has been yanked, but can be found at View link

ZookieFreddie on February 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I hate to tell you this but the photo is at neither one of the links posted above. Does anybody else have a photo?

ZookieFreddie on February 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I hate to tell you this but the photo does not exist at either link posted above. Does anyone have a photo?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 11, 2010 at 8:42 am

The Columbia was one of the Dayton theaters designed by architect Gustave A. Niehus (others included the Apollo and the Mecca.) The Columbia’s recent opening was announced in the Decmeber 27, 1913, issue of The Motion Picture World.

Gary Smith
Gary Smith on August 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The Columbia also had an orchestra to accompany the silent films during Prime-Time and the organ was used the rest of the time. The rear of the Columbia backed up to the side of the RKO State theatre.

dallasmovietheaters on February 14, 2021 at 9:51 pm

The Columbia Theatre was built in 1913 launching December 6, 1913 with Helen Gardner as “The Princess of Bagdad” with music from the Wurlitzer Motion Picture Orchestra organ. It was just a block away from the Rialto Theatre which had opened in 1912. The Columbia was the deluxe first-run house at the time. Both theaters converted to sound to stay relevant.

The Columbia outlasted the neighboring Rialto Theatre which closed in February of 1955 and it looked like for the final time. But when the Columbia announced its closure in May of 1955 followed by demolition for a parking lot, the Rialto was reopened and it would well outlive the superior Columbia surviving more than 12 years.

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