RKO Grand Theatre

525 Vine Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: RKO

Architects: John Bailey McElfatrick

Functions: Opera House

Previous Names: Grand Opera House

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RKO Grand Theatre

The RKO Grand Theatre was a downtown Cincinnati movie theatre which was originally built as a new home for the Grand Opera House. The building had seven years of service as a movie theater and just over thirty years as a live opera house before its demolition in 1939 to make way for a new, streamlined Grand Theatre built for movies.

Cincinnati’s original Grand Opera House was launched with “Hamlet” on September 8, 1874 with the venue keeping its look until a major refresh in 1882. Interestingly enough, the Grand Opera House went out more dramatically with “Hamlet” on January 22, 1901. That’s because a fire decimated the building during the play’s first act. Fortunately, all of the audience, staff and cast escaped injury free.

The new Opera House’s architect J.B. McElfatrick of New York City built a high dollar, fireproof structure with iron stairways and lots of fire exits. The new Grand Opera House was a Klaw and Erlanger operated venue and opened September 15, 1902 with “Ben Hur”.

The Opera House continued with live fare when four elements seemed to have upended it. First, was the end of a 30-year leasing agreement. Second, the opera house was in need of $30,000 in repairs, Third, the Spring 1932 season was a critical but not financial success. Fourth, there was a battle over the valuation and taxing in late-August.

Just days after the valuation protest, RKO was awarded the Grand Opera House on a year-to-year leasing agreement. They would change the house from live to the RKO Grand Theatre showing films. The theatre launched September 10, 1932 with Janet Gaynor in “The First Year”. The dance hall, Danceland, was on the rooftop of the RKO Grand Theatre.

In July of 1939, new plans were unveiled to build a new RKO Grand Theatre that would improve film presentation and provide a more contemporary, streamlined moderne look. The RKO Grand Theatre closed on July 20, 1939, with Joan Blondell in “Good Girls Go to Paris”. In attendance was one gentlemen who was also at the 1902 Opera House launch. Demolition took place in the Fall of 1939 to make way for the new RKO Grand Theatre. That theatre launched August 22, 1940 and has its own Cinema Treasures listing as the Grand Theatre - its final name before its own demolition 43 years later.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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