Rex Theatre

921 Central Avenue,
Auburn, NE 68305

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Additional Info

Functions: Opera House, Retail

Previous Names: New Opera House, Maclay Opera House

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The New Opera House aka the Maclay Opera House aka the Rex Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988. James Maclay was one of the businessmen who got the project off the ground and it opened as the New Opera House in September of 1890. The multifunction building had two businesses on the ground floor with the opera’s auditorium on the second floor. In 1893, Maclay’s daughter Katherine was one of 13 graduating high school seniors to walk across the stage. Three years later, Edison’s phonograph wowed audiences as “the instrument that sings”.

In 1906, the Opera House became known as the Maclay Opera House. Three-time Presidential nominee and three-time losing nominee, Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan appeared at the Maclay Opera House on Election Day Eve in 1906 trying to drum up support for candidates. But like many opera houses, it was challenging to compete against low price movie houses especially following World War I.

Auburn had the Booth Theatre (later the State Theatre), the Bennett Theatre run by Ole Bennett, and the Ideal Theatre (later the Auburn Theatre). Frank Dillard leased the Opera House and reopened it for motion pictures as the Rex Theatre. K. Mooreland Amusement Circuit took on the location in 1920. The Rex Theatre appears to have gone out of business in 1928 not making the conversion to sound. It has one more trade film booking listed in 1933 indicating that the projectors may have stayed in the booth. However, it was mainly used in the decades ahead for speeches and community events.

The fa├žade of the building is still in outstanding condition in the 21st Century. There was some discussion about restoring the former opera house to its former usage.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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