Elite Theatre

Humboldt, KS 66748

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Additional Info

Functions: Opera House

Previous Names: New Elite Theatre, MunicipalHumboldt Opera House, Humboldt Theatre, Municipal Theatre, Municipal Opera House, Best Theatre, Royal Theatre, New Elite Theatre

Nearby Theaters

No theaters found within 30 miles

The town of Humboldt had a 19th Century Opera House when a group of investors allowed folks to buy into a privately-held new opera house. Frank C. Miller ran the new Humboldt Opera House which launched September 18, 1905 with a live stage play, “The Gambler and the Lady” and selected vaudeville acts. The theatre cost around $100,000 to build - a pricey figure for a town of around 1,500 residents.

The town got interested in moving pictures which were infrequently played there using the name the Humboldt Theatre. In 1909, the Elite Electric Theatre brought full-time motion pictures allowing the Humboldt Opera House to devote most of its time to live performances.

At the end of a ten-year lease, the stock companies had moved along with crowd sizes waning. The city council voted to take control of the building for the next five years under the names of the Municipal Opera House and the Municipal Theatre - again using “Opera House” mostly for live performances and “Theatre” for movies.

As was the case in most small towns, the cost of live shows was too much for regular attendance and the opera house was converted on a sublease to a full-time, privately-operated movie theatre on May 5, 1920 known as the Best Theatre. It was operated by J.A. Brinkley who owned the Crystal Theatre in Moran - about 20 miles away. Brinkley closed the Crystal Theatre and moved the equipment to the Opera House in Humboldt. The opening film was Lewis Stone in “River’s End”.

The Best Theatre folded within a year and the City returned to operate it with live events until November of 1923. At that time, private ownership returned under the name of the Royal Theatre opening with a live stage play but then relying mostly on motion pictures. The Royal left in August of 1925 and its equipment was moved to Columbus, Kansas.

The venue returned to sporadic live events as the Municipal Opera House (and Municipal Theatre) until Vitaphone sound projection equipment it described as “A-1 Sound” was placed there. Mr. and Mrs. Reinert opened it on a sublease repurposing the name of the town’s first movie theatre. The opera house was now known as the New Elite Theatre at its relaunch on May 9, 1930.

The name became simply the Elite Theatre not long thereafter. The former Elite Theatre which dated back to 1909 would relaunch under the name of the Cozy Theatre. The concept of two theatres in town proved challenging and the Elite Theatre went out of business.

The city came back in operating it as the Municipal Opera House and dropping films. In 1940, a draft registration event took place there. The venue was dark during World War II and the City offered the venue for sale. It’s not clear that there were any takers for the property. On June 29, 1951, lightning struck the opera house causing a fire that caused major damage. This appears to have ended hopes of a comeback.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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