Opera House

Valparaiso, NE 68065

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Additional Info

Functions: Opera House

Previous Names: Valparaiso Opera House

Nearby Theaters

No theaters found within 30 miles

The Valparaiso Opera House was built in 1888 and housed live plays and community events. It was the place where locals likely saw their first motion pictures. On January 4, 1902, the venue hosted a traveling moving picture show featuring, “Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison” and other Edison films. Posters promoting the opera house were plastered around town including the local hotel.

As small town opera houses struggled to remain viable with live programming in the 1910’s, the Opera House installed its own projectors in 1912 and hosted regular film screenings into the 1920’s. Often Saturday nights were movie nights instead of live programmed events. Neighboring F.A. Stava’s Enterprise Drug Store was the de facto concession stand for opera house patrons with candies and ice cream sold prior to the shows.

A major attraction was “Birth of a Nation” on August 23, 1917. Bowling alley operator R.K. Lattin launched the new-build 200-seat Strand Theatre on July 2, 1921 providing competition for the movie dollar. But the major films still were played at the larger Opera House. The biggest of them all in the venue’s history may have been a four-day Thanksgiving 1924 presentation of “The Covered Wagon” in which a toy covered wagon was given to a lucky child. Multi-page programs were circulated throughout the city in advance of the event (see photos).

The cost to transition to sound was too much for the Opera House and the Strand Theatre, initially, to afford and both bowed out of movie presentations until the Strand Theatre was equipped with sound in 1937. But a rather steep decrease of one-third of the population from 600 to 1920 to just 400 in 1940 likely was the end of cinematic gold in town. The Strand Theatre closed and the Opera House went into disuse until a 1952 renovation.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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