Miles Royal Theatre

40 S. Case Avenue,
Akron, OH 44305

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Additional Info

Functions: Factory

Previous Names: New Royal Theater, New Miles Royal Theater

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The Miles Royal Theater will likely be best remembered as a spacious and unsuccessful burlesque house on Akron’s east side. But at opening, it was programmed as a 2,000 seat live vaudeville house and a first-run feature film venue. The East Akron playhouse at 40 South Case Street was equipped with a pipe organ and had a live orchestra. Charles H. Miles added to his theatres in Washington, D.C., Lancaster, Pennsylvania, four in Detroit, and two in Cleveland. The Akron location opened Monday, September 6, 1920 with live vaudeville acts including the Marconi Brothers (aka the Wireless Musicians), a news reel and the film, “Riders of the Dawn" starring Roy Stewart. Prices were high for the day and the venue appears to have closed soon thereafter. Five years earlier, Miles had run this same gambit after failing with his Miles Theater in Pittsburgh and then escaping debt by quickly departing town.

The Miles Royal Theater sat empty until Nat Fields reopened it with live programming in 1923. A dance hall was above the Miles in Robert’s Dance Palace. Fatty Arbuckle made appearances in the Royal’s “The Two Johns” in August of 1923. But business tailed off both upstairs and downstairs. In 1926, the dance hall was gone and the Miles Royal was reduced to “high class” burlesque shows under William Brill’s direction. In February of 1926, the City of Akron brought the operators in on a morals offense charge after careful observation of a handful of shows. Most notable in the Mayor’s stripping of Brill’s license was his “exception to some of the costumes of the players”. Brill’s theater was shut down on April 7, 1926. The Miles Royal reopened under new operators with a modified, refined bill in November of 1926 only to close again in March of 1927.

The Miles Royal opened again under new operators on October 30, 1927 with exploitation films and live stage acts. Its opening film, “The Naked Truth", had the usual separate male and female screenings as it did on four-wall screenings across the country. The theatre closed once again just two months later. It reopened under new operators who finally dropped “Miles” from the moniker. Reopening as the New Royal Theater on February 11, 1928, it featured live vaudeville led by Billy Lehr. It closed soon thereafter. New operators decided that it could be a first-run movie house. The name reverted to the New Miles Royal Theatre and became the first East Akron theater wired for sound films. Though its grand reopening on March 4, 1929 featured a live stage play, sound films bowed on March 24, 1929 with Mae McAvoy in ”The Lion and the Mouse". The venue closed by year’s end.

In 1930, new operators reopened the venue for boxing and wrestling matches. After a period of inactivity, the Miles Royal Theater was used for religious services in 1932 and renamed as the Tabernacle Building. It showed the film, “King of Kings" starring H.B. Warner, in April of 1932 - the first film shown in the building since 1929. But even the Tabernacle couldn’t make a long run at the Miles Royal Theater and left the place.

The Miles Royal Theater nameplate returned on April 14, 1934 with live vaudeville and a double-feature film policy. Up first was Paul Muni in “The World Changes", John Wayne in “Riders of Destiny” and radio star Pie Plant Pete (aka country music entertainer Claud Moye) on the Royal stage. Live country music and films became on the programming policy for several months. One can only assume that the 1,500 seat auditorium felt empty even with a sizable audience. So the programming policy simply became exploitation films and third-tier double features with live acts jettisoned by early Fall of 1934. The theatre closed in January of 1935 as the Depression was particularly unkind to the property.

Sporadic events took place early in 1936 including union speeches and a wrestling match. The Miles Royal Theater reopened once again under new operators on May 14, 1936 and returning as a movie house that failed quickly. Predictably, on September 15, 1936 the venue got new operators and returned to burlesque shows; but not its former “high quality” programming but the ribald Burley variety. It opened with the Bon Ton of Flesh Shows, “Glorified Traveling Burlesque". Local police were in attendance ordered to shut down the show if anything lewd occurred on stage. The venue was closed in November of 1936.

The Miles Royal Theater relaunched one last time with new operators and their grand reopening on April 4, 1937 with burlesque lasting until May 2, 1937. Nobody else decided to give the showplace another chance as an entertainment spot. The venue sat vacant until a May 28, 1940 auction in which the venue was sold for just $2,500. The former Miles Royal Theater had the distinction of being the first of 76 lots ever offered in a liquidation auction of this type in this history of Ohio. The venue made a successful transition to an industrial complex and, although weathered and quite dilapidated, still appears to be in use in the 2020’s.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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