Smyrna Theatre

106 W. Commerce Street,
Smyrna, DE 19977

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: George M. Schwartz Circuit

Architects: Frederick L.W. Moehle, John J. Zink

Functions: Workshop

Styles: Colonial Revival

Nearby Theaters

Smyrna Theatre, Smyrna Delaware

Replacing the adjacent Strand Theatre which had closed in 1945, the Smyrna Theatre opened on April 3, 1948 with Gene Autry in “Carolina Moon” & Penny Singleton in “Blondie in the Dough”. It was designed by architect John Zink, with Frederick L.W. Moehle as associate architect. It has a rather plain exterior. Inside the auditorium there is a wealth of decoration, and two murals are set on the splay walls each side of the proscenium. Seating was provided in orchestra level, with a small balcony for the exclusive use by African-American patrons. It was closed around 1981.

The building has been converted into the Painted Stave distillery retaining some of its original features.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 18, 2010 at 6:58 am

Though they placed it in nearby Dover, Delaware, Boxoffice did report the opening of the Smyrna Theatre in its issue of April 10, 1948. It said the house had opened “last week.”

A decade earlier, Boxoffice of February 26, 1938, said that the Roxy Theatre at Smyrna had escaped damage when a car parked in front of it caught fire.

Also, Commerce Street runs east and west. The building was still standing at 106 W. Commerce when the Google street view truck last went through town. It has lost its marquee to one of those absurd shingled mansardettes that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. It must have closed by then.

The building appears to be vacant in street view, but Internet directory sites list it as the location of Slaughter’s Plumbing & Heating. It’s a wholesale outfit so maybe it looks empty because they just don’t have window displays.

atmos on May 12, 2010 at 11:53 pm

The architects were John J Zink and F L W Moeble.

kencmcintyre on May 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

So it should be W. Commerce instead of S. Commerce.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on August 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm

The Smyrna was a lovely theatre. Far nicer than you might expect in a town of that size. The exterior was streamline-modern with a tiny, very plain lobby. Concessions were served through a window that connected an adjacent coffee shop. Eventually concessions were available through vending machines only.

On the other hand, the standee area, small balcony and main auditorium were bordering on spectacular. A great adaptation of a classic design. I remember the front curtain was especially stylish and was used in a proper, professional way with stage lighting.

The average audience (in the mid and late 60’s) was another issue. Of the many hundreds of theatres I have seen or been associated with, in large and small towns, the Smyrna audience was one of the rudest and most disrespectful I have ever encountered. While not malicious, they were loud and unruly. The part-time managers, usually Dover AFB moonlighters) were more “bouncers” than anything. Truly a shame since the theatre itself was such a gem. As in many other places, when the teens take over, everyone else leaves…then the teens leave and the theatre closes.

muviebuf on January 28, 2017 at 1:25 pm

The Smyrna Theatre was built and operated by GM Schwartz Theatres of Dover Delaware.

I believe the Smyrna Theatre operated until the mid 1970’s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 28, 2017 at 7:52 pm

The current occupant of 106 W. Commerce Street is Painted Stave Distilling, producers and purveyors of spirits. The building houses their production facility, tasting room, and an event venue which can be rented. Their web site includes some current photos and a brief history of the theater.

The closest thing to a vintage photo is a shot of the screen end of the auditorium that appears to be from just before the remodeling into a distillery. The screen was long gone, but some of the original decorative detail (far more Streamline Modern than Colonial Revival) remained at that time. In the current photos the interior bears no resemblance to a theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 28, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Back when we were conflating the Smyrna Theatre with the old Smyrna Opera House, Cinema Treasures member kencmcintyre linked on the Opera House page to three photos of this house on his Photobucket. He isn’t around to move the links, so I’ll make new links here:

Back wall of auditorium

Screen end of auditorium


dallasmovietheaters on January 7, 2023 at 8:45 pm

April 3, 1948 grand opening ad with a double-feature of Gene Autry in “Carolina Moon” and Penny Singleton in “Blondie in the Dough” posted in photos.

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