Grand Theatre

1426 Derry Street,
Harrisburg, PA 17104

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Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre on Derry Street was a kind of sister theatre to the Penway Theatre on State Street. It opened prior to 1922.

It was another typical neighborhood second-run theater in what was once a very pleasant residential neighborhood a little ways down from Harrisburg’s Mulberry Street Bridge.

The Grand Theatre was set almost on the sidewalk and did not have an impressive entrance or a large or overhanging marquee (like the Penway Theatre). As I recall there was a small narrow marquee for the movie titles and stars that ran along the top of the entrance and was flat against the building.

The refreshment stand was right inside the entrance and had double doors on each side that led into the auditorium. I don’t recall the auditorium itself being as large as the Penway Theatre.

I remember standing in line down the sidewalk to see MGM’s remake of “Little Women” at the Grand Theatre when I was in elementary school. (You stood right in front of the homes which were adjacent to the theater and also right on the sidewalk).

Later I also saw the remake of “Rose Marie” there, indicating that even neighborhood theaters were converted to CinemaScope by around 1954/1955.

As of March 1955 it was (like the Penway Theatre) still listed in the Screen Times column in Harrisburg newspapers.

The Grand Theatre closed in 1955 and became a church, then a roller skating rink, and then a church again.

Condemned by the city, the Grand Theatre was demolished in the early-2000’s.

Contributed by Ross Care

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 17, 2010 at 1:53 am

The Grand is still listed in newspaper ads as of Feb., 1956.
It was showing a double-feature: “Jail Busters” & “Loophole”. I’ve never heard of either film.

1posterfan4sure on February 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

“Jail Busters” featured the Bowery Boys and “Loophole” was a 1954 retread starring Barry Sullivan, a man born to play the lead in B pictures, as a bank clerk accused of theft. Both from Monogram/Allied Artists. And I had to look ‘em up on IMDB, 'cause I didn’t remember them either. I’m a movie buff and I’ve been surprised when I look at theater listings from the 40s, 50s, 60s, even 70s and 80s, and I don’t remember the titles of 99% of the movies. It’s not a bad memory, it’s just that so much is, was, and always has been, generally forgettable. Now maybe the Grand was showing those pictures on a Monday or Tuesday night, and had something great on the weekend, but one has to ask who would have come out on a cold February night and paid good money to sit through those two pictures. The last guy on the block without a TV? Five or ten years years before there might have been a crowd any night of the week, for anything, but playing movies like that in 1956 would have hastened the end for any theater. Just as making movies like that hastened the end of Monogram.

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Interesting, thanks. This sounds more like a double-bill that would have played at the Rio. It perhaps indicates that the Grand was going downhill by this time?
I think I know studios like MGM and Fox but when I go through one of those books that lists every film they ever made, like you, I find many I don’t know.
And then there were studios like Monogram (and Eagle Lion)…
There were so many films being made up through the ‘50s, and, yes, many of them forgettable. I think what we see available on DVD and otherwise today may just be the tip of the iceberg.
IMDB is a great source (for almost any film ever made).
BTW Barry Sullivan’s daughter is directing plays in the LA area.

1posterfan4sure on February 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

And Barry Sullivan was damn good actor, too. He was just one of those people destined to play second banana in “A” pictures and the lead in “B’s.” As such, he probably had a longer and more versatile career than many people who were bigger “stars.”

gfradar on July 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm

The Grand did have a modist curved marquee it overhang the sidewalk by about 4-5 feet The Entrance was recessed into the 3 story building about 6 feet. Walter Yhost owned the Grand on Derry St, Roxy on 13th St, Penway on State and the Vale in Mechanicsburg. Don’t think he owned the National, but did own or manage the Paramount Theater in Mechanicsburg in the early 1900’s. the building was demolished about 2005.

JohnMessick on July 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm

My mistake….He didn’t own the National. I knew he owned 4 theaters. I got the Grand and the National mixed up.

carolgrau on July 7, 2010 at 3:50 pm

We started to install the level floor and turn it into a roller rink in sixty six in sixty seven we opened the grand Roller Rink,,It did well for about six months then the neighborhood bbadasses tried to take over,, Once we told them to stay out , they started to harrass the customers outside the building, then they just stopped comming, and we closed it up…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm

The Grand Theatre was listed in the 1922 Harrisburg city directory.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 28, 2018 at 1:44 pm

The Grand Theatre was the largest of four neighborhood houses opened in Harrisburg in September, 1914, according to an article in the October 10, 1914, issue of Motion Picture News. Originally seating 1,200, the Grand was owned by J. M. Lenney, and was his second Harrisburg movie house, the first being Lenney’s Theatre at 5-7 S. 13th Street. The Grand was a reverse theater, with the screen at the entrance end of the auditorium.

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 28, 2018 at 7:04 pm

The Harrisburg papers ran a block ad for four theaters, the Penway, Grand Roxy, and Valle. I remember seeing (MGM’s) Little Women at the Grand and the remake of Rose Marie in CinemaScope. Little Women (also a remake) was released in 1949, Rose Marie around 1953, so the theater (and neighborhood) must have still been in good shape then.

One of my schoolmates lived right next to the Grand. I thought he was so lucky. I remember the unusual marquee (which a comment here mentioned). I thought it was a nice theater, rather classy actually (due to the unusual marquee). I don’t remember it being a reverse theater. Interesting.

I looked at one of those Google maps of Harrisburg a few weeks ago and was surprised to see the building that housed the Roxy (across from Christ Lutheran Church) is still there. That must be the last remnant of the Burg neighborhood movie theaters still around. (I’m in southern California now, up the freeway from where all my favorite movies were made).

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