S. Prairie Street,
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Architects: L.M. Hines
Previous Names: Upland Opera Hall, Upland Opera House
The Rex Theatre was housed in the diminutive town of Upland, Nebraska serving as its second Opera Hall and the Rex Theater’s second downtown location. The second Rex had a ten-year run as a silent theatre before being destroyed in a fire operating from 1920 to 1930.
The town had its original Upland Opera Hall that dated back to 1902. It was used as a live hall for events, a fraternal hall for the Modern Woodsmen of America, and had turned to a policy of motion pictures under the name of the Crescent Theatre. “A.H.” Henry Petersen would take over the programming of the Crescent Theatre in 1915 which alternated between movies as the Crescent Theatre and live fare as the Upland Opera House and, later, the Upland Theatre. It would then operate as the Upland Theatre and the Rex Theatre.
When an auto company announced plans to convert the opera hall / theatre to an auto dealership and garage at the expiry of the lease, Petersen became a leader in the building of a new and larger Opera Hall. The move seemed sound as the town hit its all-time population high that 55% greater than 20 years previously at 433 residents.
Upon completion, Petersen decided that the Rex Theatre programming and nameplate should simply move to the new 500-seat Opera Hall which transpired at the new venue’s launch on September 28, 1920. The former Opera Hall resumed operation for three months returning as the Crescent Theatre before being converted to the auto dealership.
The Rex Theatre had a hit in the reissue of “Birth of a Nation” on July 21 and 22, 1922. But by 1930, the population declined 15% and would continue to fall in all but one of the next eight decades. The theatre did not convert to sound films. The final show at the Rex Theatre turned out to be Ruth Chatterton in “Charming Sinners” supported by a Billy Dooley comedy short by Christie Films, “Off the Deck” on March 1, 1930. Hours after the last film, a fire destroyed the neighboring Farmers Union Cream Station as well as the Rex Theatre / Opera Hall. With the population downtrending, higher cost of theatre operation due to sound equipment, and the onset of the Depression, there was no viability in replacing the movie house.
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