Royal Grand Theatre

122-124 W. Fifth Street,
Marion, IN 46952

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Allen Opera House, Grand Opera House, Grand Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Page Organ Console (1925)

Known only from a reference regarding the organ installed there. Opened as the Allen Opera House, later renamed Grand Opera House. The Grand Theatre was opened prior to 1906. It was closed in 1930 and had been demolished by 1947.

Contributed by William Dunklin

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm

A Grand Theatre in Marion was the smaller of two houses listed for that city (the other was the Indiana Theatre) in the 1906-1907 edition of Julius Cahn’s guide. The Grand was a ground-floor house with over 700 seats. It the older of the two theaters as well, as I’ve found it mentioned as early as 1895. One later By 1916, when one magazine item referred to it as “…a ramshackle old place….”, it was being operated as a movie house with the name Royal Grand Theatre.

The August 6, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World reported that the operators of the Royal Grand, brother and sister Dolly and Howard Spurr, had been arrested for showing movies on Sunday in violation of a city ordinance. The August 19 issue reported that the Spurrs had been found guilty and had each been fined ten dollars, but were appealing the court’s decision.

This might or might not have been the same theater that was in operation as the Royal Grand in later years. The July 14, 1917, issue of The American Contractor said that preliminary plans were being drawn by architect H. G. Bowstead for a theater for the Royal Grand Realty Company of Marion, Indiana. I’ve been unable to discover if this project was carried out or, if it was, that it was the Royal Grand itself and not one of the other theaters in Marion that were operated by the Spurrs, but it’s possible that the orginal Grand was entirely replaced. The Music Trade Review said that the Royal Grand Theater Company would build a new theater on the site of the AME church on Fifth Street.

The November 8, 1919, issue of Motion Picture News published a letter from Dolly Spurr, who was by then operating the Lyric and Indiana Theatres as well as the Royal Grand. The letter mentioned that she was still unable to show movies on Sunday, so that battle was apparently lost.

The 1925 Yearbook of Motion Pictures lists a Marion Theatre Company operating five houses at Marion; the Luna Lite, Lyric, Indiana, Royal Grand, and Marion Theatres. The company also operated the Isis Theatre at Kokomo.

The January 2, 1925, issue of the Kokomo Tribune said that the Royal Grand Theatre at Marion had suffered $25,000 damage from a fire, most of the loss the result smoke and water which damaged the theater’s furnishings and decorations.

The Royal Grand Theatre is mentioned in the oral history of Milford Freeman, a Marionite who talked about growing up in the town in the 1930s and 1940s, so the house apparently operated into the 1940s, at least.

Esteyman on March 26, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Joe, Thanks for the info.

My research showed that the Royal Grand was indeed operated by the Spurrs. Howard’s older brother, Alan, was the first organist there when they installed a Schuelke organ in 1914. In 1922, they replaced this organ with a Wurlitzer which was advertised as costing $5,000. In 1925, the fire apparently destroyed the Wurlitzer, and the Royal Grand installed a $22,000 4-manual Page pipe organ. This organ was only used for three years. In 1929 or 1930, the theater was closed. My best guess is that, being the smallest house in their group of theaters, management decided that they couldn’t afford to do the upgrades for sound. According to the local newspaper, the theater sat largely unused until about 1941, when it was demolished. When it was torn down the organ was still in playable condition. Tragic. During the years it was closed, the newspaper reported that it was only opened occasionally for boxing matches and other such events. By the time it was demolished, there were no seats remaining in the building.

The theater was started in 1895 as the Allen Opera House on the second floor of the building. In 1914 the building was either replaced or remodeled, and the theater moved to the ground floor. This was also the time when they changed over from a legitimate theater, vaudeville, and burlesque house to a movie house.

Esteyman on March 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm

I have written about the Royal Grand and Marion’s other theaters in my new book, “The Harmonious Echo: The Life and Times of the Barley Memorial Organ,” which is available from amazon. com.

SethG on June 23, 2020 at 2:51 pm

The naming sequence is backward. It was the Grand before it was the Royal Grand. As Esteyman says, the building was first the Allen Opera House, before becoming the Grand Opera House by 1901. By 1920, it’s called the Royal Grand. It is very likely that there was an extensive reconstruction. On the 1920 map, the building is two feet shorter, the east wall has been straightened, and a U-shaped balcony appears.

In both iterations, this was a fairly large 1-2 story brick building, with a large fly tower at the rear. Stage and scenery are shown up to its last appearance on the 1931 map. By 1947, it has been replaced by a parking lot and the little hot dog stand which is there today. The correct address was 122-124 W 5th.

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