Fox Imperial Theatre
410 Box Butte Avenue,
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Architects: Frank E. Edbrooke
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: New Imperial Theatre, Imperial Theatre
Deserving of coverage is the Imperial Theatre of Alliance, Nebraska. Wallace and Joy opened the original Imperial Theatre opened in another location in downtown Alliance in 1910 operating with silent films from 1910 to 1914.
The Imperial Theatre’s longer-lasting spot dates back to its second location on Box Butte Avenue. It launched as the New Imperial Theatre within the retrofitted, 19th Century Charters Hotel Building (formerly the Preston Hotel) on September 1, 1914 with two sold out screenings of “Beneath the Lion’s Paws".
Local movie legend Harry A. Dubuque had come to Alliance in 1912 and purchased the Majestic Theatre changing it to the Empress Theatre. He then bought the Crystal Theatre to have two theatres in town. Finally, he took on the competing New Imperial Theatre in 1916 closing the Crystal Theatre moving Alliance from a three movie theatre town to two. He then decided to close the Empress Theatre and go all-in on making the Imperial Theatre the best house possible.
In 1919, the building was given its second major overhaul post hotel operation using the architectural plans of famed Denver architect, Frank E. Edbrooke. The retrofit included a $10,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ. The New Imperial Theatre relaunched on August 27, 1919 with Pauline Frederick in “One Week of Life” supported by two live vaudeville acts.
Dubuque sold out to Jim E. Hughes and Ben J. Sallows of the Sallows and Hughes Amusement Enterprises in 1922. They opened the Rialto Theatre in 1923 to bring Alliance back to a two-theatre town. They upgraded the Imperial Theatre with carpeting for sound deadening to accompany the Pacent Sound System they purchased in 1929. Soon after, the pair sold the Imperial Theatre and the Rialto Theatre to Fox West Coast Theatres circuit in October of 1929. The theatre became the Fox Imperial Theatre.
In 1937, Fox decided to give the building a major Art Moderne style retrofit, modeled after a Boulder Fox theatre. The Imperial Theatre was given a “Farewell Week” closing on July 31, 1937 with Dick Powell in “The Singing Marine”. The Imperial Theatre’s bookings were temporarily moved to the Rialto Theatre while the existing Fox Imperial Theatre was gutted.
Walter Simon performed the architectural work that led to the transformation of the Fox Imperial Theatre to the new Alliance Theatre (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures). In a classy move, Harry A. Dubuque and his wife were brought back to town as honored guests at the reopening of the venue. The new Alliance Theatre opened November 23, 1937 and, over 100 years later, the former Imperial Theatre turned Alliance Theatre was still going likely with foundational elements that date back to the 19th Century Preston Hotel building.
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