The Colony Theater

There was a time that every small town across America had at least one theater. Whether they were known for movies or vaudeville they were centers of entertainment and culture.

So many have been lost to progress, neglect and apathy that it’s exciting to see one still operating. It’s equally sad to find the remains of a great old theater in a museum.

I paid my respects to the former Colony Theater at Highland House Museum in Hillsboro last weekend. The Colony was demolished in 2017. It opened in 1938 and was operated by the Chakeres chain for several years. It was owned by the city and then a nonprofit organization for some time but eventually fell prey to water damage and decay. It was deemed unsalvageable and torn down.

Highland House has a wonderful exhibit dedicated to this place. A mirror from the ladies room, small pieces of memorabilia, a stairwell railing, and a stunning piece of art called a bas relief are among the collection.

The bas relief will stop you in your tracks. This is a sculpture in low relief – so it has shallow depth but is three dimensional.

This one is a Renaissance Knight on a horse but the museum says that there were a total of eight sculptures that lined the theater walls and represented different places and ages including Egyptians, Native Americans, Vikings, Greeks and Romans. They were larger than life and skillfully created by Indianapolis artist Frank Boerder.

This type of art was commonly used in theaters of that era and they were typically uplit.

Whoever installed this piece at the museum did outstanding work and I found it most pleasing to the eye. Never fear – the other seven were salvaged and carefully stored.

Want to visit Highland House? You should! Click here to read about it and about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers exhibit.

Cinema 1 & 2

It started life as the Wayne Theater in 1921. Today it’s known by that name as well as the very straightforward name Cinema 1 & 2.

Located in Greenville, Ohio’s somewhat busy downtown, I was surprised to find that it appears to be closed. It reminded me of the old twin cinema we had in my hometown. It’s long gone and even the building has been torn down but I rarely drive by without recalling the movies I watched there as a kid.

Little towns need outlets for entertainment like movies theaters and skating rinks just as badly as cities do. Tragically, small towns seem to struggle the hardest to keep these types of businesses afloat.

I view places like this as a cautionary tale to support the businesses we want to keep in our communities. Whether it be a movie theater, a record store or a place with the best milkshakes, if there’s a business out there we want to keep around, we have to do our part and support them.

Here’s hoping that some community group will come along with plans to give the old Wayne Theater a new lease on life!

The Athena Cinema

It’s my absolute favorite place to catch a movie. The Athena Cinema shows great films, is never crowded and tickets are a fair price.

It started life as the Majestic Theater after the building was converted from a grocery store to a movie house in 1915.

Tickets were a dime apiece at the time.

After changing ownership more than a few times over the years, it’s now owned and operated by Ohio University and is staffed by student workers who are funded by Federal Work Study.

They always show the movies and documentaries you can’t see anywhere else in southern Ohio. You would have to go to Columbus if it weren’t for the Athena. Since I tend to go for matinees, it’s usually a sparse crowd and I never have to sit near anyone else.

An introvert’s paradise.

They’re not showing movies now but offering some events and films online. You can currently register to watch the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble for free.

Oh, how I miss it there! Someday, hopefully soon, I’m going to spend a Saturday watching movies there. Two or three of them, just because I can!

Watching movies at home is ok but it’s just not the same as settling into a theater with a snack.

Going to the movies is an event.

When the Mr Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? played, I found myself in a theater with about twenty other strangers who sang along, laughed and even cried together.

That’s not an experience you’ll have on your couch.

Their concessions aren’t a bad price and the tickets are affordable. Matinees are $5 and regular tickets are $6.50. They occasionally do free events including kids’ movies in the summer.

Learn all about The Athena Cinema at their website.

Majestic Behind The Scenes

a majestic ballroom.JPG

Behind the scenes tours are the best, especially when they take you into local landmarks. This is from the third floor ballroom of Chillicothe’s Majestic Theater. The lighting up there is spectacular and the potential for this space is endless.

Isn’t the sign fabulous?