Skip to content

Russell Theatre

June 30, 2014
View of the auditorium from the balcony.

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Russell Theatre opened on December 4, 1930 in Maysville, Kentucky. Plans to build the theater were announced in 1929 by Col. J. Barbour Russell, a local businessman. Russell hired the architectural firm of Frankel and Curtis to design the theater. It was built on the site of a grocery warehouse owned by the Russell family at a cost of around $200,000. Russell envisioned the 700 seat theater as a grand movie palace, saying, “what the Roxy is to New York, the Russell will be to Maysville.”

The theater's lobby has already been restored.

The theater’s lobby has already been restored.

The atmospheric-style theater opened with the movie “Whoopee,” starring Eddie Cantor. It operated primarily as a movie house, but did have some vaudeville shows in the early years. The world premiere of “The Stars are Singing” was held at the Russell in 1953. Rosemary Clooney, the star of the film, was born and raised in Maysville.

Rosemary Clooney wore this outfit in her film " The Stars are Shining", which premiered at the theater.

Rosemary Clooney wore this outfit in her film ” The Stars are Singing”, which premiered at the theater.

After the theater closed in the early 1980s, the building was used as a restaurant, clothing store and used furniture store before being abandoned. During that time, a storm ripped part of the roof off, causing water damage in the auditorium.

A close of up of some plasterwork in the auditorium.

A close of up of some plasterwork in the auditorium.

A group of Maysville citizens formed the Russell Theatre Foundation in 1995 in response to the deterioration in the theater. They purchased the theater in 1996 for $37,000 and began renovations. They then installed a new roof to prevent further water damage in the auditorium and restored the facade, marquee and lobby area. The Foundation is currently working to raise the remaining 1.5 million dollars needed to restore the auditorium. Donations can be made at their website: www.russelltheatre.org

The upper area of the balcony was used as segregated seating for African Americans. It had a separate entrance as well as a separate bathroom.

The Russell Theatre Foundation hopes to restore one of the projectors and display them in the lobby.

The projectors remain in the projector room.

A close up of one of the projectors.

A close up of one of the projectors.

This wall was undamaged during the years the theater was abandoned.

This wall was undamaged during the years the theater was abandoned.

Russell_Theatre_007

To add to the atmospheric effects, a rainbow was projected across the screen after every show.

To add to the atmospheric effects, a rainbow was projected across the screen after every show.

Russell_Theatre_021

 

The restored theater marquee.

The theater marquee was restored in 2002.

Russell_Theatre_004

Except for a few rows in the balcony, the seats were sold to another Kentucky theater.

About these ads
10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2014 5:21 pm

    Fascinating photo essay, inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time

    >

  2. Steven Weinrieb permalink
    June 20, 2014 7:14 pm

    Hi

    Any pictures from the stage wings. Lighting board

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • June 20, 2014 11:08 pm

      Hi Steven – Nope. There wasn’t a traditional lighting board. I made a point of checking for you.

  3. Tandy Nash permalink
    June 20, 2014 7:28 pm

    The Russell has so much potential of being a cultural and educational center in North East Kentucky. It is a treasure that the children of today don’t get to fully understand because the only movies they have seen are at cinema complexes. The renovation of a true atmospheric theater is necessary for the preservation of an art form in itself.

    • June 20, 2014 11:24 pm

      I agree Tandy! Atmospheric theaters have become quite rare, and should be preserved.

  4. Patrick Colvin permalink
    June 20, 2014 10:55 pm

    Matt- you continue to amaze me with your eye for all of the wonderful detail in these old theatre spaces. Such great photo work. As you know – sometimes it takes entirely TOO long to get these spaces up and productive again. Awe inspiring- truly. Keep up the great work that you do. Patrick (Variety-Cleveland).

    • June 20, 2014 11:25 pm

      Thanks Patrick! Hope everything is going well over at the Variety!

Trackbacks

  1. Next Blog Post | After the Final Curtain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,220 other followers

%d bloggers like this: