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 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.
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 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
11 thoughts on “Russell Theatre”
Fascinating photo essay, inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time
Thanks Roy! Luckily, the Russell has a group of people working to restore it.
Any pictures from the stage wings. Lighting board
Sent from my iPad
Hi Steven – Nope. There wasn’t a traditional lighting board. I made a point of checking for you.
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.
I agree Tandy! Atmospheric theaters have become quite rare, and should be preserved.
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).
Thanks Patrick! Hope everything is going well over at the Variety!
Pingback: Next Blog Post | After the Final Curtain
They just put in new seats this summer. They also frequently show old movies (I love their Rocky Horror Picture Show night!) and films for the whole family. They work really hard to keep it looking nice while trying to update it when possible! Please consider donating to the renovation.
It’s one of my favorite buildings in my hometown.