Sorg Opera House – Middletown, Ohio

Auditorium, Sorg Opera House - Middletown, Ohio.
View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Sorg Opera House in Middletown, OH originally opened on September 12, 1891. Paul J. Sorg, Middletown’s first multi-millionaire, had the opera house built as a gift to the city of Middletown. Sorg hired Samuel Hannaford, who designed the Cincinnati Music Hall, to design the 1,200-seat opera house. Opening day included a performance of the opera “The Little Tycoon,” composed by Willard Spenser and a speech by then Ohio Governor James E. Campbell.

View of the auditorium from the stage.

In 1901, the Sorg began showing early forms of motion pictures, such as photo plays, and vaudeville performances before the operas. Many now famous vaudeville performers played at the opera house, including Marie Dressler, Will RogersAl Jolson, Bob Hope and Sophie Tucker. The live shows were discontinued in the late 1920s, and in the summer of 1929 a sound system was installed, turning the Sorg into a full time movie theater.


The orchestra and mezzanine levels have been restored, but the upper balcony and ceiling remain in a state of disrepair. 

On January 17, 1935, a fire caused $10,000 (or $185,298 when adjusted for inflation) of damage to the backstage area of the theater, which caused it to close for several months. In April 1935, the Gordon Theatre Company took a long term lease on the theater and began repairs. It reopened in September 22, 1935 with films and stage shows. The Sorg closed again for a remodel in the late 1940s and a false ceiling was added, separating the upper balcony from the the rest of the theater to improve the sound.

The original walls of the lobby were covered up during the remodel in the 1940s.

The Sorg remained a movie theater until it closed in the late 1970s. Soon after, the Friends of the Sorg was formed to reopen it as a live performance venue. They were successful, and ran the theater until 2010, when a water main break forced the opera house to close again. In 2012, the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) formed to buy and reopen the building. SORG was able to purchase the theater in August 2012 for $32,000. Since then they’ve made a number of improvements to the building, including removing the partition between the upper balcony and the rest of the auditorium, replacing the seats with ones donated from the Cincinnati Music Hall, repairing the public restrooms and re-hanging the house curtains. A full restoration of the building is estimated to cost between $9M and $11M. The Sorg reopened in late 2017 with a performance called “Celebrate the Sorg”  and featured the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like many theaters at the time, the Sorg was segregated. It had a separate entrance, ticket booth and balcony for its non-white patrons.
The much of the proscenium arch was covered up during the remodel in the late 1940s.
View of the auditorium from the main level.
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Fall Photo Workshops 2018

 

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Auditorium, Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA

I’ve been working on scheduling some new locations for this fall’s series of Photography Workshops, and think I’ve gotten some great ones. First up, the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA on September 22. The Orpheum was the first theater profiled on After the Final Curtain, and I’m really excited about the workshop. Attendees will be able to photograph the auditorium, ballroom and shooting range.

http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/orpheum-theatre-workshop

 

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The Art Theatre in Worcester, MA.

Next is the Art Theatre (formerly the Olympia and a bunch of other names) in Worcester, MA is the next photo workshop on October 6, 2018. It’s a smaller one, so sessions are limited to 6 people.

http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/arttheatreworkshop

(And don’t worry, all of that insulation has been removed.)

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View from the fake box seats at the Paramount Theatre in Springfield, MA.

Last up is a return to the Paramount Theatre in Springfield, MA on October 27, 2018. I’m co-hosting this one again with Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. Work will have started on the roof by the time this workshop takes place, so hopefully that will stop the deterioration of this fantastic building.

Sign up and more information: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/paramount-theatre-workshop

That’s it for now! I’m planning on doing another one at the Everett Square Theatre this fall, but I’m just waiting to confirm a date. There may be one more surprise one as well.