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It appears from Wikipedia that the oldest theater in continuous use is in Denmark, but since so much of the film industry is dominated by Hollywood, I was wondering what is the oldest movie theater in the United States.

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Actually according to Wikipedia, the Korsør Biograf Teater in Denmark is the oldest still operating theatre. –  Opt May 8 '12 at 13:42
    
Thanks for the correction. –  ihtkwot May 8 '12 at 13:43
    
@Sid any idea on US theaters? –  ihtkwot May 8 '12 at 13:43
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Do theatres that have moved count? The Iris theatre (sites.google.com/site/hollywoodtheatres/iris) opened in 1913 but then moved to a different location. Don't know if it's the oldest though. –  Opt May 8 '12 at 13:45
    
@Sid moved theaters count, sure. Add a little more information and put it as an answer. –  ihtkwot May 8 '12 at 13:49
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13 Answers 13

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Scenic Theatre in North Dakota claims to be the oldest continually operating theatre on its website. From their website footnote

The oldest continually operating theatre in America*
* Based on Box Office Magazine's published article on what they credited as the oldest in America & it was 17 years newer than the Scenic Theatre.

They claim they opened in 1911.

The Newtown Theatre also claims to be the oldest.

The Newtown Theatre has an extensive history dating back to 1831. It is, in fact, the oldest movie theater in the United States with it's first movie being shown in 1906. Originally built to be a hall for town gatherings and a "non sectarian" church for traveling ministers, it soon became a center of entertainment in Newtown.

If true this would make it older than the Scenic Theatre.

Both of these however, don't say whether they regularly showed movies to the public in the early days or not.

The Nickelodeon Theatre in Pittsburgh was the first genuine movie theatre in the US. It opened in June, 1905 so you're not going to get any earlier than that. It shut down in the 1910s, I think.

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The Lund theater in Viborg, South Dakota, started showing movies in 1911 and is still in operation today! Not bad for a town of 800.

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Welcome to History.SE. A reference to the theater would improve the answer. –  Pieter Geerkens Oct 3 '13 at 2:03
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The oldest continually operating movie theatr is in Ottawa Kansas. They opened in 1905(not sure what month) and is still operating today.

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Hello and welcome to History Stackexchange. Please take a moment to visit the help center and familiarize yourself with the rules. Your answer would be interesting if true but it needs some kind of reference to back it up. –  Eugene Seidel Sep 30 '13 at 5:32
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The Graham Opera House, now known as the State Theater, in Washington, IA has been showing movies since 1894. At that time a local couple (Frank & Indiana Brinton) toured 35mm nitrate cellulose films and magic lantern slides around the Midwest in what were called 'Tab Shows'. The movie industry at that time was not taken seriously and was sometimes considered questionable entertainment. The couple were part owners of the Graham Opera House.

The Graham Opera House showed both movies and live plays/operas up through the depression. Sorry, I do not know the exact date it switched to only showing motion pictures or when it became known as the State Theater.

The State Theater still maintains it's opera house look as it did when it was first built in the 1890's. I am not claiming this is the oldest continuously run movie theater in the US, but I would say that it is at least in the running.

Very little is mentioned about Frank Brinton's Tab Shows online. Here is a link from the Washington County Historical Society that mentions his "moving pictures" in the second to last paragraph--the rest of the article tells about a flying machine he made. http://washingtoncountyhistoricalsociety-iowa.org/feature4_aug_09.html

Here is another link from the Kalona News (Washington County, IA) in July 2013 mentioning the current owner of the Brinton films (which survived the past century) and how Brintons toured the Midwest. http://www.kalonanews.com/articles/2013/07/24/news/doc51efed904b0b0238005517.txt

I hope this information helps determine the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the US!

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Not quite as old as some of the others mentioned, but the Strand Theater in Brockport, NY has been in continuous operation as a movie theater in the same building since 1916. They have a display of their history in the lobby.

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A reference would make this answer better. –  Lennart Regebro Aug 18 '13 at 8:05
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In the San Francisco bay area, California - the Roxie Cinema built in 1909 is the oldest continiously operating theater, changed it's name 7 times starting with the name of C. H. Brown Theater in 1933 the name changed to the Roxie to this day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roxie_Theater

Another theater in the bay area in the town of Vallejo (V-Town), Ca. as it is known is the Empress Theater. Opened in 1911 with the Empress name and today it has the same name.

http://www.empresstheatre.org/empress-history.aspx

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Funny, the oldest still operating cinema (nickelodeon) is in KANSAS! Can you believe it! Once called "the Bijou". Opened in 1905. It is now called the Plaza Grill and Cinema. It is a twin, but you can see the original stage where the piano played to silent films. It is located in Ottawa, Kansas.

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This is an assertion without evidence; the answer would be vastly better if it included a citation of some kind. As it stands, I find the Nickelodeon's claim of 1905 more credible because it includes evidence. –  Mark C. Wallace Jul 19 '13 at 15:30
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Yes, It was originally thought that the building housing the Priest Theatre, and built in 1910, was a storage facility for automobiles and not used as a theatre until 1926. However, during a campaign to do a required upgrade to digital projection, it was discovered during a history search of the building (via artifacts and articles found) that the theatre building has been used a a theatre since it's construction in 1910. A link to the kickstarter campaign they used for the building fundraising is included below. It has the complete updated history of the building.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/909996519/save-the-priest

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The Park Theatre in Estes Park, CO is the oldest continually operating theatre west of the Mississippi that was originally built as a motion picture theatre. Its owners now believe that all theaters east of the Mississippi that were older and originally built to be motion picture theaters have closed down in recent years

It started playing first run pictures in June of 1913 and just upgraded to digital this year for its 100th year anniversary

Sorce: former employee

Additional source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Theatre_(Estes_Park,_Colorado)

Also see the theatre's website: http://www.historicparktheatre.com

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The Ruby Theatre in Chelan, Washington was built as a movie theatre by the Kingman brothers and opened in 1914. It has operated as a movie theatre since than. It is privately owned and continues to shown first run films. It has recently installed digital equipment in anticipation of its 100th birthday next year. Its auditorium is essentially the same as when it was constructed. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in about 1990. The Ruby is believed to be the oldest continuously running movie theatre in the Northwest. Source: Rubytheatre.com

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The Elks Theatre in Middletown, Pennsylvania has been open since October 1911. There actually was a movie theatre at this location before 1911 but had burned down in the great fire of Middletown in 1910. I am not sure when that theatre was built. The Elks Theatre has continuously run movies however in the early 1900' to the 1940's it also offered stage performances. It is the goal of the current owners; non-profit Greater Middletown Economic Development Corporation to restore the theatre and eventually bring back stage performances as well as continue to show movies.

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Do you have sources for this answer? –  American Luke Jul 6 '13 at 17:56
    
The Middletown,Pa Dauphin County Historical Society has this information. –  Mike Feb 2 at 2:49
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I had worked at the Newtown Theatre for a bit and yes it has shown movies since 1906. A couple years back for our 100th year anniversary we actually went back and found all the newspaper clippings of the movies we showed.

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any citations for this? local news story covering the anniversary maybe? –  ihtkwot Jun 1 '13 at 1:40
    
I found a couple of references to theaters of that name online, but one wasn't built until the 20's, and the other is now a CVS pharmacy. –  T.E.D. Aug 9 '13 at 14:09
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The Minor Theater, located at 1015 H Street in Arcata, California, is one of the oldest buildings in the United States built for feature films that is still open and showing movies. It was the first building in Humboldt County to be built as a "true movie theater."

From Wikipedia

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protected by Pieter Geerkens Dec 27 '13 at 15:44

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