Clio Logo

Built 1917 as the Wells Theater for vaudeville acts in the Syllivanesque style. The theater closed as a cinema in 1981 but reopened as a community arts theater in 1985. The imperial has hosted notable names such as Charlie Chaplin and James Brown. A replica of the original marquee was erected in 2006.


  • Facade of Imperial Theater C. 2018
  • Original Marquee of Imperial Theater
  • Final Stage of Renovation. 1986
  • Ad for Grand Opening of Wells Theater
  • Artist's Rendering of 700 Block Broad St.

Designed by Augusta architect G.Lloyd Preacher in association with theater designer C.K. Howell of Richmond, the Imperial was constructed in 1917, one year after the great fire of 1916, and was advertised as fireproof. The theater opened at 7:30 p.m on Feb. 18, 1918 as the Wells theater, in honor of its owner, Jake Wells, the "Father of Vaudeville." An article announcing its grand opening described the theater's interior as a "work of art and beauty; the harmonizing effect of the decorations combining create a most beautiful place." Prices for seating ranged from 50 cents for loges to 15 cents for the gallery.

In October of 1918, the Spanish Influenza quarantine forced the downtown area to close its businesses. Once the quarantine was lifted in January 1919, the Wells Theater reopened as The Imperial.

After decades of prominence, declining business forced the Imperial's closure in 1981 and plans for demolition were being discussed. Fortunately, after an extensive renovation, it reopened in 1985 as a community theater, and it continues to house local productions as well as musical acts and film series.

Historic Augusta Vertical Files: Imperial Theater File #1

“The Wells, Augusta's Theatre. Beautiful, Opens Tomorrow.” Augusta Chronicle, 17 Feb. 1918.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Historic Augusta Vertical Files: Imperial Theater File #1

Historic Augusta Vertical Files: Imperial Theater File #1

Rhodes, Don. “Theater Turns 70 with 'Opal Is a Diamond' on Stage.” Augusta Chronicle, Apr. 1986.

Historic Augusta Vertical Files: Imperial Theater File #1

“Applause!” Augusta Chronicle, 6 May 1993.