The Smoot Theatre in downtown Parkersburg is an entertainment landmark and serves as a reminder of the city’s prosperous past. Originally constructed by the Smoot Amusement Company in 1926, the theatre first functioned as a Vaudeville house until the Warner Brother Company purchased the building in 1930 and converted it into a movie theatre. The Smoot closed its doors in 1986. In 1989, a volunteer group purchased the Smooth Theater to prevent it from being demolished and renovated the building. The Smoot now offers a variety of theatrical performances to Parkersburg and continues to be an entertainment hub of the city.
Backstory and Context
During the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Parkersburg, WV experienced an economic boom as a result of the regional oil, coal, timber, and railroad industries within the Ohio River Valley. The financial success of the area allowed for the growth of the city’s film and entertainment industry. In 1926, the Smoot Amusement Company erected the Smoot Theatre in downtown Parkersburg. This brick and terra cotta building, boasting a simple Classical façade of four fluted Ionic columns indicative of the “movie palace” phase in American theater architecture, served as a Vaudeville venue. However, the Smoot Theatre came into existence during the decline of Vaudeville; and by 1930, Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. purchased the theater and converted it into a movie theater. For the next 56 years, the Smoot became Parkersburg’s primary theater.
By the early 1980s, the older single-screen movie theaters began declining due in part to the competition from larger multiplex venues, television, and video entertainment. In 1986, the Smoot Theatre closed because of this decline. The building was set to be demolished in the spring of 1989, because the condition of the theater had declined rapidly. A volunteer group of concerned citizens understood the historic value of the theater and raised enough funds to purchase the building with the intent to restore and reopen. The volunteers were able to preserve and restore many of the theater's original Art Deco features, such as the burgundy and cream-colored décor, gilt moldings, and trap doors on the stage floor.
Today, the Smoot Theatre is a venue for a variety of theatrical performances in Parkersburg and continues to be an entertainment hub in the city.
Christina Mann, Eliza Smith. Historic Properties Inventory Form. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. December, 1981. September 17, 2018. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/wood/82001787.pdf.
Christina Mann, Eliza Smith. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. October 8, 1982. September 17, 2018. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/64000960_text.
About. The Historic Smoot Theatre. September 17, 2018. http://www.smoottheatre.com/about.html.
Landmarks & Sites. Visit Greater Parkersburg. September 17, 2018. https://www.greaterparkersburg.com/things-to-do/history-heritage/landmarks-sites/.
Smoot Theatre. Facebook. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://www.facebook.com/pg/smoottheatre/photos/?ref=page_internal. Photo source.