Colony Theatre (1937) and Colony Club Restaurant (2016)
The Colony Theatre opened in 1937 and was operated by three generations of the same family. Similar to many other historic downtown theaters designed for one screen, the Colony Theatre faced declining patronage by the 1980s as modern multiplexes could offer multiple screenings simultaneously while the more elaborate theaters of another era required significant maintenance. Following its closure in the 1990s, the former theater building remained empty for many years and fell into disrepair. Following significant renovations, David and Karen McCarty opened the Colony Club restaurant which features live entertainment and movie-screenings.
Backstory and Context
Construction of the Colony Theatre began in 1936, but the great Ohio River flood of 1937 delayed its completion until the end of 1937. When it was finished, the single-screen movie theater could seat 600 patrons. A contest was held to name the new theater, the winners being W. O. Atkinson and Mrs. Cora Withers. Their name, the “Colony Theatre” earned them six months of free movies and beat out other suggestions such as Wheelereel, New Deal, French Colony, and the Palace.
The first movie shown there was Vogues of 1938 on November 24, 1937. In 1938, the theater hosted a mock “Hollywood Premiere” for which locals dressed as celebrities and were chauffeured to the theater. After being operated for three generations by the Wheeler family, the Colony Theatre closed in the 1990s.
Ownership of the building passed between several people and companies over the next two decades, and the building gradually fell into a state of disrepair. By 2013, when Randy Breech and Jim Blair bought the theater and began renovations, the roof leaked, the chairs were removed, and mold grew inside. The two hoped to bring the building back to life rather than let it crumble or be turned into “cheap rental units.” Breech said, “Somebody’s got to jump in and start doing something before everything just totally falls apart.”
Husband and wife David and Karen McCarty were the next to take over the theater. Their goal was to provide Gallipolis with a unique dining experience. The Colony Club, as it was renamed, opened on November 1, 2015. The restaurant features a variety of entertainment such as class movie-screenings, stand-up comedy, and live bands. The Colony Club can also be rented out for events.
Wright, Dean. Colony Club ‘opens’ in grand style. Gallipolis Daily Tribune. February 19, 2016. Accessed June 08, 2018. https://www.mydailytribune.com/top-stories/4883/colony-club-opens-in-grand-style. Photo and information source.
Miller, Michelle. Colony Theater building under new ownership. Gallia Hometown Herald. March 05, 2013. Accessed June 08, 2018. https://galliahometownherald.com/blog/2013/03/05/colony-theater-building-under-new-ownership/. Photo and information source.
Rio Graned Cable Access. Chamber Exchange- David McCarty, The Colony Club. YouTube. October 13, 2016. Accessed June 08, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBbb38ynPO8.