The Victoria Theatre dates back to 1866 when it opened as the Turner Opera House. The theater was rebuilt twice following destructive fires in 1896 and 1918. When the theater reopened in 1919, it was renamed the Victory Theatre in honor of World War I veterans. The Victory operated as a movie theater until it closed in 1970s. Although the Victoria could not compete with the suburban multiplexes, local preservationists saw its potential and worked to prevent its demolition. Thanks to these efforts, the theater was restored in the 1980s and reopened as the Victoria Theater in 1989 as a live performance venue. The theater also shows films on special occasions, including the “Cool Movie Series” in the summers.
Backstory and Context
The Victoria Theatre opened on January 1, 1866, as the Turner Opera House. It was constructed by brothers Joseph and William Turner for a total cost of $325,000. A fire in 1869 destroyed all but its façade, so it was rebuilt by new investors in 1871 and renamed the Dayton Music Hall. Over the following decades, the theater’s name changed again to the Grand Opera House in 1900 and the Victoria Theatre two years later. It also welcomed such notable acts as Harry Houdini and actors like Sarah Bernhardt.
The Great Flood of 1913 severely damaged the theater, but it was repaired and reopened as the New Victoria on November 25, 1913. The Victoria did not fare so well after another fire in 1918. It had to be rebuilt again in 1919, this time under the ownership of William A. Keyes as the Victory Theatre. The Victory Theatre showed Warner Brothers movies during the 1940s and focused on Disney films in the 1950s and 1960s. After Keyes’s death in 1955, his family took over the theater.
The Victory Theatre had to close due to financial strains in 1971, and plans were made to demolish it. However, thanks to community support and the “Save the Victory” group, the Victory Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Victory Theatre Association (founded in 1976) continued to raise money to restore the theater throughout the 1980s. The theater reopened as the Victoria Theatre after a $14.5 million renovation that began in 1988. The Victoria Theatre Association has since raised funds to keep other historic theaters in the area running.
Powell, Lisa. Victoria marks 150 years despite 2 fires, a flood and financial woes. My Dayton Daily News. January 04, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/local/victoria-marks-150-years-despite-fires-flood-and-financial-woes/2xhUtdmCooRDsSzM3dkYyL/.
Victoria Theatre. Internet Broadway Database. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.ibdb.com/touring-theatre/victoria-theatre-758.
Victoria Theatre – Dayton. Heritage Ohio. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.heritageohio.org/victoria-theatre-dayton/. Photo source.