- Tom Gilliam
Have you ever been curious about historic buildings on the outskirts of the Dayton metro area?
This week on The Buildings of Dayton, I'm going to tell you the story of The Historic Sidney Theatre, located at 120 W. Poplar St. in downtown Sidney.
>> PHOTOS: A look at the Historic Sidney Theatre
Even though Sidney, Ohio is located 40 miles north of Dayton in Shelby County, it is still considered part of the Dayton-Springfield-Greenville-Sidney Combined Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Census Bureau.
Built in 1920-1921 by C.B. DeWeese as The Majestic Theatre for full stage live productions and silent films, the theatre opened with a live touring production of the comedic opera Robin Hood on September 9, 1921 to a sold out crowd of 1,300. The design of the theatre was directly influenced by the architecture of the Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton, which DeWeese visited for ideas during the building's construction progress.
Over the years, the theatre has gone by the names The Warner, The Schine, The Ohio and Chakeres. Throughout the theatre's existence, it has been both a performance stage (until the 1960s) and a movie house. The balcony was remodeled in the mid 1970s with two additional movie screens added to convert the formerly one screen theatre into a triplex.
During the 1970s, Dayton's own actors and brothers Rob and Chad Lowe frequented the theatre when it was called Chakeres Sidney Cinema 3. From 1950 until 1980, Rob and Chad's grandfather Robert Hepler owned and operated The Spot Restaurant, which is still open and located on 201 S. Ohio St., a block away from the theatre. (Rob's full name is actually Robert Hepler Lowe, after his grandfather.)
Movies were shown here exclusively until Chakeres Theatres, Inc. closed its doors in 2004.
Sarah Barr, Executive Director of Raise the Roof for the Arts, a non-profit organization which purchased the building in 2009, is overseeing the restoration of the theatre.
"The Historic Sidney Theatre project is a $3.5 million dollar renovation,” Barr said. “Currently, we are about 85% in our fundraising goals. Projects that still need to be completed are windows, restrooms, stage lighting and sound, concession area and interior finishings, which includes new seating," she said.
Currently, the theatre is operating with limited productions during the restoration process.
In early December 2016, the theatre's classic marquee was removed for a full restoration.
"Wagner Electric Sign Co. will take the sign to Elyria, Ohio and work to fabricate a new sign,” Barr said. “They will use as much of the original sign as they can, but Mother Nature has an effect on you after 70-plus years. In the spring, the marquee will return in the same fashion, only more energy efficient with new neon and LED lighting."
What does the future look like for this classic 20th century theatre?
"Once the project is complete, this glorious space will not only be a first class facility to experience the arts, but a gathering place for the Shelby County community,” Barr said. “It will be a place where generations can step into Broadway and enjoy a live production. Families will create traditions and experience productions like the Nutcracker. They may listen to local and/or professional touring artists or participate in unique community events like a ‘Frozen’ sing along. It will be a place where thousands of school children will meet to be educated and entertained. The Historic Sidney Theatre will be the cultural heart of the Shelby County community once again," she said.
If you would like to help restore this iconic Sidney landmark for future generations, visit sidneytheatre.org to make a donation and stay informed about future events and fundraisers at the theatre.
Special thanks to Sarah Barr from Raise the Roof for the Arts for providing historical information and additional resources for this article.