Keith-Albee Theatre
Keith-Albee is a theatre located along Fourth Avenue in downtown Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington is a city in Cabell and Wayne counties in the U.S. state of West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Most of the city is in Cabell County, for which it is the county seat. A small portion of the city, mainly the neighborhood of Westmoreland, is in Wayne County. Its population was 49,138 at...

 in the United States of America. The Keith-Albee was named after the Keith-Albee-Orpheum
The Keith-Albee-Orpheum Corporation was the owner of a chain of vaudeville and motion picture theatres. It was formed by the merger of the holdings of Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee II and Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit, Inc..-History:...

 Corporation, one of the leading vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 performance chains at that time, to convince the directors of Keith-Albee-Orpheum to make the Keith-Albee a regular stop. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 as part of the Huntington Downtown Historical District, and is currently being restored as a performing arts center.

Early history

The Keith-Albee Theatre in downtown Huntington, West Virginia opened to the public on May 8, 1928. Brothers A. B. and S. J. Hyman built the Keith and added it to their list of theaters along with the State, Orpheum and Huntington.

The new theater was constructed under the supervision of vaudeville tycoons B. F. Keith and Edward Albee, becoming a part of their Keith-Albee circuit, the premier vaudeville tour on the East Coast of the United States. the talented architect, Scottish-born Thomas W. Lamb
Thomas W. Lamb
Thomas White Lamb was an American architect, born in Scotland. He is noted as one of the foremost designers of theaters and cinemas in the 20th century.-Career:...

 designed the Keith-Albee. Lamb designed approximately 153 theaters around the world. Unfortunately, only forty-three of these grand theaters are still open, and seventy-one have been demolished. Keith and Albee oversaw the construction of two other Lamb-designed theaters at the same time as Huntington's Keith-Albee. The Stanley Theater in Utica, New York has been completely renovated and hosts a wide variety of performances. Keith’s Theater in Flushing, New York sits barren and gutted, awaiting demolition. Seating approximately 3,000 patrons, it exemplified the opulence and grandeur of the 1920’s with a Mexican Baroque design style. Intricate plasterwork, chandeliers, and balconies create an atmosphere of sophistication, along with cosmetic rooms, smoking rooms, and fireplaces for men and women in the restrooms adjoining the main lobby.
The Keith-Albee Theatre, which cost $2 million to construct in 1928, was dubbed a “temple of amusement” by Huntington’s Herald-Dispatch newspaper. The opening day performance on May 8, 1928 featured performer Rae Samuels, nicknamed the “Blue Streak of Vaudeville” for her versatile acting ability. The theatre survived a major flood
Ohio River flood of 1937
The Ohio River flood of 1937 took place in late January and February 1937. With damage stretching from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois, one million persons were left homeless, with 385 dead and property losses reaching $500 million...

 in 1937.

The Keith-Albee Theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer organ to accompany live performances and motion pictures. The organ was capable of creating almost any sound effect needed for silent films shown in the theater. This original organ was removed and sold in the 1950’s after live music had lost some of its appeal. However, as a result of significant effort by Huntington native Robert Edmunds and his Huntington Theatre Organ Project, Inc., a 1927 Wurlitzer organ was purchased and reinstalled in the Keith-Albee in 2001.
The Marshall Artists Series, was formed in 1936 and moved to the Keith-Albee in 1939. The Artists Series continues to bring a wide variety of entertainment to Huntington at the Keith-Albee including film festivals, Broadway shows, orchestras, and comedians
In the 1960’s and 70’s, the Keith-Albee and the Hyman family began to feel the impact of the growing television and motion picture industry. Faced with significant competition from surround sound multi-plexes springing up all over the country, the Hyman’s opted to convert the main auditorium into a three screen movie theater. Two smaller theaters were constructed in the east and west sections of the main auditorium. A fourth theater, and also the smallest, was later added in a retail space facing Fourth Avenue. It is now our screening room.
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Keith-Albee featured a recreation of a vaudeville show starring famed singer Rudy Vallee. In 1988 the theater hosted a pre-screening benefit of the blockbuster movie Rainman. Actor Dustin Hoffman, as well as director Barry Levinson and producer Mark Johnson, traveled to Huntington and attended the benefit. Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of an autistic savant in Rainman. Levinson and Johnson also won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture, respectively. In December 2006, the Keith Albee will be host to the world premier of the Warner Brothers motion picture We Are Marshall.
In January of 2006 the Keith-Albee Theatre closed as a functioning movie theater and after almost eighty years of ownership, the Hyman family made the most generous donation of this local institution to the Marshall University Foundation, Inc. who in turn passed it on to the newly-formed Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center Foundation.

The movie theatre and the present day

As vaudeville suffered a major decline in the 1930s, the Keith-Albee began to run movies. By the 1970s grand movie houses were being torn down to make way for larger cinemas. However, the citizens of Huntington chose to save the theatre from closure and the wrecking ball. The Hyman family decided to convert the grand Keith-Albee into three separate theatres. A fourth theatre was later added in a former retail space. In 1986, the Keith-Albee was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in conjunction with several blocks of downtown Huntington. The Marshall University Foundation took a 99 year lease on the theatre back in 1990 and renovations were conducted in the 1990s. In 2004, a large cinema opened in Pullman Square
Cityscape of Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington's central business district is located to the south of the Ohio River, east of the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, and west of Hal Greer Boulevard. Broad avenues and streets dominate the streetscape, creating for the most part an even grid pattern...

, seriously damaging the Keith-Albee's business. On January 22, 2006, the Keith-Albee stopped being an active movie theater. After a brief transfer to the Marshall University Foundation, Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Inc. has taken control of the theatre and will convert the Keith-Albee into a performing arts center. Throughout 2006, contractors and volunteers have worked to repair years of wear and to restore portions of the theatre to their original form. Along with many less visible projects, the partitions installed at the height of the theatre's days as a movie theatre were removed, reducing the three rooms to the original one. On December 12, 2006 the Keith-Albee hosted the world premiere of the movie We Are Marshall
We Are Marshall
We Are Marshall is a 2006 American drama film directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players on the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team as well as five coaches, two athletic trainers, the athletic director, 25 boosters and...

with actors Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey
Matthew David McConaughey is an American actor.After a series of minor roles in the early 1990s, McConaughey gained notice for his breakout role in Dazed and Confused . He then appeared in films such as A Time to Kill, Contact, U-571, Tiptoes, Sahara, and We Are Marshall...

, Matthew Fox
Matthew Fox (actor)
Matthew Chandler Fox is an American actor. He is mostly known for his role as Charlie Salinger on Party of Five, and for portraying Jack Shephard on the supernatural drama television series Lost.- Early life :...

 and director Joseph McGinty Nichol attending. The theatre makes a cameo appearance in the movie.

The theatre will be the site of many Marshall University and local performances for years to come. It was the site of Marshall's Artist Series Spring International Film Festival in 2007.
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