ROANE COUNTY, W. Va. (WOWK) — The oldest movie theater that is still showing movies in West Virginia is the Robey Theatre in Spencer, West Virginia.
West Virginia Tourism says the theater, which was called The Auditorium at the time, was built by Hamond Robey in 1911 with help from his partner, Joseph Schwender, and the Knights of Pythias.
Robey was a businessman in the Spencer and Roane County area. Before building the movie theater, Robey owned a furniture store and a funeral parlor with Elijah Harris.
According to the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), the movie theater started as a side business. After the theater, he brought bowling alleys and roller rinks to the Roane County area. Robey attempted to open a commercial power plant sometime between 1914 and 1915.
A major renovation and remodel was done in 1926 by the Columbus-based architectural firm Carmichael and Millspaugh. The DOI says it was reopened on Sept. 6, 1926, under its current name. An opening address was done by Congressman Harry C. Woodyard followed by Albert Heck’s talk on the “Relation of the Theater to the City” and the Superintendant of Schools R. W. “Worthy” Schumaker’s talk on “The Theatre as a Civic Institution.”
The main feature at the Robey Theatre’s grand re-opening was “Kiki.”
Also in the 1920s, sound equipment was installed at the theater, making it one of the first in West Virginia. The first film with sound shown was “Alias Jimmy Valentine.”
West Virginia Tourism says, in 1989, the theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 21st Century, the Robey Theatre restored the neon sign out front in 2007, according to their website. They say they believe the sign was burnt out for more than 40 years.
In 2011, a 3D projector was put in and, in 2014, tickets could be purchased online.