The Grand Theater
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Residents snatched a sneak peek at the new Grand Theater building in downtown Fargo on this day in 1934 when a tarp covering the building blew off in the wind. Theater owners had hoped that the tarp would keep the recent construction of the building a secret until the theater’s grand opening on Christmas day.
The original Grand Theater, located along First Avenue, was opened in 1906 as a vaudeville theater featuring live traveling acts. Vaudeville greats such as Charlie Chaplin performed there before the theater closed in 1927. Five years later, the historic building burned down in a fire that caused $150,000 in damage. Since the building was only insured for a third of that amount, the owners never rebuilt. In 1934, the American Amusement Company of Minneapolis purchased the deserted theater with plans to rebuild it as a theater for the novel film industry. The company hoped that the new “talkies” would prove popular to Fargo residents.
The city looked forward to the unveiling of the new theater on Christmas day, but when the covering blew off only a week before the opening day, people flocked to comment on the “attractive features of the new theater”. The majority of the outer walls of the theater were built out of beige and cream bricks manufactured in Hebron, North Dakota. These were offset with “blues, golds, and magentas”.
Theater-goers would have to wait until the official opening on December 25 to view the interior of the building, though. A private preview of the theater opening was held for a limited number of people on Christmas Eve, but most of the city had to wait for Christmas Day. Patrons to the theater on that historic occasion were asked to sign their names into a register titled the “Amusement History of Fargo.” At the closing of the theater on that day, the register was placed into the hands of the Fargo Public Library for safekeeping. The Grand played the Paramount motion picture “It’s a Gift” for its debut. This film was fitting since theater owners advertised the Christmas opening as its yuletide “gift” to the city of Fargo.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune (Morning ed.). December 16, 1934: p. 1.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune (Morning ed.). December 19, 1934: p. 5.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune (Morning ed.). December 23, 1934: p. 14.
–Jayme L. Job