Lexington Opera House

The Lexington Opera House (145 North Broadway) was built in 1887 by the Broadway Realty Company. It was the second opera house for Lexington; the first located at the southeast corner of Main and Broadway) was destroyed by fire the year before. It opened with 1,250 seats, and featured gallery, first floor, balcony, and box seats. The theater was managed for nearly thirty years by Charles Scott. It operated strictly as a venue for live performances, until 1896 when some of the first motion pictures in Lexington were exhibited there. From that point, the Lexington Opera House was a multi-purpose venue, staging plays and hosting touring theater companies, while exhibiting films on an occasional basis.

In 1914, the Lexington Opera House merged with its main competitor, the Ben Ali Theatre and both theaters were run by the Berryman Realty Company. The Opera House was closed for remodeling and re-opened in 1915. The mixed schedule of live theater and films continued for the Opera House, until 1920, when it and the Ben Ali were purchased by the Phoenix Amusement Company. Phoenix closed the Opera House in 1921 and sold the building in 1922 to R. S. Webb. Webb converted the building into an automobile storage warehouse and a gas station. Charles Berryman and Harrison Scott (son of Charles Scott) created the Lexington Opera House Company and purchased the building. After renovating the space, the Lexington Opera House Company re-opened the theater in late 1923. By 1926, the Opera House was ailing financially. Both Berryman and Scott left the company. Finally, in 1929, the theater was sold to Transylvania University.

In 1931, the theater was leased to Great Lakes Company, who converted it to sound motion picture exhibition and re-opened it as a third-run movie house, with some of the cheapest seats in town. The theater operated in this manner until winds blew off the roof in 1973. Local government stepped and raised funds to buy and restore the space to it’s original design and function. Since re-opening in 1976, the Lexington Opera House has functioned as a live theater venue.