In 1926 theatre owners Leo F. Keiler and Rodney C. Davis commissioned architect W. Earl Gore of Louisville to design a new film and vaudeville theatre at 512 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky. The Columbia Theatre would open its doors on April 18, 1927, with the Clara Bow and Antonio Moreno romantic comedy It.
The Columbia would continue to show films and present a mix of live performances until a renovation took place in the 1950s. This would have a major impact on the appearance of the theatre. Changes in technology were bringing the need for modernization to theatres across America in the 50s. While many theatres were being stripped of ornamentation and classical elements, the Columbia’s renovation went against the prevailing currents of the time. Its design was heavily influenced by what was to become known as the Skouras Style.
The next major renovation to the Columbia would take place in 1976 as many theatres responded to the economic pressures facing cinemas at the time to add additional screens. The Columbia’s balcony was divided from the main audience chamber to provide a separate standalone theatre. However, this attempt to return financial viability to the theatre was short lived. Like hundreds of other theatres around the country at the time, the Columbia went dark in 1987.
– Americans for the Arts, National Arts & Economic Prosperity Study IV*