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Ritz Theatre

Photo from the Darren Snow collection
803 N Rolla St
Rolla MO

Demolished 1998
Record #7540  
 Opened: July 19, 1941
 Closed: June 18, 1995
 Demolished: 1998
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

OPENED: Sat. 7/19/41; 7 PM; "The Gang's All Here." CLOSED: Sun. 6/18/95; "Braveheart." DEMOLISHED: Sun. 5/30/98.

City Attorney Eugene E. Northern presided over the Ritz's formal opening in the absence of Mayor W.D. Jones; opening-day ads touted "Western Electric Sound" in a theatre "Air-Conditioned by Refrigeration." Admission was 10c and 20c. The first manager was Mrs. Mildred Karsch.

In its early days, the Ritz -- which sometimes featured live acts like Max Terhune and his dummy "Elmer" -- advertised itself as "The DELUXE Theatre." Early Ritz ads trumpeted "The DELUXE Theatre." When the new Uptown Theatre opened nearby just five months later, ads for the Ritz defensively huffed: "STILL -- The Best of EVERYTHING at the LOWEST ADMISSION." Not to mention "Go to the Ritz -- Everybody's Doing It!" 1949 ads claimed: "Always 70 degrees cool!"

In its early years, the Ritz was an independent operation that gamely fought off the chain theatres that popped up all around it -- but it, too, eventually became part of a theatre circuit.

After closing in 1995, the Ritz sat empty for three years. I was able to take a look around inside three months before the demolition; the theatre's doors had been left unlocked and vandals had torn out the screen, uprooted seats and demolished doors. Pigeons had taken over the projection room, and a curious memento had been left in the balcony: a Superman costume was found on the floor, covered by a crumpled plastic bag.

A nearby church bought the site to allow for expansion, and when the Ritz was torn down, the Rolla Daily News ran four front-page photos of the demolition of the adjoining car dealership -- but the Ritz was cropped out in each one, and never mentioned in the captions. No respect!

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Last featured 7/3/2004. Last edited 5/26/2016.

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