History of the Star Theatre

History of the Star Theatre

The Star Theatre was built in 1906 by J.B. Price, who also owned the Park Theatre, on 5th Street, which has since been demolished. The Star was built as a summer playhouse, specially designed with its uniquely engineered ceiling and sliding windows on each side wall to allow cool air in during the hot summer months, when other theatres closed.

The Star provided vaudeville style entertainment, including such famous stars as Roy Rogers and Trigger, Amelia Erhart and others, until a motion picture camera was installed. A full orchestra accompanied the silent films. The first epic film and the first talking movie were all shown first at the Star Theatre.

By 1929 the Theatre had undergone several renovations due to fires and movie theatre changes. A second floor was added above the lobby, which included housing for the janitor. A projection room was later added to this second floor.

In 1949 the Star was purchased by Frisina Theatres, at which time extensive renovations were performed. The beautiful front façade was covered with a fake wall and porcelain & metal panels. The lobby was reduced to half its original size with both sides being rented out for various businesses. The upstairs was also sectioned off and rented out to businesses, including beauty salons and doctors offices. The ticket booth was removed and a newer style booth was built on the front exterior of the lobby. A candy and popcorn counter was built where the original ticket booth was. A large ramp exited the lobby, ascending 5 foot from the original floor. The floor then sloped back down to the stage area. Two balcony areas were where the kitchen and restrooms are now. These were segregated.

In 1959, the theatres doors were closed, as a modern theatre had been built in the new shopping center. Up until 1985, the theatre was used as a nightclub. In 2000, after being empty for 15 years, the Star was condemned and facing demolition. With only 1 day to spare, the theatre was purchased by the Star's current owner-family, which began a grueling 5 year restoration.

In 2005, principal renovation was complete. The Star Theatre opened her doors once more, nearly a century after being established.

Restoration & Preservation

In 2000 Hannibal nearly lost one of its landmarks, and with it a portion of downtown history. Efforts persist to ensure this amazing structure continues serving the region for many more years to come.

To say the Star was in dire need of attention in the weeks before facing demolition in the fall of 2000 would be an almost absurd understatement. After 15 years of neglect, the entire roof above the stage, not to mention the stage floor itself, had fallen through into the basement. Holes in the roof in several other places had led to the deterioration of all the floors and ceilings. A questionable "improvement" of the 1950's hid the beautiful façade underneath layers of covering.

Thus began a family's near-herculean effort to resurrect the Star to its former glory. Original postcards and a few photos from 1929 & earlier were used to restore the lobby and exterior façade as close to original as possible. Extensive roof work and restoration of the upstairs is still planned.