HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A historic theater is marking its 85th anniversary this week.
The Keith-Albee Theatre, now the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center, opened May 8, 1928 in downtown Huntington. Constructed for $2 million, it featured 3,000 seats and, at the time, was second in size only to the Roxy in New York City.
“It’s very ornate. The ceiling looks like a starry sky with clouds and the stars are twinkling,” said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams. “It’s beautiful.”
The building has endured a lot the past 85 years, hit by flooding in January 1937 and suffering smoke damage in February 2001.
The site was named for one of the leading vaudeville performance companies in an effort to make it a regular stop on the tour. Over time, it changed from a vaudeville theater to a movie theater.
Dustin Hoffman attended the premiere for “Rain Man” there on Dec. 13, 1988, and the premiere of “We Are Marshall” was held there in December 2006.
The movie theater closed in January 2006, shortly before the building was turned over to the Marshall Foundation.
Fundraising efforts to restore the Keith-Albee continue. A total of $300,000 in state money was recently gifted to the site for roof repairs.
Williams said he sees the Keith-Albee as a driving point for economic revitalization in Huntington — part of the Old Main Corridor, which is tied to Marshall University. “The intent is to draw the university off campus into the downtown area,” he said.
“The Keith-Albee is the crown jewel of the downtown. We believe that, as it goes, so you will see the entire downtown of Huntington go.”
An 85th-anniversary celebration is being planned for later this year.