It’s been a sometimes rocky road for the little movie theater in Downtown North Baltimore, Ohio, since its opening in 1937.
From VMP –
FINAL SHOWINGS – MAY 4-5-6
The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
It is with our deepest sadness, that we are announcing that Virginia Motion Pictures will be closing in early May (on or around the 6th as we use up on hand supplies). We would like to THANK our loyal customers for their continued support. If you have Gift Certificates that need to be redeemed we encourage you to come in and see The Avengers: Infinity War; as this will be our last movie. You can also come in and redeem them for cash value during any regular show time.
THANK YOU ALL!
Doug-Jaymie-Jayson-Rose-Tammy and Hank
From the VMP website:
1937: Virginia Motion Pictures (VMP), formerly known as The Virginia Theatre (or “The Show” as it was sometimes referred to) opened July 11, 1937 by Ernest and Viola Walter. Ernest had been the Theatre manager since 1934 when the theater was previously located at 128 N Main Street. The location at 128 N Main St was later converted into a bowling alley.
1939: The new Virginia Theatre at 119 N Main St, hosted approximately 60,000-70,000 patrons a year and was the biggest theatre in NW Ohio. On April 19, 1939 a disastrous fire hit the Walters 3rd floor apartment above the movie theatre, but the theatre escaped all flames because of the fireproof roof that was installed when the theatre was first housed in the hotel building, the Columbia Hotel.
1959: After 22 years in business, Ernest Walter closed the theatre in May 1959. It was later reopened on several occasions over the years, for various activities including use for special performances.
Photos by JP Miklovic for TheNBXpress.com
(Editor’s Note: there is a gap in the history for at least the mid-1960’s into the early 1970’s – when the theater was a “happening place”, at least to me, as a little kid, around 10 years old or so. The theater around that time (if memory serves me correctly) is where Doug Wickard cut his teeth in the theater business. I wonder if Village Historian, Bonnie Knaggs, has any additional information? Why… I even remember going to the theater when I was in high school, when History teacher “Boomer” Clark took us uptown, during History class, to see Patton!) – anyways, back to the history…
1997: November of 1997, Michael and Jennifer Posh renovated and opened the theatre under the name “Posh Virginia Theatre” showing 1st run movies. Jayson Wickard was the first employee with the Posh’s. He later resigned in 2005 to pursue a General Management career with another theatre company.
2006: January 2006, Matt Clark and Erika Miklovic became owners of the theatre and renamed the theatre “Virginia Clark Theatre” The theatre eventually closed mid year 2008.
2009: North Baltimore native, Jayson Wickard, reopened the theatre in October 2009, after several years working as a General Manager for other theatre chains . Keeping the traditional name ‘Virginia’, Jayson used modern terminology to describe a cinema venue (rather than an Arts Theater) and renamed the theatre “Virginia Motion Pictures”.
2012: Doug Wickard, Jayson’s Dad, took ownership of the theater in February 2012. Doug and his daughter Jaymie (Jayson’s twin sister) managed the theater until July 2014. At this time, theatre operations were suspended, due to the large investment that was needed to replace outdated projection equipment.
2014 (July) : Theater operations suspended.
Theatre Note: In the last few years, the theater industry has discontinued the use of 35 mm film and changed to a new digital format. This move has forced “Mom and Pop” theater chains still using 35 mm out of business unless they are willing to invests tens of thousands of dollars in new digital projection equipment.
SAVE THE THEATRE CAMPAIGN
Shortly after the closure, a committee was formed to “Save the Theatre”. The committee was organized by: Ralph Wolfe (Chair), Bonnie Knaggs, Pam Sieler, Janis Dukes, Paula Miklovic and Kathy Healy.
People from the community and surrounding towns donated money to help purchase a new digital projector. Enough funds were raised in 26 days to purchase the new projection equipment.
2015 (January): Virginia Motion Pictures reopened it’s doors on January 1st, 2015.
(NBX UPDATES the story – May 4, 2018 – begins the final movie run planned at the Virginia Theater. The “movie business” will not support the operations, with regular monthly operating deficits… according to operator, Doug Wickard.
Plans for the theater are currently uncertain. The owner of the property housing the theater is Gary Luken. Luken came to NB in the early 1980’s purchasing and continues operation of the Gerdeman Insurance Agency. Over the years Luken has invested in several downtown NB properties.
Due to the decline of “small town USA”, which really hit NB in the early 1990’s, NB has struggled to keep store front buildings full in the downtown.
MORE VIRGINIA HISTORY
There were several other theatres in North Baltimore before the Virginia Theatre. 1912 the elder Gibson took over the theatre which was then known as The Crown, than later bought by Ralph E. Bishop in 1928.
When Gibson entered the movie business there was another theatre in North Baltimore, “The Palace”, owned and operated by C.C. Adams. Later, Gibson also purchased the Palace and continued to operate both theatres until about 1923 when the Palace was closed and the building torn down.
While under the ownership of Bishop, the Crown underwent extensive remodeling and the name was changed to “Virginia”. In 1929 Bishop accepted a job as a salesman with a film company and ownership was returned to Gibson. In 1934, Walter purchased the theatre.
THEATRE HISTORY IN NORTH BALTIMORE
History of theatres in North Baltimore goes back to the late 1800’s when C.L. Huddle, former owner and publisher of The News operated a theatre where “The Palace” was located. At one time the village had three theatres at the same time. They operated under the names of Bijou, opened on May 10, 1890 and is said to have been owned by “Min” Jones at one time. Another name was Tom Powell and another theatre in operation here in the early years of the town was the Whipple and Star – all theatres were located in the 100 block of North Main Street.
1884 an enterprise physician and businessman, Dr. A.G. Henry opened an opera house that was second to none in Wood County. The Henry Opera House was the largest in Ohio and seated over 1000 patrons. In step with time Dr. Henry decided to show Motion Pictures until a fire completely demolished the theatre September 9, 1911