History

The Lydia
The Lydia

In the 1920's The Lyda Movie House stood in the middle of the 300 block in downtown Grand Island. Business at the Lyda had suffered from the competition of the Capitol Theatre and the Island Theatre. The theatre had become run-down and was still showing silent films when all the other theatres in town had made the switch to sound. read more

The Little Grand
The Little Grand

In 1930, the Lyda was purchased by David Kaufman and Harry Shiller. The theatre underwent extensive remodeling and was renamed "The Grand." About half the size of the present-day building, it was a modest theatre that struggled for survival in the depressed economy of a troubled town. read more

Closing
Closing

On October 3, 1936, the "little" Grand was closed and construction began on a new, larger theatre. In the early morning of December 8th, a fire broke out and caused $40,000 damage to the never-to-be-seen first interior. The opening date was set back until the following May. read more

Fire
Fire

On October 3, 1936, the "little" Grand was closed and construction began on a new, larger theatre. In the early morning of December 8th, a fire broke out and caused $40,000 damage to the never-to-be-seen first interior. The opening date was set back until the following May. read more

The Grand Opening
The Grand Opening

On May 7th, 1937, hundreds of people lined up along Third Street outside of the new theatre building. The largest neon sign in Grand Island graced the facade, which was build entirely of colored glass. It was the most beautiful modern building in town. The marquee proclaimed "Nebraska's Finest and Most Modern Theatre!" 705 people were ushered in to watch the premiere of "A Star is Born" starring Janet Gaynor, Adolph Menjou and Fredrick March. read more

A Souvenir
A Souvenir

A souvenir ticket from the Grand opening. read more

Wally Kemp
Wally Kemp

The manager of the Grand Theatre was a man named Wally Kemp. A master of promotion, Mr. Kemp was instrumental in the early success of the theatre. He organized "Kid Shows," extravagant promotions aimed at the children of Grand Island. During World War II, he and the audience sang "God Bless America" before every show. Wally said "The fanfare, the hoopla, the ballyhoo...those were the keys to success. Unless you did something with a flourish, you needn't have bothered doing them at all." read more

The Golden Age
The Golden Age

For the next few decades the Grand enjoyed major success under the management of Mr. Kemp. Even into the early 70s he retained the color cartoons, the kid's shows and the short subjects abandoned by the other theatres. The curtain still opened and closed for each performance and the neon tubing glowed on. In 1975, Wally Kemp retired and the Grand's services declined in his absence. read more

The Capitol
The Capitol

In 1985, The Capitol Theatre, the other movie palace in town was demolished. Later that year, the Grand Theatre also was closed, apparently forever. A year later, Jay French and Juan Portillo rescued the theatre and restored it to a first-rate show house. Once again showing cartoons before classic movies, the theatre enjoyed a much deserved resurgence in popularity. read more

The Grand Today
The Grand Today

In 1992, the theatre was purchased by Fridley Corporation and became a first run cinema once again. This continued for 12 years until competition from modern multiplexes forced the theatre to close once again. The Fridleys announced that they would donate the building to a non-profit organization. A small group of dedicated business owners banded together to form "The Grand Foundation, Inc." to save the last surviving movie palace in Grand Island. read more

Looking Forward
Looking Forward

In March 2005, 75 years after David Kaufman originally purchased the theatre, the Grand Foundation received a grant from the Kaufmann-Cummings Foundation. This donation will assist with the purchase of equipment and building repairs. Donations in the form of cash gifts and volunteerism are crucial to the long-term success of the Grand Theatre. read more