The DeSoto Theater
is a theater in downtown Rome, GA
. The DeSoto Theater was the first theater in the southeast to display Sound Movies. It is currently owned by the Rome Little Theatre. The previous building was home the Freedman's Bureau
In early 1908 O. C. Lam, the owner of Lam Amusement Company, laid plans to construct a new movie theater in downtown Rome, Georgia
. Lam wanted to build a movie palace, a luxurious theater modeled after New York's Roxy
. Lam purchased a section of prime real estate on the main street of downtown Rome for $37,000.
The building's exterior and Georgian interior stylishly housed a number of recent movie palace innovations. Designed as a "talkie" theater, it the first venue in the South to be designed and built for sound pictures. Rome's new house boasted a Vitaphone sound system. And, the theater was heated and cooled by an innovative blower-fan air conditioning and tubular boiler system. Additionally, the theater was equipped with state of the art fire safety equipment. Fitted with many exits, the theater could be emptied in two minutes.
Lam named his new movie palace for Hernando DeSoto, who was thought by many historians to have passed through the area that is now Rome in 1600. DeSoto was completed at a cost of $110,000 and opened in August 1927. The theater seated 1,500, making it one of the seven largest movie venues in Georgia at the time. The theater was an instant success and the pride of Rome. The DeSoto was one of the main sources of entertainment for Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama for the next thirty years.
The Rome Little Theatre
In 1982 the DeSoto closed as a movie theater, but soon reopened as the venue for Rome's local amateur theater group. The Rome Little Theatre has staged dozens of plays in the 23 years it has owned the DeSoto, and the theater is one of the venues for the annual Rome International Film Festival. The DeSoto continues to be a source of entertainment in downtown Rome. The DeSoto still retains its Art-Deco marquee, French mirrored entrance hall, and Georgian interior design, although the interior is deteriorating.
Today the DeSoto Theater is threatened by a deteriorating roof and electrical system. The roof has developed numerous leaks and heavy rains have caused serious damage to the walls and floors. The electrical system, for the most part, is the original 1929 system and it is in very poor condition. The current owner, The Rome Little Theater Group, is a non-profit organization and has very limited funds. The group has estimated the cost for eliminating the threats to the DeSoto at well over $1 million.
To help repair the damage to the DeSoto, and to restore the theater to its former splendor, funding must be secured to aid the current owners. This financial assistance could come in the form of private donations, government funding, or preservation endowments.
With that in mind, The Rome Downtown Development Authority has teamed with the Rome Little Theatre to create the "Saturday Cinema at the DeSoto," a film series to be held the second Saturday in the months of January, February and March of 2007.
Northwest Georgia Threatened Historic Sites Project