Theater has a long history in the Buckeye state. in the early days it was preformed in city halls, churches, and living rooms. After the Civil War there was an explosion of theaters across the state and the country. The industrial revolution had made cities larger and with more people came more need for entertainment. Dayton was no different. In 1866 the Turner opera house opened.
After a few years it burned down and was rebuilt. This new theater lasted changed names a few times but lasted into the 20th century. In 1913 heavy rains flooded the city and the Victoria Theatre. The theater was rebuilt but only 5 years later a fire gutted it. After rebuilding again the theater found fame. Housing plays, orchestra concerts (even creating The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in 1930), and movies, the theater was in its prime. With the spread of the suburbs in the late 1960’s the theater, and downtown Dayton, faced economic decline. In 1970’s it was scheduled to be torn down. Dayton citizens, with their history of saving classic old buildings, found a way to save the building by founding the Victory Theatre Association. In 1988 the Arts Center Foundation acquired the theater and after $17.5 Million in renovations opened it as the Victoria Theatre. The organization did so well in bringing theater back downtown that it was able to open the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Center across the street.
The Victoria Theatre is one of the state’s classic old theaters. Updated slightly, and modernized with new equipment, the feel is still that of the 1988 renovation, which harked back to the original look of the place. The lobby houses a small bar / concessions area and restrooms. At the end of the lobby are the doors to the main floor of the theater and the stairs to the upper lobby and balcony. Inside the theater the seats are comfortable and the view decent. The older style seating can lead to obstructed views depending on the people sitting in front of one. The 1154 seats themselves are comfortable and not to small. The balcony has a steep rise and most seats have a good view from it. The stage is large enough to not feel out of place in the venue.
The theater is smaller than some of the other venues in the state. While the Broadway touring productions have moved across the street to the large Schuster Center. The intimate size is not as well suited for the larger productions any more, as the shows get grander and grander. The venue is great for the smaller shows the theater preforms. Small musical groups, one man shows, and family theater are housed there and do quite well. The theater even returns to it’s movie palace heydays in the Summer with the Cool Film Series.
From its early days after the Civil War to its revitalization to its modern use, The Victoria Theater has become a main stay of the Dayton, and even Ohio, theater scene.