LIMA — In its first two decades of existence, the Lyric Theater saw vaudeville variety acts give way to silent movies. The theater, which went up in 1910 in the 200 block of North Main Street, also saw frequent ownership changes and even more frequent renovations — new seats, new screens, remodeled foyer, demolition of the vaudeville stage, a $20,000 Page organ to accompany the movies.
Following a 1913 renovation to accommodate “moving pictures,” the Lima Daily News called the Lyric “one of the most elaborate movie theaters in northwestern Ohio.” In 1920, after yet another change of ownership, the Lima Times-Democrat said the theater would be “made into one of the most modern playhouses in this part of the state.”
In February 1930, the Lyric again came under new ownership and underwent yet another renovation, this time to allow the showing of talking pictures. “Talkies,” which became technologically possible in the mid-1920s, had all but replaced silent movies by 1930.
“The Lyric Theater, latest acquisition of the Lima-Ritz Theatre Corp., which comes under the local organization’s ownership today, will be closed temporarily while a perforated metal screen and talking picture equipment are being installed,” the Lima News reported Feb. 24, 1930.
The Lima-Ritz Theatre Corp. owned the Sigma, State and Faurot theaters in addition to the Lyric. The Faurot, a fixture on the northwest corner of Main and High streets since 1882, still booked the occasional vaudeville act in 1930. It closed permanently in 1934 and was demolished in 1953.
An ad in the Lima News in March 1930 touted the opening of “Lima’s Main Street Show Place.” The Lyric, the ad said, was “the new home for better talkies at the lowest prices in the state.”
On July 27, 1930, “Lima’s Main Street Show Place” fell victim to one of the plagues of Depression-era America — armed robbery. According to the July 28 edition of the Lima Morning Star and Republican-Gazette, “One of the young gunmen, who during the last week have terrorized residents of the Lima district, at 10:20 p.m. last night held up H.L. McGinnis … manager of the Lyric Theatre and Alice Marshall, cashier, as the couple entered the lobby of the Steiner building to place the theatre’s Sunday receipts in the Metropolitan bank night depository. Covering the pair with a gun, the bandit escaped with a bag containing $180.”
The Lima-Ritz Theatre ownership group gave way to the ownership of Lima Theatrical Enterprises in September 1931. “With new sound equipment installed by the Pictur-Fone Corp., of Lima, the Lyric Theatre will be opened on Saturday, Sept. 19, as a popular price movie house by the Lima Theatrical Enterprises, it was announced Thursday,” the Lima News reported Sept. 10. “The Lyric will be run on a double bill policy, showing one western picture and a second run show from the leading producers. The theatre is acoustically treated and will be placed in first class condition before the opening. …”
Pictures weren’t the only entertainment at the Lyric in the 1930s. The News announced Oct. 23, 1931 that pro wrestling “makes its return bow to Lima Friday night when a card of three bouts will be presented at the Lyric Theatre. …” The card included “Roughhouse” Chaney and Mike Pale, “the fighting Pole.” Later bouts would include the likes of Chief Lone Wolf and “Speedy” Shaeffer.
The Lyric survived the Depression and World War II with this fare and promotions like a bus ride to and a movie at the Lyric for 20 cents.
On March 10, 1946, an ad in the News offered “Investment Property for Sale.” The property, according to the ad, includes one apartment, two retail stores and one modern 656-seat theater. The Lyric was about to change ownership again.
“Sold on the high bid of $125,200, the Fall building, containing the Lyric Theatre, Saturday became the property of George Settos, former Lima theatre operator and now operator of a chain of 18 theatres in Indiana and Kentucky,” the News reported April 7, 1946. Settos and his brother, Charles, had operated the Lyric under lease from Louis and Mary Fall, the building’s owners, in the 1920s. Settos would not take over the Lyric until Lima Theatrical Enterprises’ lease expired Dec. 31, 1947.
The News wrote Feb. 1, 1948, that “an extensive remodeling and refixturing” had begun at the Lyric when the lease expired. On April 6, the News reported the theater would reopen April 8 with “a new sound system, projection machines and screen, year-round air conditioning, recessed lighting, tiled restrooms, carpeted floors, seats and a glass-block and aluminum marquee.”
It also had a new name: the Ranger Theater. “Oregon Trail Scouts” and “Bush Pilots” would be the first movies shown at the Ranger. “Nashville Rebel” and “Million Eyes of Su Muru” would be among the last. In addition to the Ranger’s ad in the Sept. 18, 1967, edition of the News were ads for the Quilna and the Ohio, and for a new theater at the American Mall.
On Oct. 5, 1967, the News reported the Ranger Theater “closed last week to permit major remodeling and renovation of the building.” This final renovation wasn’t to improve the theater, but to gut the building to make room for an expanded Varsity Shop clothing store.