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The Columbian Theater

This article first appeared in issue 18, and was written by Ed Waggener.

The Columbian, magnificent when it opened in 1947, has regained all its former grandeur and then some

After World War II, Clyde Marshall built the Columbian Theater, which opened in October of 1947.

The facility was budgeted to cost $45,000, but family members remember the budget fell apart after Mr. Marshall completed the building, and "went inside," the total cost soared to over $90,000.

The first movie shown was Gilda, starring Glen Ford and Rita Hayworth. It played for 15 nights, mostly to a packed house. Despite the high initial investment, the theater paid off handsomely.

After Mr. Clyde Marshall retired, his son, Bobby Marshall ran it for one year. His tenure was followed by that of Charles Marshall, who stayed 10-12 years.

Many in Columbia have never forgiven the Academy of Motion Pictures for never giving Marshall an Oscar as an exhibitor-mostly because of his wife, Yvonne, the most beautiful ticket booth operator in America at the time.

Besides launching Charles Marshall as a major player in Columbia business, the theater gained a son-in-law, Bank of Columbia President Robert Flowers, who was popcorn manager at the time.

After the Charles Marshall era, the theater was leased by Bob Napier and Paul Carter.

Marshall sold the theater to oilman Travis Coomer. Coomer operated the theater himself and with lessees, including Keith Young and current Columbia Councilman Ben Burris.

Inventor/scientist Dr. Ben Arnold bought the theater in 1991. "I went over to see my neighbor, Travis Coomer, and learned that he had contracted to have the building razed the next day. I bought it, sight unseen, after three beers, for $25,000," Dr. Arnold says.

A massive overhaul of the theater resulted in what might be America's best single-screen hall.

Today, there is a well-tuned Dolby surround sound system. The theater wide seating with cupholders. There is a glassed-in VIP room with its own sound controls for parties which rents for just $35 per night.

And, the Columbian boasts the largest screen between Louisville and Nashville.

This story was posted on 1997-12-24 12:01:01
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