Located in the college town of Blacksburg, Virginia, only a short walk from Virginia Tech is the Lyric Theatre. Built in 1929 and opening on April 30, 1930, this beautiful building is a mixture of both Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture designed by Louis Phillipe Smithey. The original theatre opened in 1909 and was located in a different location in Blacksburg. In the late 1920’s, the owners of the Lyric theatre, R. Floyd Plank, Vane E. Kelsey, and R. C. Whitsett, decided to move the theatre to its current location on College Avenue. “Talkies” were becoming popular in America, and this move would be beneficial to upgrade both seating space and more importantly the theatres sound-system. The Lyric Theatre became one of the first theatres in the state of Virginia to show sound pictures. At this time the theatre had a seating capacity of 900, the latest equipment, and air-conditioning.
Changes were made to the Lyric Theatre during the 1950’s in hope to stay modern. A CinemaScope Screen was added and the original theatre lanterns were removed. Tapestries along the side of the theatre were covered with golden curtains and walls along the side of the stage were removed to add space. During this time, the masks that adorned the top of the theatre were removed after they were deemed a hazard for passerby’s below. The masks sat in the backyard of a nearby resident after mysteriously disappearing in the 1980’s. Some believe the original masks were sold while some believe they lay at the bottom of a lake.
The Lyric Theatre continued to show movies until 1989. The theatre was forced to close after the advent of home movies and the changing film distribution. Virginia Tech rented the theatre after this time until 1994, using it has a classroom for semesters. In 1994, The Lyric Council was created in hopes to reopen the Lyric and once again use it as a theatre. The party raised the funds to open the theatre and the buildings owners at the time gave the Lyric Theatre a 30 year rent-free lease. The Lyric Theatre partially reopened its doors in 1996 until funds were reached to provide a full-scale renovation. The renovation closed the theatre for seven and a half months and finally opened again in 1998. In 2006, the outside of the Lyric had renovations to repair crumbling wall and replace the masks that adored the buildings top.
Today The Lyric Theatre remains open. Through community support the theatre was able to purchase a 4k digital projector in 2013, showing the latest movie releases. With the theatres long and interesting history, rumors began to travel. Many visitors report strange occurrences in the theatre including a shrieking lady that can be heard in the late hours of the night and a mysterious spirit who supposedly passed away after falling from a ladder during the theatres construction. There has yet to be any evidence of either occurrences. In 2013, a paranormal investigation group with Virginia Tech investigated The Lyric Theatre but were unable to obtain any evidence in doing so.
As with any old building, rumors of hauntings and paranormal occurrences will always be told. Whether or not the Lyric Theatre is haunted is up to your own personal belief and experiences. Either way, The Lyric Theatre will remain a place for friends, family, and the community to gather and share in the amazing history the building provides.