Theater listings create promise

The Lyceum Theatre on Main Street has hosted such performers as Will Rogers, Gene Autrey and John Phillip Sousa and his band. (CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer

The recent listing of two downtown city theaters on the National Register of Historical Places could boost tourism and economic development, according to the Clovis MainStreet and state officials.

The State and Lyceum theaters, which are both located on Main street, were added to the national register in January.

“We are really excited,” Clovis MainStreet Executive Director Robyne Beaubien. Beaubien said. “Clovis’ downtown has a rich history.”

Listing the theaters in the State and National registers will draw renewed attention to them, according to State Historical Preservation Department. The attention, when coupled with active MainStreet programs and other downtown revitalization plans, could help spur new economic activity downtown and renew interest in these small-town movie palaces.

“Movie theaters were the heart and pride of small-town New Mexico,” said John Murphey, HPD Register coordinator. “Their slow demises as downtowns emptied only accentuated the ghost-town feel many communities took on, leaving few reasons for area residents to stroll their once-busy main streets at night.”

At one time a vaudeville house, the city-owned Lyceum was built in 1919 and 1920. During its peak years of 1920 to 1940, the Lyceum provided the best show in town, according to state historians. Tom Mix, Will Rogers, Gene Autry and John Philip Sousa and his band performed on its stage.

The city of Clovis purchased the Lyceum in 1982, according to the State Historical Preservation Department.

The privately owned State Theater was chosen because it was a perfect example of the streamlined, modern architecture of the 1940s, according to the state historians.