History of The DeSoto

In early 1928, O. C. Lam, owner of Lam Amusement Company, laid plans to construct a new movie theater in Rome, Georgia, modeled after New York’s Roxy. It was the first venue in the South designed and built as a “talkie” for sound films.

When the DeSoto opened in August 1929, it was one of the seven largest movie venues in Georgia.

It was an instant success and the pride of Rome. The Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation maintains and preserves this legacy for future generations.

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Our Approach

Our Mission

The Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2008 to secure the future of the iconic 1929 theatre in downtown Rome.

We are committed to preserve the tradition and legacy that is the Jewel of Broad Street. It is our mission to usher the movie house that introduced us to “talkies” into the age of “selfies” and social media.

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Our Approach

Flashback to 2011 Renovation Efforts

As the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation started renovating the upstairs of the building, a Berry College Bonner Scholar documented the condition of the building and the progress of the renovations.

Our Story


August 5

DeSoto Theatre opens its doors

DeSoto Theatre opens its doors
On August 5, 1929, the DeSoto Theatre opened its doors to the public, the first theatre built for “talkies” in the south. O.C. Lam, owner of Lam Amusement Company, modeled it after the luxurious Roxy Theatre and equipped it with the most modern conveniences at the time at a cost of over $100,000.  “The Rainbow Man” was the first movie shown.
December 1

Renovation: Art Deco marquee and concessions lounge added

The DeSoto undergoes it’s first major renovation. It adds the current Art Deco marquee and auditorium wall paintings, plus concessions lounge and bathrooms in the popular Art Deco style.
September 21

DeSoto closes as movie theatre, becomes home for Rome Little Theatre.

Rome’s oldest community theatre troupe purchased the DeSoto and converted it into a performance venue equipped with a stage, an orchestra pit, and new seating.  RLT’s first play here was “The Sound of Music.”
November 1

Historic Desoto Theatre Foundation is established

Rome Little Theatre deeds the DeSoto to the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation to preserve and maintain the building.
February 1

HDTF establishes partnership with Fox Theatre Institute, restores vestibule

Atlanta’s Fox Theatre Institute selects the DeSoto to be one of the first theaters in Georgia to receive restoration and revitalization aid, serving as a catalyst for additional renovations.
March 1

Roof and Facade repair project

Before any interior renovations could begin, the DeSoto had already received a new roof. The facade and the outside lobby followed the interior vestibule’s renovation, with the outside lobby going back to it’s original rich colors and the facade to it’s original white of 1929.
July 1

Lightning starts fire, threatens DeSoto

Lighning strikes a post in the back of the DeSoto, causing an electrical fire that could have engulfed the building.
March 7

DeSoto renovation, Part 1: New seats for 500, bathrooms, lounges, auditorium, carpet

Over $350,000 project renovates auditorium with historically-accurate seats for 500, adds marble bathrooms, travertine-floor lounge and concessions area, Art Deco period fixtures, custom-made burgundy carpet. The Jewel of Broad Street is reborn.
December 7

HDTF solidifies partnership with 7 Hills Fellowship

HDTF signs 10-year lease with 7 Hills Fellowship to continue Sunday morning services at the DeSoto, as it had done during the previous five years. & Hills Fellowship also invested over $700,000 purchasing the building adjacent to the DeSoto for offices and meeting space.
February 1

DeSoto Renovation, Part 2: Concessions Counter, Catering Kitchen

A concessions counter in the Art-Deco style and a catering kitchen were added, to be used for events and community rentals.
March 7

Second fire threatens the DeSoto

Electrical fire in decayed conduit damages all wiring in brand-new concessions lounge.
April 27

Opera Star Jamie Barton performs at the DeSoto

A sold-out crowd welcomes Rome’s own diva back to the DeSoto for a world-class performance the evening after she opens the season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
December 1

DeSoto Renovation, Part 3: Sound improvements, electrical projects

Custom-made sound panels improve the auditorium’s sound,  and fire safety and electrical projects improve the  building’s safety.
July 1

HDTF’s 10th Anniversary!

The Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation celebrates 10 years of being a champion for the restoration of the DeSoto, the Jewel of Broad Street!

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