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The Smith Blog

SMITH HISTORY BLOG: The Smith by the Numbers

By Gretty Hollister

1893 = The year that fundraising for the Smith Opera House began.

2 = number of land plots needed to build the original opera house; one, the one facing Seneca street which we know as the Smith today, was already owned by William Smith, but the other was owned by a Mrs. Dorsey.

$12,000 = The money that William Smith put up to buy Mrs. Dorsey’s plot of land. (about $332,267.49 in today’s money).

$1,500 = The money raised by the Geneva community through a subscription campaign for the new opera house (about $41,533.44 in today’s money).

$500 = The final amount needed to buy Mrs. Dorsey’s land, put up by future manager of the Smith F. K. Hardison himself (about $13,844.88 in today’s money).

$14,000= The final purchase price for Mrs. Dorsey’s parcel of land that was needed to build the opera house (about $402,539.36 in today’s money).

1,200= Nearly the amount of people the original 1894 Smith Opera House could seat.

10-29-1894= The opening night performance at Smith’s Opera House, The Count of Monte Cristo starring James O’Neill.

35= Number of years it ran as Smith’s Opera House before being purchased by Schine Enterprises, Inc.

1918= Spanish Influenza outbreaks close public spaces, including the Smith

1918= The year that Smith’s Opera House becomes the Strand Theatre, or just the Strand. It remained this way until 1919.

01-06-1930= Schine Enterprises, Inc. breaks ground on the new Schine’s Geneva Theatre. The project is estimated to last nine months or so. It takes over a year.

03-17-1931= Opening night at Schine’s Geneva Theatre; the movie is an adaption of the play Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath, a loved comedy

1,800= The advertised number of seats at Schine’s Geneva Theatre; we also advertise “the biggest screen for miles”

1930= Mr. Gerald Fowler begins working for Schine’s Theatres, a manager who loves the Smith and is known to come in at 4 AM to start up the boilers.

1939= The start of World War II; the crests above the sunset frescos are painted over as a sign of patriotism in order to cover up the depictions of Axis Powers Germany, Japan, and Italy.

45,000= Number of military personnel at the Sampson military base during the years of WWII.

18,000= The population of Geneva in 1940.

1950s= The decade when movie-goers buy television sets and move to the suburbs; highway culture hits the central business district of Geneva hard.

1956= Sampson closes, causing a huge blow to the community, including the Geneva Theatre.

1965= St. Francis DeSales church burns down as a result of arson; Fowler offers the congregation the use of the Geneva Theatre for their services until the new church can be built.

11-30-77= Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra gives what many think will be the last concert at the Geneva Theatre; plans are to turn it into a parking lot.

01-06-78= Geneva Concerts leases the building from the Dutch owner Beleggingsmaatschappij Rali.

5= The number of men who made it their mission to save the Geneva Theatre (Paul Brown, Dan Belliveau, Steve Hastings, Jeff Rathaus, and Ken Camera).

$500= The money that each member of the “Brown-group” put up in order to make events happen at the Geneva Theatre (about 1,910.04 in today’s money).

$5,000= The money donated to the cause by Finger Lakes Times owner and publisher Sam Williams (about 19,100.38 in today’s money).

$42,000= The number to which Geneva’s financial authorities agreed to underwrite the purchase price of the Geneva Theatre (about $160,443.15 in today’s money).

$80,000= The money raised by the “Buy a Seat, Save a Theatre” campaign, at $150 per seat in 1982.

1994= The centennial of the Smith Opera House; major renovations on the façade and restoration of the interior are underway, trying to restore the Opera House to its former glory 1,400= About the number of seats today’s Smith contains.

06-2018= Renovations on the basement spaces of the Smith—the cabaret, downstairs restrooms, and dressing rooms.

10-26-2019= Save the date for the Smith’s 125th Anniversary Gala!

Sources: McNally, Charles. The Revels in Hand: The First Century of the Smith Opera House October 1894-October 1994. Finger Lakes Regional Arts Council, 1995.