By Audrey Davis, For The Miami Student
Just a few days ago, the shelves at the Princess Theatre were still stocked with candy. A batch of popcorn, though stale and old, was still piled in the machine, ready to be eaten — even though the theatre had been closed for well over a year.
Before the demolition began Monday, the historic Princess had been around for over a century. It was first opened Sept. 11, 1911 and was originally called the New Oxford Theatre.
From its opening to its demolition this week, the theatre went through several ownerships and two additional name changes. It wasn’t until 1982 the theatre got name it is known by today.
While it was called the Talawanda Theatre, Angela Provines, a Miami alumna (’75), recalls spending many evenings there.
“Many professors and their families would attend movies there,” Provines said. “It was weird to see them out of the classroom and being ‘real people.’”
An ad for the New Oxford Theatre was featured in a 1938 edition of The Miami Student, promoting ticket prices at only 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. Students used to be given discounted prices if they brought their college IDs.
Provines said because of this, the theatre was usually packed, especially on Saturday nights.
The theatre had always been known for its cheap ticket prices, making it a great hangout spot for Oxford’s younger population, like first-year Phoebe Myers.
Myers has lived in Oxford her whole life. She had been watching shows at the Princess Theatre for as long as she can remember. She recalls the day she was allowed to go to the theatre without her parents, when she was 11 years old — a monumental moment.
The theatre, she said, was a large part of her childhood and teenage years.
“Freshman year of high school, all of the English classes read the Hunger Games,” Myers said. “One day we all walked from the old high school to the Princess to watch the movie, and that was just a really great memory.”
Senior Jillian Runser also remembers watching the same movie at the theater.
“My sophomore year we got free tickets to see the Hunger Games premiere there,” Runser said. “It was just a bunch of girls from my corridor freaking out about it, so it was a lot of fun.”
In the past few years, the theatre has closed and reopened several times. In 2014, not long after it had been renovated, the Princess caught fire from an overheated ice machine. Although the theatre was not open at the time and no one was hurt, it was shut down due to smoke damage and has remained closed since.
“It was just a really good place to go if you wanted an alternative to going out to bars or just hang out with your friends and relax and forget about what was going on around you,” Runser said.
The theater has been missed in the town since its indefinite closing. Myers said younger kids, especially, have lost something that gave them a sense of freedom.
“It was part of the town’s identity,” Myers said. “It just fit with Oxford.”