The Grand Theatre opened in 1936 to a crowd of Stamford residents and visitors from the surrounding communities. As the neon lights made their debut on the square, patrons lined up to pay 5¢ to see movies, news reels and serials that played all day.
Owned by the four Hodge brothers, the theatre was in expert hands as the brothers owned three other theatres in the area. The Grand was operated by Omie and Sanford Hodge until 1949 when they hired A.J. Stone to operate the theatre, as well as two of their other theatres, the Drive-In and the Palace Theater which were also located in Stamford.
The home of the Grand didn’t start as the Grand however. The building was built in 1920 with a brick façade and a Spanish-style interior as the home of the Alcove Theater. The building was remodeled and reopened as the Grand Theatre. It was remodeled again in 1950 to the look that lasted for over 50 years, with yellow sheet metal over the brick façade.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the theatre showed double feature films three nights a week to crowds that lined up around the block. In 1960, the Grand Theatre was host to the “Miss Stamford” Beauty Pageant, sponsored by the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.
The Grand remained with the Hodge family until 1977 when it, along with the Drive-In, was sold to operators A.J. and Mary Stone. The early 1980s brought another renovation to the theatre, courtesy of the Main Street Project Grant that benefited much of downtown Stamford. The Stone family continued to operate the theatre until the late 1980s.
In 1994, a community fundraiser enabled another modest restoration which allowed it to operate until 2011. The theatre closed its doors due to changing theatre technology after playing its last movie, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon.
In 2015, the Development Corporation of Stamford (DCOS) acquired the theatre from the previous owners and in 2016 the DCOS appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of reopening the theatre. The committee created an independent non-profit organization, the Grand Theatre, Inc., for the purpose of renovating, restoring and reopening the Grand as a self-sustaining community business.
The Grand Theatre currently is undergoing restoration while the committee fundraises for the needed funds to restore and reopen the theatre.
In the fall of 2018, the neon lights of the Grand Theatre will once again light up the square in downtown Stamford for visitors from near and far.
Special thanks to Luci Wedeking and the Cowboy Country Museum for their work in finding the history of the Grand Theatre and to Woncile Fowler who provided 90 years of memories.