Filed Under Bozeman

Ellen Theater

Main Street Historic District

The first building in Bozeman expressly constructed as a theatre, the Ellen opened in December 1919. Calling it “a superb piece of architecture,” the Bozeman Chronicle praised the 800-seat theatre as “the most modern … in the state.” Bozeman architect Fred Willson designed the two-story Beaux Arts style building, which featured elaborate terra cotta decoration. Nelson Jr. and T. Byron Story, sons of the legendary cattle baron Nelson Story, led the investor group that raised $150,000 for construction. They named the theatre for their mother and reserved the front two rows of the balcony for friends and family. Weekly vaudeville shows presented fan dancer Sally Rand, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, actress Vivian Vance, and many others. To accompany silent films, owners added a “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ in 1925 and in 1929 installed an RCA photophone system for talkies. In 1931, the interior was remodeled, adding decorative acoustic panels, chandeliers, and dramatic red and gold finishings. In the mid-1960s, the theatre took its present form when owners extended the storefront. Restored by Montana TheatreWorks in 2008, the Ellen again hosts movies and live performances.

Images

Ellen Theater Ellen Theater. Front view of the building, facing north on West Main Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Ellen Theater Ellen Theater. Close view of the front of the building, facing northeast on West Main Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019

Location

17 West Main Street, Bozeman, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Ellen Theater,” Historic Montana, accessed February 1, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/562.