The Levoy Theatre Preservation Society is a not-for-profit organization committed to reviving and continued operation of Millville’s century old Levoy Theatre as a performing, screen arts and educational center serving Southern New Jersey and surrounding areas. Our mission is to meet and exceed the needs of an active and vibrant arts community through state-of-the-art technology, historic interpretation, culturally diverse programming and performing arts education for all ages and abilities.
The mission of the Levoy is to serve as an economic, educational, cultural and entertainment catalyst for the people of Millville and greater South Jersey. Our mission encourages people of all economic levels to celebrate the rich history of the building, attend a diverse mix of entertainment and educational programs and grow or enhance an appreciation of the performing arts, by creating opportunity for cultural enrichment. Our mission includes maintenance of this world-class venue to enhance enjoyment of its use, contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the community and the region, and honor the rich history of the Levoy brings to the City of Millville.
The first Levoy Theatre filled a ten-year void left in Millville after the 1898 fire that destroyed the Wilson Opera House (once at High and Sassafras Sts.), Millville’s largest theatre of the 19th century. By 1908 Millville needed a new source of entertainment, and William “Pop” Somers of Atlantic City and Somers Point fame came to Millville seeing the opportunity for his Levoy. On a side note, Somers was one of the early Ferris Wheel designers, even before Mr. Ferris himself. Only after a lengthy court battle between Ferris and Somers did the famous ride become known as the “Ferris” Wheel and not the “Somers” Wheel.
On January 9, 1908, Somer’s first Levoy was opened. It was much smaller than today’s structure; there were two floors—the theatre on the lower floor and a dance floor on the upper. The first admission prices were 5¢ for one ticket or 25¢ for six.
The early silent flickering films shown in the original Levoy were often accompanied by a vocalist or piano player in the background to follow the action.
Only four years after the first Levoy opened it was to be enlarged by Colonel Ellsworth Shaw, a job that took five months, 29 days to enlarge the theatre occupying two store widths and doubling its previous size.
The Levoy now had a larger stage, with a wrap around “horse-shoe” balcony. Its facade at this point slightly resembled the facade of the Levoy known today, at a somewhat smaller scale. Reopening ceremonies began on November 4, 1912, with William Somers’ renaming of his theatre as the “New Levoy”.
For the next fifteen years the Levoy was Millville’s center of entertainment for silent films and Vaudeville; its main competition came from the Peoples’ Theatre just across the street, also operated by the Levoy’s owners.
The famous Morris Handle and A.J. Rovner leased the theatres from Somers in April 1927 and soon decided that the Levoy was the one they were going to invest in. After several months of further enlargements and embellishments creating its current footprint and scale the “Theatre Beautiful” of Millville was ready for its grand reopening.
The Levoy was now at its full size: a 1,100 seat lower level, a 400-seat balcony, box seating, one of three $30,000 Lenoir pipe organs built specially for the Handel & Rovner Company (serial number #P304B), a stage-proscenium with full fly system, orchestra pit, a marble and chandelier filled lobby and mezzanine, and a very ornate classical facade that gave the impression of a theatre in a very large city.
Over 3,500 people turned out for opening night, September 19, 1927 with a bill of live Vaudeville acts as the main attraction.