Inside Look: The Historic Huntridge Theater

Graphic of Huntridge Theater exterior

After several failed attempts to reopen the infamous Huntridge Theater, the legendary concert venue will have a second chance at life thanks to a local real estate developer.

Developer J. Dapper’s Dapper Companies recently closed on the purchase of the historic theater for $4 million and plans on renovating it over the next three years into a prestige entertainment venue. 

“Bringing the Huntridge Theater back to its former glory after lying abandoned for 20 years is insane and something I dreamed about for years,” Dapper said in a statement. “I remember being there when the Beastie Boys performed. I’ve heard stories that at a time when Vegas was lined with dirt roads and the Huntridge was the first unsegregated movie theater in town, Elvis rented it out for private openings and Abbott and Costello performed their acts before a show. That’s some major history, but now it’s time to bring it back to life with new music, entertainment and to make history of our own.”

Dapper’s purchase adds to his previous investment of nearly $25 million in the five other commercial real estate properties in downtown Las Vegas, including the Huntridge Shopping Center, the building at 630 S. 11th St. (formerly Gamblers Book Shop, now home to Henriksen/Butler), The Herbert at 801 S. Main Street (former Western Cab Bldg.), 608 S. Maryland Parkway (former home of Mahoney’s Drum Shop) and 201 S. Las Vegas Blvd, which is about to break ground.

The company also has plans to restore two retail buildings on the western side of the Huntridge Theater.

Like many lifelong Vegas natives, Dapper grew up with the venue and hopes to renovate the theater into a space where future generations can come together to create similar memories.

“It’s always been about the people who live and work in the Huntridge neighborhood and the passion that so many of us who grew up here share about the theater and the times we spent there. I’m on a mission to bring it back from the dead and introduce it to new audiences and performers for generations to come,” Dapper said in a statement.

Rendering of the Huntridge Theater. Credit: Dapper Companies/Courtesy

Decades of History

The Huntridge Theater was originally built in 1944 and operated by the Commonwealth Theater Company of Las Vegas. In 1951, it was taken over by the Huntridge Theater Company of Las Vegas, partially owned by the actresses Loretta Young and Irene Dunne. 

The theater was built on land which had been owned by the international business magnate Leigh S. J. Hunt before he left it to his son Henry Leigh Hunt in 1933. The Huntridge Theater and the surrounding Huntridge subdivision are named after the Hunt family.

The theater is said to be the first non-segregated theater in Vegas and was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1993.

From the 1990s to the early 2000s, The Huntridge theater served as a popular stop for nationally acclaimed touring acts including The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Violent Femmes.

The venue eventually closed its doors in 2004 and has remained largely neglected despite several failed attempts to revive the theater. 

Last week, Dapper allowed and other media to tour the Huntridge Theater which has remained largely untouched since its closing.

Relics of the past remain including its original stage and structurally architecture, film projectors, and miscellaneous pieces from its original marquee. 

Dapper hopes to uncover even more history about the property as the company begins its restoration work.

“One of the things that we’re going to do is really try to assemble the history of the theater and better understand it because there’s a lot of people that have pieces and parts of it, but it hasn’t really been well documented.,” Dapper told Vegas News. 

Much of the original structure remains intact, but the theater will need extensive restoration done to its interior and exterior.

Despite all of its needed TLC, Dapper noted that the company is already past the most arduous part of the project which was getting the deal approved by the city.

Dapper notes that he could not have made it past the finish line without the support of the City of Las Vegas, especially former City Attorney Brad Jerbic, Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, and other City Council members, in addition to leaders of the Huntridge community.

Jerbic helped convince the city to sell the Huntridge and is currently assisting Dapper on a volunteer basis with renovating the theater. Like Dapper, the former city attorney has a strong personal connection to the theater. 

“I spent practically every weekend along with people my age at the time seeing Disney movies at the Huntridge [Theater] on the weekend,” Jerbic told Vegas News. “I remember my parents bringing me here to see the opening night of Mary Poppins in 1964.”

While the property will be updated to modern safety and entertainment standards, the ultimate goal is to preserve it as close as possible to its roots.

“This isn’t building a new building, this is taking a piece of history and putting it back,” Jerbic said.

The company is currently looking for partners to help with operating the venue and creating food and beverage spaces.

Check out our exclusive inside look of the Huntridge Theater:

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