From live performances to talking pictures
Following John Tureman’s death on Oct. 28, 1899, his grand opera house passed through several hands while traveling theatrical companies as well as lecturers, local plays and bazaars kept the enterprise afloat.
Following foreclosure by Virginia’s Centennial Bank in 1912, William Finn acquired the building, renaming it Finn’s Opera House. Later, he again renamed it, calling it Tureman Theatre (sometimes listed as Finn’s Tureman Theatre). It was Finn who began the transformation from opera house to movie theater. Folks from throughout the county flocked to Virginia to marvel at the miracle of moving pictures.
During the silent film era, the theater also featured live entertainment and lectures. A particularly popular form of entertainment at that time was the minstrel show. Minstrels were white men in black face who performed as singers and comedians. Al Jolson was perhaps the nation’s best known minstrel performer. Ironically, theaters featuring minstrels would never have allowed a black performer on their stages.