The Babcock Theatre was opened as an 850-seat Vaudeville Stage House in 1886 in Wellsville, New York. Actor Gabby Hayes, a native of Wellsville, was one of many to perform here.
In the early 1930’s, the Babcock Theatre was equipped with RCA sound. Somewhere around 1937 Jack Warner of Warner Brothers bought the Babcock Theatre and began renovations to make it a “new style cinema”. The street-front through the lobby and into part of the theater was torn off and reconstructed. This made room for a lobby with a concession stand, a street front box office, and a new style smoking balcony that all supported the new V-shaped marquee. A movie screen was installed so that it covered the old performance stage. A projection booth was placed in the balcony, so that it shined down onto the screen below. The Warner Brothers’ brass coat of arms was placed above—it is still there today.
The theater ran with great success through the 1940’s, and into the 1960’s when it fell victim to TV and videos. The Babcock Theatre was in bad shape, and by 1979 the owners were ready to close the doors for good.
Then a native of Wellsville who had recently returned from California bought the theatre and took the challenge of carrying it through the rough time. In 1982 he enclosed the balcony and made it a piggy-back twin. The original projection booth in the balcony now services the upstairs screen. A second projection booth was built on the back side of the lobby to service the downstairs original screen. Also, electronic lamp houses and platter systems were added.
In 1993, the current owner and manager Darren Jones came to work for the theatre and fell in love with the place. In 1997 the theater was leased out and he lost his job. In the meantime, Mr. Jones bought a building in Pennsylvania and converted it into a theater, which he operated until it sold in 2004. That same year, he came back to Wellsville and bought the theater, changing the name to The Grand Theatre.
In September 2012, the theater closed for one month in order to restore, renovate, and install new screens and digital projection and sound systems. With all of the updates and state of the art audio visual equipment, The Grand Theatre is truly a unique movie experience that you won't find anywhere else.