Preserving the Past...
For decades, the Millwald Theatre on Main Street served as the cultural and social center of Wytheville, Virginia. Built in 1928, it originally boasted Vaudeville and "moving pictures" programming. It was intended to host large crowds, with original seating capacity reports ranging from 424 to 700.
More than just a movie house, the theatre hosted pageants, rallies, community events, debates, fundraisers, and even an opera and a film festival during its long run. Key points in both US history and Wytheville history played out within its walls: presidential election results were reported by telegraph in the 1930s, its basement was designated a Cold War fallout shelter, and public debates over the infamous Wytheville UFO sightings were held on its stage.
In 2003, the Millwald celebrated its 75th anniversary and was hailed as "Virginia's longest continuously-running theater." Unfortunately, it would finally succumb to its competition just three years later. Though it had outlasted a host of competitors, including the Wytheville Opera House until 1933, the Wythe Theatre in the mid-century, and Cinema I and II in the 1970s and 80s, the installation of a multiplex cinema near the Walmart shopping center finally took the Millwald under.
The future of the Millwald is inextricably linked to its past. By returning to its roots as a multi-purpose hub of arts and community, this piece of living history can once again thrive.