September 7, 2007
The Desoto Theater in rome. The headquarters for Rome International Film Festival this year. Built at about the same time as The Alabama Theater here in Birmingham.
In early 1928 O. C. Lam, the owner of Lam Amusement Company, laid plans to construct a new movie theater in downtown Rome, Georgia. Lam wanted to build a movie palace -- a luxurious theater modeled after New York's Roxy. Lam purchased a section of prime real estate on the main street of downtown Rome for $50,000.
The building's exterior and Georgian interior stylishly housed a number of recent movie palace innovations. Designed as a "talkie" theater, it the first venue in the South to be designed and built for sound pictures. Rome's new house boasted a Vitaphone sound system. And, the theater was heated and cooled by an innovative blower-fan air conditioning and tubular boiler system. Additionally, the theater was equipped with state of the art fire safety equipment. Fitted with many exits, the theater could be emptied in two minutes.
Lam named his new movie palace for Hernando DeSoto, who was thought by many historians to have passed through the area that is now Rome in 1540. The DeSoto was completed at a cost of $110,000 and opened in August of 1929. The theater seated 1,500, making it one of the seven largest movie venues in Georgia at the time. The theater was an instant success and the pride of Rome. The DeSoto was one of the main sources of entertainment for Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama for the next fifty years.