In June of this year, The Murphy’s Executive Director, Steve Burnette, announced they would be replacing the hand letterboard with an LCD screen that will mimic letterboard. During a summer Chamber meeting, Burnette explained the disrepairs of the current marquee and how the man who changes the letters is aging. The new design will help with maintenance and has their staff’s safety at heart. “Our goal is to maintain the look of this historic landmark,” said Burnette.
According to ‘The History of The Murphy Theatre’ by Jennifer Hollon, the original marquee did not have a letterboard at all when the theatre officially opened in 1918 (pg 20).
In 1929, Chakeres Theatres of Springfield leased the theater from the Murphy family and began making improvements in anticipation for talking films that included a larger marquee with flashing lights to draw people’s attention (pg 41).
In 1932, the first person outside of the Murphy family, Bill Nasses, became manager and decided to change the marquee background to white (pg 47). Following a fire in 1934 that caused $30,000 of damage, the marquee lighting was changed to a “more eye-catching neon” (pg 53).
Finally, in 1950, Chakeres Theatres installed an art deco style marquee with “MURPHY” displayed vertically and a 1,800 bulb letterboard (pg 78). To help fund the new LCD letterboard, community members can purchase one of these historic bulbs at The Murphy, or on their website at themurphytheatre.org/marquee.