Constructed in 1907, The Babcock Theater is a 750-seat, bold Downton Billings venue used for live performances, parties, films, and more. This building has a green room space, an adjacent gathering area, and a fabulous marquee. Before becoming what Babcock Theater is today, its stage was used for boxing matches and stage shows.
This theater received its name after former Senator Albert Babcock, Chairman of the Billings and Montana Board and County Commissioner. Nowadays, the Babcock Theater hosts a variety of vendors, including salons, retail stores, coffee shops, art galleries, a jewelry store, and even some apartments for rent.
Babcock’s theatre option is accessible year-round during varying business hours (based on events that the theater holds). Babcock displays films and live performances like concerts and stage shows and hosts parties, weddings, and other private community events. The theater’s space comprises a gathering room and a green room.
This colorful landmark is the heart of Billing’s downtown and has undergone many changes in its 110+ years of existence. Initially, the theater was created as Billings Opera House in 1896 and was intended to be a west jewel – an architectural wonder. But, with a mining boom in its location and an influx of rail traffic, the need for entertainment needed to be met for Billings residents more quickly than the original idea could meet.
When this facility started operating, visitors traveled hundreds of miles to enjoy performances and silent films at the theatre. This was different from what the owner had envisioned, but the theater did host high-caliber films with its powerful electric lighting, 800 comfortable eats, and excellent acoustic design. But, in 1906, a fire destroyed the building, and Albert L. Babcock was able to rebuild the theater as the region’s biggest and most prominent venue. Construction for the new building began in 1907, with four floors, over 1200 seats, and a standing room for an additional 2000. And then again, the theater became a success, drawing crowds from all over the region. Babcock then passed away in 1918, and Hyme Lipsker (new owner) took over the theater this time.
In 1935, another fire accident happened on a February evening when the theater was rented out for a prizefight. No smoking was permitted inside the building, but the crowds smoked anyway, and unfortunately, a fire broke out that night. After this accident, the Babcock Theater was (again) rebuilt as a motion picture theater. During this time, televisions and multi-plex became popular, and eventually, the Babcock theater went out of business in 1981.
The building was used momentarily as Star Fire Productions’ vaudeville-style acts and a boxing match center (2006-2008). But, after several years, the Babcock Theater was finally restored in 2012 to its former glory, and it went under a certified historic preservation tax credit rehabilitation. In 2018, the City of Billing bought the theater and awarded management to the Art House Cinema. Nowadays, Babcock Theater offers film sowings all days of the week and is available as a venue for live performances and rentals.