Historic Theaters & Drive-Ins
Style: Mid-Century Modern
Image by New Mexico MainStreet
Image by Amy M. Barnhart
The Lea Theater was built in 1948 in Lovington as the post-WWII economy and local oil discoveries launched a boom in Lea County. Situated across the street from the impressive Lea County Courthouse, The Lea Theater is an excellent example of the mid-century modern International Style that was popular in southeastern New Mexico. It has been a spotlight for Lovington's downtown. It not only shows movies, but hosts special events, concerts, pageants, film debuts and more.
When the Theatre opened on September 30, 1948, the community celebrated with a parade that ended with live performances and speeches given from the new theatre stage. Although movie theatres had appeared as early as the 1910s, it was not until the post-war boom and the construction of the modern Lea Theatre it was proclaimed that Lovington now had "one of the finest, small-city movie houses in the United States", as reported in the Lovington Press on September 24, 1948. The theater served a prominent role in serving the community as a gathering place for entertainment and civic events. Its distinctive design and marquee serve as a timestamp for the era in which it was built. With so few structures of this kind still in existence and operating today, the citizens of Lovington feel it was vitally important to maintain and preserve this landmark. The Lea Theatre was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The theater welcomed audiences during the boom of the 50s, 60s and 70s,through the 80s, when the Theatre "went dark." In 1991, the Joy family undertook an extensive restoration and re-opened the Theatre. It won the New Mexico MainStreet "Best Building" award in 1997, and with the help of the community and Lovington MainStreet, was placed on New Mexico's list of "Endangered Places", through the "This Place Matters" program.
Lovington MainStreet identified the theater as a key component to the revitalization the Downtown District. The theater was acquired in 2014, and the space received upgrades to audio and digital capabilities, re-opening as a movie-house in fall of 2016, showing the latest films each weekend. The Lea Theater is managed by the Lea Community Foundation for the Arts.
(Source: Connie L. Sevier Past-President, Lea Community Foundation for the Arts)
106 E. Central St. | Lovington, NM 88260