Over the next handful of years, the Grand played host to the leading performers of the day, including the great beauty Lillian Russell, Maude Adams (Broadway’s original Peter Pan), Harry Houdini (who cut nine doors into the Grand’s stage for his illusions, one of which has been preserved), Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, folk humorist Will Rogers, and George Burns & Gracie Allen. The schedule was full for traveling theatre tours like “Abie’s Irish Rose,” “The Student Prince,” and “George White’s Scandals” (the early 20th century equivalent of touring Broadway shows today), as well as countless Vaudeville troupes and Minstrel shows.
And yet, even in the midst of all this success, there was danger ahead. Moving pictures had been considered a passing fad when The Grand opened, but as they went from one-reelers to two, and from devices for quick thrills to structured plots with appealing actors, movies eroded the foundations of live entertainment. After all, movies traveled in a box and didn’t need room and board, only required one technician, and could run all day and night without getting tired. And who couldn’t get a couple of nickels together for a show?