Built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, one of Britain's finest theatre architects, the Opera House ran as a successful theatre, receiving touring companies until 1927.
In 1927 the theatre was turned into a cinema. Silent films were shown at first and in 1932 the theatre was wired for sound and 'talkies' took over. The demand for live theatre persisted though, and Lillian Bayliss, a woman of immense energy and vision, and manager of The Old Vic, presented summer Festivals in Buxton in 1937 and 1939. Among the stars to delight Buxton audiences at this time were Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson, Robert Donat, Anthony Quayle, Robert Morley and Alec Guinness.
Although the Festivals continued during wartime, a loss of momentum resulted in the end of live theatre production. Throughout the late 1940s, 50s and 60s the Opera House operated solely as a cinema, with only local amateur theatre performances and the annual pantomimes providing any links to its illustrious past.
Towards the end of the 1970s the Opera House fell into disuse but was lovingly restored in 1979 following dedicated work by many people both locally and nationally. Since the completion of this restoration work Buxton Opera House has been at the centre of a remarkable success story and has developed as a community theatre catering for wide-ranging tastes and ages.
In late 1990s however it became apparent that the Opera House required further urgent restoration work in order to secure its future into the next century and beyond. An extensive £1.9 million programme of external and internal restoration was undertaken between October 1999 and June 2001 to restore the theatre to its original 1903 glory.