The Royal Theatre in Benton is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the country’s official registry of historically significant properties. The two-story brick structure is home base for the Royal Players, the local community theater group. The distinction of being on the National Register gives the theatre the opportunity to be nationally recognized. It also gives the Royal Players the ability to apply for preservation grants and low-interest loans to help maintain the structure for the citizens of Saline County and the surrounding areas for years to come. The Royal has been a major cornerstone in the life of downtown Benton and a landmark in the community for generations.
The original section of the Royal Theatre was built in 1920 when it was known as the IMP, an acronym for Independent Motion Pictures. Alice Wooten was the original owner or the IMP, which was sold to Wallace and Lena Kauffman in 1922. The theater was remodeled and the name was changed to the Royal in 1949. In 1974, Wallace Kauffman relinquished control of the Royal to his son, Warren Lee and Warren’s wife, Mildred. Lynn Hoggard was assistant manager for several years. In 1986, Warren Lee passed ownership to his son, Randy Kauffman, who continued to manage it until 1996 when he sold it to actor Jerry Van Dyke. From 1996 to 2000, Jerri Lynn Van Dyke played an integral part in the management of the theater. In 2000 Jerry Van Dyke gave the theater to the Central Arkansas Community Players, which immediately changed its name to Royal Players.
This old theater has been the hub of entertainment in Saline County for nine decades. The Royal Players will continue to strive to bring quality entertainment to this stage for many years to come.