Nathan Gordon’s Olympia circuit

posted by EMGordon on July 31, 2007 at 3:40 pm

My great-great-uncle was Nathan Gordon, owner of a string of Boston theaters back in the early 1900’s, as highlighted in a few references on your wonderful site.

In other references to my uncle, he supposedly owned a total of 75 theaters in the NE area (MA, CT, etc.) of the country and I am trying to find a listing of as many of them as possible. Please let me know if there is any way of obtaining this information or if you know of any other locations of his theaters outside of Boston.

Thank you for a great site. It is definitely helping me in my family tree research!

Theaters in this post

Comments (18)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 31, 2007 at 9:30 pm

To start with:

Scollay Square Olympia, Boston
Washington Street Olympia (later called Pilgrim), Boston
Central Square Theatre, Cambridge

I don’t think his Union Square theatre in Somerville has a listing here yet.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 31, 2007 at 9:36 pm

and a few more in Boston:
Old South Theatre
Metropolitan Theatre (later called Music Hall, now Wang Theatre)
Strand Theatre, Dorchester

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on August 1, 2007 at 3:23 am

I purchased on eBay the 1967 edition of The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures. It was the Forty-Ninth Edition which means it first came out in 1918. The edition I have has a section on Theatre Circuits In The United States And Canada Operating Four Or More Houses and it lists them alphabetically. I checked out Nathan, Gordon and Olympia and found no listing, which really didn’t surprise me. I don’t know where you could find earlier copies (perhaps someone here knows), you might have some luck if they listed the circuits back then. Let us know if you have any luck.

“Gee Dad it was a WurliTzer!”

IanJudge
IanJudge on August 1, 2007 at 4:30 am

Gordon & Lockwood sold their theaters to affiliates of Paramount (and they were affiliates themselves) and most of them became Mullin & Pinansky Theatres (M&P in the old newspaper ads – M&P also leased the Locatelli-built Theatres in the Somerville area like the Capitol in Somerville, the Ball Square, and the Capitol in Arlington, plus other big Boston nabe houses like the Mattapan Oriental Theatre). Later as a result of the Paramount Decree, M&P was divided into American Theatres Corp. and New England Theatres.

I highly recommend the book “Hollywood East” by Diana Altman (who lives in Newton, Mass. I believe) which is about Louis B Mayer and M-G-M – Gordon was one of Mayer’s early partners. I am sure you could track Ms. Altman down if you tried as she probably knows a great deal about Gordon’s involvement in Boston theaters and early film business.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on August 1, 2007 at 2:27 pm

For your family tree research, how about Louis M. Gordon?
From the Ian M. Judge post, I looked up Gordon and Lockwood and found nothing, but found Lockwood and Gordon in:
The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures 1967
Theatre Circuits In The United States And Canada Operating Four Or More Houses

Lockwood & Gordon Enterprises, Inc.
260 Tremont St.
Boston, Mass. 02116
Liberty 2-4480

President, Arthur H. Lockwood
Vice-Pres, Max I Mydans
Treasurer, Louis M. Gordon*******************************************
Asst. Treas, Max L. Yunik, Max I. Mydans, Roger A. Lockwood
Secy, Max L. Yunik
Asst. Secy, Roger A. Lockwood

Theatres (30):
Listed in two groups

Maine

AUBURN: Auburn Drive-In
FARMINGTON: State
LEWISTON: Lewiston Drive-In
MADISON: State
SACO: Saco Drive-In
SCARBORO: Portland Drive-In
SKOWHEGAN: Skowhegan Drive-In, Strand
WATERVILLE: Haines, State, Winslow Drive-In

Masssachusetts

CHELMSFORD: Chelmsford Drive-In
NEWBURYPORT: Port Cinema
SCITUATE; Playhouse
SOUTH WEYMOUTH: Cameo

New Hampshire

BOSCAWEN: Sky-Hi Drive-In
CONCORD: Concord Drive-In

Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE: Art Cinema, Avon, Castle, CINERAMA

Lockwood & Gordon-Rosen Theatres:

Connecticut

BRIDGEPORT: Pix Drive-In
DANBURY: Danbury Drive-In
EAST WINDSOR: East Windsor Drive-In
HARTFORD: CINERAMA
NORWALK: Norwalk Drive-In
S. WINDSOR: E. Hartford Family Drive-In
TORRINGTON: Sky-Vue Drive-In, Torrington Drive-In
WETHERSFIELD: Webb

My guess is Louis M. Gordon has got to be connected to Nathan Gordon. Let me know if he is.

To everyone else:

If any of the above theatres ring a bell with you and they are not listed in Cinema Treasures you might want to add them. I’m in the Chicago area and know nothing about any of them.

If any of you want me to look up a certain Theatre Circuit for 1967 I would be glad to look it up for you.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, This is CINERAMA!” Lowell Thomas

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 1, 2007 at 2:35 pm

The Cameo in South Weymouth is still open. The Scituate Playhouse was torn down a few years ago and replaced by a new twin cinema on the same site. Both are listed at CinemaTreasures.

EMGordon
EMGordon on August 1, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Bob, my cousin believes that Louis was a nephew of Nathan’s, so yes, it is quite possible he is also related. We are trying to figure out exactly what the relationship is.

And Ian, I have the Altman book on the way! I actually had ordered it a day or two prior to your posting, but thank you very much for the rest of the information!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 1, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Donald C. King’s book The Theatres of Boston may have some information of use to you. (It is expensive, and I borrowed it from the library rather than buying it, so I can’t tell you specific page numbers.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 1, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Nathan Gordon is indeed mentioned in the Donald King book “The Theatres of Boston” (McFarland, 2005). He says that Gordon ran the Olympia Theatres circuit in the 1910’s and that his real estate arm was called Olympia Realty. He built the Washington Street Olympia (later, the Pilgrim) and the Scollay Square Olympia in Boston; plus the Central Sq. Theatre in Cambridge and the Strand Theatre in the Uphams Corner section of Dorchester. He also acquired the Old South Theatre (the original) in downtown Boston. His star organist was Arthur Martel who was quite well-known. Nathan Gordon also produced road-show movie engagements at other theatres, for example “Daddy Long Legs” at the Tremont Theatre in Boston. King does not mention it, but somehow the partnership of “Gordon & Lloyd” is in my head— did Gordon have a partner named Lloyd ?? I think that Gordon may have left the cinema biz by the 1920s and his theatres went to Paramount Publix/ New England Theatre Operating Co. (NETOCO).

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Doing some further reading in old notes, it appears that Olympia Theatres lasted to early-1930s when the chain was combined with NETOCO to form M&P Theatres (Mullin & Pinanski) of Boston. NETOCO is not to be confused with NETC (New England Theatres Corp.) which, along with ATC (American Theatres Corp), was the result of the break-up of M&P. Did Nathan Gordon have a brother? Joe Cifre, in his essay on movie exhibition in Boston, refers to “the Gordon brothers of Olympia Theatres”. Maybe he got confused with the Mark brothers and the Levenson brothers who were early film-show pioneers in Boston.

EMGordon
EMGordon on August 5, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Yes, one of Nathan’s brothers was my great-great grandfather, Israel, however I haven’t found his name in ANY related information about the Olympia chain …

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 22, 2007 at 6:53 pm

I just found a April 2006 memo written by CT member Barry Goodkin on some research that he had been doing. Nathan Gordon was born in 1872 and died on June 3, 1938. His obit (newspaper unknown) states that he was a resident of Weston MA and that he built the Gordon Theatre there (later renamed the Olympia) and that he continued to run it until his death. (That theatre is not here in CT). On May 16, 1925, he sold his Olympia Theatres chain to Famous Players. The sale consisted of 38 theatres and a 50% interest in the Maine & New Hampshire Theatres circuit. All 38 theatres were in Massachusetts except for one in New Haven CT. His nephew was the Gordon of “Lockwood and Gordon”, and both the nephew and Lockwood had been employees of Olympia Theatres. And I believe that it was Gordon and Lord and not “Gordon and Lloyd” who opened the Scollay Square Olympia Theatre in Boston, although I don’t know who Lord was.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 22, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Hard to imagine where a movie theatre would have been located in sparsely populated Weston.

EMGordon
EMGordon on August 23, 2007 at 1:30 am

I have been in contact with Barry Goodkin, and he has provided me a lot of good information. And I have confirmed that Louis M. Gordon was a nephew of Nathan’s — he was the son of one of Nathan’s brothers, Jacob.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 23, 2007 at 3:05 am

Glad to hear that. Please post any new information here, as well as on the pages for the various theatres. If we are missing any of his theatres, please add them.

ssterns
ssterns on January 1, 2008 at 6:45 am

Hey, I have some more information for everyone interested in the Gordon family. Nathan was my 2nd Great Grand uncle. Abel Gordon and his wife Rosa were the parents of Nathan, Israel, Jacob, Yale, David and Anna. Nathan and Izzy both ended up in Boston. The rest of the family settled in Rochester NY. The family is not from Vilna but from Soly and Smorgon in what is today Belarus, close to Vilna. If you want more information on the family, please let me know

EMGordon
EMGordon on January 1, 2008 at 6:55 am

Steven – Yes, I would like more information! Israel was my great grandfather. You can reach me at Thank you!

NHgordon
NHgordon on October 11, 2012 at 12:59 am

Steven, just saw the thread. Nathan was my grandfather
If you have any information I would be very grateful .
My email is

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