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The Melody/Marina Theatre was designed by architect Loy L. Smith, according to an article about quonset hut theaters, by Helen Kent, in the January 3, 1948, issue of Boxoffice. Smith is probably best known as the architect of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
In 1924 Smith designed a theater that was to have been built in Alhambra, California, but the project was abandoned. It was to have been a 1400-seat house called the Indian Theatre, and would have featured an entrance courtyard in the manner of the Hollywood Egyptian and the Alex in Glendale. Had it been built, it would most likely have been one of the San Gabriel Valley’s most impressive theaters.
After having considerable success in the 1920s, Smith seems to have fallen into obscurity, and by 1948 was living in suburban El Monte. The Melody is the only building he designed after the 1920s that I’ve ever heard of. At least he finally got to see one of his theater designs built, even if it was only a small quonset hut building in a distant town.
The July 1, 1939, issue of Boxoffice said that W.N. Skirball was building a theater, as yet unnamed, at Bryan, Ohio. The architect of the new house was John Eberson. It was expected to open by October 1. Unless Skirball built two theaters in Bryan about this time, the one the item referred to must have been the Bryan.
The item said that Skirball was also building a larger house at Massilon, Ohio, also designed by Eberson. I can’t find any theaters currently listed for Massilon at Cinema Treasures.
The June 24, 1939, issue of Boxoffice said that work was progressing on the rebuilding of the Queen Theatre. The project was to cost about $45,000. It was expected to open about October 1. The November 25 issue said that it had opened that week.
The September 14, 1970, issue of Boxoffice said that the Fine Arts had opened in July. It was run by Nutmeg Theatres. The August 1 issue of Boxoffice gave the seating capacity as 800.
I haven’t been able to discover the original architect of the New Majestic, but Boxoffice of March 5, 1949, said that the architect for a recent $150,000 remodeling was William Hohauser. A major feature of the remodeling was the installation of a 200-seat television lounge on the mezzanine level of the theater. The New Majestic was then operated by Walter Reade Theatres.
The Warwick Theatre was remodeled in 1949, as reported in Boxoffice, March 5. Chester Browne of W. Chester Browne Associates was the architect for the project. Robert McNulty was the owner/operator of the house.
Whatever confusion there may be about the pre-1949 history of the Rialto name in Alva, Boxoffice of March 5, 1949, reveals that the architect of the new Rialto that opened that year was undoubtedly Jack Corgan. His rendering of the proposed building was published in that issue of Boxoffice, and it matches the photos.
The name change from Art to Jayhawk took place no later than 1939, when a February 18 Boxoffice item about the sale of the house and an extensive remodeling then underway referred to it as “…the Jayhawk, formerly the Art.”
Another remodeling was done late in 1948, as reported in Boxoffice, December 4, that year. The operator then was Friendly Theatres, and the manager was A.J. Sher. The alterations included a new front and marquee, and an enlarged lobby and lounges.
The demolition of the Jayhawk took place no earlier than 1964. Boxoffice of June 29, 1964, said that operator Abbott Sher reported that the Jayhawk had been closed as of June 21.
Westland was planning a new theater at Grand Junction in 1948. The Chief was supposed to be a replacement for the Mesa, according to the Boxoffice reports. Then in 1953 the new Mesa was also reported by Boxoffice to be a replacement for the old Mesa.
It’s probably significant that I haven’t found any later Boxoffice references to a hardtop theater called the Chief, but Westland opened a drive-in called the Chief in 1952. It seems unlikely that they’d have both a hardtop and a drive-in of the same name in the same town. Unless something happened to it within a couple of years of construction, and Boxoffice failed to report it, the 1948 Chief project probably fell through, which means the Mesa probably continued to operate until being rebuilt in 1953. The conversion to a store building was probably only intended rather than accomplished at the time of the Boxoffice report, and the writer of the item must have garbled the information.
Boxoffice had an interesting report in its March 2, 1959, issue. The new owner of the Starlight, William More, said he planned to move the drive-in across town, screen tower and all. The town’s rapid growth had made the Starlight’s original property too valuable to use as a drive-in. I don’t know if the plans were carried out or not, and I haven’t been able to find any later references to it in Boxoffice.
The Chief Drive-In was built by Westland Theatres and was opened in 1951 or 1952.
The Cooper Foundation bought the Avalon Theatre in 1943, according to Boxoffice of August 7 that year. The foundation had already been operating the theater under lease for several years, and also operated a small, second-run house called the Mission in Grand Junction (the Mission was renamed the Joy in 1945.)
The April 5, 1947, issue of Boxoffice reported on the plans to remodel the Avalon. The projected cost was about $100,000, though that appears to have been for only the work on the auditorium, which had been approved by the CPA, the Federal agency that allocated building materials which were in short supply during the post-war period. The foundation also planned to build new rest rooms, remodel the lobby, renovate the front and install a new marquee as soon as approval could be obtained.
Some earlier information about the Avalon was repeated in Boxoffice’s “Twenty Years Ago” feature in their issue of January 1, 1949. Twenty years earlier, the Avalon had been taken over by the Rex Amusement Company, operators of the Majestic Theatre in Grand Junction. The item referred to the Avalon as “…the largest combined standard theater and motion picture theatre between Pueblo and Salt Lake City.”
As Nebraska Man pointed out in 2003, the official web site is this one. The one Cinema Treasures currently links to is a squatter using the alternate spelling “theater.”
An article about a renovation of the Stuart Theatre in the December 6, 1941, issue of Boxoffice gave the opening date as June 10, 1929. However, the June 8, 1929, issue of Movie Age said that the formal opening had taken place the previous week, and a later issue of the same publication gave the opening date as June 3.
Originally operated by Publix, the Stuart featured movies and vaudeville, and had an orchestra of 25 musicians, said by Movie Age to be the largest west of Chicago. By the late 1930s the Stuart was being operated by the Cooper Foundation. Under Cooper management the Stuart not only ran movies but occasionally hosted touring companies of Broadway shows, as well as concerts by the Omaha Symphony, among other live events. Cooper continued to operate the house until it was taken over by the Dubinsky circuit in 1972, when it was remodeled and the seating capacity reduced to less than 1000.
The Stuart Building was designed by the Lincoln architectural firm of Davis & Wilson, and as far as I’ve been able to determine there were no associated architects or firms on the project, so they must have designed the theater as well. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. At least one other theater, the Varsity in Lincoln, has been attributed to the firm of Davis & Wilson.
The lead architect of the firm was Ellery Davis. The University of Nebraska provides this web page about Davis, who designed many of the buildings on the University campus.
The Nebraska Theatre was demolished in 1972 by its operator, the Cooper Foundation, to make way for the foundation’s new 4-plex, the Cooper Plaza. The new theater was to have about 1200 seats, according to the report in Boxoffice, June 19, 1972. The new building would also house the offices of the foundation and of Cooper Theatres.
The Lincoln was never converted into a triplex, and was closed in 1961. The May 15 issue of Boxoffice said that Mother’s Day had been the last day of operation for the Lincoln. The site was to be used for an expansion project by a bank.
The Cooper Foundation later built another theater called the Cooper Lincoln in a suburban location, and two multiplexes were built in downtown Lincoln in 1973: a 1,136-seat four-plex called the Cooper Plaza, on the site of the Nebraska Theatre, and an 800-seat three-plex called the Douglas 3, built by Douglas Theatres, which was on the site of the old YMCA at the northeast corner of P and 13th Streets. An earlier 540-seat twin called Cinemas 1&2 was opened downtown by Nebraska Theatres in 1971.
The December 13, 1952, issue of Boxoffice ran an article about the 25th anniversary of the Kenosha Theatre, mentioning a few highlights of its history. It said that, after two years of operation by Universal, the house had been leased to Warner Brothers in 1929 and then to Standard Theatres five years later. Standard bought the building in 1950.
The opening program on September 1, 1929, included vaudeville acts Bert Gordon, the Arnaut Brothers, and Nancy Gibbs with a company of ten performing an act called “Dear Little Rebel.” The first movie shown in the new house was a silent film called “The Irresistible Lover.” (Sound films came to the Kenosha in February, 1928.) Ted Stanford played the Wurlitzer organ and Karl Von Hoppe conducted the theater’s orchestra.
The theater presented many live acts over the years, including Veloz and Yolonda, Donald O'Connor, and The Three Stooges. Orchestras that performed at the Kenosha included Duke Ellington, Ray Noble, Lawrence Welk, and Bob Crosby. Singing groups appearing included the King Cole Trio and the Mills Brothers.
The February 29, 1960, issue of Boxoffice reported that the State Theatre in Beloit was to be demolished to make way for a drive-up banking facility for the Second National Bank.
The State is mentioned in Boxoffice as early as 1938, but had probably been around for some time. It was one of three theaters in Beloit long operated by Wisconsin Theatre Enterprises and Standard Theatres.
The May 6, 1944, issue of Boxoffice mentions a T.M. Ellis, operator of the Majestic, State, and Rex theaters at Beloit. It says that he began his career as an exhibitor with the Majestic in October, 1919.
I’ve been unable to find any confirmation that the Three Stooges included Beloit on their 1948 tour, but they did spend a lot of time touring so it’s quite likely they made a stop there that year.
The Rex did have a stage. The October 8, 1938, issue of Boxoffice reported that it was among a number of Wisconsin theaters which had recently been presenting live performances along with movies. Most of the acts named were big bands, but the item didn’t name any acts that had appeared at the Rex in 1938, but the April 6, 1940, issue said that Dot Hackley’s Hollywood Cowgirls had recently made an appearance there.
The Rex suffered an estimated $10,000 damage in a 1951 fire which was prevented from entering the auditorium but nearly destroyed the women’s rest room and the foyer, according to Boxoffice of January 13.
I’ve found the Rex mentioned in the trade publications as early as 1929. The most recent mention I’ve found is from January, 1955, when CinemaScope was installed.
There were apparently two Mesa Theatres at Grand Junction, but there is muddled information about them in Boxoffice Magazine. The January 3, 1948, issue of Boxoffice published a drawing of Westland Theatres' new Chief Theatre, then under construction, and the caption said it was a replacement for the Mesa Theatre, “…which was converted into a store building.” However, the August 21 issue of Boxoffice the same year has an item dateline Grand Junction which says “B.V. Warren, manager of the Mesa Theatre here, was on a three-week vacation….” I’m not sure what to make of that. Maybe it was meant to say “former manager.”
Then there is a report of a Mesa Theatre being built in 1953. The February 21 issue of Boxoffice said that Westland Theatres would build a $150,000 theater to replace the Mesa. A drawing of the new Mesa appeared on the cover of the March 7 issue of Boxoffice. The design was by Boller & Lusk. The caption says that the theatre was being “rebuilt,” suggesting that it might not have been an entirely new building. The drawing does match the photos linked above, though.
Whether the original Mesa was converted to a store in 1948, or continued to operate until it was replaced or rebuilt, the current Mesa must be the house designed by Boller & Lusk in 1953.
The February 27, 1943, issue of Boxoffice has photos of the Admiral Theatre. The house got its nautical Moderne design courtesy of Omaha architect Frank Latenser.
The Brauntex Theatre was designed by architect Jack Corgan, according to Boxoffice, February 27, 1943.
The Whitehall Theatre was designed by architect Victor A. Rigaumont. Photos of the Art Moderne house appeared in Boxoffice Magazine, February 27, 1943.
This Georgian-Colonial style theater was designed by Chicago architect Erwin G. Fredrick. Photos of it appeared in the February 27, 1943, issue of Boxoffice. The house was originally independently operated by owners Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Cooper.
The West Virginia History page Lost Memory linked to says that Alex B. Mahood was the architect of the Pocahontas Theatre.
Mahood also designed a Jewell Valley Theatre in Jewell Valley, Virginia, which opened in 1944, according to Boxoffice Magazine’s issue of August 18, 1945. The 350-seat house was the first movie theater ever built with radiant floor heating. I don’t find the Jewell Valley Theatre listed at Cinema Treasures.
The May 23, 1942, issue of Boxoffice ran an article about the recent remodeling of the Commercial Theatre. The architect for the project was Hal Pereira. The marquee in the photo above was part of this project.