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The May 22, 1937, issue of Boxoffice had news from Eagle Grove:
“Ed S. Morris, manager of the Princess at Eagle Grove, has just finished installing a new canopy which is very attractive and quite an addition to the front of his theatre. He says he certainly would like to take a vacation as he has not been away for 11 years and thinks every person needs a change of scenery.”
A brief profile of Ed Morris was published as part of the “Twenty year Showmen” feature in Boxoffice of February 24, 1945. It said that he had gone into the exhibition business at Eagle Grove in 1924, and still owned a half interest (with Central States) in the Princess, his first location. It doesn’t say if he built the Princess or bought it, but it’s clear the theater was operating at least as early as 1924.
Incidentally, the 1937 item is the only one that gives Ed Morris’s middle initial as S. The others all give it as E.
The Paramount building was built five years before the Christman Building went up in 1917. Page 48 of the .pdf I linked to above gives the construction date of the Paramount Building as c.1912. The list of Boller Brothers theaters says the Electric Theatre was built in 1912 and remodeled in 1926. It was renamed the Paramount in 1930 or 1931. The building which housed the Electric/Paramount’s entrance was actually an older structure from c.1893 that was remodeled as part of the theatre project.
The Zap Theatre is mentioned in Boxoffice as early as 1943. The Zap was still operating in 1955. The September 3 issue of Boxoffice said “The Zap Theatre here, located in the Zap Community Hall, is now being operated by Norman Beck, though a contract with the village board.” The contract called for movies to be shown at least two nights a week and for dances to be held.
Here’s information from the August 13, 1938, issue of Boxoffice that doesn’t quite match the current intro above:
“The remodeled Downtown, which opens August 18 as the Esquire Theatre, was established 16 years ago by Spyros Skouras, president of National Theatres, he revealed here this week. His first venture beyond his St. Louis scene of operations, the house was then known as the Twelfth Street Theatre.”
Hanns R. Teichert, whose firm decorated the Holiday Theatre, penned an article about the house for the April 7, 1951, issue of Boxoffice. Among the features of the Holiday were a fireplace in the lobby, a spacious lounge and coffee room available for private parties and club meetings during non-show hours, and a ground-floor cry room.
The Holiday had 1,050 Kroehler Push-Back seats upholstered in red mohair, and the stage curtain was hand-painted in gray, white, and black to suggest a forest scene. Carpeting was a tweed in tones of blue, red, black, and yellow. Teichert referred to the overall theme of the design “resort decor” which was intended to evoke the atmosphere of a lodge.
Here is a 1902 photo of C.M. DeGraff Building, aka the Empire Block, which became the entrance to the Hippodrome Theatre in 1917. T.R. Bellas was the architect of the DeGraff Building, which is still standing and is a contributing structure in Joplin’s Sunshine Lamp Historic District. Much of the architectural detail has been removed.
The description page for the photo Seymour Cox links to above gives the address of the Ideal Theatre as 528 S. Main Street, which is the address of the later Orpheum Theatre.
The building in which the Ideal/Orpheum was located is the Zelleken Block, which was built no later than 1891 and originally housed retail space on the ground floor. I’m not sure when the Ideal was replaced by the Orpheum, or if there was a gap between their periods of operation.
The Wasson Theatre is included on this list of known Boller Brothers theaters with a construction date of 1906. That was four years after Carl Boller began practicing architecture, and one year after his younger brother Robert had joined the practice as a draftsman.
If the date of 1906 is correct, and if the Wasson Theatre occupied the main part of the good-sized building now at 1515 Main Street, it seems unlikely that it would have been only a movie house. However, the existing building lacks the stage tower one would expect in a legitimate or vaudeville house. If it was built in 1906, this was either a very large movie theater for its time, or the building has been enlarged at some time, or perhaps the building has been altered and an original stage tower removed.
I’ve been unable to find any references to the Wasson Theatre in trade publications, or any photos of it, or any mentions of it on the Internet other than on the list of Boller Brothers theaters and in a few comments here at Cinema Treasures. I get the feeling that details will be hard to come by.
As Seymour Cox says, the Orpheum was located at 528 S. Main Street. The building it was in was called the Zelleken Block, which was built no later than 1891 and originally housed retail stores on its ground floor. A theater occupied the space circa 1909, as the Orpheum had the same address as that given for the Ideal Theatre, seen in this ca1909 photo.
The building has not been demolished, by the way. It is now part of Joplin’s Sunshine Lamp Historic District, to which it is a contributing building. I don’t know if much (or any) of the theater remains, though, as it was reconverted to retail space so long ago.
The draft registration form for inclusion of the Main Street historic district of Joplin on the National Register of Historic Places has a little bit of information about the Hippodrome. The entrance to the theater was through the building at 520 S. Main Street, which is still standing. The auditorium (now demolished) was across the alley on the lots at 517-523 S. Joplin Street. The Hippodrome operated from 1917 until 1934, when the auditorium was converted into an automobile garage.
The draft registration form is currently available online here. It’s a large file and has very little information about the four theaters that once existed in the district, but would still be of use to anyone interested in the history of downtown Joplin.
A .pdf of the draft registration form for inclusion of the Main Street district on the National Register of Historic Places confirms that the Paramount Theatre auditorium has been demolished. The building in the photo I linked to above that has the “Paramount Building” sign on it is not the registered Paramount Building, which is to the left of that building in the photo (confusing, I know.)
The entrance to the theater was in the building now has the Paramount Building sign on it, and the registration form gives the address of that building as 515 S. Main Street. It is not a contributing building to the historic district, as it was completely remodeled in the mid-1990s. The auditorium, as I surmised in my earlier comment, was between the Paramount building and the alley.
If anyone wants to see the registration form, the .pdf is currently available here. It also gives the correct address of the entrance to the Hippodrome Theatre and what was probably the Orpheum Theatre, though the Orpheum is not specifically named.
The surviving front portion of the Paramount Building, which housed the theater’s entrance, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It has since been included as a contributing structure in the Main Street Historic District, which was added to the NRHP recently.
There’s a recent photo at Google Earth that shows the Paramount Building (click the image for full size.)
The photo Seymour linked to is the Shubert/New Joplin Theatre. It was not the same theater as the Rex. The New Joplin opened as the Shubert in 1908. None of the pictures of it at the University web site give the address, but the description pages say that it was demolished in 1940, that it was replaced by businesses catering to traffic along Route 66 (which ran along 7th Street) and that its site is now a parking lot for the Memorial Auditorium.
The description page of a photo for the New Club Theatre at 4th and Joplin describes the Shubert as having been down the street. Given the location of parking lots for the auditorium, and the various other bits of information, the Shubert must have been on Joplin Avenue at the southwest corner of 7th Street. I don’t know if the New Joplin ever ran movies on a regular basis, but it did present Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915.
The Rex was at 15th and Main, but I’ve been unable to discover which corner. There were three other theaters within a few doors of that corner, these being the Electric, the Glen, and the Wasson, which the list of known Boller Brothers theaters says was built in 1906. I’ve been unable to find out anything else about the Wasson, and have wondered if it might have become the Rex. There was also a Royal Theatre at 14th and Main.
I’ve found the Garden Theatre mentioned in Boxoffice as early as the June 5, 1937, issue. It was then being operated by Sol Torodor.
Ten years later, the June 28, 1947, Boxoffice said “Sol Torodor is remodeling his St. Paul neighborhood house, the Garden.”
The Garden was still operating in 1957, when the July 6 issue of Boxoffice said “The St. Paul neighborhood Garden Theatre last Sunday offered a triple rock and roll bill comprising ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ ‘Don’t Knock the Rock,’ and ‘Rock, Rock, Rock.’”
The March 28, 1960, Boxoffice mentions a “Bob Komorek, who formerly operated the Garden Theatre (now closed)….”
Thanks. This must have been quite a lively district in its day if all of the theaters on Main Street one block either side of 15th Street were operating at the same time. There would have been the Royal at 1400, the Glen at 1415, the Rex at 15th and Main, the Wasson at 1515, and the Electric at 1516.
The October 1926 article said that the planned remodeling would include an increase of the balcony’s seating capacity to 600, which would increase the total capacity of the house to about 1,700. The existing capacity was not given. Though 1,700 sounds like the usual promotional exaggeration, the Hippodrome must have already been a pretty big theater in the 1920s. The auditorium being across the alley from the entrance means it probably would have had a large footprint, like the Fox.
It’s too bad Historic Aerials doesn’t have anything more than a couple of years old for Joplin. We could see how big the auditorium was, and maybe find out roughly when it was demolished.
The Hippodrome was often mentioned in the trade publications in 1925 and 1926, but I’ve found few references to it later. The April 24, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal said that Ben Levy was expending $40,000 on renovating and remodeling the Hippodrome. Half of this would go for a new Wurlitzer Hope-Jones organ. The theater would be closed for the first two weeks of June. The Reel Journal of July 21 said that the Hippodrome had reopened after extensive improvements.
An item in The Reel Journal of October 30, 1926, said that Levy was planning still more major improvements to the Hippodrome, to cost $100,000. The plans for an extensive remodeling were being drawn by Boller Brothers, and construction was slated to begin the following spring. I don’t know if this second round of improvements was actually carried out as I’ve been unable to find any announcements about it in the magazine. Also, the Hippodrome is not on the list of known Boller Brothers theaters (though the list is not exhaustive, so this doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the Bollers did design a 1927 remodeling of the Hippodrome.)
However, the item had the useful information that the plans included “…a bridge over the alley, linking the entrance with the main building, to the mezzanine floor.” Google satellite view shows that the entire west half of the block on which the Hippodrome was located is now occupied by a parking lot, so the auditorium of the Hippodrome has been demolished.
The Hippodrome is mentioned retrospectively in the “From the Boxoffice Files, Twenty Years Ago” features in a couple of later issues of Boxoffice. The March 11, 1950, issue cites a 1930 item about the construction of the new Fox Theatre which mentioned in passing that the Midland circuit “…is operating the Fox Hippodrome in Joplin.” The name Ben Levy appears in quite a few issues of Boxoffice, but there’s no indication that any of these are about the same Ben Levy who operated the Hippodrome in 1926.
One more addition. The list of Boller Brothers theaters includes the Wasson in Joplin, and gives its construction date as 1906. Chuck gives the address as 1515 S. Main in a comment above, placing it almost opposite the South Main Street/Electric Theatre.
Also I’ve decided that the pre-1930 comments in trade publications that mention the Electric Theatre have to be about the downtown Electric/Paramount. Nothing else brings sense from the confusion. The current aka and the attribution of the architect should be removed from this page, and the aka South Main Street Theatre should be added, with a construction/opening date of 1927. The architect remains unknown.
The October 18, 1965, issue of Boxoffice reported that the Paramount Theatre in Joplin was being demolished, but that no plans had been announced for future use of the property.
After examining the bird’s eye views of the location at Bing Maps, I think the Boxoffice report was correct. In the view toward the west, across the buildings on Virginia Street, the back wall of the shallow Main Street building north of the Paramount’s former entrance shows the outline of what was probably the theater balcony. The Paramount’s auditorium must have been aligned parallel to Main Street, with the entrance at the south end and the stage at the north end. Part of the auditorium footprint has some newer construction on it, but the rest of it looks like it’s used for parking. Apparently the part of the building fronting Main Street is all that remains of the Paramount. The auditorium was demolished in 1965.
Some of the earlier history of the theater is found in the trade journals. The March 13, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal carried an item announcing Grubel Brothers' intention to remodel their Electric Theatre at Joplin. The project included rearranging the mezzanine floor to accommodate new rest rooms and a lounge, reseating the auditorium, installing a new Wurlitzer organ, and complete redecoration, with new furnishings, carpets, and lighting. The projected cost of the project was $75,000.
Other issues of the journal from that year mention the project and credit the design to Boller Brothers, the original architects of the house. The October 9, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal reported that Grubel Brothers' New Electric Theatre had been opened on October 7.
The earliest mentions of the Paramount I’ve found in the trades appeared in 1931. One of them says that the house would be presenting Publix circuit vaudeville shows, but on Saturdays only. The last mention of Grubel’s Electric I know of is from 1930, so Publix must have taken over operation of the house in 1930 or 1931. Several years later it was taken over by Fox Midwest, and appears to have been operated by that chain until closing in the 1960s.
Finding the history of the Electric/Paramount has been somewhat complicated by the fact that the name Electric Theatre was adopted sometime between 1930 and 1935 by a smaller neighborhood theater, at 1514 S. Main Street, which had opened in 1927 as the South Main Street Theatre.
The Paramount Theatre should be given the aka’s Electric Theatre and Grubel’s Electric Theatre, and the aka and architect’s name should be removed from the page for the other Electric Theatre.
I should add that the item about Grubel Brother’s Electric Theatre might actually apply to the theater that was later the Paramount, farther up Main Street. If that’s the case, then all the early trade magazine references to Grubel’s Electric would be about the Electric/Paramount, not this theater, and it would be likely that the Electric in the 1500 block was not designed by Boller Brothers and was not built in 1912, but was new construction for Harold Gibbons in 1927, and opened as the South Main Street Theatre and then was renamed the Electric Theatre sometime between 1930 and 1935. This would also account for the wildly different seating capacities reported. The 1930 FDY count of 1,522 would be for the theater that was the Paramount by 1931, and the 1935 count of 300 would be for this theater.
Seymour: The mystery theater in your second link might have been the Lyric. The same web site that has the picture has a collection of Sanborn fire insurance maps of Joplin, and the Lyric is shown at 308 S. Main Street on one of the maps from 1906. There were no other theaters on that block in 1906. I don’t know if the Lyric ever ran movies or not, though it had a small stage and must have dated from the pre-movie period.
The 1906 map also shows the New Club Theatre at 208 W. 4th Street. It was much larger than the Lyric, and apparently was Joplin’s biggest theater of the period. I can’t find the Schubert in 1906, so it must have been built later. The Ideal wasn’t open yet either. It looks like a storefront nickelodeon conversion.
I’ve found an item about the Electric in the March 13, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal. It’s an announcement of Grubel Brothers' intention to remodel the Electric Theatre. The project included rearranging the mezzanine floor to accommodate new rest rooms and a lounge, reseating the auditorium, installing a new Wurlitzer organ, and complete redecoration, with new furnishings, carpets, and lighting. The projected cost of the project was $75,000.
The October 22, 1938, issue of Boxoffice said that Erle Stillwell, architect of the Palmetto Theatre, was designing the new Five Points Theatre for Palmetto Amusement Inc.
Even Boxoffice misspelled Erle Stillwell’s name on a couple of occasions, and he was a long-time member of the advisory board of the magazine’s Modern Theatre Planning Institute.
As for misspelling Stillwell, well, Cinema Treasures now misspells it, too. I’m pretty sure they had it right before. Just for the Record, Erle G. Stillwell is the most common spelling I can find for him. Boxoffice spelled it Stilwell twice that I’ve found, but most of the time they used Stillwell, just as the Henderson County Library web site does.
Also, this page at DocSouth says that he designed over thirty theatres in North Carolina alone. So far Cinema Treasures identifies only three.
If somebody adds the Lyric, there were apparently two of that name, both owned by Clark M. Young. The second Lyric was opened in 1935, and an item in Boxoffice of September 21, a few weeks before the new house opened, said that Young was naming it the Lyric after his old theater which had been dismantled.
I’ve been unable to find anything about the State Theatre. The Bowling Greens in Kentucky and Missouri each had a State Theatre, too, which muddies the search results.
As the original Soledad and the second Soledad were at different locations, they should certainly have separate pages at Cinema Treasures. Pages can only accommodate one address. The 1947 Soledad at 177 Kidder Street needs to be added.
The original Soledad Theatre on Front Street burned to the ground in 1946, according to an item in the October 5 issue of Boxoffice that year. The second Soledad on Kidder Street was a replacement for it. The owners of the original Soledad, Ernest Gnesa and Edward Franscioni, bought the lot on which the second Soledad was built, but sold it to A. Blanco, Ralph Martin and Frank Jaimes who completed the project and opened the new theater in mid-1947.