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From Boxoffice, June 24, 1950: “P.V. Williams of Munday and Clyde Williams of Knox City have broken ground on a new drive-in theatre between Munday and Knox City.” That was probably the Sunset.
Elmo Hooser was probably related to T.J. Hooser, business partner of P.V. Williams. Williams managed the pair’s theaters in Munday while Hooser managed the Ritz and Texas in Seymour. The pair were also partners in a drive-in at Brazos.
The Plaza Theatre was built in 1953. A photo of the auditorium appeared in Boxoffice Magazine’s issue of July 7, 1956, as part of a feature about wide screens. The caption included the line: “The Plaza, erected in 1953, is said to be the first new theatre especially designed for widescreen and stereosound.”
A March 12, 1949, Boxoffice item about the opening of the El Rancho Drive-In had information about other theaters in Vernon. There were four indoor houses in operation then, these being the 350-seat Majestic and the 400-seat Mecca, both operated by Cortez Hamm, and the 1000-seat Vernon and 500-seat Pic, operated by Interstate Theatres. A second drive-in was already under construction as well.
A 1941 Boxoffice item mentions a Pictorium Theatre at Vernon. That was probably the Pic’s earlier name.
The Vernon Theatre was destroyed by fire in September, 1952, and a January 31, 1953, Boxoffice item said that a new theater was being built to replace it. The item called the new house the Vernon Theatre, but I’ve found no later mentions of a Vernon Theatre in Vernon, so I’m wondering if perhaps the new theater was named the Plaza instead. The new house was described in Boxoffice as having a front of tan face brick, which the Plaza has, and the opening year is certainly right.
An item in the January 10, 1948, Boxoffice says that P.V. Williams had recently opened a second theater at Munday, the Roy. “He rigged up some equipment from Herber Bros. and got the house going for roving agricultural workers who come from the southwest and Mexico” the item said. Williams told Boxoffice that the Roy did well when showing Mexican pictures.
A November, 1949, Boxoffice item said that the Roy had reopened for the winter, so it was apparently a seasonal theater.
Williams opened the Roxy in 1928, and there was a brief article with photo in the September 15 issue of Motion Picture Times that year. The Roxy had 490 seats.
A July 16, 1949, Boxoffice article about Williams said that he had opened his first theater in Munday in 1913. No name was given for that house.
The name change came with a new owner and complete renovation in 1948. The September 18 issue of Boxoffice announced the reopening as the Leo and said that Joy Houck had bought the Queen early that year. Houck also operated the Strand Theatre nearby.
The January 12, 1946, issue of Boxoffice ran an item headed “Will Raze Old Parkside Theatre in Lombard, Ill.” The property had been sold to clear back taxes and special assessments, and conditions of the sale included the demolition of the building. One line of the item said the Parkside had been built “…some 35 years ago.”
Undulating walls with lighting coves were not a common feature of theaters built in 1920, but they were popular in the 1940s. In the small photo of the auditorium on the Gothic web site it looks to me more late art moderne than anything else.
The City of Englewood has this photo collection which includes three older pictures of the Gothic- only of the outside, unfortunately. In the photo dated ca.1930 the 1935 release “Oil For the Lamps of China” is on the marquee. In the one dated ca.1940 the 1940 release “Boom Town” is on the marquee.
Some alterations took place between those years. There’s a wider marquee in 1940, and the shops either side of the entrance have been closed up. That probably dates from the 1940 remodeling mentioned in the intro, but note that the entrance doorway still has the Gothic pointed arch top. The current facade is clearly a later alteration.
The facade in both of those photos has some really nice brick work, and the current facade covers that up, as in the photo dated ca.1950 (actually later since the 1957 “An Affair to Remember” is on the marquee.) The 1957 facade must be the result of the 1949 remodeling. I wonder how much of the brick remains underneath?
I’m not sure that the brick facade dates from 1920, though it might. I’d say the style was actually a modernized Gothic, with some Prairie Style influence. The style could be considered a precursor of Art Deco, but it wasn’t full-on Art Deco. If it did date from 1920, though, it was very advanced for its time.
That site also has pictures of the Englewood Theatre (ca.1929, as “On With the Show” was released that year) and the Pioneer Theatre (probably 1936, with “The Mysterious Avenger” on the marquee.)
The introduction to this page mentions a remodeling in 1940, but the April 30, 1949, issue of Boxoffice Magazine describes a major remodeling then underway at the house. This involved rebuilding the front, reconfiguring the entrance, moving the boxoffice, enlarging the rest rooms, expanding the balcony to accommodate an additional 150 seats, building new stairways, shifting the manager’s office to the main floor, enlarging the stage, reseating and completely redecorating the auditorium, and installing new heating and ventilation systems.
A later issue of Boxoffice refers to the theater as “…the New Gothic Theatre, now under construction at Englewood.” A third item says the estimated cost of the project was $100,000.
Given the scope of this rebuilding, it’s likely that just about everything about the Gothic that doesn’t date from the 1990s renovation dates from 1949.
The Lamar Theatre was designed by Denver architect Charles D. Strong. An article about it with photos was published in the March 29, 1947, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. Decorations in the Lamar were executed by Hart Theatrical Decorating and Display. The new house had been built in a converted retail building. It was not the Pioneer Theatre.
Kelso had a second theater, called the Liberty, until 1954. The March 20 issue of Boxoffice that year said the house was closing after twenty years of operation, leaving Kelso with only one theater. A drive-in was in the planning stage.
I think 260 might be after the twinning. The September 29, 1951, issue of Boxoffice said that Norris Kemp of the Pine Cone Theatre planned to expand the house to 600 seats, and that the project, including a new front and foyer, was being designed by Gale Santocono of San Francisco. FDY might have been late with the updating of the enlarged seat count. From Google Street View and satellite imagery it’s clear that the building could easily have held 600 seats. It sounds like it might be one of those cases where every other row was removed to give more leg room.
I wonder if the order of names is backward for this theater? I’ve found the Rex mentioned in various issues of Boxoffice as far back as 1939, when it was bought by Claude Mundo. Mundo sold the Rex three years after moving it a block down Main Street. Then the first mention in Boxoffice of a Main Theatre in Little Rock appears in 1952. The Main is mentioned four times from 1952 to 1954, then vanishes. No address is given for it.
It’s also possible that both Rex Theatres were called the Main, the one at 213 Main before becoming the Rex and the one at 106 Main after being called the Rex.
Boxoffice Magazine of January 25, 1941, said that Malco had announced a tentative opening date of March 1 for their new Park Hill Theatre. It was Malco’s third house in North Little Rock.
This web page has a photo of the nondescript strip mall which had replaced the historic theater by 2004.
The Rex Theatre operated in two different locations, making the move in 1946. The August 3, 1946, issue of Boxoffice said that Claude Mundo had closed his Rex Theatre at 213 Main Street before his new building at 106 Main Street was ready to be occupied. Mundo had expected the new theater to be completed by July 1, but materials shortages had caused construction delays.
The building at 213 main Street was owned by the Parkin Printing company, which was expanding its operations into the former theater space. The estimated new opening date for the Rex Theatre at 106 Main Street was about the middle of September.
Here’s a PDF of a report about the Park Hill Theatre, with history and photos. Published in 2004.
Additionally, I find that the national Register of Historic Places uses two different spellings of the first architect’s surname: Brueggeman and Bruggeman. Boxoffice uses Bruegeman consistently, but then Boxoffice is not always the most reliable source for correct spelling.
Cinema Tour attributes a Park Theatre in North Little Rock to “Bruggeman, Swain & Allen” but that looks like two spelling strikes to me. For now I’m inclined to go with Brueggeman, as that’s the way it’s spelled in this PDF of an article published by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. This article also attributes the Park Hill Theater (as they call it) to the firm. It also gives the architects' names as Edward F. Brueggeman and Guy W. Swaim. So far I’ve been unable to discover Mr. Allen’s first name.
It looks like the Bruegeman, Swaim & Allen-designed theater in Princeton, Kentucky, I mentioned in my comment above didn’t get built. Issues of Boxoffice from late 1937 and early 1938 cite Malco’s plans for the house, but a late 1938 article says that the Crescent Amusement Company had acquired the Savoy Theatre in Princeton from Malco, which apparently pulled out of that market. Crescent demolished the Savoy in the spring of 1939 and built the Capitol Theatre in its place. I can find no indication that BS&A designed the Capitol.
An item in the August 26, 1950, issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that the Capitol Theatre was being renovated. The item said that the Capitol had been built in 1939 at a cost of $50,000.
The November 11, 1939, issue of Boxoffice said that the Crescent Amusement Company’s new Capitol Theatre at Princeton had enjoyed a successful opening, the house being sold out in 30 minutes.
The Capitol apparently replaced an earlier theater called the Savoy on the same site. The June 3, 1939, issue of Boxoffice said that the Savoy Theatre had been closed on May 22 and would be demolished to make way for a new theater. Crescent had acquired the Savoy from Malco Theatres the year before.
The Central was one of four Hot Springs theaters being operated by the Malco circuit in 1938, according to an item in Boxoffice Magazine of March 12 that year. The others were the Paramount, Spa, and Roxy. W. Clyde Smith was resident manager for all four houses. Malco had entered the Hot Springs market in 1935.
Boxoffice Magazine of May 25, 1946, has information about the Malco Theatre, but it doesn’t match up with the current intro on this page. An architect’s rendering of the facade shows that it is the same building seen in the various photos linked from comments above, but the text says that the house opened on February 22, 1946, not in 1935.
The theater was originally called the Malco Music Hall, and was designed by the Little Rock firm of Bruegeman, Swaim & Allen. As originally configured, the theater ran through the block and had entrances on both Central Avenue and Broadway, each with its own boxoffice, lobby, and concession stand.
Confusion about the opening year might have arisen from the fact that Malco Theatres entered the Hot Springs market in 1935. However, there is also the fact that it took the company a long time to get this theater built. The earliest mention of the Malco Music Hall I’ve found in Boxoffice appeared in Al Henderson’s “Dixie Doin’s” column in the issue of December 9, 1939. Al said that Malco had begun construction on the new Music Hall, but that they did not expect the house to be completed until late 1940 or early 1941. The estimate proved overly optimistic.
At the end of 1941, Malco was still trying to get the house built, when the December 6 issue of Boxoffice paraphrased local Malco Theatres manager W. Clyde Smith as indicating that the Malco Music Hall would be built on the site of the former Princess Theatre, provided materials could be obtained. We all know what happened the following day: a delay that would live in infamy, as it were. Whatever the cause of the earlier delays, the onset of war kept the project on hold four more years. The 1946 opening given by Boxoffice is undoubtedly correct.
Incidentally, architects Bruegeman, Swaim & Allen designed at least two other theaters (a house at Princeton, Kentucky, for Malco in 1938 and the Ritz at Malvern, Arkansas, the same year) and the successor firm of Swaim & Allen at least one (a house for Malco at Camden, Arkansas, in 1948.) The firm has at least two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, but neither of those is a theater.
The September 1, 1939, issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that Arthur Fukuda was building a new theater at Sanger. The February 10, 1940, issue said that Fukuda was to have opened his new theater in Sanger on the 9th. The first mention I’ve found of the house actually in operation and being called the Royal was in the March 16, 1940, issue.
The August 4, 1945, issue of Boxoffice said that August Panero had bought two theaters at Sanger. They were the Sanger, a first-run house seating 677, and the Star, seating 450.
Motion Picture Herald of August 22, 1936, had said that William Gustine had purchased the Kummeth Building in Sanger and would transform it into a theater. Boxoffice Magazine announced the opening of Gustine’s Star Theatre at Sanger on September 1, 1939, in its issue of the following day.
I don’t know if Gustine’s 1936 project was the Star, and it took him three years to get it open, or if the 1936 project was the Sanger Theatre. An item about the sale in the August 11, 1945, issue of Boxoffice indicates that Gustine owned both houses. The Star was closed at the time of the sale, but Panero intended to refurbish and reopen it.
This item also said that Gustine had been in the theater business for 17 years, but didn’t specify where. It’s possible that the Sanger was an older theater he had operated since the 1920s. I can’t find it mentioned by name in Boxoffice prior to 1940, though, and no mentions of the town of Sanger earlier than 1939.
Sanger had a theater at least as early as 1916, when the November 9 issue of Southwest Builder & Contractor said that M. Rogallo intended to demolish the Bell Theatre at Sanger and build a new theater on the same site. That could have been the house that became the Sanger Theatre. I’ve been unable to find any photos of any of the theaters in Sanger.
An article about the opening of the Harbor Theatre in Ecorse, published in the October 30, 1948, issue of Boxoffice Magazine, says that the co-owner of the new house, Andrew Bzovi, had built the Ecorse Theatre in 1920 and had been its operator ever since.
Complete booth equipment was advertised for sale by the Ecorse Theatre in the classified ad section of Boxoffice, September 1, 1951. An item in the November 13, 1954, issue of Boxoffice said in passing that the old Ecorse Theatre had been closed and remodeled for use as a tavern. The item did not specify when this had taken place.
The October 30, 1948, issue of Boxoffice magazine ran an article about the opening of the Harbor Theatre. The formal opening was held on October 8. The owners of the new house were Andrew Bzovi and Thomas Pascu. Bzovi had been the operator of the older Ecorse Theatre for 28 years. Architects of the Harbor were the Dearborn firm Bennett & Straight. A photo and the description of the theater indicate that the style was Art Moderne.
A rendering of the Ecorse Drive-In appeared in the February 17, 1951, issue of Boxoffice. The architect was Ted Rogvoy. The Ecorse was built for Charles Komer’s Community Theatres circuit.
I finally found the Varsity mentioned in Boxoffice in 1950. I lost track of an item that I had thought indicated a pre-1941 opening for the Varsity, but I now think I might have misread it anyway.
As the seating capacity listed for the Varsity is the same as the capacity Boxoffice gave for Caldwell’s project, it does seem most likely that Caldwell’s theater became the Varsity. For years it was operated by Dixie Theatres, which also operated the Dixie, while the Tech was independently operated by Charles Butterfield.
It looks like the Tech and the Varsity might have opened at about the same time. An article about Ed Edwards, a long-time theater manager in Ruston, was published in the January 24, 1966, issue of Boxoffice, and it said that the Tech Theatre had opened in March, 1941— but then it undermines its credibility by saying that the Ruston Drive-In opened later the same year. Multiple items in earlier issue of Boxoffice indicate that the drive-in was opened in 1950.