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This theater is included on a list of buildings designed by architect Perry E. Crosier, held by the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota.
A theater in St. Peter called variously the Grand Opera House or St. Peter Opera House is listed in various editions of Julius Cahn’s Theatrical Guide from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the edition of 1897, H.J. Ludeke (that spelling) is listed as the bill poster for the house, and in the 1899-1900 edition he is listed as the manager. In the 1906 edition, the spelling Ludcke was used.
The descriptions of the theater remained the same through this period, saying it was a ground-floor house and giving a seating capacity of 600 or 624. The Minnesota Digital Library has several photos showing the theater. The entrance was in a building that might have dated from as early as the 1860s, but could have been built as late as the 1890s if the town’s architectural taste was very conservative. The entrance is, in any case, of a theatrical style, so it probably wasn’t a converted storefront.
The auditorium was behind it in a fairly utilitarian building with a pitched roof. Auditoriums of that form were being built into the 20th century, but it could have dated from much earlier. Perhaps the original auditorium was destroyed and rebuilt in 1905, but it seems very likely that a theater occupied this site at least as early as the 1890s, and possibly earlier.
One of the photos is from the late 1940s (judging from the cars on the street) and shows the entrance building of the theater, but the taller auditorium building appears to be gone. I can’t tell from the photo if the auditorium was demolished or simply had its upper portion removed. It’s possible that the the auditorium was demolished in the 1940s after the State Theatre opened (a town of St. Peter’s size probably couldn’t have supported two movie houses), but that the entrance building survived until 1961 as retail space.
The photo is probably from 1939. The movie “Missing Daughters” was released that year. The “Jack London Hit” on the marquee could have been “Mutiny on the Elsinore” which was made in 1937 but not released in the U.S. until February, 1939, according to IMDb. Another London tale called “Torture Ship” hit the screen in October, 1939. The marquee looks brand new in that photo.
I don’t know who Norvell was, though, and the Internet isn’t helping, but the name rings a vague bell. Was he a mentalist? An illusionist? Probably something of that sort if he was doing a stage act that was not part of a larger vaudeville show.
San Antonio Theatres: Now & Then does have a page for the Princess Theatre. It opened in 1912 as the Orpheum and was renamed the Princess the following year, operating under that name until it closed in 1929. Then it was either remodeled for use as a department store (according to the San Antonio Theatres web site) or razed and the department store built in its place (according to a note in a book called “Saving San Antonio” by Lewis F. Fisher.)
The web site has three photos, and a drawing by the theater’s architect, Atlee B. Ayres. The address was 215 E. Houston Street.
Here is an early photo of the Hippodrome. The movie on the poster leaning against the building is “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin”, a film released in 1918. Even if the photo comes from a later year, the style of the building is characteristic of the 1910s, at the latest. I’m sure it isn’t the house that became the Fox, but an earlier theater.
The Fox is undoubtedly the building that is mentioned in two Southwest Builder & Contractor items (July 17 and October 2, 1925) that are cited in the California Index at the Los Angeles Public Library. This project was designed for West Coast Theatres by architect Lewis A. Smith. The Fox building, despite the later alterations which stripped it of its original decor and moved its entrance to the stage house end of the theater, is in its form typical of Smith’s 1920s designs.
The opening must have taken place in either late 1925 or early 1926. The new theater was built partly on the Hippodrome’s site, but is considerably larger than the old Hippodrome. A postcard dated July 4, 1926, (unlinked, as it is at an unstable auction site url) shows the new theater in place. The furniture store seen in Don Lewis’s photo of theold Hippodrome (comment of Sep 4, 210) is also seen. Another postcard (also at an auction site, but probably more stable) is very pale, but shows the new, theater with Hippodrome on its vertical sign.
It’s possible that the original Hippodrome had a different name earlier in its history. The California Index includes cards referencing theaters in Taft called the Optic (having a cooling system installed, according to Southwest Builder & Contractor, February 16, 1916) and White’s Savoy Theatre (opening announcement, The Rounder, September 2, 1911.) The name Hippodrome is not mentioned in the Index in connection with any Taft theater.
There is a possibility that another theater had been built in Taft in 1924. Southwest Builder & Contractor of August 1 that year said that the contract had been awarded to erect a theater and store building at the corner of 4th and North streets in Taft, for the Valley Investment Company. There is currently a building which might have been a theater, on the southwest corner of that intersection, which now houses an automobile agency.
Another theater project, a 1600-seat house for National Theatres which was proposed for the corner of 4th and North streets in 1925 probably didn’t get built, but the southwest corner of that intersection is now a parking lot large enough to have accommodated a theater of that size.
Not theater related, but interesting, is the information on this web page from the Kern County Museum. It says that before it was renamed Taft in 1909, the town was called Moron. I’ll politely refrain from further comment.
Volume 13 of the trade journal Ohio Architect and Builder has this item:
“SANDUSKYâ€” R. H. Shively is about ready for bids for a masonic temple and theater for the Ohio Temple Co., at Chicago Junction, O. Four-stories, brick, stone trimmings, opera chairs, curtains, plaster ornaments, combination fixtures and steam heat. Cost, $40,000.“
Google Books provides a snippet view of the 1939 Film Daily Yearbook, which shows two theaters listed for Norwalk, Ohio; the Forum, with 600 seats, and the Moose, with 800 seats. A 1935 Boxoffice item I cited in a comment on the Norwalk Theatre page said that the Forum had been built in 1934.
The Norwalk Reflector, the local newspaper, has available on its web site various items headed “Blast From the Past” which give capsule news reports from the paper’s archives. The earliest date of any of these that mention the Moose Theatre comes from March 27, 1926. The most recent item cited that mentions the Gilger Theatre is from February 19, 1916; earlier than the 1919 boxing matches Lost Memory cited in the first comment here.
The “Blast” feature is by no means exhaustive, but the multi-year gap between the last mention of the Gilger and the first mention of the Moose is another indication that the Moose might have been the Gilger, renamed sometime between 1919 and 1926.
The correct address of the Emerson Theatre is 4630 East 10th Street.
The 1986 Boxoffice article Mike Rogers cited above was mistaken about the Emerson having been built in 1931. According to The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, and as Chuck said in the second comment on this page, the house opened as the Eastland Theatre in 1928, and was renamed the Emerson in 1931.
The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis says that this theater was briefly known as the Empress Theatre from April, 1937, until December of that year, when it became the Fox Theatre.
Here is a photo, probably from the late 1930s.
This earlier photo of the house as the Colonial shows what must be an end wall of the auditorium. It was a sizable theater which probably extended the length of the hotel building in front of it, and must have originally had more than the 300 seats currently listed above.
Here’s an interior photo showing the doors leading from the foyer onto the main floor of the auditorium.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Friday, March 17, 1933, said that the new Baldwin Theatre would open that night. The opening feature was to be “Flesh” with Wallace Beery. The Baldwin Theatre was the 24th house in the Century Theatres chain, which had been founded more than twenty years earlier by A. H. Schwartz.
Trade journal The Moving Picture World reported in its issue of December 27, 1913, that the Allen Theatre in Calgary had opened on November 14. The December 6, 1919, issue of the same publication had an article about the Strand’s sixth anniversary.
A couple of modern print sources I’ve seen give the theater’s opening year as 1911, but they are mistaken. Another modern source, probably more reliable, says that the Allens opened a film exchange in Calgary in 1911, so that event was probably what led to the erroneous year for the theater opening.
The Desert IMAX Theatre was designed by the Seattle architectural firm Stricker Cato Murphy Architects. The firm has designed a number of large-format theaters, several for institutional settings (Seattle Maritime Museum and the Minnesota Zoo, for example) and a few commercial venues as well.
The Strand Theatre is at center about half a block away in this 1939 photograph.
The Strand can also be seen in this earlier photo from about 1920, a composite panorama showing a long stretch of the block it was on. The Strand Theatre was located at 153 Main Street.
The front of the Ben Ali Theatre can be seen at the right in this photo dating from the 1940s. The movie “Barbary Coast Gent” was released in 1944, according to IMDb.
Here is a 1942 photo taken at the premier of the film “A Yank On the Burma Road”.
This PDF file (3.7MB) containing photos of historic buildings in Lexington includes a small photo of the Ben Ali Theatre, but is interesting mostly for the information that the interior of the house was designed by the Tiffany Studios in New York City. Given the fact that Tiffany Studios designed in the Art Nouveau style well into the 20th century, it seems quite likely that this was the interior style chosen for the Ben Ali Theatre. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any interior photos of the theater to confirm this surmise.
The Ben Ali Theatre suffered a destructive fire in 1916, and a lawsuit over the insurance claim resulted. The suit was covered in a 1922 book published by the Lawyers Co-Operative Publishing Company, and its report revealed that the theater auditorium had been built behind an existing building. The entrance building looks to date from the late 19th century, judging from its architectural style. This appears to be a hybrid of the Romanesque Revival, popular in commercial and institutional buildings of the 1880s and 1890s, and the Queen Anne style, which was popular mostly for residential construction at about the same time.
Here is another photo, this from the later 1940s. It is dominated by the larger building which stood next door, but a fairly good view of the theater can be seen at far right. This photo best reveals the architectural style of the facade.
Lexington has long been one of the most preservation-conscious cities in the United States (and one of very few that chose not to eviscerate its downtown with a freeway) so it is especially unfortunate that this historic theater was lost.
I’ve been unable to find any specific references on the Internet to a Piccadilly Theatre in Columbus, but a book published by the State of Ohio in 1918 lists among the corporations formed since 1917 a Piccadilly Company, located in Columbus and capitalized at $10,000. Among the five corporate partners listed is Will D. Harris, who was mentioned in numerous publications of the period as a theater manager. This was most likely the company formed to build the Piccadilly Theatre. Given the time of incorporation, and assuming no delays in the project, the theater was probably in operation before 1920.
Internet search results turned up a single reference to this house as the Olentangy Theatre, in a 1942 book about the consent decree, but the passage is not accessible due to copyright restrictions.
The Meralta Theatre entry at the useful web site Los Angeles Movie Palaces says that in the 1914 city directory a house called the New Lyceum Theatre was listed at this address. However, the L.A. County Assessor’s office says that the building that housed the Meralta Theatre was erected in 1924, with an effectively built date of 1930 (indicating a major alteration or repairs that year.)
I don’t have access to the 1914 city directory, but neither the 1915 nor the 1923 directory has a theater listed at this address. The New Lyceum was most likely a short-lived storefront nickelodeon in a building that was demolished long ago.
I’m a bit disappointed by this. The August 7, 1912, issue of the journal Architect and American Architecture had an item saying that architects Noonan& Kysor were drawing plans for a 1-story movie theater of about 800 seats in Boyle Heights. I thought I’d found the architects of the Meralta, but the building’s age eliminates that possibility. Assuming the projected theater got built, it was one of the several other neighborhood houses in the Boyle Heights district that were operating by 1914 or 1915. It’s going to be hard to track down which of them it was, and the odds that it still exists are low.
It was apparently 1915 when the Majestic first made the change from live theater to movies, rather than in the 1930s as some Internet and print sources say. The trade journal The Moving Picture World reported in its issue of August 21, 1915, that the Majestic Theatre in Grand Rapids would open on August 29 with feature pictures. Bert St. Johns, formerly manager of the Toyland Theatre in San Francisco, was to arrive August 22 to assume management of the house. The organist was named Ferdinand Warner.
The trade journal The Moving Picture World reported in its issue of August 21, 1915, that the Strand Theatre on Monroe Avenue in Grand Rapids was scheduled to open on Labor Day.
The source ken mc linked to on July 18 last year says the theater was built in 1912, and thie following item appeared in the journal American Architect and Architecture of July 24 that year. Datelined Keyport, it read: “Architect Coleman Gray, River and Salem Sts., Hackensack, has completed plans for the erection of the new Deckert’s Theater on Front St., to cost between $17,000 and $18,000.”
I haven’t found any other sources mentioning a Deckert’s Theater or a theater owner named Deckert, but the item most likely pertains to this theater. Coleman Gray shows up in a couple of search results at Google Books, but none of his other projects are identified.
The Village Theatre was renamed the Varsity Theatre by 1952. Cinema Treasures already has the Varsity Theatre listed, so this page is redundant. The introduction could be moved to the Varsity page, which is lacking the information it contains.
The Varsity’s official web site says that this theater opened in 1927 as the Carolina Theatre, and was later called the Village Theatre before finally becoming the Varsity Theatre in the 1950s.
The new Carolina Theatre opened on October 15, 1942, and this house was renamed the Village just prior to that event. Cinema Treasures currently has a page for the Village Theatre which is, of course, a duplication. Its introduction is accurate as far as it goes, and could be moved to this page, adding that the house was renamed the Varsity by 1952. As noted in my comment of May 27, 2009, above, this house was called the Varsity in a Boxoffice item from December 6, 1952, when Wil-Kin Theatre Supply was installing a new cycloramic screen.
Comments by Lost Memory on the Carolina Theatre page and on the redundant Village Theatre page say that the original Carolina Theater had a Robert-Morton organ installed in 1927.
This weblog post includes a nice photo of the Varsity Theatre. The year of construction, 1927, is carved into the building’s facade.
The New York Clipper, a sports and entertainment magazine, listed an Orpheum Theatre in Kingston, New York, at least as early as 1914. I’m wondering if this was a different Orpheum, or if the 1925 cornerstone shoeshoe14 mentioned actually belongs to the “…1 Sty extension on B'way….” that Warren mentioned in the previous comment? Perhaps the theater itself is older, and the building was only altered and expanded in 1925.
Additional information unearthed: According to an article about the laying of the foundations of the new theater, published in the Kingston Daily Freeman, April 18, 1918, the original architect of Keeeney’s Theatre was William E. Lehman, with Gerard W. Betz as supervising architect. Betz was the sole architect for the major expansion in 1926.
Here’s a correction to some of the errors in the current description of this theater. The February 19, 1926, issue of the Kingston Daily Freeman said that Keeney’s Theatre had been built as a motion picture house, not a vaudeville theater. The “stage” that was being moved back in the proposed alterations was apparently a small one, and Walter Reade’s plan was to add regular vaudeville to the house after the new stage built.
This is borne out by the caption to the ca.1921 photo ken mc linked to in his comment of December 3, 2007, which says that Keeney’s was built in 1919 (that was probably the year it opened, as Lost Memory’s comment of December 6, 2007, says that an organ was installed in 1918) and adds that vaudeville supplemented the early silent movies at the house after Reade took over. The aka Cohen Theatre should be removed. If there was a Cohen Theatre in Kingston, it was not in this building. The aka Reade’s Kingston Theatre should be added.
Walter Reade had control of the Kingston Theatre by 1926, and he was the instigator of the major alterations that were made that year. Thr project was described in an article in the Kingston Daily Freeman, May 6, 1926.
The building was extensively altered. Storefronts along Crown Street were removed, and the stage was moved back into that space. At the same time, the back rows of seats were removed for about 20 feet across the width of the orchestra floor, and that space was converted into a lounge and promenade. New seats were added at the front of the house after the stage had been moved back. The structural changes were undoubtedly accompanied by redecoration of the entire theater.
The 1926 alterations were designed by local architect Gerard W. Betz. I’ve also found an item in the January 27, 1915, issue of the trade journal Engineering & Contracting which names Betz as the architect of a planned $80,000 theater project in Kingston. So far I’ve been unable to discover which theater this 1915 project became, assuming that it was actually built.