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The earliest purpose-built twin cinema to go into operation that I know of was the Duplex Theatre, Detroit, Michigan, which was opened in 1915. The Duplex was apparently too far ahead of its time, as it was closed in 1922. A link in the second comment on the Cinema Treasures page fetches a page with several photos and a floor plan of the theater.
Detroit got a second twin theater a few years later, when the Catherine Theatre (later the Carver Tehatre) was twinned.
The Carver Theatre was operating into the 1950s. An item in Billboard, March 24, 1951, said that the theater’s operator, David Korman, intended to convert the theater’s 210-seat television lounge back into a regular auditorium for movies. The item didn’t say when the television lounge had begun operation, but made it clear that it had once been the second auditorium of the two-screen Catherine Theatre. Prior to being opened as a television theater, the second auditorium had for many years been a tavern, according to Billboard, but it didn’t say when the auditorium had first been closed as a movie venue.
If the house was a true twin, and Billboard is correct that the television lounge had 210 seats, the other auditorium probably had about 210 seats as well.
As the Carver, this house was operated as an African-American theater. Television came along about the time theaters were being desegregated in many American cities, so houses catering to black audiences suffered a double blow, losing patrons to formerly segregated theaters as well as to television, so they went out of business at a faster pace than theaters in white neighborhoods during this period.
I’ve been unable to find any follow-up articles indicating that Korman’s plan to re-twin the Carver Theatre was actually carried out, but whether it was or not the theater probably didnt stay open much longer. The cost of installing CenemaScope equipment for two auditoriums probably would have done it in by the mid-1950s, if it lasted even that long.
Also, I found a couple of references to a Thomas Lynch as the operator of the Catherine Theatre in its early days, the earliest reference being from 1917. He might have been the operator who twinned the house.
The Liberty Theatre was under construction at 831 Detroit Avenue in Toledo in late 1917, according to an issue of Michigan Film Review late that year (the date is missing, but it was probably from early November.) The item said that the owners of the new Liberty Theatre had placed a large order with the United Theatre Equipment Co., and the house was expected to open within a few weeks.
I don’t know if the 1924 opening date currently given in the description is an error, of if disaster befell the original Liberty and it had to be rebuilt.
The Wenonah Theatre was damaged by fire and reconstructed in late 1917, according to an issue of Michigan Film Review from early November that year. The house reopened on December 22, according to a later issue of the magazine.
The November 13 issue of the same magazine mentioned a Davidson Theatre in Bay City, a new house which was expected to be opened within 30 days. The house not yet listed at Cinema Treasures, unless it is under a later name and missing the aka.
The December 11, 1917, issue of Michigan Film Review said that the new Farnum Theatre in Hamtramck had opened the previous Saturday (which would have been the 8th.) The house was operated by the Schram Amusement Company, headed by Ed Schram. Mr. Schram also operated a Detroit movie house called the Bernhardt.
An item in an earlier issue of the same publication said that the Farnum Theatre had purchased a Gardiner Velvet Gold Fibre Screen.
Don, the lamps I mentioned are near the top of the facade, above the hooks that probably anchored the marquee. They can be seen in the second of the two photos ken mc linked to on June 16, 2007. They are painted red and set in squares of blue.
Looking at them again I think they might have been urns rather than lamps, but they still have an Oriental (middle eastern rather than far eastern) look to them. There also appears to be the remnants of a plaster frieze of some sort running across the facade just below them, but its design is hard to make out as everything in that section is painted the same color.
The Grand Rapids History web site provides this page about the Regent Theatre. This theater was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by architect C. Howard Crane.
An article titled “Motion Picture Theatrers” in the September, 1914, issue of The Ohio Architect, Engineer and Builder not only mentions the Waldorf Theatre, but includes a floor plan, a sectional drawing, and a photo of the auditorium. The architect of the Waldorf Theatre was Ralph M. Hulett, of Cleveland, who was also the author of the article. The article says that the Waldorf was located in an existing building that was remodeled into a theater.
Here is a link to the illustrations.
Here is a link to the article (the entire volume of the magazine will open, so beware if you’re on a slow connection) which features two other theaters of Hulett’s design: the Empress Theatre in Akron, and the Reel Theatre in Cleveland (if those houses are listed at Cinema Treasures, they must be under later names, and are missing the aka’s.) In addition there are several drawings and plans of unnamed theaters, apparently intended as examples of the sort of designs the firm could provide to prospective customers.
There’s also a photo of a house called the Spreckles Theatre, also apparently designed by Hulett, but I’ve been unable to discover where this was located.
An earlier issue of the same magazine, from June, 1913, featured a portfolio of the work of Ralph Hulett which included this photo depicting the facade of the Waldorf Theatre.
A 1920 book of cases decided by the Ohio Court of Appeals included a case for the dissolution of the Waldorf Amusement Company. The text reveals that the corporation was chartered on May 10, 1913, and says that “From its organization the corporation operated a motion picture theater at 47 South Main street, Akron, Ohio, under the name of The Waldorf Theater Company.” The corporation leased the Waldorf, so the building must have been completed about the time the operating company was formed. Apparently the dissolution of the company was the result of its loss of the lease.
A guide prepared for the 5th annual Lakewood History Walk (Quick View at Google Documents) says that the Homestead Tehatre was built in 1916. A couple of other sources say it was built in 1917, so maybe it was begun in 1916 and completed in 1917. It’s definitely pre-1920, though.
The photo at the top of this page is from the American Terra Cotta Company’s archives. The company’s records list the Lyric Theatre was designed by the architectural firm of Helmle & Helmle.
Decorative tile for the Knights of Columbus Building (which included the Sherman Theatre) was supplied by the American Terra Cotta Company. The company’s archives lists the architect of the building as Leo W. Schaefer.
The finding aid for the papers of the architectural firm of Toltz, King & Day (at the University of Minnesota Library) list the Tower Theatre among the firm’s works.
The finding aid lists eight projects by the firm that involved a theater. One of these was the Hamm Building and Capitol Theatre (see my comment earlier today on the Paramount Theatre page.)
The other projects listed are:
1) Como Theater, St. Paul; undated
2) Cherokee Theater, St. Paul; 1921
3) Friedman Theater, St. Paul; 1921
4) Hamm Building, St. Paul; 1919-1920
5) Ideal Theater, St. Paul; 1913
6) Unique Theater, Minneapolis; 1943 (apparently a remodeling job)
7) RKO Orpheum Theatre, St. Paul; 1939, 1947-1949, 1953-1955, 1958 (obviously various remodeling projects.)
There was also a listing for the Edyth Bush Little Theatre, 1939-1940, but that was a legitimate house not equipped for movies. It closed in 1975.
Here is a quote from the “Scope and Content Note” of the finding aid for the papers of the St. Paul architectural firm of Toltz, King & Day, at the University of Minnesota:
“There are plans and photos for the Hamm Building in St. Paul, Minnesota (1919-1920) that include drawings for the Capitol Theatre.”
If Rapp & Rapp designed the theater and the local firm supervised construction of it as well as of the office building (which would seem a likely arrangement), they would probably have had copies of Rapp & Rapp’s drawings as a guide, and those might be what is in the archive. I wish the finding aid was more specific. None of the content of the collection is available online as far as I’ve been able to discover.
The street names might have changed. As another possibility, there’s a Green Street in East St. Louis, so maybe the magazine accidentally left the East off of the city name.
Marilyn Dee Casto’s book “Actors, Audiences, and Historic Theatres of Kentucky” says that the Ben Ali Theatre was designed by architect William H. McElfatrick.
Marilyn Dee Casto’s book “Actors, Audiences, and Historic Theatres of Kentucky” says that the Alamo Theatre was designed by Louisville architect D.X. Murphy. However, the Arcadia Publishing Company’s picture book Louisville, by John E. Findling, attributes the design of the Alamo to Joseph D. Baldez, an associate of the firm of D.X. Murphy & Brothers. As Casto’s book is published by the University Press of Kentucky, it might be more reliable, though an academic imprimatur is not always a guarantee of accuracy.
Dennis Xavier Murphy took over the practice of Henry Whitestone in 1880, and by the time the Alamo was designed he had formed the partnership with his brothers . The firm designed a number of important Louisville landmarks, including the twin-spired clubhouse at the Churchill Downs race track. I’ve found several sources which attribute the clubhouse as well to Joseph Baldez, then a 24-year old draftsman with the firm.
Casto’s book also says that Murphy designed the conversion of an existing building in Louisville into a theater for the Whallen Brothers, local vaudeville and burlesque impresarios, but doesn’t give the name of the theater or the year it opened.
The August 15, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World has this item about John Karzin and the Casino Theatre:
“John Karzin, president of the McKinley Amusement Company, and proprietor of the Casino and Royal theaters, on Market street, reports that the Casino at 1620 Market Street is to be rebuilt. The present wall of the Casino will be used, but as it is only 50 feet In length, it will be extended 50 feet further, and the building, when completed, will be 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep at the back, and 25 feet wide at the entrance, giving an L shape to the auditorium. The new building will have a balcony, and the seating capacity will be 900, of which 268 seats will be in the balcony. The front will be of white enameled brick, with a canopy extending over the pavement. This will be the largest moving picture house on Market street, and will be ready for business when the airdome season closes. Mr. Karzin, owner of the Casino, also owns the Royal, across the street from the Casino, and a big airdome at 18th and Chestnut streets, besides being the president of the McKinley Amusement Company, that operates the Majestic theater at 1024 Franklin Avenue”
I did come across one puzzling item in the November 7, 1908, issue of The Moving Picture World which is about a different St. Louis theater which was also called the Casino:
“The Casino, on Fourth Avenue, near Green Street, another link in the circuit of the Princess Amusement Company, and in which O. T. Crawford, of the Crawford Film Exchange, is interested, opened its doors this week. The new house is a revelation for St. Louis patrons of moving picture theaters and represents an investment of over $15,000.”
Marilyn Dee Casto’s book “Actors, Audiences, and Historic Theatres of Kentucky” says that the Diamond Theatre opened in 1921.
Marilyn Dee Casto’s book “Actors, Audiences, and Historic Theaters of Kentucky” says that the Princess Theatre opened in 1914.
The Broadway-Strand Theatre was designed by architect Arland W. Johnson. It opened January 26, 1913, with 1,488 seats, according to Andrew Craig Morrison’s book Theatres. A drawing of the house as the Broadway, by artist Anthony F. Dumas, was dated 1931, but I’ve been unable to find a copy of it on the Internet. I don’t know if the theater was still in operation at the time the drawing was made.
I found this house listed as the Broadway-Strand Theatre in a book published in 1922, and an ad for the Broadway Strand appeared in the January 30, 1924 issue of the Pinckney Dispatch, a suburban Detroit newspaper. The Cass City Chronicle, another suburban paper, mention the Broadway-Strand in its issue of July 10, 1925. The Lowville, New York, Journal-Republican of September 29, 1927, ran an item welcoming a new manager to the local Bijou Theatre. L.E. Slawson’s previous post had been as manager of the Broadway-Strand in Detroit. The Bijou was a Schine house, so perhaps the Broadway-Strand was being oeprated by Schine at this time, too.
In the first comment at the Strand Theatre (Detroit) page, ken mc mentions finding a reference to a lawsuit involving the Broadway-Strand in the late 1920s. I think this theater might have been called by its original name until only a year or two before it closed. I’ve been unable to find any period references to a Broadway Theatre in Detroit other than the 1931 drawing by Dumas, and I’ve found only retrospective references to the Broadway-Strand after 1927.
I did find a 1922 reference saying that the Broadway-Strand Theatre had been built by Max Bartholomaei, Son & Company, building contractors.
There is also this photo from Wayne State University’s Virtual Motor City collection. It had a very nice Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival facade.
The only theater listed for Huntington in the 1900-1901 edition of Julius Cahn’s theatrical guide is the Opera House, a second-floor theater with 800 seats. The proscenium was 30' wide and 16' high. Only gas lighting was listed.
The 1904-1905 edition of the guide lists the New Huntington Theatre, a gound-floor house with 1,100 seats, electric light, and a proscenium 36' wide and 28' high. As the Opera House is no longer listed, the New Huntington must have replaced it.
I notice that in the photos from after the moderne remodeling, the marquee only says The Huntington, so the “New” must have been dropped until it was restored by the current owners.
The December, 1914, issue of the magazine Architecture and Building featured four photos of Proctor’s Theatre in Mount Vernon:
The exterior and the auditorium
Two interior views, one of which appears to be the ladies lounge, and the other depicting a foyer and one of the ramps leading to the theater’s upper levels.
Judging from the photos, which show that the Strand had a false front on a building with a gabled roof, it probably dated from no later than the 1910s. It was most likely the new theater being built by E.G. Hower, as reported in the August 21, 1915, issue of The Motion Picture World.
Hower, the first person to exhibit movies in Trinidad, had been manager of the town’s opera house (closed in 1906, according to that year’s edition of Julius Cahn’s Theatrical Guide) and had, in the early 1910s, operated a storefront movie house called the Crystal Theatre, located on Main Street. His 1915 project was to be the first theater in Trinidad built expressly to present movies.
Carl R. Berg, currently listed as the architect of the Cordova Theatre, was a Seattle artist and decorator who worked with the National Theatre Supply Company. He designed the decorations for the Cordova.
The Cordova Theatre was actually designed by the Spokane architectural firm Whitehouse & Price, who also designed the Wilma Theater in Wallace, Idaho. The firm also worked with Seattle architect Robert Reamer on the Fox Theatre in Spokane.
A PDF file (4.9MB) of the NRHP registration form for the Cordova Theatre includes a fairly detailed history and description of the theater, along with floor plans and several photos, including depictions of the original entrance and facade, prior to the 1950 remodeling.
Photos of the facade and auditorium of the Columbia Theatre appeared in the December 20, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World. Here is the text of the accompanying article:[quote]“According to information received, the Columbia Theater, of Portland, Oregon, is without peer. It is strictly a photoplay house.
“This magnificent building, which is entirely fireproof with the exception of the carpets and draperies, was built at a cost of $125,000. The building is constructed of concrete and steel and is located in the most central section of the downtown district. The record in construction was brokenas shifts were working night and day and within 90 days after the last shovel of dirt was excavated, this building was thrown open, and has ever since been the passing of leisure hours for Portland’s most exclusive society people.
“The inside is artistically decorated. The entire theater is carpeted. One of the features of this photoplay house is the beautiful ladies' rest room which is carried out in the Louis XV style, and cost about $5,000 to furnish. Nothing takes so well with the ladies as this lovely lounging place where the society ladies gather and then attend the entertainment en masse.
“Eleven hundred hidden lights are used inside. An interchangeable air system is employed where the air is changed twelve timci an hour by a process that is washed with the famous Bull Run water.
“The outside is of white terra cotta and brick and has a total outlay of 2000 lights. The seating capacity is 1200. Two No. 6-A Power’s machines are used. The operating booth is of steel with cement coating. The theater uses eight pictures a week from the General Film Company.
“The Columbia is owned by W. F. Foster and George W. Kleiser, and is managed by O. F. Bergner. who is a member of the Executive Board of the Moving Picture Exhibitors' League of Portland.”[/quote]