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News of the Arco Theatre from Motography, April, 1911:
“Messrs. Duggan and Huff have prepared plans for a theater to be erected at the northwest corner of Manchester and Arco avenues, St. Louis, by the Magnet Amusement Company, which will cost $65,000. It will be the first moving picture house in that section of the city. The building will be of brick, steel and concrete, making it entirely fireproof. The front is to be of gray brick, with white glazed terra cotta trimmings and a copper roof. It is to have a stage 35 feet wide and 25 feet deep, and will have a seating capacity of 2,200. It will be completed about June 1. Moving pictures and vaudeville will be presented and the managers are considering the organization of a stock company. The combination of pictures with stock will be something new in amusement in St. Louis.”
The Strand Theatre was in operation under that name by 1920. these comments on a Van Wert Forum web page indicate that the Strand was an old theater once called the Auditorium, a photo of which can be seen on this page at Silent Era. The Auditorium is listed in the 1908 Cahn guide as a ground floor theater of 1000 seats. It was called the Auditorium Opera House on a photo postcard reproduced on page 81 of Van Wert County, by Cheryl Bauer. A 1902 list of theaters in Ohio had only a 500-seat, second-floor theater listed for Van Wert, so the Auditorium was built between 1902 and 1908.
This house opened in 1911 as the Empire Theatre. The April issue of Motography ran this notice:
“The Empire theater, Lima’s new moving picture house, was recently opened to the public by Messrs. H. B. Hoffman and H. B. Spencer. The decorations and equipment are elaborate in every detail and have been installed without regard to expense. There is a seating capacity of 300, fitted with opera chairs, and the floor inclines sufficiently to provide a clear view from any point in the house. On the opening night all patrons were presented with a bouquet of flowers.”
An advertisement for Paramount and Art Craft films in the October 8, 1918, issue of Michigan Film Review listed this house as the Princess Paramount Theatre.
The earliest mention of the United States Theatre I’ve found is this item from the March 1, 1913, issue of Motography:
“Announcement was made that work on the United States theater building, a $100,000 moving picture house to be built in Denver, will begin about May 1. The promoter, J. J. McClusky, of New York, has taken a ninety-nine-year lease on the two lots.”
The April 19, 1913, issue of Motography ran a brief item about the Tudor Theatre (apparently not yet named) that was then nearing completion:
“The new Pearce theater, now under construction at New Orleans, is nearing completion. In less than six weeks the finest picture theater in the south will be thrown open to the public. Located at 610 Canal street, the new theater probably is one of the most expensive of the United States. Josiah L. Pearce & Sons will introduce another new feature of motion picture theaters in the new pipe organ which is on its way to New Orleans, and is thought to be the best of its kind in the south. The organ was built at Hagerstown, Md., and it is said to have cost $25,000.”
Did this theater’s name actually use the spelling Beverley, rather than the standard Beverly?
The Mall Hall of Fame (which uses the standard spelling Beverly) says that Columbus Square was dedicated on March 25, 1965. As the theater was inside the mall, it most likely began operating the same day the mall did.
The entry for Morton James Coulson in the 1956 American Architects Directory lists a 1950 remodeling of the Regent Theatre in Ottawa, Canada, among his principal works.
The January 31, 1929, issue of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star devoted much of its space to Benjamin Pitts' new Colonial Theatre, which was set to open the following day. This article said that the Colonial was designed by the Richmond architectural firm of Lee, Smith & Vandervoort. The article says that the firm specialized in theater planning, but I’ve been unable to find any other theaters they designed.
I’ve found James T. Vandervoort’s surname spelled Van der Voort in a few places and Van Dervoort from one source. Merrill C. Lee designed a 1954 addition to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which included a theater. Horace L. Smith, Jr., is noted as the inventor of a double helix car ramp for parking garages, first used in 1928.
The Pitts' Theatres chain took over the Murphy Theatre in Front Royal in 1930, and took over the Park theater as well, sometime before 1939. It was called Pitts' Park on a list of twenty-five houses operated by Pitts' Theatres in 1952. As Pitts' Theatres was not inclined to give up successful houses, the Park probably remained under their control until the chain was taken over by R/C Theatres in 1970.
The April 4, 1930, issue of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported that Benjamin Pitts had taken a ten-year lease on Murphy’s Theatre in Front Royal and would immediately begin a remodeling which would include the installation of Western Electric sound equipment.
The theater was expected to reopen in about six weeks. It would be the sixth house in the Pitts' Theatres chain. The article said that Murphy’s was Front Royal’s leading playhouse, and one of the largest theaters in the Shenandoah Valley, seating over 1000.
The house was listed as Pitts' Murphy on a list of the twenty-five theaters operated by Pitts' Theatres in 1952. I found it mentioned in 1959, but an ambiguous context make it impossible to tell if it was still in operation at that time. Pitts' Theatres also took over the Park Theatre in Front Royal sometime after acquiring the Murphy, and appears to have operated it until at least 1960.
An article about the State Theatre in the May 10, 2004, issue of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star said that the house opened on May 23, 1938, and closed on September 3, 1993.
(Google News scan begins here and continues here.)
By 1937, the Opera House was being operated as a movie theater by Pitts' Theatres, who also operated Pitts' Jefferson Theatre in Charles Town, which they had opened in 1932. Both the Opera House and Pitts' Jefferson Theatre appeared on a list of twenty-five houses being operated by Pitts' Theatres in 1949.
The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported on February 21, 1931, that Benjamin Pitts, operator of theaters at Fredericksburg, Front Royal, Warrenton, Culpeper, Killmarnock, and Suffolk, would build a new theater at Leesburg. The Tally-Ho Theatre later appeared on lists of houses operated by Pitts' Theatres as Pitts' Tally-Ho.
This house opened in 1932 as Pitts' Fauquier Theatre. An article in the May 21 issue of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported on a benefit performance for the Warrenton Fire Department Auxillary that had been held the previous night, and referred to Pitts' Farquier Theatre as “…a handsome new building in the chain controlled by the local man….” The article gave the seating capacity as 530, and said that “…last night every seat in the white section was taken, with some standing while a large number of the seats in the colored section were occupied.”
The house was still called Pitts' Fauquier Theatre when it was on a list of the twenty-five houses operated by the Pitts' Theatres chain in 1949.
The 1939 issue of Battlefield, the annual publication of Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, had this courtesy ad from Pitts' Theatres, listing all of the twenty houses the chain had in operation that year.
The NRHP nomination form for this theater (PDF here) attributes its design to a little-known Richmond architect named Nicholas Roney. The form provides very little information about Roney, and attributes only one other building to him as an architect, that being the Bijou Theater in Richmond, designed in 1904 with his then-partner James W. Atkinson.
An article about Benjamin Pitts on this page of Boxoffice for August 14, 1937, lists this theater as one of four hew houses then planned, underway, or recently completed for the Pitts Chain. The others were the East End Theatre in Richmond, the Victoria Theatre in Fredericksburg, and the Pitts Theatre (now the South Theatre) in Emporia.
The State Theatre differs from the other three Pitts projects in lacking a full-width, two-story front, while the other three differ significantly from one another only in their size. I suspect that the other three theaters were all designed by Henry Carl Messerschmidt, to whom we already attribute the East End Theatre. The selection of Roney to design this house is a bit of a puzzle.
Pitts Theatres was headquartered in Fredericksburg, and this house most likely became the chain’s flagship when it opened. It was one of four projects that were either underway, planned, or recently completed when a story about Benjamin Pitts appeared on this page of the August 14, 1937, issue of Boxoffice.
Photos of the Victoria and two of the other projects, the East End Theatre in Richmond and the Pitts Theatre (later renamed the South Theatre) in Emporia, show that they all had essentially the same facade design, differing only in their size (the Victoria was the largest.) The East End Theatre was designed by Richmond architect Henry Carl Messerschmidt, and it is likely that the Victoria and the house in Emporia were also his designs.
I’m not sure why this theater is currently attributed to John and Drew Eberson. It is not listed in the Wolfsonian-FIU project index of their works. The only Eberson project listed for a place called Emporia is a 1913 theater in Emporia, Pennsylvania.
I still think Henry Carl Messerschmidt is the architect most likely to have designed the Pitts-Roth/South Theatre, though so far I have no conclusive evidence that he did. In any case, I’m sure the Ebersons did not design it. The Wolfsonian’s index doesn’t even list a remodeling project by either Eberson in Emporia, Virginia.
There is one problem with my surmise about Messerschmidt designing this house, that being the NRHP nomination form for the very similar Pitts/State Theatre in Culpeper, Virginia, which attributes the design of that house to an obscure Richmond architect named Nicholas Roney, but I’ll address that question on the State Theatre page.
Also, I don’t know why we have this house listed in a place called North Emporia, which apparently doesn’t exist anywhere other than Cinema Treasures. The South Theatre must have been within three blocks of the Shannon Theatre, which we have listed correctly as being in Emporia.
The East End Theatre was one of four new houses either under construction, planned, or recently opened by Benjamin Pitts Enterprises, according to an article on this page of the August 14, 1937, issue of Boxoffice.
An article about Benjamin Pitts Enterprises' expansion program in Boxoffice of August 14, 1937, said that the new Pitts Theatre in Emporia had opened a few weeks earlier. The expansion program included new houses in Richmond (the East End Theatre), Fredericksburg (the Victoria Theatre), and Culpeper (the Pitts Theatre, now called the State Theatre), and improvements to a theater in Manassas.
I’ve been unable to find any period sources naming the architect of the South Theatre, but photos of it and the East End and Victoria show that they all had very similar fronts. The State had a different configuration, but a very similar style. It seems likely that all four were designed by the same architect. Our page for the East End Theatre attributes its design to Richmond architect Henry Carl Messerschmidt.
Pitts had taken over the Weiss Theatre in Emporia in 1931, according to an item in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star of October 20 that year, and the house was listed as the Pitts Weiss Theatre in the 1936 FDY. I’m not sure if the Pitts chain continued to operate the Pitts-Weiss Theatre after the new Pitts-Roth Theatre opened.
The August 14, 1937, issue of Boxoffice reported that the Metro Theatre in Durban had been opened on Friday. As August 14 was a Saturday, the house would have opened on the 13th. The item also said that Metro houses had recently opened in Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Lima, and that the Metro Theatre in Brisbane was slated to open on October 1. All these houses were part of an international expansion program by MGM’s theater division.
The Regent Theatre was built by local exhibitor Paul Schlossman, who later built the Michigan Theatre, now the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts. Like the Michigan, the Regent was designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane.
Schlossman’s obituary in Billboard of January 28, 1950, said that he bought three theaters at Muskegon in 1913, and later built the Regent and Michigan Theatres in Muskegon and the Strand Theatre in Muskegon Heights.
This brief biography7 of Schlossman at the Frauenthal Center web site notes that he also built the Rialto and Majestic Theatres in Muskegon, and says that they were also designed by Crane.
A timeline of Michigan City history here says that the Tivoli Theatre opened in 1922. The Grand Opera House had burned in 1921. Plans for the rebuilding were announced in the May 21, 1921, issue of The American Contractor:
“Theatre (Tivoli, fire rebld.), Stores & Offices: $226,000. 3 sty. & bas. 125x60 Franklin St., bet. 5th & 6th sts., Michigan City, Ind. Archt. Henry L. Newhouse. 4620 Prairie av., Chicago. Owner The Michigan City Theatre Corp., Jacob Walherstein. pres., Starland Theatre, Michigan City. Brk. T. c. Owner will take bids soon. Finishing plans.”
Either the 1941 listing or the Sarasota Herald-Tribune of December 20, 1942, had the seating capacity of the Bonifay Theatre wrong. The newspaper reported that 500 patrons had escaped unharmed when the Bonifay Theatre was destroyed by a fire (Google News.)