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On November 10, 1921, Trags Theater, Neillsville’s new $35,000 motion picture house, opened at 7:30 p.m. with Mary Pickford in “Through the Back Door,” the next-to-last Pickford release, with four showings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday afternoon matinee at 2:30.
Trags Theater was the culmination of months of planning on the part of a Neilsville resident William E. Tragsdorf. The theatre was 30 feet wide and 126 feet deep, with an arcade on Sixth Street. The main entrance was on Hewett Street and the front of the house is two stories and of red ornamental brick. The show house is absolutely fire proof throughout, the floor being of concrete and the projection room, well lined. The lobby was on Hewett Street with a glass enamel box office, French doors in front and two large gilt poster frames. Delays made it impossible to complete the lobby by the opening show. Patrons exited the theater through the arcade, which was later fitted with a confectionery and cigar store.
The seating capacity was 402 seats on the main floor and two loggias with ten wicker chairs in each reserved for box parties. Restrooms and the theatre office were on the second floor. The ceiling of the auditorium was thirty feet in height. There were six ornamental lights on each side wall and four indirect lighting bowls in the ceiling. Two Torrid Zone furnaces and ten large fans were installed.
The main floor of the house will seat 402 persons. The concrete floor slopes to the front and is easily cleaned from back to the front.
There were two Simplex motor-driven projectors with music by an American Fotoplayer piano with pipe organ effects. The stage was large enough for vaudeville with a dressing room at one side. The scenery was painted by Universal Scenic of St. Paul and the drop curtain had a scene of the bridge from Old Panama, painted from a photo by Will Tragsdorf while he was located in Panama.
All the construction work was by local workmen including the architects, Balch & Lippert of Madison. The masonry was by Van Wagner, Owens & Van Wagner, the heating and ventilating by P. M. Warlum, the decorating by Jack Schueing, the carpeting by Otto Roessler.
Originally, the theater lot had been the site for a hardware business which started in 1879, owned by Denis Tourigny who, after 40 years in business, sold out in 1919. Tragsdorf owned and managed the theater atb the beginning, then Darrell Gotschlin managed it until resigning in 1934. Wilmer G. Meier then came from Waupaca to accept the managerial position and remained until the theater’s closing. .
Drive-In Near Waukegan Forced Into Receivership (Boxoffice, March 10, 1951)
George May has been named receiver for the Highway Amusement Enterprises, Inc., operators of the Highway (sic) Outdoor Theatre here, and four other defendants in a mechanics lien proceeding.
Listed as co-defendants in the $65,000 mechanics lien proceedings are the Midwest Theatre Service and Equipment Co., Irving S. Karlin, architect and secretary of the operating corporation; John Selby, screen erection engineer; and Staben and Hooper, consulting engineers. May will safeguard the assets of the firms bringing liens against the theatre property which was constructed last fall.
(From Boxoffice, October 29, 1938:) William Exton posted $10 to be given any man over 21 years who would remain two full days and one whole night in the lobby of the Kenosha Theatre in a coffin during the two-day engagement of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”.
Orpheum to open two stadium theaters
(April 23, 1998, by CHRISTOPHER PFAU, Racine Journal Times)
Downtown Kenosha’s Orpheum Theatre will open two new movie theaters featuring stadium-style seating on Friday night.
“We think this is the direction downtown Kenosha wants to go as far as bringing people to the downtown area,“ Jeff Maher, president and owner of the Orpheum at 5819 6th Ave., said of the theaters.
The stadium-style theaters, which cost about $500,000 to put in, include state-of-the-art sound systems, Maher said.
The addition brings to four the number of theaters in the Orpheum, a discount movie house.
Ticket prices are $2 everyday, except on Tuesdays, when tickets cost $1.
Maher said he believes moviegoers are calling for the stadium-style seating which ensure unobstructed views of the screen.
“In order for the discount theaters to compete, (the theaters) have to go to stadium-style seating,“ Maher said.
(From the closed theatre’s website:)
The Isle Theatre has undergone renovation, being completely restored and improved from the original, and was re-opened on April 18, 2008. It was built in 1921 as the Zim Zim Theatre. It was purchased and remodeled in 1935, and underwent a name change as the result of a naming competition. It is located in Downtown Cumberland, Wisconsin at 1345 2nd Avenue, and appropriately named “Isle Theatre”, piggy-backing off Cumberland’s nick-name the “Island City”, as the city limits are surrounded by the waters of Beaver Dam Lake.
The theatre had been closed since 1997, and with ideas of the building being torn down, former City Councilman, Tom Nesvold, pursued a buyer to preserve the downtown icon. Mark Ruppel, CEO of Ardisam located in Cumberland, says the company bought the building from the city, planning to re-open the theatre for the community because it holds so much history for the town and memories for the people who live there. “I’m a long time resident, I had my first date there like everybody else.” Ruppel says what better way to bring a piece of history back to Cumberland and share it with the whole town. “There’s nothing like experiencing a blockbuster movie that comes to town. It’s great to be at home with your family but it’s even greater to have your family out. It’s what creates community.”
Restoring the building isn’t just about the past. It’s creating a future. Mark and Ron Ruppel have partnered with Tom and Deanna Nesvold in creating an entertainment destination. The theatre offers area residents and guests a state-of-the-art viewing experience while retaining the character of the original theatre. With input from local artist, Jeff Hile, the original tin ceiling has been restored and is the focal point of the art deco interior design. The old projector is on display, and 150 original seats re-upholstered, including the classic “love-seats”. While the theatre was under construction, a vintage poster was found folded up in the ceiling at the back of the building. The poster is from the 1919 Paramount Pictures Silent Movie, “Louisiana”, starring Vivian Martin and is on display, along with historical Cumberland Photos. The remodel includes an entirely new lobby, snack bar, rest rooms, and a new sound and projection system. Nezzy’s Sports Bar & Grill is adjacent to the theatre at the back-side of the building and has access to the theatre to expand the entertainment value for movie-goers. The theatre is available to rent for special occasions or meetings.
We hope you enjoy the Isle Theatre experience!
Kenneth LeRoy Olson was born in Hale, Wisconsin on August 18, 1922 to Hanna and Almer Olson, one of their seven sons. They moved to Manly in 1929. Kenneth attended school until 1940, and worked at the Manly Creamery and the Lido Theatre after school hours. He married Shirley Marsh on September 1, 1940 in Osage. In 1942, Kenneth and his family, now including their two children Larry and Steve, moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he managed the Granada Theatre.
Kenneth Olson joined the Marines on December 26, 1943 and left the next day for Camp Pendleton and went into action overseas a year or so later.
On February 20, 1945, Marine Corporal Kenneth L. Olson died of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima. One mmonth later, his wife received the following telegram:
“Deeply regret to inform you that your husband, assistant cook Kenneth L. Olson USMCR died 20th February 1945 of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima Volcano Islands, in the performance of his duty and service of his country. The remains were buried at sea. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy.
A. Vandergriff, Gen. U.S.M. "
Commandant of Marine Corps.
Still later, his wife received a letter from the Chaplain’s Office of the US Marines stating that “there never was anyone more highly respected and beloved” than Cpl. Olson.
He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
Commandant of Marine Corps.
A. Vandergriff, Gen. U.S.M. "
Commandant of Marine Corps.
Acme to rehab south side theater.
Former World Theater to become video-production studio
(The Business Journal-Milwaukee, March 25, 1991, by Rich Kirchen)
A Milwaukee company that makes sets and props for video production companies and industrial trade shows plans to rehabilitate a boarded-up theater in the Walker’s Point area for use as a studio and production facility.
Acme Corp., 529 W. National Ave., recently received approval from the Milwaukee Common Council’s Economic Development Committee for state development zone tax credits toward its $125,000 project at the former World Theater, 830 S. 6th St., said Bob Trimmier, a neighborhood commercial revitalization staffer for the Department of City Development. It would be an independent, full-service studio, he said.
Acme will receive $18,200 in new job tax credits, $3,125 in location credits and $655 in sales tax credits, said Mike Brodd, the DCD’s manager of neighborhood economic development. The company has committed to creating four jobs with the project, Brodd said.
Mark Miskimen, who owns Acme Productions, said the new facility would have a separate identity from Acme and probably would have a name that is a play on the old World Theater.
Acme is buying the building from Bob Hoffmann.
Trimmier said city officials are delighted at the reinvestment in the theater building, which is near the key intersection of South Sixth Street and West National Avenue. The city also is pushing for redevelopment of the city-owned four-story Kroeger Building, 611 W. National, which may be sold to Esperanza Unida Inc., a Hispanic community group.
The Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory at the Division of Historic Preservation-Public History in the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, lists the World Theatre as being built in 1926. It’s been on the National Register as of December 12, 1978 and on the State Register as on January 1, 1989 as part of the Walker’s Point Historic District. The original seating capacity was listed at 750 and the original estimated cost was $30,000. After decades of church use, the theatre surprised many in mid-1984 by briefly reverting to double-feature film offerings as the “All World Theatre” with a 99-cent admission. I was graciously allowed to tour it yesterday and the seating has been replaced by pews. There’s a balcony, and the lobby is basically original but little ornament is visible in the auditorium save the pilasters with its dropped ceiling.
The Bartlett was the first theater in Highwood, owned by Danny Bartlett, with Bartlett Cabs next door. The Bartlett was later managed by the Quarta brothers from Lake Forest and renamed it the Highwood Theatre. In the 1970s, Highwood’s Mayor Fidel Ghini pressured the theatre to close for showing X-rated movies.
Army & Air Force Exchange Service courier Edwin Thillet walks the aisles in the Fort Sill Sheridan Road Theatre Feb. 12, 2013. The theatre stopped showing movies in December, 2012.
The Fort Sill Sheridan Road Theater stopped showing movies in December, 2012 but the facility will continue to be used for ceremonial and training events, say Army & Air Force Exchange Service officials. About 60 AAFES theatres have stopped showing movies as technology is moving away from film projection and toward digital pictures and sound, said Chris Ward, AAFES Headquarters spokesman in Dallas, but about another 60 AAFES theatres worldwide are making the conversion to digital. With theatres converting to digital projection, AAFES theatres now using 35mm prints have been undergoing reviews to determine the cost-effectiveness of converting its theatres to a digital format. A review of the Fort Sill Sheridan Road theatre determined that with a cost of about $120,000 to convert to digital and the availability of local off-base entertainment venues, the continued operation of the theatre was not thought to be viable.
Reedsburg cinema closing ‘a loss’ for community
(Wisconsin State Journal) Dec. 6, 2008)
If the Reedsburg movie theater reopened tomorrow, the fare might include “Titanic,” “Waterworld,” “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” and, perhaps “Like Water for Chocolate.” But it won’t reopen, because in Reedsburg, the day the movie theater died was June 9, when the Baraboo River ran through it. Now, businesses that counted on customers who shopped and dined with a movie date are feeling the effects of the closing. Even the decision two weeks ago to permanently close has irritated city officials, who have been trying for months to get the Chicago-based Kerasotes company to confirm its intentions.
City administrator John Dougherty hinted this week of a local takeover of the six-screen theater, something that would be welcomed by Reedsburg resident Julie Fitzgerald, who just wants a chance to take her children to a local matinee again. “They kept changing their tune,” said Dougherty this week of the company’s recent decision to close the Reedsburg Star 6 Cinema. “Now they are saying that while they are not planning on reopening it, they would like to sell it,” he said. Prior to that, the company had indicated they would use the building for storage.
The theater has been closed since June, when record rains turned the Baraboo River through downtown Reedsburg into a lake, with the cinema building an island. Despite several feet of water inside, city inspectors report today there is no mold and “everything cleaned up just fine,” Dougherty said.
The movie house, he said, is vital and brings in weekend traffic to Reedsburg’s businesses. With that in mind, and the suggestion from Kerasotes that it wants to sell, the city “has been working with someone local who expressed interest in opening it back up,” Dougherty said.
City help to reopen the enterprise on the property, valued at just over $1 million, would be limited. The city pitched in several years ago when this building was opened. Attendance at the cinema, up to its closing, was good, Dougherty said, and no other Reedsburg businesses closed because of the flooding.
Fitzgerald, who with her husband and two children regularly attended matinees as a family treat at the cinema, said prices went up when Kerasotes took over the movie theater last January, and that may have led to fewer customers. She said the cinema was able to show current movies on its six screens with a good selection that included family fare. “We miss it, we would come in and have dinner or lunch and go to a movie; we just don’t drive to the Dells for a movie,” she said. “It wasn’t crowded but it was pleasant,” she said.
At the Chamber of Commerce, Carrie Covell feels let down by the closing. A movie theater should be able to survive, she said, “because we are a feeder community for quite a few small communities,” including from neighboring Juneau County. “This is prime real estate downtown. A movie theater brings in dinner guests and cocktail drinkers, and afternoon shoppers,” she said.
A memo from Kerasotes to the city said the company “will continue to maintain and use the building for storing equipment and staging purposes.” That could mean the building might not be available for sale to another company that might open a movie theater that would compete with the company’s Wisconsin Dells-Lake Delton theater. Because the building is on a commercially zoned lot, using the theater as a warehouse for storage is legal, with conditions, said city building inspector Art Biesek.
No one from Kerasotes returned telephone calls for comment.
The company also owns Star Cinema in Fitchburg, which it purchased at the same time it purchased the Reedsburg theater and four other Star Cinemas last January. Kari Walker, owner of the Touchdown Tavern on the same street as the now-closed Reedsburg theater, said many have speculated about Kerasotes' plans, and suffered from the closing. “Any time you have an additional 20 or more vehicles in town, the chances are some of those people are going to go to more than one place, they’re going to grab a bite to eat, pick up some shampoo, buy a cell phone case,” she said. “We consider it a significant loss for downtown, because it is also something for all ages,” she said.
Dougherty remains optimistic the theater will reopen, that “someone else will make a go of it. "We still have the option of giving or not giving (Kerasotes) a conditional use permit to use the building as storage,” he said. The company wouldn’t intentionally keep it closed to help out its Dells theater because “the Dells is going to grab the people who don’t wander far from the Dells, and Reedsburg would be for our surrounding community who don’t want to deal with the traffic of the Dells.”
Irene Banaszak, 96, resident died Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. The former Irene Kradecki was born Sept. 3, 1914 in Milwaukee. She married John Banaszak on June 29, 1935 at St. Leo’s Church in Pound. The couple resided in Crivitz, where they owned and operated Crivitz Furniture and the Crivitz Theater until retirement.
Surviving were two daughters, Lorraine Kraszewski of Suamico and Carol (Gary) Wieting of Crivitz; a son, Donald (Florence) of Hobart; nine grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
Her husband, John preceded her in death along with a son, Raymond.
They are interred in the St. Mary Church cemetery.
The architect was Franz Roy, whose office was nearby at 9046 S. Commercial Avenue. He designed a number of area buildings.
(Wayne Independent) – Lyric Theater fire recalled
The 1961 Lyric Theater blaze was one of the costliest fires to hit Honesdale’s business district.By Kevin ZwickMar. 31, 2011 @ 1:14 am
On March 25, 1961, eight-year-old Gerry Dunne and his buddies made their way to the Lyric Theatre to see the screening of the British monster flick “Gorgo,” a U.K.-based film similar to Godzilla. But Dunne and his friends never saw the film that day. Instead, they witnessed a monstrous blaze tear through the theatre, one of the costliest fires to hit Honesdale’s business district.
The fire, which began around 6 p.m. near the theatre’s candy counter, set the entire building ablaze. The building was home to the theatre, Jack Martin’s Pharmacy, the Wayne County Democratic Committee office, and also housed a tax consulting business owned by Gerry’s grandmother, Isabel Dunne.
At the time Gerry didn’t know that his grandmother and her associate Robert Adams were trapped on the second floor of the burning building. Apparently, neither did the fire fighters.
According to a report by The Scranton Times, Isabel and Robert were working in the second floor office when they discovered the fire. As Isabel started into the hallway, she became overcome by the dense smoke. Finally, they climbed out of their second floor office window, and jumped five feet onto the building marquee. Neither had the strength to climb to the rim to signal or call for help, but Robert was able to throw his jacket to the ground to try to signal fire fighters. Then-Fire Chief Vincent Martone scaled a ladder to place a hose in the second floor window and spotted the two on the marquee and called for help to remove them. Isabel, who was unconscious, was given artificial respiration by off-duty state trooper William Bluff, who was a volunteer with the Honesdale Fire Company.
Gerry said he remembered crews pushing onlookers “further and further away” from the blaze because Willard Matthews’ Sunoco Service station, which was located near the north side of the Lyric building, had massive gas tanks which could have caught fire.
Isabel was transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and shock, and was released a few days later.
The Lyric building, located on 1050 Main Street, is now occupied by the Turkey Hill gas station. “We all loved that theatre,” Jerry said. He noted the spectacular interior of the theater, which included a balcony, as well as box seats on each side of the theater.
According to the Wayne Independent report, the total damage estimates were not available, but Jack Martin said he lost nearly $25,000 on stock of drugs, furniture and fixtures. Luckily, the brunt of his loss was mostly covered by insurance. Nearby buildings included a loss of about $2,500 to $3,000 from a smoke and water estimate to Paul Matter’s garage on the building’s southern side. Minor damage was suffered by Willard Matthews’ Sunoco Service station on the north side of the building.
The Ritz Theatre in Hawley opened its doors seven nights a week to compensate for the loss of the Lyric immediately after the blaze.
The Lyric Theater first opened in 1907, with a showing of the stage play “The Lion and the Mouse.” Tickets for that show were $2.25. At the time of the blaze, The Wayne Independent interviewed older borough residents who said that before the building was built in early 1900s, an enclosed pony lot was located on the plot of land.
First responders were Honesdale, Seelyville, White Mills, Hawley, Pleasant Mount, Narrowsburg, Crystal Fire of Jermyn and Carbondale. The Civil Defense and Civil Air Patrol handled traffic during the fire, and Honesdale Police Chief Nicholas Stapleton ordered all patrolmen on duty once the fire started.
The HART Theatre was originally the AMUSE Theatre.
You’re both correct, as some of the historic material I researched seems to be optimistic puffery (Zeigler’s street system seems only to be a basic standard sort of a radial design of a type favored by L'Enfant and others), and other addresses from that same source don’t jibe either. All that’s known for certain is that there were at least two theatres in Zeigler, and the RITZ above seems to adjoin the earlier EMPIRE. Thanks for following through …
WGN-TV’s ( www.wgntv.com/ ) live News at Nine (PM) on Tuesday May 14 will take its cameras inside the UPTOWN Theatre to see how it looks today. Then on Wednesday, May 15’s News at Nine reports on plans for a planned music district centered around the theatre. And then on May 15 at 10 pm, CLTV will broadcast a live half-hour special “Creating a Music District” with theatre owner Jerry Mickelson, Alderman James Cappleman and the Green Mill Lounge owner Dave Jemilo with host Randi Belisomo to discuss plans and take viewers' questions, which can be submitted in advance to the CLTV Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/cltvnews?ref=tn_tnmn ) or by phone to 877-358-CLTV. Follow the discussion on Twitter with @CLTVNews and use the hashtag #Uptown. All of the stories will be posted on www.wgntv.com and www.cltv.com.
Thank you for your research, Joe, and though this vintage postcard view gives the location as East Main Street, either the street was later renamed or it’s an error of source as there’s currently no Main Street in Barron.
The theatre was the BURKE between 1914 and 1925 and was renamed the CAMEO after the 1925 fire, then closed again in 1928. In 1934 it reopened as the CAMEO, then after 1937 it seems to have periodically opened and closed as the CAMEO, CHIEF and KEN before finally closing in 1945.
Banquet hall returns theater building to glory
(4/17/2013 by Melinda Tichelaar, Kenosha News)
For decades, 4902 Seventh Ave. was home to the Polish Legion of American Veterans. Before that, it was the Hollywood Theater. And long before that, it was the Butterfly Theater. Now it’s the new home of “Circa on Seventh,” a banquet hall operated by the owners of L&M Meats and Catering. L&M’s owners, Kathy and Keith Meyer, are also re-branding their formal catering business as “Culinary Infusion.”
“We love being here,” Kathy Meyer said.
PLAV bought the Hollywood Theater in the 1960s and filled in the slanted theater floor to create a banquet hall. The theater’s 22-foot ceilings were dropped down to lower heating costs. When Circa’s contractors ripped out the drop ceiling, they exposed an old movie theater balcony.
“Anyone who had been in there since the 1960s didn’t know this balcony existed,” said Hanni Gould, general manager.
Over the decades, the building’s many transformations eliminated most of the period details, but a smattering of architectural treasures have been saved. The movie theater box office that stretched to the left of the current entrance is gone now, but if you lift up the floor mats in the doorway, you can see old tiles spelling out “Butterfly.” A decorative glass holder on the bar contains dozens of ceramic insulators taken out of the walls when the old knob-and-tube electrical system was removed. And they’re still trying to figure out what to with a “corbel” (decorative molding cap) shaped like a woman’s face that was one of a dozen mounted around the theater.
The chandeliers and light fixtures are all new, but the Meyers found old pieces of the original light fixtures in storage that strongly resemble the ones they chose.
“It’s uncanny how similar they are,” Kathy Meyer said. “When people ask us if things are original, that’s when we feel the most pride.”
They also choose to install some “Edison lights,” with flickering filaments that give the space a retro feel. The women’s bathroom has a “blingy” chandelier, while the men’s restroom is a bit darker, with a large Edison light.
“We wanted it to look original without being dated,” Gould said.
The building to the south, which had been purchased by PLAV for storage, is now Circa’s banquet room. An exposed brick wall along the north side of the room is actually the exterior of the movie theater.
Since the building was originally a movie theater, it did not have windows, so the Meyers had several windows built into the second floor to bring in natural light. They installed a new, dark wood dance floor and bar. Upstairs, there’s a private “Bride’s Room” with a long makeup table, large restroom, full-length mirror and built-in refrigerator. It’s a cozy, well-lit space that allows brides and their bridesmaids a place to freshen up and escape. The window has a view of the lake.
Circa on Seventh already has hosted several private events and will be open to the public on Thursday for the Chamber of Commerce’s “Business After 5” networking event (admission $5). Gould said the price range for private, formal, catered dinners is $14 to $29, with other options available.
(From the LODI NEWS, July 2, 2011)
When it opened on Jan. 20, 1950, the Sunset Theater was a state-of-the-art 1,000-seat theater that was billed as “California’s most modern motion picture house.”
Its opening day attracted 2,000 people, a Marine color guard, high school marching band, extra police and congratulatory telegrams from John Wayne, Forrest Tucker and other actors.
Today, however, the once grand theater’s peeling paint and lonely, neglected appearance are telling signs of the building’s sad emptiness for the past 13 years. Closed in 1998, 48 years after its grand opening, the foreclosed building at 1110 W. Lodi Ave. was finally put up for auction this week. No one made a bid, and the building still sits unwanted. But in its day, the Sunset was the big attraction in Lodi. The first movie theater in Lodi was the New Ideal Motion Picture Theater, which opened on March 5, 1908 on North School Street. Over the next decade, several small theaters opened to show silent movies accompanied by piano players, but many closed quickly.
By 1928, Lodi had two well-established, popular movie theaters that played new movies with sound. The T & D Theater, later called the Lodi Theater, was on School Street, and the Tokay Theater, later called the State Theater, was located on Elm Street. By the 1940s, both theaters were owned by T & D Enterprises.
After World War II ended in 1945, Lodi grew quickly. The population expanded into new neighborhoods to the west. Businesses, once centered in the Downtown blocks, slowly began building the new innovation of the time: shopping centers. After the war, people loved their cars and wanted to park close to where they shopped. Parking Downtown was limited, so markets and other businesses began moving away from Downtown and closer to where people lived.
Just as grocery stores and other businesses were relocating, T & D Enterprises wanted to build a new theater away from Downtown.
On November 1, 1948, construction on a new theater started at 1110 W. Lodi Ave., next to the parking lot of Sunset Market, a sister store to Turnage Market located Downtown at Pine and Church streets.
The theater was built to be “one of the finest in the San Joaquin Valley,” according to the Jan. 13, 1950 Lodi News-Sentinel. It had 1,000 comfortable seats, all with a good view of the screen behind the “most modern curtain in the state.” The interior of the theater was treated with acoustic plaster to enhance the sound. The projection room featured E7 Simplex equipment, Altex Lansin Simplex Mirrophonic sound and high intensity arc lamps. The theater cost $150,000 to build.
A week before the grand opening, Don Nichols was named the Sunset Theater manager. Nichols was a Lodi native who served in the army and had been working in theaters in Merced, Lindsay and Turlock.
The grand opening was set for Friday, Jan. 20, 1950. T & D Jr. Enterprises, the company that owned all three theaters in Lodi, ran big newspaper advertisements for the Sunset’s grand opening and for movies playing Downtown at the Lodi Theater on School Street and the State Theater on Elm Street.
The gala opening of the Sunset was an event of theatrical proportions. The new Spudnut Shop, located at the theater, also held its grand opening that day. Owner Hassen Mosri gave away free coffee and Spudnuts, a kind of pastry made from dehydrated potatoes, from 2 to 4 p.m.
By the time the Sunset Theater doors opened at 6:15 p.m., there were 2,000 people gathered. Of that number, about 1,250 were in line to see the first movie, “Sands of Iwo Jima.” The crowd included executives from T & D Enterprises and city officials.
In a salute to the U.S. Marine Corps portrayed in the epic World War II battle movie, the opening had a military flair. A 14-ton amphibious tractor like the ones shown in the Republic Pictures movie was on display in front of the theater. The Marine Corps Color Guard started off the function with the flag presentation, headed by 1st Lt. Joe B. Crownover, inspector/instructor at the Naval Supply Annex in Stockton.
The Lodi Union High School Band, led by Sydney Halsey, marched down West Lodi Avenue shortly after 6:15 p.m. to begin a short concert of mostly military music, including the Marine Corps hymn.
Lodi Mayor Robert H. Rinn had the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon for a new business. In this case, however, Rinn cut a symbolic ribbon of motion picture film to open the theater. Accompanying Rinn were City Manager H. D. Weller and Don Dickey, secretary-manager of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce. With the ceremony complete, theater patrons took their seats and watched the curtain open at 7 p.m. for the first-run movie starring John Wayne.
For more than a decade, Lodi had three movie theaters. The Sunset and the Lodi Theatre showed first-run movies, and the State specialized in westerns, foreign and older films.
In the early 1960s, however, Downtown Lodi lost its vintage movie theaters.
In November 1961, Jerry Dean converted the State into a dancing hall. On June 30, 1962, the Lodi Theatre caught on fire. The theater was demolished and never rebuilt, ending a long run of 54 years of movies in Downtown Lodi.
In 1998, the Sunset Theater closed when the owner failed to make mortgage payments, and it remained empty from that time to today. Three years later, Lodi Stadium 12 Cinemas opened Downtown.
(From Vintage Lodi, a local history column that appears the first and third Saturday of the month.)
Another citizen-motivated theatre success story. Opened in December, 1935 the Art Deco RITZ Theatre was built by local attorney Calvin Poole with seats for 500 on the orchestra floor with a hardwood stage and wool carpeting from Belgium. By the 1980s, however, the geometric patterns on the walls had been covered in acoustic burlap which had begun to sag. The seats were worn, the carpeting had been removed, and the moldings and accents were covered in monochrome paint. Local citizens moved forward to restore the RITZ. Greenville bought the theatre in 1982 with the Greenville Area Arts Council promising to put sweat equity into restoration. Original monochrome photos were used, and period books suggested appropriate colors. Three months later, a stage show was produced. Then the City reroofed the RITZ and built new dressing rooms under the stage and a nine-foot extension of the stagehouse.
With a combination of grants, fundraising and city support, a new heating/cooling system and new ceiling went in over the next eight years, and then the project expanded to the two buildings flanking the RITZ for a Deco reception room with a kitchen and additional restrooms, a conference room, hardwood floors and new Art Deco light fixtures and furnishings.
The RITZ hosts several GAAC productions each season, plus recitals, school plays and similar programs in its born-again role as a civic auditorium.