Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Trans-Lux Theatre on Oct 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Could this house have been an older theater operated under a different name prior to being operated by Trans-Lux? This entry in the “Theatres in Construction” column of Variety for December 1, 1926, might be the same house:

“Rye Beach, N. Y.— (Also casino). $1,000,000 Manursing Island. Owner, Westchester Parkway Commission, Bronxville, N. Y. Architects, Walker and Gillette, New York City. Policy not given.”
We have no other theaters listed on Manursing Island. If this project was carried out, and it wasn’t the same theater as the Trans-Lux, then we are missing a theater in Rye, but I haven’t been able to discover its name.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about New Park Cinemas on Oct 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

As the only theater in Roselle Park, and with an organ having been installed in 1927, the Park Theatre must have been this project noted in the “Theatres in Construction” column of Variety for December 1, 1926:

“Roselle Park, N. J. — (Also stores, offices). $200,000. Westfleld avenue. Owners. D. Bender and N. Goldine, care of architect, Wm. Friedberg, Newark. N. J. Policy not given.”
Architect Willaim Friedberg opened his office in Newark in 1922, but I’ve been unable to find out anything else about him.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Harvard Square Theatre on Oct 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Here is the article about the recently-opened University Theatre that appeared in the November 20, 1926, issue of Motion Picture News:

“Harvard Welcomes the New University Theatre

“Advance of Pictures Overcomes Opposition and a Playhouse Opens on Harvard Square

“WITH the opening of the University Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass., this week, Harvard University, oldest university in America, for the first time in its 290 years, has a theatre within its shadows. For years attempts have been made to secure permission to erect a theatre in Harvard Square, but opposition from business men and university faculty inevitably defeated the plans.

“Realizing the wonderful advance made in motion pictures and the importance of the position occupied by motion picture theatres, the conservatism which has kept theatres away from Harvard University has given way to a remarkable welcome to the new University Theatre and to its owners, Charles E. Hatfield, treasurer of Middlesex County and president of the University Theatre Co.; Lindsey Hooper, Boston financier, and Stanley Sumner, managing director of the new playhouse through whose efforts the company was organized and the theatre erected. Mr. Sumner’s success as owner of the Community Theatre in Newton, Mass., and other playhouses places him among the leading active theatre owners in New England.

“One of the features of the new University Theatre will be the showing of Harvard football game films the evening of the same day of the game. This has been made possible through arrangements made with the Pathe News.

“Co-operates With University

“The University Theatre aims to co-operate with Harvard officials, with the Harvard Dramatic organizations and other Harvard clubs, giving a type of entertainment which will appeal to Harvard students as well as to the public and providing a means in Cambridge, for the first time, for Harvard students to present dramatics. From its location the theatre Mill draw its audiences not only from Cambridge and Harvard University, but from a dozen towns bordering Harvard Square, which have direct traffic communication to this important transfer center.

“Although the theatre is now open, some of the finishing touches remain to be completed. At the invitation opening of the theatre many officials, Harvard faculty members, and those prominent in the film business were present. The opening was scheduled for eight o'clock. Not until three o'clock was work started removing the stagings inside the theatre; not until six o'clock were the first tests made with the projection equipment. The seating of the theatre was being completed as the first of the audience arrived. Yet so smoothly was the program carried out that the audience, had it not been otherwise informed, would have thought the entire program had been rehearsed until finished. The curtain, reproducing the famous painting of Washington taking command of the Continental Army on Cambridge Common, has not been completed and will be shown later. It is 33 feet long and 17 feet 4 inches high.

“Beauty of Design and Decoration

“The theatre is of the Italian Renaissance period of architecture, inspiration for it coming from the Davangatti Palace in Florence, Italy. Walls of the lobby are of imported traverline and even the ticket booth is suggestive of the windows of some dark-eyed senorita of old. The decorative scheme is a rather free adaptation of blending of the modern with the Italian and Pompeian. Carpetings were specially designed to give harmonious setting to the furnishings.

“In the seating, an advance has been made towards comfort of patrons. The seats, specially designed, are slightly higher than the customary seat and with a little more backward tilt, and heavily upholstered, adding materially to the comfort of the patron, whether short or tall.

“The house seats 1,915. It has a single balcony of cantilever type. The ladies' room is finished in Georgian style, giving a restful effect. Lighting fixtures throughout the house are a combination of wrought iron and brass and there is an emergency current supply from batteries, should the commercial circuit be closed for any purpose for a short time.

“Special attention has been given the projection room, which is patterned after that of the Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, except that it is located above the rear of the balcony.

“The policy calls for complete changes of program Sundays and Wednesdays, with Pathe News, comedy and two feature pictures, one stage presentation, and an orchestra and organ. Performances will be continuous, with three complete performances daily. Seats are reserved only for the evening performance.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Davidson Theatre on Oct 1, 2014 at 10:40 am

I don’t know the exact address of the opera house itself, but the building it is in is at 2 N.Main Street. The First National Bank-Davidson Opera House building is a contributing structure in the Fort Scott Downtown Historic District. The Davidson Opera House was an upstairs theater with 800 seats, opened on January 1, 1875.

An article in the January 2, 1915, issue of The Fort Scott Tribune said that the previous night’s concert by the Washington University Glee and Mandolin Club was probably the last event the theater would ever host. It took place on the 40th anniversary of the opening. The space the theater had occupied was filled in with offices that year. Fort Scott then had no theater suitable for road attractions until the Liberty opened in 1919, though there were four moving picture theaters in operation during that time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Orpheum Theatre on Sep 30, 2014 at 9:03 pm

An announcement that construction contracts had been let for a 1,400-seat theater at Five Corners, Jersey City, designed by William McElfatrick, appeared in the January 15, 1910, issue of Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. The project was probably the Orpheum, and was probably completed well before the end of 1910.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Liberty Theatre on Sep 30, 2014 at 12:49 pm

The July 2, 1919, issue of The Fort Scott Tribune told of the successful opening of the new Liberty Theatre the previous night. The June 30 issue of the paper had said that the new theater, owned by H. L. Stout, had taken nearly a year to complete due to the difficulty of obtaining structural steel during and after the war.

The Liberty occupied an 1889 commercial building that had been gutted and the interior completely rebuilt into an 800 seat theater with complete stage facilities. Mr. Stout’s intention was to operate the Liberty primarily as a movie house, but he had also arranged to present stage productions provided by the Klaw & Erlinger and Shubert syndicates.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Baden Theatre on Sep 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

The Internet provides quite a few references to Theodore Steinmeyer, architect of the Baden Theatre, but every other project mentioned is a church. In Google street view, the Baden Theatre building shows a sign that says “St. Louis Worship Center & Banquet Hall.” It must have been preordained.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Palace Theatre on Sep 30, 2014 at 9:35 am

A timeline of events at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nokomis on this web page says that the church bought the pipe organ from the Palace Theatre for $250.00 in 1931. The organ was rebuilt to make it suitable for church services, but no details about it are given. A new organ was installed in 1971. The subsequent fate of the old organ is not revealed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Malco Theater on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm

The Malco Theatre was built in 1944, according to a 2013 document about the Cherry Street Historic District (PDF here.) However, this web page (which features a list of upcoming events at the theater) says that it was built “…around the 1930s.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Paramount Theatre on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:33 pm

The Paramount has not been demolished. It was in the building with the beige brick front and a bit of Spanish Colonial Revival detailing, next to the grassy lot on the corner of Righter Street. It is occupied by a facility of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Paramount Theatre on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:28 pm

A pamphlet with information about historic buildings in Helena (PDF here) says that the Paramount Theatre opened ca. 1920 as the Jewell Theatre and was originally operated by Saenger Amusements. The Jewel Theatre (with one “l”) was mentioned in the July 13, 1918, issue of Exhibitors Herald and Motography on a list of houses served by the United Picture Theatres of American booking syndicate.

The January 15, 1924, issue of The Film Daily reported that the Jewel Theatre in Helena was being remodeled. The name was changed to Paramount sometime between then and 1931, when the May 20 issue of The Film Daily reported that the Paramount Theatre in Helena, Arkansas, had been sold to Malco Theatre by Publix. An earlier issue had said that Publix was selling both the Paramount and the Pastime Theatres in Helena.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Daisy Theatre on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm

The Daisy Theatre was remodeled in 1938 with plans by architect J. Lloyd Allen of Allen & Kelley (John R. Kelley.) The Drawings and Documents Archive at Ball State University has two sheets of preliminary plans and eight sheets of working drawings of the project.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Princess Theater on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Because the Masonic Ldoge building looks like it was built all at once, and it was quite new in 1920, this item from the January 17, 1920, issue of Exhibitors Herald has be wondering if the Princess Theatre started out in a different location and later moved into the Masonic building:

“To Remodel Princess

“RUSHVILLE, IND.— Walter F. Easley, manager and owner of the Princess theatre, has purchased the adjoining building which has been occupied by a bowling alley and will enlarge and reconstruct the Princess to take in the ground thus acquired. Work will be begun January 19, plans necessitating the closing of the house for six weeks or two months while reconstruction is in progress.”

If the Princess was elsewhere in 1920, the theater in the Masonic building might have operated under a different name in its early years. Theater names I’ve found that were used in Rushville, Indiana, over the years are the Gem, the Vaudette, the Portola, the Mystic, and the Castle.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Tree Theatre on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Ball State University’s Drawings and Documents archive has seven drawing and a blueprint of a theater built at Greensburg for Walter F. Easley in 1939. The architect was J. Lloyd Allen of the Indianapolis firm Allen & Kelley (John R. Kelley.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Plains Theatre on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:28 am

ronkukal: I was actually researching a theater in Rushville, Missouri, and came across that item, as well as items from Rushville, Indiana and Rushville, Illinois, all three of which had theaters called the Princess (Ohio and New York also have Rushvilles, but neither of them had a Princess Theatre.)

The earliest mentions of the Essaness Theatre that I’ve found are in various issues of Exhibitors Herald in 1920, when operator T. C. Shipley frequently sent the magazine capsule reviews of movies he had shown. Later, there is an item datelined Rushville, Neb., in the July 16, 1926, issue of The Film Daily which says “Francis McFarland and Charles Evans are new owners of the Essaness.”

I’ve also come across this web page which has several photos showing the Gourley Opera House and, a bit father down, the Plains Theatre in 1949. It looks as though an entirely new front was put on the building in the 1938 remodeling, along with the first marquee it ever had.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Theatre St. Francis on Sep 28, 2014 at 2:52 pm

I still haven’t found any evidence that N. L. Josey was an architect, despite the attribution in the article in The Moving Picture World that Tinseltoes linked to. I’ve not found his name connected with any other buildings, nor does it appear in any available database of architects. The only period reference to Josey as an architect I’ve seen is the one in the MPW article. An earlier item from MPW, as well as items in Variety and The Music Trade Review from 1916, say that N. L. Josey was building a theater on Geary Street, but don’t mention an architect. An item in MPW of January 6, 1917, indicates that Josey was the owner of the Theatre St. Francis, though apparently he was not a very successful businessman:

“Creditors in Charge of Theater St. Francis.

“San Francisco, Cal. — The Theater St. Francis, which was opened last October by N. L. Josey, is now in the hands of creditors. A meeting of these was held a few days ago in the offices of Attorney Leo Kaufman and a committee was appointed to look out for their interests. Charles A. Rosenthal, Jr., who has been manager of the house since it was opened, will continue in this capacity.”

While Josey was probably not an architect, and the plans for the Theatre St. Francis probably were actually prepared by Alfred Henry Jacobs, as indicated in the article from The Architect and Engineer of California I cited in an earlier comment, it is also likely that Josey had a lot of input into the design of the theater. This is indicated by an article about the house that ran in San Francisco’s weekly journal of literature, art, and culture, The Argonaut in late September, 1916:
“The New Theatre St. Francis.

“When the Theatre St. Francis opens on Monday evening, October 2d, at 8 o'clock, citizens of San Francisco will see the first theatre in America that is not a theatre—that is, not a theatre in the commonly accepted sense. The St. Francis, from tile pavement to projection-room, and from double roof to basement music library, is a pioneer as a perfect photoplay house—designed and built scientifically for the best showing of the silent art of the screen.

N. L. Josey, the man behind the St. Francis, knew there were very many reasons why the old type of theatre wasn’t exactly suitable for photoplay shows, so he set out, with scientific mind, to invent a new type of ‘theatre’ which would best suit the one and only purpose: to present, in the best possible manner, screen productions and only screen productions. The result of his work, and the proof of his science, is the Theatre St. Francis, at the corner of Geary and Powell Streets.

Unique features and innovations abound. The sidewalk itself in front of the theatre is an area of two-toned tiles, laid in a pleasing geometric design. The lobby is of fair size, with ticket booths at the sides—thus leaving plenty of room to pass in and out of the theatre. The entire façade of the theatre consists of an immense window of photographer’s glass, around which a stained-glass border runs, the whole set in a concrete ‘front’ embellished with art nouveau modelings. On this window can be projected, from behind the glass, colored effects or pictures.

Again, the St. Francis is a ‘reversed’ theatre—that is, patrons in facing the screen also face the street, as the mammoth screen is behind that beautiful glass façade. So in passing into the auditorium to see the photo-play the seats reached first are the ones closest to the screen. Although the building is even better than Class A for fireproof construction, still in the event of panic the entire house can be emptied in two minutes, because it is built to save time whether one is entering or leaving. Stretching back on a comfortable incline are rows of especially comfortable chairs. And the seats in the balcony are just the same as those downstairs, although the admission prices are lower for the balcony. The mezzanine floor contains the ladies' rest room and the gentlemen’s retiring room —both of these fitted up in the best possible manner for convenience and comfort.

The interior decoration is absolutely new in America, as far as large buildings are concerned, being l'art nouveau throughout, soft colorings and simple treatments. New standards have been adopted, in order to make the Theatre St. Francis the only one of its class in the United States. Heating apparatus is provided for cool days and nights, the air itself being warmed as it enters the theatre. The floor coverings are of the best soft colored velvets. Bubbling drinking fountains are placed handy to all parts of the house.

And the policy of the house is in keeping with its structural beauty. Manager Rosenthal and his co-workers decided long before the ground was broken that no so-called sex dramas or other pathological or harmful photoplays would ever be shown at the St. Francis. The sign, ‘No one under sixteen admitted,’ will never be seen at the St. Francis box-office, because the scheduled plays are of a class that that sign does not apply to. There will be frequent changes of programme, the prices will be moderate, and there will be a section where seats can be reserved. Only first-run pictures will be shown. The opening attraction will be ‘Ashes of Embers,’ with Miss Pauline Fredericks in the stellar role. Music under direction of Messrs. Jaulus and Polak—the former on opening night.“

I’ll keep looking for any information indicating that N. L. Josey was an architect, but I don’t really expect to find any. I’ll also keep an eye out for at least one more source connecting Alfred Henry Jacobs to the Theatre St. Francis. I think that’s more likely to exist.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Columbia Theatre on Sep 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

The organ under which the 1918 fire started must have been the one the October 30, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World said had recently been installed:

“The Columbia theater in Erie, Pa., recently installed one of the largest pipe organs in the United States. It is a 4-manual console, with choir, swell, great and pedestal organ, with an echo organ in the balcony. It has 2,600 pipes and is operated electrically from the pit. The work of installing was done by the Tellers Simerhof Organ Company, of Erie, Pa.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gem Theater on Sep 28, 2014 at 12:20 am

The October 2, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World said that the Gem Theatre in Erie had opened the previous week. It described the house as “…one of the most beautiful and up-to-date theaters in the city….” and added that it was owned by Joseph and George Seyboldt of Titusville, Pa.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Robins Theatre on Sep 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Now I have to question my assumption that the 1922 project cited in my previous comment was in fact the Butler Theatre. The problem is a photo of the McKinley Theatre in this PDF from the Niles Historical Society.

The McKinley was an old building, probably dating from the early 1920s, so there’s a very good chance that it was the 1922 project after all, despite all the items in issues The Film Daily from 1937 suggesting that it was new at that time.

If the 1922 project was the McKinley, then two new theaters opened in Niles that year. All I can pin down about the Robins Theatre for now is that it opened in 1922 as the Butler Theatre, had been renamed the Robins Theatre by the 1950s, and the building is still standing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Robins Theatre on Sep 27, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Although the photo we have of this theater shows the name Robins on the marquee, for some reason CinemaTour has it listed as the Butler Theatre, with the address 40 S.Main Street. Photos by Adam Martin from June, 2011, on this page show that it is the same building, but CinemaTour is missing the aka Robins Theatre.

In any case, the Robins did indeed open as the Butler Theatre in 1922, when it was mentioned in the June 22 issue of Iron Age, which said that “[t]he new theater at Niles, Ohio, has been named the Butler Theater in honor of J. G. Butler, Jr., vice-president Brier Hill Steel Co., Youngstown, Ohio.”

I haven’t found out when the name was changed to Robins Theatre, but the newest car in the postcard photo looks to date from about 1950, so it must have happened by the early 1950s. It also seems unlikely that this house was ever called the McKinley Theatre, although it is very likely that it was the house built by the McKinley Theatre Company in 1922, recorded in this item from the February 25 issue of The American Contractor:

“Contracts Awarded. Niles, O.—Theater & Office Bldg.: Abt. $150,000. 2 sty. 175x63. Niles. Archt. Simon Birttain & English, 336 4th av., Pittsburgh, Pa. Owner McKinley Theater Co., L. R. Edwards, supt., Robins av., Niles. Gen. contr. for substructure & superstructure let to Vasconi Bros., Sharon, Pa. Brk. mas. by gen. contr.; materials purchased. Carp, work to Harry Edwards, Niles. Htg. & plmg. to Mundon Htg. & Plmg. Co., Sharon. Elec. wiring to Elec. Service Co., Sharon. Rfg. to Dalzell Bros., Holmes St., Youngstown. Ptg. to Scott & Fitch, Niles. On brk. wk.”
The correct name of the architectural firm, as I noted earlier, was Simons, Brittain, & English.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Strand Theatre on Sep 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

The September 8, 1915, issue of The Music Trade Review had this item: “A $75,000 moving picture theater, which will be known as the Strand, is being erected on State street, Erie.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about State Theatre on Sep 27, 2014 at 10:27 am

This 1918 list of Erie’s theaters has a Nixon Theatre listed at 1115 State Street. This was surely one of Samuel F. Nixon’s theaters, and thus probably fairly good sized, like the State. As the Nixon probably covered at least two lots, 1115 and 1117, I suspect that it was the same house that later became the Rialto and then the State.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Princess Theatre on Sep 27, 2014 at 9:55 am

This web page at Old Time Erie has a ca. 1912 postcard view of the 1100 block of State Street, with the three small houses of “Theater Row” on the right: the Princess at 1109, the Grand at 1111, and the Star at 1113. The Princess is the only one of the three that remains on this 1918 list of Erie’s theaters, but the buildings all three houses occupied are still standing in 2014.

Out of camera view is 1115 State, which, on the 1918 list, is the address of a house called the Nixon Theatre. I don’t know if the Nixon was in operation when the photo was made and just didn’t get included in it, or if it was opened after the photo was made. The Nixon might have been the house later known as the State Theatre, which we have listed at 1117 State.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garden Theatre on Sep 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The August 14, 1907, issue of The San Francisco Call reported that W. F. Powning intended to convert his skating rink at suburban San Rafael into a theater. An item in the February 10, 1910, issue of the Sausalito News identified W. F. Powning as the proprietor the the Garden Theatre in San Rafael.

The Garden Theatre was still in existence at least as late as 1920, but does not appear to have operated primarily as a movie house. In its later years it hosted a number of balls and dances, so it might never have had a sloped floor. Other events mentioned at the Garden Theatre included concerts, lectures, prize fights, and school graduation ceremonies, as well as plays, both professional and amateur.

The end of the Garden’s life as a movie house might have been hastened by the opening in 1912 of the second Lyric Theatre, the first theater in San Rafael built specifically for showing movies.

One movie at the Garden was abruptly canceled on July 30, 1912, when the owner of the picture company presenting the show absconded with the company’s funds. The nearly-dire consequences of his deed were recounted in the following day’s edition of The San Francisco Call:


“Owner of Outfit Leaves for Other Scenes and Employes Extinguish Light

“[Special Dispatch to The Call] SAN RAFAEL. July 30.—In lieu of the moving picture show of ‘Dante’s Inferno’ scheduled for the Garden theater tonight, the drama was enacted by the audience in a realistic fashion for a short time, the crowd of 300 persons in the hall jamming the exits in a mad effort to escape, and throwing chairs about after a cry of ‘fire,’ when the lights went out.

“Three women fainted and a number of others were bruised by flying chairs before the police arrived and got the audience out in safety. It was then found that the continued reminder of the life to come had so affected the mind of R. Moorhead, the owner of the picture company, that he found a change of atmosphere necessary, incidentally taking all the funds of the show with him.

“When the audience, which included prominent residents of San Rafael, assembled for the performance the remaining members of the picture outfit decided that they would not give a show, and soon afterward the lights went out.

“The operator of the moving picture machine was arrested. He refused to give his name.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gate Theater on Sep 26, 2014 at 12:30 pm

The obituary of John Elliott in the January 20, 1917, issue of the Suasalito News said that he had built and operated the Princess Theatre. An item from the February 6, 1915, issue of the same paper had said that Elliott would open the Princess about April 1. He had previously operated the Swastika Theatre since 1913.