Comments from Joe Vogel

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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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rafael Film Center on Sep 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I now know that the Orpheus Theatre was not the house built for the American-Irish Players Company in 1918. In fact, that project might never have been carried out. Articles in various Marin County newspapers from the 1920s through the 1960s indicate that the Orpheus was built by the Tunstead estate in 1919 and leased to Max Blumenfeld and Sam Gordon before it was completed. An item in the May 3, 1919, issue of The Moving Picture World had these lines:

“These same architects [Reid Brothers] are working on plans for a 1,500-seat house to be erected at San Rafael, a suburb of San Francisco. This theatre, which will cost about $125,000, has been leased to Max Blumenfeld and Sam Gordon for a period of twenty years.”
The opening of the Orpehus Theatre on January 21, 1920, was recorded in this article from the following day’s edition of the Marin Journal

Several sources say that the 1938 rebuilding of the Orpheus as the Rafael Theatre was designed by S. Charles Lee. That could be the case, but the Rafael dates from the period when a number of northern California theaters were designed by the unlicensed William B. David and his plans were signed by other architects, including Lee in some cases, so there is some possibility that the Rafael was one of David’s designs. He designed several projects for Blumenfeld over the years.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gate Theater on Sep 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

The October 16, 1915, issue of the Sausalito News listed the upcoming movies at the Princess Theatre:


Sausalito Special Feature Nights, week Commencing October 18, 1915. TUESDAY, OCT. 19th, 1915 A Paramount entitled The Country Boy, in 5 reels. WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY — The Diamond From the Sky, changed from Mondays. FRIDAY, OCT. 22, 1915 A Paramount entitled Pretty Mrs. Smith, 5 reels. SUNDAY, OCT. 24th, 1915 The Goddess, 13th chapter. On Tuesdays and Fridays the prices for adults is 15 cents. Children 5c at all performances.“

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rafael Film Center on Sep 26, 2014 at 8:58 am

An ad for the Orpheus Theatre in the February 5, 1920, issue of The Marin Journal specifies that the house had a Seeburg-Smith organ.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Packer Theatre on Sep 26, 2014 at 8:19 am

In 1916, the February 12 issue of The Moving Picture World mentioned both the Grand and Colonial Theatres in Green Bay in one paragraph. They were apparently under the same management, as the item said: “The Triangle program was switched to the Colonial in Green Bay, Wis., while ‘The Birth of a Nation’ was at the Grand.”

If the two houses were owned by the same company it’s possible that both theater names would have appeared on the company letterhead, in which case the organ might have been installed in either house. The Colonial was an older house, in operation by 1913, and slightly smaller at 650 seats, but I haven’t found an address for it, nor do I know its fate.

There are a couple of references to an Edward Benjli who was the organist at the Colonial in the early 1920s (he later became manager of both the Colonial and the Grand) so the Colonial definitely had an organ. Both the Grand and Colonial were Fox Midwesco houses by the late 1920s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Hillcrest Theater on Sep 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Despite a slight address discrepancy, the Hippodrome was probably the project noted in the August 7, 1915, issue of The Music Trade Review: “A new moving picture theater will be erected at 2509 Peach street, Erie, for D. A. Billig.” A Mr. D. E. “Billie” (Billig was apparently the correct name, as it appears in several other sources) was noted as operator of the Hippodrome Theatre at Erie in the February 26, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World. The house must have opened in late 1915 or early 1916.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gem Theater on Sep 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm

The Gem Theatre at 552 W. Fourth Street, Erie, Pennsylvania, opened in 1915, according to an announcement in the October 9 issue of The Music Trade Review.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Folly Theater on Sep 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm

The Folly Theatre is on a 1918 list of Erie’s theaters that can be found on this page at Old Time Erie, though the address is given as 648 W. 26th Street. The May 22, 1915, issue of The Music Trade Reviewnoted that the Folly Theatre in Erie had just opened. It, too, gives the old address of 648 26th Street.

This web page has a biographical sketch of B. G. Neyland, published in 1925. It says that he founded the Folly Theatre at 654 W. 26th Street in 1915, so the address was changed sometime between 1915 and 1925.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Avenue Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 6:17 pm

The East Avenue Theatre, at 801 East Avenue, is on a 1918 list of Erie’s theaters that can be found on this page at Old Time Erie.