Comments from Joe Vogel

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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:

“‘FIRE’ CAUSES PANIC AT PICTURE SHOW

“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:

“PRINCESS THEATER

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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about American Theater on Sep 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

The American Picture Playhouse, 510 w. 18th St., is on a 1918 list that can be found on this page of Old Time Erie.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Colonial Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

A Twentieth Century History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, by John Miller, didn’t cover much of the twentieth century, as it was published in 1909, but it was able to note the origin of the Colonial Theatre, which opened that year:

“Early in 1909 A. P. Weschler, a prominent real estate dealer, bought of the Church of Christ the building that for years had been known as the Tabernacle. Although it was built for church purposes, in appearance, both inside and out, it was as unlike the traditional church as possible. The floor was of the amphitheatre form or style; the rostrum or platform was in reality a stage, and it was provided with a gallery. There was therefore but little reconstruction necessary, and before the spring was over the Colonial Theatre had been dedicated as an addition to Erie’s playhouses, to be devoted to the vaudeville line.”
Although it was mentioned in The Moving Picture World at least as early as July 31, 1915, the Colonial sometimes offered two-a-day vaudeville shows for many years. Variety of September 20, 1918, reported:
“The Colonial, Erie, Pa., booked by the United Booking Offices, is the only house now there playing regular vaudeville. The Majestic, last season booked through the Loew Circuit, has taken up another policy.”
There were listings in Variety for vaudeville shows at the Colonial at least as late as 1923.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Shea's Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm

This post at Old Time Erie says that Shea’s was also known as the Perry Theatre. The December 3, 1921, issue of Exhibitors Trade Review had an announcement that Rowland & Clark had recently opened their Perry Theatre in Erie. I haven’t yet discovered when it became Shea’s.

I’ve been doing a Google image search for theaters designed by J. B. McElfatrick to see if there are others resembling the Majestic, but I’ve found none that are very close. It’s remarkable how varied his designs were.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Columbia Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm

The Columbia Theatre opened in 1909 as the Alpha House (a 1910 issue of Variety calls it the Alpha Theatre) at 812 State Street, according to a 1962 book, Erie, a History, by Herbert Reynolds Spencer, which also said that the entrance was moved to the 8th Street side of the building when the house was renamed.

The 1913-1914 Cahn guide lists the Columbia Theatre in Erie as a ground-floor house with 1,354 seats. It was being operated by Colonial Enterprises Co., also operating the smaller Colonial Theatre in Erie. The Columbia was playing Gus Sun vaudeville. By 1917, the Columbia was a movie house, and was mentioned a few times in the trade publications.

The August, 1918, issue of Safety Engineering reported that a fire on May 18 had severely damaged the Columbia Theatre. The fire was of electrical origin and started in the basement under the organ. The building and contents were valued at $75,000, and property loss was $30,000. The theater was described as being “…back from street, and surrounded by other buildings,” so it sounds as though the auditorium had been shoehorned into the middle of a block of existing structures.

I haven’t found anything about the rebuilding of the Columbia after the fire, but the house was mentioned fairly often in the trade publications from 1919 on, and in the 1940s the house hosted a number of live music acts, mentioned in various issues of The Billboard.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Shea's Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm

A twentieth century history of Erie County, Pennsylvania, by J. Miller, says that the Majestic Theatre was dedicated on January 28, 1904. It was designed by architect J. B. McElfatrick.

In 1907 the house was sold to Moses Reis, who continued the original policy of legitimate stage productions. By 1912, the theater had been transferred to the Shuberts.

The earliest mention of movies at the Majestic I’ve found is from the September 16, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World, which said the house had been reopened by O. A. Potter with a policy of vaudeville and moving pictures.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Shea's Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 11:52 am

DesR: to add a photo to Cinema Treasures click on the “Photos” button (between “Overview” and “Comments”) above; on the photo page, scroll down and click the “Add New Photo” button; on the next page, click the “choose” button and select from the menu that appears the file of your photo wherever you have it stored on your computer. The file’s name should automatically appear in the adjacent box when you click on it. Adding a title and description are optional. Then click the “Upload Photo” button. License will default to “Creative Commons (Attribution)” but if you want a different one select it from the drop-down menu.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fox Tower Theater on Sep 25, 2014 at 1:09 am

I just stumbled across a very interesting map prepared by Fox Midwest Theatres in 1950. It shows all the theaters in the greater Kansas City area, and the legend lists all the theaters by their clearance zones. It can be seen online at this link.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Princess Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 12:58 am

There are towns called Rushville in Ohio and New York, too, but I’ve been unable to discover if either of them ever had a movie theater. If either did, I’m hoping it was called the Princess.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Plains Theatre on Sep 25, 2014 at 12:12 am

The July 2, 1938, issue of The Film Daily had this item about the modernization of the Essaness Theatre:

“Rushville Publisher-Exhib. Will Modernize Theater

“Denver — William Barnes, who also publishes the newspaper at Rushville, Neb., has bought the Essaness Theater there, and as a part of his remodeling job has ordered from the National Theater Supply Co. two new Simplex Acme sound projectors, a Walker White sound screen, new carpet and padding as well as new Ezy rug mats.”

Another item in the same issue noted the name change to Plains Theatre:
“The Esseness Theater at Rush- ville, Neb., has been changed to the Plains, and has been taken over by William Barnes from John C. Gates.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about State Theatre on Sep 24, 2014 at 11:13 pm

I’m a bit puzzled by this item from the July 16, 1926, issue of The Film Daily:

“Martinez House Opens Martinez, Cal — The Martinez, a West Coast Theaters, Inc., house, has opened.”
Was this the State? I know that West Coast took over the original Turner & Dahnken circuit sometime in the 1920s, and that the later T&D Jr. circuit later took over a number of West Coast houses in northern and central California, but I’ve never found the exact dates of these events.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Princess Theater on Sep 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm

The “Theater Changes” column of the October 4, 1937, issue of The Film Daily reported the change of name of the movie theater at Rushville, Illinois, from Princess to Lloyd.