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If we had known it would it would not last forever we all would have taken photos. And we might have fought harder to save some of these gems.
I was a frequent visitor to Lancaster as a child and an avid movie goer. I remember the Hamilton as a B movie house that ran a lot of horror films. It had a wonderful lobby. The lobby was narrow and long with doors leading to the auditorium at the rear. There were several grand marble pillars and a lot of mirrors in the lobby. A large concession stand was along the right wall. I do not recall the
auditorium. I visited Lancaster recently and was very sad to see this block of Queen Street without the wonderful theaters. I remember downtown Lancaster as a vibrant place full of wonderful shops and people. It was sad to see the downtown virtually deserted on a week day afternoon. The old Watt & Shand department store is now a Marriot Hotel.
I forgot to mention that the Majestic also gave “Monday Tickets"to anyone who attended a Saturday matinee. The usual matinee addmission
was 15cents but with this ticket the Monday Matinee price was only
9 cents. Since Monday was washday the mothers were happy to fork
over 9 cents to get the kids out of the house while they did the
laundry. In the 50s it was always a double bill at the "Midge"
(pronounced midgee) usually the Bowery Boys and a western. Strictly
The Majestic was the smallest of the three local theaters but had
a wonderful triangular marquee which had a stylized neon M in the
front. It also had the largest poster display a six sheet that
was literally plastered to a display board on the side of the theater.
I also recall that untill the Mid 1950s the theaters in town were
not allowed to open on Sundays. There was a city wide referendum
to decide whether or not they would be allowed to open. The local
churches ( and there were a slew of them) opposed Sunday movies. As
I recall the local Salvation Army went all out manning the polls with
coffee and donuts. Still, Sunday movies were an idea whose time had
come and the referendum passed. Sundays soon became one of the busiest days of the week for the theaters.
I forgot to mention that the Majestic would give “Monday Tickets"
to anyone attending on Saturday. The regular child addmission was
15cents for a matinee but with a Monday Ticket a kid could go for 9 cents. Since Monday was washday for the local moms they were happy to give up the 9 cents to get kids out of the way while they did
the laundry. In the late 50s it was always a double bill at the
"Midge” usually something like the Bowery Boys and a Western. Stictly B movies. The Shamokin Theaters also had student prices.
In the 50s after 5:30 the admissions were 20 cents at the Capitol
and Majestic and 21 cents at the Victoria for children. Student
price was 40 cents and required proof of status a “student card"
which was issued by the local schools. Adult fare was 65 cents.
The local newspaper did not print reviews of movies however they
did have daily columns for each theater giving highlights of what
was playing. Since these items were supplied by the local theaters
they were always positive. I also remember that there were no
Sunday movies in Shamokin until the mid 50s. There was a city wide
referendum on whether or not to allow Sunday movies. The local churchs campaigned against allowing Sunday openings for theaters.
I remember the Salvation Army was at the front of the campaign to
stop Sunday Movies. But Sunday Movies were an idea whose time had
come and the theaters won the referedum and the right to show movies
on Sundays. It was at this time that the Victoria started running
a short film encouraging church attendence. The message was "Don't
send your children to church, take them.
The Majestic was the smallest of the three local theaters but had
a beautiful triangular marquee with a big stylilized neon M in front.
It also had the largest poster display in town a 6sheet poster board
that would have posters literally plastered to it. The side of the
Victoria has 8 large display cases which featured three sheet posters
of coming attractions. In later years after the Majestic stopped showing first run films the 6 sheet board (84" x 162 inches) was used
to promote films at the Capitol.
The Hi-Way was the drive in I referred to in my earlier comments.
It was a very large and well maintained drive in with a great
concession stand. The main problem with the drive in was the fog
that often settled in making it impossible to see the screen. I
remember seeing “Five Finger Excercise” at the Hi-way in a dense
fog. The drive-in was located on a large mountain.
The Garden Theater was located on Rt. 61 which was the main steet
of Frackville. It was a large brick building with a very big
marquee. The marquee had a sign which read “Proclaimed most
comfortable, best sound in region”. This quote was not attibuted
to anyone but someone must have said it. I was never inside the theater but passed in many times on trips between Shamokin and
Pottsville. I always was sure to note what was showing whenever
I passed. The theater appears to have been built in the 1930s
as I recall it was red brick with very little trim on the exterior
but the over sized marquee was quite memorable.
There was a very popular drive-in a few miles away on the Frackville-
Ashland Highway (Rt. 61 previously rt 122) This drive in may have
been a factor in the decline of the Garden.
I hope someone with more knowledge of this theater will add to this
The Capitol Theater was an old Vaudeville theater which later
showed movies. It operated into the mid 1960s. It was owned by
The Buckley Amusement Enterprises which also owned the Majestic
Theater in Shamokin, The Elk theater in Mahonoy City and the
State Theater In Mt. Carmel, Pa.
The Capitol was one of three operating theaters in Shamokin.
The other two were the Victoria and the Majestic. The Victoria was
build in 1917 and was on the National Historic Trust Landmark
list. Several years ago the National Trust Published a book on
Movie Theaters. The Victoria was still standing at the time and
the book featured the Victoria as one of the 50 best American
Theaters still in existance. The Victoria was built as the flagship
of the Chamberlain Amusement Corporation which also operated theaters
in Mt. Carmel and Mahanoy City under the name Victoria. It was designed by a Shanokin Archtitect who went on to design many theaters
in the Philadelphia area. The Shamokin Victoria was his first. I
believe there is still a theater standing in Easton Pa that he designed.
The Capitol Theater had booking arrangements with Paramount, Universal, Columbia and Warner Brothers. The Victoria had arrangements with 20th Century, MGM, United Artists and also
shared Paramount features with the Capitol. Until the early
50s the Majestic shared MGM product with the Victoria but in
later years the Majestic showed Republic, Allied Artists, Monarch
and other B studio product.
The Capitol had a magnificent chandalier with multi colored lights.
I have been told the chandalier was destroyed in the demolition of
the theater. I have the brass poles which held the velvet ropes
that were used to control crowds in the lobby. The Capitol was a
good size theater for a small town but it was small in comparison to
the nearby Victoria. The Capitol had seating on two levels the main
floor and balcony with about four boxes. It has a beautiful gold
asbestos curtain.The 2nd floor of the building housed the office
of Dr. Marcus a local dentist and the main offices of Buckley Amusments which operated the theater.
On Saturday mornings the Capitol held “Cartoon Carnivals” They would
show several cartoons and a serial (no feature). They also showed
what I always called race films. These were live action two reelers
that featured very funny characters racing. All the characters had
number and when children entered the theater they were given tickets
with the umber 1-10 on them. The children would root for the character in the film who had their number and if their character won
they would win a small prize. I don’t know who produced these films
and I have never been able to find any reference to them in movie
books. Indeed I have never met anyone other than my cousin who
I have quite a few memories of the Shamokin Theaters I would be glad
to share with anyone who is interested.
The King Theater was located on King Street a good distance from
downtown where the Queen Street Theaters were as I recall all on
one block. I believe the King opened in the early 50s. I remember seeing the Student Prince with Mario Lanza and South Pacific there.
It was the first time I had ever seen reclining seats in a theater.
I visited an aunt in Lancaster every summer and fondly recall the
theaters on Queen Street. I believe they were the Capitol, Colony,
and I especially liked the Hamilton. The Hamilton in the 50s showed
mostly double features of B Movies. I first saw a double bill of
Frankenstein and Dracula at this theater. I remember the lobby which
I recall as being long and narrow with massive white pillars. I grew
up in Shamokin, Pa., which had three theaters but always loved going
to the movies in Lancaster. I can recall 6 theaters in Lancaster
the four on Queen Street the King and one other small neighborhood
theater. At the time I thought of Lancaster as a big city.