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I was a regular attendee of the Parker Square for practically its entire brief lifespan. In 1958 I was 10 years old and lived fairly nearby in Country Club. I recall it being a free-standing building. The auditorium had no overhanging balcony but may have had a raised section of loge seats in the rear. At that time most of the downtown theatres were still thriving (the Wichita, Strand, State, and Tower)so I would never have gone to the PS out of sheer habit but rather to see a particular film, and I would have to consult the listings in the newspaper of that day to remember most of them by title. The only other impetus for me to want to go to Parker Square then would have been to go to the book department at McClurkan’s Department Store (where a kindly saleslady alerted me to the option of special orders – my life hasn’t been the same since!).
Thanks, Joe. I’m still in 1915 and it’s going to take me awhile to get to the late 1940s! The building still boasts a stage fly and also upstairs windows along the east side in a style reminiscent of the teens (which made me think it had merely been gutted and not entirely deomolished). The front upstairs now has a large window, apparently being the new offices of Greer Enterprises.
The 700-seat capacity was also that of the Paris by WWII, apparently after a reseating. Its original capacity was claimed to be 1050 (with the narrow theatre seats then the style).
I neglected to add that the Paris' opening night film in 1914 was Thomas Ince’s “The Wrath of the Gods”, starring Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, and Frank Borzage (later the well-known director). Initially the Paris had distribution agreements with Keystone, American Film Mfg, Kay-Bee, Reliance, and Thanhouser.
The Paris Theatre opened in 1914, not 1925. According to an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican shortly afterwards its seating capacity was claimed to be 1050. Photographs of it in its earlier years are hard to come by, only one exterior from about 1945 and no interiors. During the silent era it was Santa Fe’s premiere movie theatre, after a period of competition with the smaller Elks Theatre (later Kys and later Rialto). It was equipped with a Wurlitzer organ, size unkown. It was the site of Santa Fe’s talkie debut in 1929 (Universal’s “Broadway”). Built originally by local merchant/entrepreneur Nathan Salmon, whose family (Salmon/Greer) were Lebanese immigrants and who operated it, as well as their later and larger Lensic Theatre into the post WWII era. Closed in 1972 and remodeled as a disco, which failed. Reopened as a commercial art house in the 1980s before closing for good as a theatre in 1990. The building’s exterior is still intact except for any trace of the original facade and nothing of the interior, which has been commercial retail space ever since (now Coldwater Creek).
Maybe what killed the Parker Square was the fact that it was a single screen house. Seating capacity was around 600, maybe bigger.
No, the Parker Square and the Roxy were two different places. The Roxy would have been in the neighborhood north of Kell Boulevard somewhere in the vicinity of Zundelowitz Jr. High School. Parker Square was entered on the south side of Kell somewhere west of Taft Street. I was a regular attendee of the Parker Square Theatre up to 1962. Like the rest of the shopping center it was built to cater to the Country Club district. This was before Sikes Center. I don’t recall the Roxy at all, so it may have ceased operations before the late 1950s when I became an active moviegoer. What Department store later occupied the Parker Square Theatres space? I think there was already a McClurkan’s in the center. Perkins Timberlake perhaps?
I saw “The Mask” too and remember that damned tiled head as just about the scariest thing! That would probably have been at the Strand or State (where you could go afterwards to Thomas’s across the street and load up on fake vomit and other childhood delights of the era).It’s possible I may have seen “Hondo” in 3-D, but when I saw the recent restoration at the Academy I remembered nothing about it.I also doubt if the Wichita’s booth could accomodate four interlocked projectors. Dallas' Cinerama house was the Capri (ex-Melba) downtown.
Well, you could be right. Was “How the West was Won” one of them? That was filmed in Cinerama but exhibited in single-strip 70mm Ultra Panavision.I caught it at the Ridglea in Fort Worth, a house similar in size and layout to the Wichita.
The marquee of the Pilgrim is prominently featured in the new hit documentary feature “Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story” which won Best Documentary at the AFI Fest in LA yesterday. Does anybody remember attending one of Castle’s famous gimmick events there? “The Tingler” (1959) was the one with the famous butt-buzzing wired seats.
Ah, as I was saying.
What ho, James!
We did, on the other hand, have a first-rate faculty advisor for the Trinity Film Society, Larry Stires, God bless him! I can remember during that first season we ran, for some unaccountable reason, a B&W print of Alexander Korda’s “The Thief of Bagdad”, and periodically throughout it, Larry would exclaim, “Ah, but you should see this in Technicolor!”
The 1908 opening date may refer to an earlier theatre on the same site. Its clipping file at the Wichita County Historical Society is vague as to whether the present theatre was a rebuild or simply a remodeling circa 1941.My earliest memory of it is “This Island Earth” (I think) in 1955. It had no orchestra pit or organ.
Not exactly the big time, was it? It was probably in that same 700 block area and may have been renamed sometime later. The Gem was WF’s first purpose-built theatre, that is not adapted from a storefront.That part of town was probably quite raffish then, what with all the newly rich wildcatters.The train station was on Ohio St, near the Gem, and NE of it, on the other side of the tracks was what in those days was called “Colored Town”.
OK, recheck your FDYs to confirm the address for the State. It should be on Scott St next to the Strand.
Many thanks, Ken. This is a real eye-opener. Ohio, Indiana, and Scott Streets are major north-south streets downtown. I can make preliminary entries on the Strand, State, Tower, Gem, and Majestic. I’ve never heard of the others.The Azteca was probably part of that chain that ran Mexican movies all over the Southwest and as far north as Denver.Do you have a later FDY circa 1960? My dad, J.C. Man Jr was a WF native and would have known all of these.
I provided some information in my comments on the Wichita Theatre. I’ll need a Film Daily for more details for actually listing them.I also don’t have access to my clipping file kindly provided by Leta Watson of the Wichita County Historical Society. The biggest theatre in town, Memorial Auditorium, built in the 1920s during the Burkburnett oil boom had/has about 2000 seats and has functioned primarily as a concert hall and venue for opera and touring shows. But it could also run movies. I 1956 I was one of the hundreds of school kids taken there to a special screening of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”. That was a trip! I thought Mr. DeMille was God.
Interesting. That might make it WF’s first neighborhood theatre. WF High School and Zundelowitz (“Zundy”) Jr High are both near there too.Probably it subsisted on Saturday shoot-em-ups and was killed off when they were by television.Do your Film Dailies list any other small houses that aren’t downtown, i.e. on Scott, Indiana, or Ohio Streets? Parker Square Shopping Center had a single screen house of about 600-800 seats when it opened in the late 1950s on Kell Blvd. If the Roxy was still in business then that would definitely have killed it.
Does Ken know when the Roxy operated? I lived in Wichita Falls from 1948 to 1967 and have never heard of it. I also attended Zundelowitz Jr High in 1961-62, which is in that neighborhood. I must say, for a 300-seat fleapit to call itself the “Roxy” is the height of Texas bragadoccio! The lady at the WF historical society sent me xeroxes of their clipping files on WF movie theatres and there is nada on the Roxy.Might it have been carved out of an existing building, like the storefront nickleodeons of yore?
I was a student at Trinity College 1966-1970 and regularly attended the Allyn and E.M.Loew’s as well as the music store across Asylum Street from them. Also the Strand on Main Street across from G. Fox. Alas, missed the Poli and Loews Palace. Remember a packed house for a triple-bill of the Dave Friedman/Herschel Gordon Lewis “blood trilogy”: “Color Me Blood Red”, “Blood Feast”, and “2000 Maniacs”.Allyn much better designed and operated than Loew’s. (The latter’s projectionist attempted to run “Point Blank” with the scope lens stretching the image vertically rather than horizontally!).
Nobody mentions the unique fact that the Denver Paramount was, and still is, the one of two existing US theatres with twin console Wurlitzer theatre organs. The other, of course, is Radio City.
The main console is the lefthand one (from the sudience) and is, naturally, the one most frequently played. The righthand console was, once, at my vociferous insistence, brought up to play in tandem for a Denver Film Festival Opening Night.As you might imagine, the resulting cacaphony went unnoticed by most in attendance.
Except by a few, among them…
“Quonset huts” were a WW2 invention, prefabricated steel structures built in ever-expanding domed hemispherical sections. In the immediate aftermath of the war they were an obvious way for enterprising ex-servicemen to start up businesses, and neighborhood movie theatres, then, seemed like a hot idea. How the Aurora house got to be a “Fox” house, though, suggests that Hollywood might have been thinking in such terms as well. Any thoughts, Mr. O'Malley?
In amongst all this hot air would you like an account of actually attending a movie at the Texas?
In 1978 Mark Lamberti (still of local DFW fame I believe) and I attended what I recall was a classic 70s double bill at the Texas: Joe Dante’s “Piranha” and Tobe Hooper’s “Eaten Alive”. It was a Saturday night, the place was packed, and we two were, shall we say, in a condition of “ethnic minority”.
Toward the finale of “Eaten Alive” Neville Brand’s ravenous pet alligator is developing a taste for his master, egged on, in no uncertain terms, by the Texas' audience. When a guy behind me stood up on his seat and started yelling “Get that honkey!” Mark leaned over and suggested a propitious early exit, to which sound advice I immediately concurred.
Such, such were the days!
I am an alumnus of Trinity College (1970) and, with James Hanley, a co-founder of CineStudio. I’m immensely gratified to hear that it’s still the premiere venue we were determined to make it (and with no help, I might add, from the administration).
The style is 1920s Collegiate Gothic, which means oak wainscotting everywhere, solid oak doors, and real brass fittings. Twin spiral staircases illuminated by skylights take one down from the balcony foyer (it is partly underground) to the Orchestra level.Originally there was a Hammond electronic organ, complete with gothic-styled console, in the balcony. Honest!
Why a chemistry lecture hall was equipped with an organ, or, for that matter, a state of the art 1930-vintage projection booth with twin Simplex projectors is anybody’s guess.
Daytime patrons may notice a large ground-level window around the corner to the left of the entrance. This originally illuminated the balcony and was equipped with a steel shutter which, when activated by a switch near the lower front exit door in the auditorium, clanked, yes “clanked”, upwards to cover it. One Spring evening in 1970 yours truly, while introducing the Saturday midnight horror movie, flipped the switch for the last time. Once closed the chain popped and they, as I hastened to remind them, were truly a “captive audience”.
Those were the days.
When the Ogden was a Landmark house in the early 1980s it was the principal venue for the Denver International Film Festival. I was their Programming Consultant then and can remember introducing famed British director Michael Powell before a packed matinee crowd for the 1940 “Thief of Bagdad”. Also Lillian Gish after a screening of “Broken Blossoms”.Those were the days!
Glad to see my old friend Paul O'Malley is still carrying the torch for Denver movie theatres!
As a native of Wichita Falls and living there until 1967, when I was 19, I’m pretty certain that neither the Wichita nor any other local theatre had 70mm. Those prints were too expensive to justify equipping 1200-seat houses. Better to make the trip to Dallas to the Capri (ex-Melba). My brother and I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” at the Wichita, and I’m sure it was 35mm CinemaScope. Earlier I saw “This Island Earth”, “Fantasia”, “Run Silent, Run Deep”, “Jouney to the Center of the Earth”, and the abridged version of the silent “Noah’s Ark”. Dad also took me there to see a closed-circuit prizefight between Sugar Ray Robinson and the Swedish guy whose name escapes me. Guess that dates me.
Also saw DeMille’s 1956 “The Ten Commandments” in a special show for school children at the 2000-plus seat Memorial Auditorium.
The Majestic was on North Scott St and was demolished in the early 1950s to make room for a parking lot for the now-also-vanished Kemp Hotel. North Scott by 1960 was borderline skidrow, which meant that its other theatre, the Tower, was off limits to those tender souls with a low tolerance for rats.That’s where the exploitation pictures like “She Shoulda Said No” and “Common Law Wife” would have played.
If the Strand was an occasional art house in the 1960s that might be where I saw Fellini’s 81/2. Imagine! The guy behind me kept muttering “What kinda pitcher show IS this??”
The one other downtown theatre was WF’s first, the Gem, on Ohio Street across from the train station. By my day I think it was probably “for coloreds only”.
There was also a single-screen theatre at Parker Square, a shopping center on Kell Boulevard serving the Country Club neighborhood. This is long before the Sikes estate became Sikes Center, with its multiplex.