Midget Theatre

1019 W. Third Street,
Dayton, OH 45402

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Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson on July 21, 2010 at 2:46 am

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Midget – 1019 West Third Street (1913-28): The Midget Theater was erected by Harry Morey for the express purpose of leasing it out as a theater to Sherman W. and Benjamin F. Potterf. Built at a cost of $33,000 the 300 seat theater was named in honor of Sherman, who was a “midget” and in the show game, before taking over the managership of the theater. “Home of the quality photo plays”, the theater took advantage of Sherman’s height by advertising that there was “Nothing small about the Midget – Only the manager”. Just as many people went to the Midget’s grand opening on September 6, 1913, in the hopes of getting a glimpse of Sherman, as there were ones to watch the movie being offered.

The theater was quite successful. Patrons of the two story building sat in comfortable opera chairs. A rest room was provided for the ladies (when rest rooms actually meant a place to rest), and toilet facilities were provided for both sexes.

The Midget was equipped with its own electric generator that provided power to both the lights and the projector. The stage area where the screen stood had beautiful green velvet drapes and drop curtain. The curtain that hid the screen was in itself unique. On it was a painting of the original Third Street bridge which had been razed around the turn of the century. It was surrounded by advertisements from other West Side businesses.

Music for the silent films was provided by a Wurlitzer orchestra piano. This also came in handy for when the occasional singer would be employed for a change of pace.

Business really boomed when the brothers began showing Renfax Musical Talking Motion Pictures in 1915. The Renfax pictures were synchronized with a record disc that could be played so that the movie actors could be heard to “talk”. The only problem with this was that the film projectors might show the film just a little slower or faster than it was filmed, which would cause the film to be out of sync with the sounds being played.

The brothers sold their interest in the theater to William E. Riceanson in 1917, who almost immediately resold it to Julius Leopold, owner of the Mecca Theater at 1217 West Third Street. Leopold sold out his interests in both the Midget and Mecca theaters in 1927 and became a ticket seller for a steamship company. The Midget’s last owner was John Lahm. Lahm’s term as owner lasted less than a year before the theater closed its doors for good, probably due to the stiff competition from two new neighborhood theaters, the Classic and the Palace, both of which were built in 1928. The building that housed the Midget still stands on West Third, one of the few remnants left of the days of the nickelodeon theaters.

Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson on July 20, 2010 at 10:52 pm

A little more recent photos can be found on Cinematour.

jon6444
jon6444 on December 24, 2006 at 8:05 pm

This building may be slated for renovation, though probally not a theatre…the entire block has been undergoing a renovation.