1891 Fredonia Opera House

9 Church Street,
Fredonia, NY 14063

Unfavorite 6 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 35 comments

davidcoppock on May 12, 2018 at 1:36 am

Could this building have been the insperation for Fredonia in the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup”?

Patsy on July 3, 2017 at 7:24 am

Yes. It is a wonderful venue.

davidcoppock on July 3, 2017 at 1:40 am

Did this building open in 1891?

psomerf on May 31, 2016 at 10:21 pm

I see that the “Wintergarden”, which what I knew this place as, opened on October 25, 1926. It lasted into the 1980s. (I saw two movies here: Close Encounters Special Edition, and Battlestar Galactica; in the 1979/1980 timeframe.)

I think the sporting goods store mentioned above was “Walt’s”.

Patsy on September 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I have printed out your lengthy information and will present it to Dalton, Jr. at his office!

Patsy on September 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

James: Hope to hear from you as I know Dalton, Jr. and his wife though I’ve never discussed his father’s theatre history and would like to do so.

JIMY8 on July 12, 2009 at 7:36 am

Dalton Burgett owned the Regent Theater in Dunkirk, a sporting goods store just a block or so from the Regent and a post office/general store in the Van Buren beach community around 1950.
He then acquired lease to the Capitol Theater in Dunkirk and a few years later the lease for the Winter Garden Theater in Fredonia. His Regent Theater had the best screen. It covered most of the front of the auditorium. For CinemaScope the top and bottom masking was lovered and raised to form than scope shape. The Regent also had a great stereo sound system. The Capitol was the wrong shape for CinemaScope. It had a small balcony and box seating lined the side walls. That left a rather narrow stage.
The Winter Garden got its scope screen rather late. I helped put the screen in place while an employee of the theater. The first scope picture was an Alan Ladd western for Warner’s and it recieved no fanfare. A backlog of scope pictures played off quickly and did not do the business it could have with some imaginative showmanship.
The Shermans managed the Winter Garden from the thrities to the late
fifties. She ran the place while he was in WWII service. They lived next door to me. Fredonia being a college town helped make the theater profitable for many years. When the studios were sending their stars out on road trips in the early fifties to get people away from their TV sets some of those stars stopped in Fredonia, would you believe? I remember meeting Pat O'Brian and Sally Forrest. Roy Rogers and Trigger made an appearance, also. Getting Trigger up all those outside steps into the building was a chore. Then Rogers rode him down the center aisle, over the orchestra pit on a platform my father built for the occasion, and onto the stage. The Durango Kid was also in town one day and signed lots of autographs. His son was a student at the college. I mentioned earlier in this piece “showmanship”. Mr Sherman taught me the rudiments of newspaper ad layout and promotions. I was in junior high at the time. GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE, a Jennifer Jones film about a dedicated school teacher based on a best-selling novel had played in Dunkirk at the Regent to poor grosses. Fredonia always got the pictures at least thirty days after Dunkirk playdates. The Winter Garden got the film for a Wednesday-Thursday playdate, or four evening performances. I plastered large ads from the pressbook all over the college campus. Oh, the college at that time was a training school for teachers. I also did the newspaper ads heralding “The Book-of-the Month Club School Teacher”. We had four nearly sold out performances. Years later I would operate movie houses at Army bases around the country and then return to Silver Creek NY to operate the closed Geitner Theater for two years. The first year was moderaltely successful. The second year was a disaster. That was the year that the TV networks began their MONDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES, TUESDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES…etc.
Most of the working people in Silver Creek worked out of town. By the time they got home evenings they were not going to go back out to see a movie when there was one on their TV sets. The distributors were also playing hardball with all theaters back then. You want to play the big hits you had to play the dogs also. And in the 1960s there were a lot of dogs. Thus I closed. My memories of the Winter Garden are probably what keeps me interested in old movie houses. I remember going into the theater after school when a cleaning lady would take a break. She and I would sit on the stairs to the balcony and she would tell me stories of the stars who once performed or made appearances at the Winter Garden. Much of the memorabilia from the theater’s history is housed beneath the stage near the new dressing rooms. The old boxoffice window can be seen in the rear wall of the auditorium. My only regret with the marvelous restoration was that they chose to replace the side wall lights. Before and after the show the lights were white. During the short subjects they were amber. During the feature they were blue and red. Lots of memories. James Manuel

OperaHouseGuy on May 11, 2009 at 9:52 am

This is indeed the “Grand Opera House” that was mentioned in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The theatre underwent an extensive volunteer-driven renovation between 1985 and 1994. This year, we celebrate its 15th season of continuous programming since the reopening.

Many people remember and comment on the bats that populated the theatre in the 1970s when it operated as the Winter Garden movie theatre. While the theatre still presents movies in addition to live events, the bats, fortunately, are gone now.

Thank you, Patsy, for your kind comments about “The Queen of Bingo.” It was a fun show to present. Watch for more shows like it in the upcoming season. You can see all of our upcoming events at www.fredopera.org

Patsy on October 28, 2008 at 5:50 pm

It seems this Opera House was the only one that Enoch A. Curtis built.

Patsy on October 28, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I recently attended a fun comedy play entitled “The Queen of Bingo” at this theatre. The audience even got the opportunity to play a game of Bingo and the winner won a 10# frozen turkey! BTW, the winner was not “Yours Truly”!

Patsy on October 28, 2008 at 5:33 pm

This theatre doesn’t have the Marr & Colton organ today nor does it have any organ after its renovation.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 18, 2007 at 10:57 am

Listed under Fredonia NY in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide is a “Grand Opera House” – I assume that it’s this theatre ?? Unfortunately, there are no street addresses in this Guide. The seating capacity is listed as 785. A.H. Hilton was the Manager. The proscenium opening was 30 feet wide X 35 feet high; the stage was 32 feet deep. (These dimensions are very similar to those in the Opera House’s website.) It says that the theatre was on the ground floor, which apparently it isn’t. There were 9 players in the house orchestra. Local hotels were the Columbia and the Raymond House. The 1897 population of Fredonia was 4,000.

efriedmann on June 5, 2007 at 2:03 pm

With a name like Fredonia, I hope the theater showed DUCK SOUP on a regular basis (ha, ha!).

psomerf on April 28, 2007 at 4:19 pm

I found an interesting article on page 11 of the August 12, 1943.

Corp. Technician Alden F; Sherman,
manager of the Winter Garden
theatre, before his induction
last January, … [Mrs. Sherman]
tells of a visit to Hollywood
over the week-end.

[He and a buddy] hitchhiked to Hollywood,
where .among other experiences,
they had a ride with movie
actor Sidney Greenstreet, who
picked them up and took them to
their destination.

At the Hollywood canteen they
were served with supper by movie
star Hedy Lamar and they
saw many other movie' celebrities.

Thought you folks might find this tidbit interesting, or not.

psomerf on December 20, 2006 at 11:53 am

The renovation began in ‘89, during the dark year for Dunkirk. The filming of “Gone in 60 seconds II”, and the sudden ending of that production; and the loss of 6 kids who lost a race with a train in the 4th ward. I remember that last night, as while the kids were meeting their end, there was a guy up on the scaffolds around the Opera House threatening to jump. The only “Jaws of Life” in the area was on a truck that was assisting the jumper situation. Not that it would have mattered anyway. The kids were beyond help, anyway. Too many big funerals that, it seemed half the town went to them.

mcmaenza on December 20, 2006 at 10:14 am

I remember growing up in the 70’s and seeing “Disney’s Fantasia” in this fine Fredonia theatre. That viewing had to be long before renovations were done. I remember the place seemed very old at the time and often folks spoke of bats that would swoop down from the high lofty ceilings. Still, the sound of all that classical music with the fine Disney animation resonated in that old structure.

psomerf on July 13, 2006 at 12:12 pm

The Hobby Shop closed in 1995. The owner was died in the early 1990’s, and his wife tired of the business. She was unable to find a buyer, and so she just closed the business.

Also, Bill managed the Hoby Shop, but it was his father that ran the theaters. Bill the elder was deceased by the time I met his wife in 1983.

What can I say, I loved movies, computers, and plastic models. :)

Patsy on May 12, 2006 at 5:06 am

I looked in the phone book and there is a Wm. Tallman listed so I do have a number to contact him now! Hope it’s the right gentleman as he will be interesting to chat with about his years as a theatre manager! Perhaps he’ll be able to tell me about the former Geitner Theatre in Silver Creek NY. I have researched that theatre, but haven’t followed up on it this year.

Patsy on May 12, 2006 at 5:03 am

Don: I haven’t contacted Mr. Burgett or Mr. Tallman, but hope to this summer. Mr. Burgett is still an attorney in Jamestown, but not sure if Mr. Tallman manages The Hobby Shop in Fredonia or if that store still exists. With your memories of the Regent and other local theatres are you still in western NYS? If you want to contact me, my email is included on my profile page.

psomerf on May 11, 2006 at 4:00 pm

The last two movies I recall seeing at the Regent came out in 1987. The only movie I saw at the Opera House was in 1979, 10 years before the House began undergoing refurbishment.

Patsy on August 26, 2005 at 4:57 am

I believe his son Dalton, Jr. is the one that I would be contacting in the coming weeks to see if he has any theatre memorabilia and also anything on my former hometown theatre, the Grand Theatre in Westfield NY.

donstachowiak on August 25, 2005 at 10:15 pm

I remember Dalton Burgett as a heavy-set older man, maybe in his 60s at the time, who Mr Tallmna worked for. I don’t know if he has any survivors living in the area. Bill Tallman was managing The Hobby Shop on E. Main St in Fredonia as of about 10 years ago.

Patsy on August 24, 2005 at 5:18 am

Don: I was given the name of Dalton Burgett, Jr. whose family owned the theatres in Dunkirk/Fredonia. Have you heard of this name? I also posted a Regent Theatre photo on the Regent Theatre link that shows a movie that came out much later so had wondered when the Regent officially closed. I will try to locate the Tallman name.

donstachowiak on August 23, 2005 at 6:34 pm

Yes, the Regent was in operation at least until 1969 or 1970. By that time the Capitol was gone, the roof having caved in one night.
As I mentioned before, all 3 of the theaters were managed by Mr. Tallman, whose son, Bill was still living in Fredonia as of about 10 years ago, when I bumped into him while visiting home. If anyone cared to look him up, he would probably be able to provide a wealth of information and lore about all 3 of these great old theaters.

Patsy on August 22, 2005 at 11:37 am

I was by the Fredonia Opera House this afternoon and looked close to see if any metal work was still on the building to show where the marquee once hung on the Temple St. side, but didn’t see any. I then went to the Regent Theatre site on E. Third St. in nearby Dunkirk and took a photo. I was told that it remained an operating theatre into the mid 60’s. The exterior is brick and looks to be in good sound shape though forlorn looking and delected.