Ontonagon Theater

501 River Street,
Ontonagon, MI 49953

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The Ontonagon Theater opened around 1915 and closed in the 1950’s. The building is now used as a bank.

Contributed by Lost Memory

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 10, 2009 at 11:08 pm

The original Rex and the Rex that became the Ontonagon were the same business but apparently not the same building. The August 27, 1937, issue of Boxoffice said that contracts had been let for the construction of a 600-seat theater for J.J. Clark, operator of the Rex Theatre in Ontonagon. The September 11, 1937, issue of Boxoffice said the new theater was under construction, and that owner John J. Clark was planning a formal opening to take place on Thanksgiving.

The October 9, 1937, issue listed “…J.J. Clark’s new 700-seat Ontonagon house….” in a list of recently opened theaters in the region, so it must have been completed ahead of schedule. The wording of the earlier articles suggests that the original Rex was not closed while the new theater was being built (though possibly this was just an omission) so it might have had a different address. A 1938 Boxoffice item indicates that the new house opened under the name Rex Theatre (though this could have been an error by the magazine.)

The September 30, 1950, issue of Boxoffice has an interesting item about El-Leen Clark, J.J.’s daughter, then assisting her father in running the Ontonagon Theatre. It says that her mother, Sarah, who had died the previous year, had been the projectionist at the theater for 30 years, so the original Pastime/Rex had probably opened no later than 1919.

The August 21 Boxoffice item said that the architect of the new theater was N. Albert Nelson. Nelson was also the architect of the Ironwood Theatre, Ironwood, Michigan.

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