Smalley's Theater

23 E. Main Street,
Norwich, NY 13815

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Smalley's Norwich, circa late 1930s

Smalley’s Theater was built and opened around 1932/33 to replace an earlier Smalley’s Theater. It continued until at least 1950.

Contributed by Billy Holcomb / Billy Smith / Don Lewis

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Nice vintage photo Don Lewis.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on July 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Oops! Here is the Smalley’s ad from 1950 for Roy Rogers' Sunset in the West movie.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Nice ad for Sunset in the West,Thanks Don.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 29, 2012 at 7:37 am

There were two houses called the Smalley Theatre on this site. Something apparently happened to the first one in the early 1930s, and it was replaced by a new building. Here’s an item from the May 16, 1932, issue of The Film Daily:

:“Norwich, N. Y. — A 900-seat house on the site of the former Smalley theater here is planned by William C. Smalley, head of the Smalley Chain Theaters, Inc. Victor A. Rigaumont is the architect and the house, designed in the French Riviera style of architecture, will have a stage and orchestra pit.”
Don’t ask me what the “French Riviera style of architecture” is. I have no idea.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Judging from the photos in the Boxoffice article Tinseltoes linked to it looks like “French Riviera Style of architecture” means atmospheric with a bit of Mediterranean tile and some potted plants.

adamghost
adamghost on February 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I did a lot of research on central New York theatres in the late ‘70s. I was a kid then, so I can’t vouch for this information, but I will tell you what I remember about this theatre:

  1. I was told then that the theatre building was still standing, but had been “gutted” and completely remodeled so that it had little resemblance to its former self. I had the building pointed out to me. I don’t remember my source but one of the people I was talking to at the time had worked for the Smalley chain in a management capacity, so that might have been the person.

  2. Looking at google maps, the building that most closely reflects that recollection is the one housing Preferred Mutual at 23 West Main Street, which has been further remodeled since that time (though it didn’t look much like a theatre then, either).

  3. I did find an article in the Evening Sun (with photos) about the remodeling/partial demolition of the building, that did seem to back up the source’s contention. If I recall correctly, this took place in 1957.

  4. A/B'ing the google maps photo to the one in the Boxoffice article above, the two do match to some degree, assuming a top half-floor was added to the front awning. Both buildings are segmented in thirds in the front and the dimenstions (minus the top half-floor seem about the same). The building is deep enough to have been a theatre building.

adamghost
adamghost on February 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Correction to the above: 23 EAST Main Street, not West. And looking at it again from a different angle on google maps, I’m pretty sure this was the extensively remodeled building I was told once housed the theatre.

adamghost
adamghost on March 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Original Smalley’s burned down “last spring” according to a November 1932 article in a movie trade.

There were two other theaters in Norwich at one point besides the three listed here; the Bijou and the Happy Hour (which was at least open 1915-17). I haven’t found much more information on them so far. I wonder if one of them turned into the original Smalley’s.

adamghost
adamghost on March 3, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Comment on the Colonia Theater thread indicates the Bijou building still stands and a picture of it exists – I’ve been so far unable to find that or more information. I wonder if that poster could do an entry for the Bijou (which apparently did not turn into Smalley’s, since the building still exists).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 3, 2016 at 8:08 pm

A 1918 Norwich directory lists the Happy Hour Theatre at 22 S. Broad Street. The only other theater listed is the Colonia, so the Bijou must have been closed by then, and Smalley’s not yet built.

There is a possibility, which I have not yet been able to confirm, that the original Smalley’s Theatre was built in 1919 or 1920, and was originally operated by the operator of the Happy Hour Theatre, possibly under the name Strand Theatre. This is an extract from an item in The Moving Picture World of May 3, 1919:

“Dr. W. E. Hartigan’s residence on East Main street is being razed, and it is understood that C. H. Latham will build a modern photoplay house on the site.

“Mr. Latham, on being questioned as to his plans, said he was not ready to give out any news, but that he would make a public statement later. The rumor has been going for some time that there would be another moving picture theatre in Norwich. The new house will have conveniences for vaudeville.”

The June 23, 1919, issue of The American Contractor also mentions the project:
“Norwich, N. Y. M. P. Theater: $24,000. 2 sty. 107x56. Priv. plans. Owner Mrs. C. H. Latham, Park pl. Lessee A. E. Ford, propr. Happy House Theater. Hollow tile. Plans drawn.”
The name “Happy House Theatre” is most likely a mistake, as the 1918 directory lists A. E. Ford as proprietor of the Happy Hour Theatre. An issue of the Chenango Union, Norwich’s local newspaper, from either 1919 or 1920 (the date is not on the page I have access to) advertises the Strand Theatre, A. E. Ford manager. The only other theater advertised is the Colonia, so it is possible that Mr. Ford closed the Happy Hour when he opened the Strand.

The Strand is listed at 19 E. Main in the 1922 Directory. If the Strand became Smalley’s then the address might have been shifted at the time the original theater was replaced in 1932. Still, the possibility that the Strand became Smalley’s remains moot, considering the fact that the May 3, 1924, issue of The Moving Picture World mentions “[t]he three exhibitors….” in Norwich. It doesn’t name the three theaters, so it remains uncertain if the third theater at that time was Smalley’s, or perhaps the Happy Hour had been reopened. It is possible that the original Smalley’s was next door to the Strand and built sometime between 1922 and 1924.

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