Weedsport Theatre

8881 S. Seneca Street,
Weedsport, NY 13166

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Built on the site of the Burritt Opera House which was destroyed by fire in 1935. The Weedsport Theatre was operating prior to 1941. No address on theatre movie advertisements when playing July 6, 1950, were "Three Came Home" with a second feature. "Dakota Lil", and "Wake of the Red Witch" booked next. Cartoons and of course, newsreels were part of the program.

Contributed by MikeRogers

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on December 30, 2010 at 3:31 am

Open ~1940-~1955? Can anyone verify the exact dates?

Need an address, more info and photos are always welcome.

gd14lawn
gd14lawn on December 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm

The Weedsport Theatre was built in 1935 on the site of the Burritt Opera House which had been destroyed by fire. It was also known as Zimmer’s Weedsport Theatre and Recreation Center and included pool tables, lunch room and 4 lane bowling alley. It operated until December 9, 1962.

In 1956 it was discovered that the local Catholic church was in danger of collapse and the Zimmer family graciously allowed the theatre to be used for church services while the old church was demolished and the new one built.

The following is from joanhigham.com/weedsporthistory:

HAPPY DAYS

One of my fondest memories has to be my high school years. The 1950’s was a wonderful time to grow up in a small town like Weedsport. When people today watch reruns of “Happy Days” they think it was just another fanciful sit-com. Not so! We can relate very closely with the scenario and characters. We even had our own “Fonz”. Harry Surdam had the coolest car, loudest pipes, DA haircut—the works!

We didn’t have “Arnold’s Drive In” , but we had something just as good—Zimmer’s Weedsport Theatre and Recreation Center. The Zimmer family (and it was a true family operation) which included 3 generations of Zimmers. Grandpa( Fred) and Gramma (Christine) , Earl and Ann and their 5 children Fred, John, Henry, Joe and Christine. Besides the movie theatre they operated a great little drugstore and confectionery accessible from the street and also from the lobby of the theatre. The confectionery was Grandpa and Gramma’s domain where one could get popcorn, fountain drinks, candy and their delicious home made ice cream. I recall on Mondays you could get a “Lucky Monday Sundae” at a reduced price. The elder Zimmers lived in an apartment over the theatre lobby during the week, retreating to their Syracuse home on weekends.

The theatre itself with it’s marquee, box office and neon sign over the sidewalk was the next door to the North. Beyond that was the Recreation Center which included 4 bowling alleys, several pool tables, and a lunch room with a juke box and booths-just like Arnold’s! Alcoholic beverages were never sold at Zimmer’s , so parents didn’t mind if their kids hung out there. Earl ran the bowling alleys, Ann ran the lunch room and the rest of the family filled in wherever needed, be it making popcorn, running the box office, cleaning the restrooms, running the projectors, or whatever.

A pizza parlor type diner was eventually added on Erie Drive behind the Rec. Center. The Zimmer family had many “casual” employees over the years and I have always been proud to have been one of them. They seemed to have a knack for providing a paying job for a kid that really needed one and boy! ,I was that kid. I started working for the Zimmer family as a pin-setter in the bowling alleys. At a time when gas was 26 cents a gallon, a couple of nights pin setting at $7.15 per night enabled you to live pretty good as a high school student. Eventually I ran the projectors in the theatre for several years. It was a great job for a student, because you were by yourself with no distractions, so you might as well do homework. I’m sure many folks in the village can remember the blue neon W.H. Smith Buick Sales clock high on the wall in the upper right side of the auditorium and there are still probably people in the village using dishes that were given away as premiums for attending movies on week nights.

Before they had continuous tape and high powered projection bulbs, movies came to the theatre in large 15 inch diameter reels which were necessary to change about every 18 minutes, so a more or less standard hour and a half movie would have 5, or 6 reels. In the projection room were a pair of 35 mm Simplex projectors standing about 6 feet tall, with a carbon arc lamp attached. The machine had to be threaded to a certain point on the leader. Near the end of each reel will be seen a series of “dots” in the upper right side of the screen, followed by another set 5 seconds later.

As a reel of film was running out, a little arm riding on the top of the film fell and struck a small bell with about a minute left on the reel. At that point you had to strike and trim the carbon arc lamp, and peer out of the porthole at the screen. When the first set of dots flashed on the screen you opened the heat shield on the arc lamp and turned on the projector. When the second set of dots went by a few seconds later you stepped on a foot switch which opened the shutter on one machine and closed it on the other. At the same time you flipped a wall switch which changed the sound track from one machine to the other. Done correctly, the result is a seamless change which cannot be detected by the audience. Still today 50 years later if I am kind of dozing watching a movie on TV , I’ll snap awake with a start if I see the dots go by! There is little more disconcerting than hearing the bell ring and discovering that you’ve neglected to thread the alternate machine. If you can’t get it done in time you get the dreaded “white screen” and the accompanying jeers and cat calls, which can plainly be heard in the projection booth!

The Zimmers were always willing to let us hang around the Rec. Center and there was much there to amuse us, from watching an exciting bowling match, or sometimes a straight pool match that would go on for hours. I remember several times when Earl’s brother Leonard , who was a fine pool player would arrange for Babe Cranfield who was then the best pool player in the world to come out from Syracuse and show off for us.

Unfortunately, the theatre is now a Dollar General store and a parking lot paves over where the Rec. Center was. As television became more popular and affordable in the 1960’s it sounded the death knell of nearly all local theatres. During this same time there was a national trend toward large automatic bowling alleys, and soon a 4 alley operation could not survive. Finally, Grandpa and Gramma had passed on and the younger generation had their own careers and lives to live. Thus did our “Arnold’s” pass into history, much to our loss, but many of us remember with fondness and gratitude the Zimmer family’s contribution to Weedsport.

Denny Randall, President OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


GWTWTOO
GWTWTOO on December 30, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I have wondered about this theater for quite a while and I am so happy to read these comments. I grew up near Weedsport, long after the theater was gone, but have been fascinated since seeing an old newspaper movie ad from the theater. Does anyone have any photos? Also, when did it close and when was it torn down? Lastly, did it convert to Cinemascope in the 50s?

gd14lawn
gd14lawn on December 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm

As shown in the above post, the building is now a Dollar General store and the theatre closed 12/9/1962.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 31, 2010 at 8:22 am

Thanks Albany Gregg for the infomation on the Weedsport.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

The Construction report in Boxoffice of August 22, 1936, listed the Weedsport Theatre and gave its opening month as March. The operator was named Earl Zimmer, and the house had cost an estimated $50,000.

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