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The Hollywood Theatre opened on the south side of Geddes Street near the public square in Holley, NY, on Friday evening, August 10, 1923. The featured attraction was “The Hell Diggers" starring Wallace Reid, a film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures that had premiered nearly 2 years earlier in September of 1921 (per imdb.com). The proprietors of the cinema were local businessmen George McCargo and Francis O’Brien. McCargo had previously run the Lyric Theatre in Holley, with his partner F.W. Gates, whose interest in that enterprise O’Brien had purchased just two months prior to the Hollywood’s opening.
The theater had been scheduled to open a week earlier, but was postponed due to construction being incomplete. An ad in the Holley Standard, a local weekly, announced the originally planned opening for Saturday, August 4, 1923, featuring Dorothy Dalton in “The Crimson Challenge,” another Famous Players-Lasky production and Paramount release that had premiered in 1922. The ad noted, “Although the theater is not entirely ready for opening, it is far enough completed for showing of pictures.” Evidently, this was not the case.
Some weeks earlier, the Holley Standard had reported on the impending opening of the new theatre as construction was drawing to a close, referring to the cinema as “the new Lyric.” The article stated, “Every convenience has been arranged for. In the front, there is a vestibule with a ticket office located on the right side. On the left there is a small checkroom and ladies’ toilet. An up-to-date moving picture booth will be installed and every precaution taken to make it fireproof. Ventilation is one of the principal features of a theatre and the owners have not overlooked this point. Four 18 inch fans, two on each side, will be installed. By these fans and the outside ventilators, the air will be completely changed every eight minutes, assuring patrons of a comfortable and cool place even in extreme hot weather … The building is constructed of tile, one story high, while the front is of tapestry brick.”
On November 12, 1925, the theater changed hands, as McCargo and O’Brien sold to the out-of-town partnership of Freedman and Brotman, from nearby Rochester, NY. A Holley Standard article noting the sale of both the business and the building itself, noted the theater’s “spacious” seating and excellent ventilation, while commending the original proprietors for “running the highest grade of pictures obtainable and in every way conducting a movie house to which the village could point with pride.” As for the new firm, the paper wished them well, trusting “that they will enjoy the good patronage which will enable them to continue to provide the best features.”
The tough times of the Great Depression took their toll on the Hollywood Theatre by March 24, 1932, when a notice in the Holley Standard announced that a foreclosure was pending on the building by the mortgage holders – which included McCargo and O’Brien. The notice offered any takers the opportunity of bailing out the present proprietors via favorable assumption terms of the debt and business.
The Hollywood Theatre somehow managed to survive the Depression and hung on into the early-1950’s, when it finally succumbed to the rising popularity of television. A final notice in the Holley Standard on April 24, 1952, stated flatly that the Hollywood Theatre had exhibited its final attraction and that patrons should visit the Rialto Theatre in Albion, NY, for their future movie-going pleasure. The notice is attributed to the manager, Joseph Melfi, Jr.
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