Liberty Theater

1333 Walnut Street,
Murphysboro, IL 62966

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Showing 1 - 25 of 28 comments

stormdog on August 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Thanks very much! The Liberty is a hard one to shoot, with the jet blacks and the bright whites together!

stormdog on August 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I shot a few photos of the Liberty Theater when I passed through Murphysboro last summer. Here’s a link to the first one of the set. The others are there on my Flickr photostream as well.

bodkin6071 on July 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm

A fairly recent Murphysboro American article on the Liberty. There are some exterior and interior pictures from 1950. Notice the interior looks completely different than it currently appears. The reason is the theater suffered a major fire in 1954 and reopened the following year, hence the remodel.

bodkin6071 on April 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm

And here’s another picture I had stowed away on Photobucket, looking towards the back. Notice the projection booth now houses the spotlights. I never remember the Liberty having the burgundy trim, it was white all around, and the curtain was a fugly brown color.

bodkin6071 on April 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Here’s a recent picture of the interior, taken during the Big Muddy Film Festival in 2010:
View link

michaele on April 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I suspect Kerasotes installed a platter to reduce operating costs. Previously, it was a two-projector, change-over booth.

bodkin6071 on April 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Yep I figured it would have mono sound, it being an old theater (and a dollar house for 20+years as well). Thanks for clearing that up. Now one other thing about the Liberty has been bugging me for the past 10 years… did they run films on platters or reels? Considering it was chain operated, I would be leaning towards platters.

michaele on April 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The Liberty had a single channel, optical sound system under Kerasotes ownership. I don’t know what type of sound system is used at the Liberty today.

I’m not aware of any motion picture sound system that reproduces only two channels. “Fantasound” which was used in only a handful of theaters for the film “Fantasia” (1940) was a four-channel optical system on a separate 35mm reel; Cinerama (1952) employed a seven-channel magnetic system on a separate reel; CinemaScope (1953) used a four-channel magnetic sound-on-film system; Dolby Stereo (1975) employed a four-channel optical sound-on-film system matrixed into two tracks; and Dolby Digital and DTS employs a sound-on-film digital system.

Most every commercial theater uses an acoustically transparent material for a screen surface so loudspeakers can be placed directly behind the screen.

bodkin6071 on April 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Speaking of sound systems, what sound was the films presented in while under Kerasotes ownership? The one time I saw a movie there (in 1992), there were no surround speakers to be seen on the walls, and I can’t even remember if it was two-channel stereo, with the speakers behind the screen, or regular monaural sound. For the life of me I can’t remenber, that was almost 20 years ago.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I’ve been unable to find any mention of the Tilford Theatre later than the 1915 item I cited above, and the only mention of the Liberty I’ve found in the trade publications is the Boxoffice item from 1955. Local newspaper archives would probably be the best source of information about the Tilford’s change of ownership.

michaele on February 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

A fire on October 20, 1954, caused extensive damage to the Liberty auditorium. The theater was reopened the following year after repairs and the installation of CinemaScope without it accompanying stereo sound. At that time the theater may still have been owned by the Marlow Brothers, James of M’boro and John of Herrin, Illinois. Later, the partnership was dissolved and James Marlow became the sole owner of the Liberty and M’boro’s grand, 1200-seat Marlow’s Hippodrome Theater, which opened on January 1, 1919.

The Liberty initially was known as the Tilford. I know nothing of the Star Theater, although reports indicate M’boro has five theaters in 1913; some, I’m certain, the storefront variety, which could hardly be called theaters in the full sense of the word.

Do you happen to know when the Liberty was sold to the Marlows? I’m guessing prior to 1918.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I’ve found Murphysboro mentioned only once in Boxoffice, in the issue of November 19, 1955. The item said that John Marlow had reopened the Liberty Theatre, which had been closed since October, 1954.

The Tilford Theatre is mentioned in The Moving Picture World, issue of July 19, 1913. An advertisement in the August 17, 1915, issue of the same publication published a letter from Tilford Theatre operator W.F. Tilford to Chicago film distributor F.O. Nielsen, praising a movie called “The Spoilers” which had enjoyed great success at his house.

A Star Theatre at Murphysboro is also mentioned in various 1913 issues of The Moving Picture World.

michaele on February 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

War bonds were sold from the stage of Marlow’s Hippodrome Theater in M'boro and liberty stamps were available at the box office. Liberty stamps also may have been sold at the Liberty box office but since the Liberty originally had no stage (the theater was among the first in the country built exclusively for film exhibition), I doubt if war bonds were sold there. When I sold popcorn at the Liberty as a high school student my paychecks were drawn on a “Murphysboro Opera Company” account. The Hippodrome was later operated under the name “Murphysboro Amusement Company.” The M'boro Daily Independent newspaper and the Southern Illinoisan archives at SIU’s Morris Library are good sources for limited info.

digitalgal62 on February 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm

does anyone know about selling war bonds at the liberty? and do you know where the records for the marlow amusement corp can be found?

michaele on February 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

Normally, the exhibition of classic films is not considered to be in competition with local commercial theaters and, therefore, probably would not be in violation of any agreements with the owners of local commercial theaters. The exhibition of recently released motions pictures generally is considered to be in violation of such agreements.

michaele on February 6, 2011 at 8:30 am

Installation of extremely expensive and antiquated film projectors, lamphouses, platters, etc. at the Liberty would be unnecessary, ill advised and impractical. A small digital light projector (DLP) with sufficient lumens and contrast ratio would provide an extremely large, brilliant, high resolution screen image from video tapes, DVD and Blu-ray video disks, the Internet and cable television. Such projectors are now being installed in commercial theaters throughout the nation to replace conventional film projection systems. At least one theater in Carbondale has already installed DLP projection. Such projectors also can accommodate anamorphic lenses which are required to exhibit films in their original widescreen (CinemaScope, Panavision) formats. Most DVDs and Blu-ray disks now include the anamorphic wide screen version of motion pictures.

For an authentic theater experience the Liberty also should be equipped with a digital surround sound system (Dolby, DTS), now frequently found in private homes.

Keep in mind it’s a crime to exhibit copyrighted motion pictures commercially, with or without admission being charged, via film, video tape, DVD or otherwise, without prior arrangements with copyright owners or their agents. Such arrangements generally specify that the exhibition of films in venues such as the Liberty cannot be promoted or advertised except to members of local film clubs and organizations.

bodkin6071 on November 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Now that Kerasotes has been taken over by AMC, can they show movies on film yet again? Would need a fundraiser drive or use proceeds from donations to buy a projector, lamphouse, platter and other necessary equipment.

kencmcintyre on May 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Here is a May 1948 ad from the Murphysboro Daily Independent:

bodkin6071 on May 3, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Picture from June 1984:
View link

bodkin6071 on May 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Picture from February 1982:
View link

(Ah-ha there’s your picture of the old marquee!)

bodkin6071 on January 14, 2009 at 2:58 pm

If there is anybody who has a better picture of the old marquee, please post it. My memory of the old one is pretty fuzzy…

Wonder if there’s any way we can contact any former employees of the Liberty by any chance?

bodkin6071 on January 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Trying to find a picture of the Liberty’s old marquee is pretty rare, but I did find one in the September 22, 1982 issue of the Southern Illinoisan. If you look just behind the speed limit sign and “No Parking” sign there it is. Notice it bears no resemblance to the current one. It also appears to have the big black letters. And it has “LIBERTY” on the top.

View link

bodkin6071 on April 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm

“Curtain down on Liberty Theater"
The Southern Illinoisan
September 12, 1998 by Thomas Beaumont, The Southern

As the credits rolled at the end of the 7 p.m showing of Halloween H20 on Thursday, the curtain fell on the Liberty Theater- for the last time. The 80-year-old-plus movie house, Murphysboro’s oldest, was closed because of slow business, Kerasotes Theatres general manager John Miller said. “There was no real factor other than the fact that it is the end of summer,” Miller said. “We’ve been evaluating our operations and decided, for this one, it was time.” The closure leaves Murphysboro without a movie theater and with a void along Walnut Street, where businesses and civic groups have battled the one-time epidemic empty storefronts for the past several years. Miller said the company has no plans yet for the building and that the five employees who work there likely will be offered jobs at other company-owned theatres throughout Southern Illinois. Henry Daniel, the theatre’s manager, has worked there since he was in high school. Kerasotes bought it in 1969. He described the summer’s box office as “pretty good,” but conceded that the start of the school year, the Du Quoin State Fair and the city’s Apple Festival, which starts next week, mark the annual slowdown in business. A person could see a first-run show for $1 at the Liberty, which was among 40 Kerasotes budget theatres. The company operates more than 100 theatres throughout the midwest, including theatres in Benton, Mount Vernon, Harrisburg, Cape Girardeau, Marion and Carbondale. The Libery, which sits at 1333 Walnut St., was built more than 80 years ago and used to be called the Tillford Theater. It offered stage shows before films became popular. As an Illinois Main Street Community, Murphysboro has made downtown revitalization one of its top priorities. The Liberty’s closing is sad, Murphysboro Main Street manager Chris Basler said, but it is not a setback that the community cannot handle. “There are possibilities for community theater,” he said, “or a business that could put that space to use.” An example of a successful theater recycling project is The Copper Dragon Brewing Co., a micro brewery and restaurant that operates in what used to be the Saluki Theater on Grand Avenue in Carbondale. Basler said there are no immediate prospects for the Liberty, considering Kerasotes has not announced plans for the building. He said Salem, in Marion County, which is also an Illinois Main Street community, suffered the same blow this week. There Kerasotes also closed the only theater in town, a two-screen show house. The Liberty was popular, Basler said, because it gave families an inexpensive form of entertainment, without leaving town. “I hate to see it go, that’s for sure,” he said.

There was a picture of the Liberty below the article, Kerasotes wasted no time removing the old marquee and the equipment.