Liberty Theater

1333 Walnut Street,
Murphysboro, IL 62966

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 14, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Improvements to the Liberty Theatre were planned in 1918, according to this item from the May 18 issue of The Moving Picture World: “MURPHYSBORO, ILL. — Extensive improvements will be made to Liberty theater, costing about $15,000.”

Trolleyguy on May 19, 2016 at 1:13 am


bodkin6071 on August 25, 2015 at 2:32 pm

The Liberty was sold to the Kerasotes chain in August 1969.

stormdog on August 12, 2013 at 6:28 am

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

stormdog on August 12, 2013 at 5:04 am

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 30, 2011 at 1:50 am

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 10, 2011 at 3:45 am

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 10, 2011 at 3:37 am

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

michaele on April 5, 2011 at 4:36 am

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

bodkin6071 on April 5, 2011 at 1:15 am

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 9:06 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 8:02 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 27, 2011 at 3:53 am

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 27, 2011 at 3:27 am

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 27, 2011 at 2:20 am

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 8:28 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 8:09 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 4:38 pm

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 4:30 pm

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 15, 2010 at 2:35 am

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 9:40 pm

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

bodkin6071 on May 4, 2009 at 1:03 am

Picture from June 1984:
View link

bodkin6071 on May 4, 2009 at 1:02 am

Picture from February 1982:
View link

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