Wilma Theater

131 S. Higgins Avenue,
Missoula, MT 59802

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Wilma Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Wilma Theater opened in 1921.

Contributed by Tracy J. Blakeslee

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Giovanni
Giovanni on February 18, 2006 at 3:32 am

I was one of the few lucky people that enjoyed the honor of living in this Theatre, 3rd floor, apartment #306 or was it #300,,, in 1996. I was the Elevator Operator for the Theatre and the apartments above. It went through many changes of hands through the years and has a beautiful history. As one of the few owners was cleaning out the basement of this fine theatre he proceeded to through away many of its wonderful collections of art, furniture and chandeliers, I at the time did not have the room for this but made it possible and collected as much as I could, along with some of this stuff was an upright piano from the main theatre, a love seat from the original Chapel of the Doves hallway and stocks from another theatre in Idaho called, ah, oh,,, I cant remember, something like the Starlight Theatre, I have the name somewhere. Books, diaries, lamps, movie posters and various other trinkets.

TKHutchinson
TKHutchinson on April 19, 2006 at 6:23 pm

Renato, if you were the elevator operator at the Wilma building you have so many stories to tell that you could fill books. Is it true that elevator operators know everything? Like Eddie Sharp and Bob Sias, the owners; like Koro Hatto, the dead pigeon; and on and on. I would be very interested in knowing what you got out of the basement, because WA Simon Amusements operated many theatres in Idaho and Montana, and had a very -colorful- history.

Briefly, W.A. “Billy” Simon was a contemporary of Pantages, and was instrumental in operating one or more vaudeville theatres in Portland Oregon. One of the acts he had on stage was the Wilma Sisters. He took up with the much younger Edna Wilma, and married her. They settled in Missoula and operated the theatres as well as ranches (not sure of Edna brought these to the marriage or if Simon did). Simon didn’t live too long, as I recall he died in the mid ‘30s and Edna (a very sharp and savvy businesswoman) carried on and improved the business holdings, which prospered during the second world war. At the end of the war Edna, by then middle aged, married young Eddie Sharp, who was a musician. She only lived a few more years and upon her death Eddie began a lifetime relationship with Bob Sias. Neither Eddie or Bob were nearly the businessperson that Edna was, and essentially for the rest of their lives they lived off the assets of the WA Simon Company, which by the time of their deaths were pretty well gone (all the theatres were gone except the Wilma, Missoula).

The story of Simon, Edna Wilma, and Eddie and Bob is one of the most interesting I have run across. Any documentation you have, Renato, would be very interesting indeed, as would be your recollections as the elevator operator.

Tom Hutchinson

davidlane
davidlane on February 6, 2007 at 11:10 pm

I remember it all too, I lived in the basement apt. for about 1.5 years it was #04 and my friend Rat/manager who loved trains lived in the top floor apt….. Erie was the old elevator operater.. I even ran the “knob” myself a few times and would go up into the booth to help run the movies…… I loved that place and its people/history…. Eddie, Sias, Rat, Mother who ran the office, Andy Crow…… plus Bill and a host of others……. Miss the old Oxford and the poker table too, lol ….. David Lane

ProntoATL
ProntoATL on March 12, 2007 at 8:56 am

This is David Keith. I was in the Wilma scene for many years. I know many of her secrets. Ed Sharp was my mentor and friend. He left me most of his estate (not as much as you think). There are tons of stories. Most of the ones that relate to Ed, Edna, Billy Simmons, Bob Sias, Rat, and many others are pretty correct, some details are out of wack, but the gist is right in most. It was the best and craziest time of my life. Suicides, knifings, shootings, Carol Oconner, Many names big and small. The Wilma and crew saw it all. I saw much, and heard many stories straight (so to speak) from the horses mouths. They were an interesting group and I am a better man for knowing all of them. The Grand Wilma is truly the Showplace and Storyplace of Missoula, and lots of Montana as well.

kks
kks on September 18, 2007 at 12:33 pm

while attending u of m i lived on 3rd floor beg summer 1996 (at the marquee) and then on the 7th floor for a little over a year and don’t know renato…however… i treasure the time i spent there and think about bev, rat and the rest a ton…

tomdelay
tomdelay on October 16, 2007 at 1:36 am

A 1925-ish 3/10 Robert Morton was moved from a theatre (Pantages?) in Spokane and installed in the Wilma well over 30 years ago. It is still in the Wilma.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 21, 2009 at 11:28 am

Wow, what a unique structure and history. Similar to the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan Illinois.
Surely the 4.2 mil asking price was for the entire Wilma building.
Good to see it’s still operating.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 14, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Good pictures,Thanks,Stories too.

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