4909 S. 24th Street,
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The former city of South Omaha was home to the Besse Theatre, a silent-era house dating back to the nickelodeon era and lasting into the 1920’s. It claimed superiority in the “two Omaha” era thanks to its $5,000 Kimball pipe organ that could approximate the human voice, its selection of multi-reel, lengthier films, and its 680-seat capacity.
In its early days, the theatre was dogged with issues ranging from unruly patrons and allegations of hiring child laborers. Under manager George V. Watkins, the theatre matured into a venue that had higher class vaudeville and better films.
Watkins dubbed the Besse Theatre as “the buckle of South Omaha’s amusement belt” and used coupons to attract a working-class, meat packing clientele within the “Magic City.”
Times changed rapidly as South Omaha would become a part of Omaha and the theatre got competition in a more modern era of movie houses built for cinema including the long-running Roseland Theatre. Though the Besse Theatre wouldn’t survive even to to the sound era folding in the 1920’s with its organ heading to the Gem Theatre, it has a place within the history of South Omaha Main Street commercial district.
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