Liberty Theatre

718 Main Street,
Houston, TX 77002

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Josiah Pearce & Sons Circuit of New Orleans decided to branch out into south Texas in the early-1910’s. They created a number of the theatres in Texas - two of which were called the Pearce Theatre. One was in Port Arthur and one was in downtown Houston.

The Pearce Theatre in Houston launched on June 10, 1913 with “The Accusing Hand” starring and directed by Romaine Fielding on a 15-year lease. Earl H. Hulsey’s Dallas-centric circuit bought the Pearce Theatre and, like many World War I movie houses, changed its name during the War to the more patriotic Liberty Theatre on February 5, 1916. Improvements the following year added improved projection and cooling under new owner Eva Johnson.

Newer theatres began to challenge the aging venues including the Liberty Theatre and Queen Theatre. The theatre was a second-run budget house and was open to exploitation screenings including the silent exploitation film, “Are You Fit to Marry?” using the all-women and all-men screenings followed by public health lectures in 1922.

The Liberty Theatre was unveiled by the FTC in 1923 as part of the enormous Famous Players Lasky group comprised of circuits including the Liberty’s Enterprise Realty Company along with dozens of others. This is of note only in that the Liberty Theatre was seen as an outsider and not owned by locals. It ran public-service oriented campaigns and installed local managers to appear more in step with the area.

The Liberty Theatre finally got Houston-centric ownership when Will Horwitz took on the operation within his circuit in 1926 running to end of the lease. Though the theatre had experimented with a synchronous sound briefly, the Liberty Theatre was a silent operation until its demolition in 1928.

Entrepreneur Jesse H. Jones had the entire block containing the Liberty Theatre razed for the Gulf Building in 1928. The 37-story Deco style Gulf Building (later the JP Morgan Chase Building) would be an upgrade serving as Houston’s tallest building from its opening in 1929 until a taller building arrived in 1963. The building, however, is still thriving in the 21st Century.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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