301 Center Street,
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The Royal Theatre had opened on May 29, 1916 by Thomas Verba in the George W. Heun Building on 2nd Street with Benny J.Haas and Mr. J.W. Koza in the projection booth. Mrs. J.W. Koza played the Crown Combinola Piano.
Anton Janata took over the Royal Theatre on April 1, 1922. After an unsuccessful sound test there in October of 1926, Janata moved to a new location for the Royal Theatre in 1927 still not satisfied with his sound film experiments. Janata moved the operation to the Bohemian National Hall in 1929. He teamed with Frank Marik to launch the new Howells Theatre as a sound movie operation there using the BesTone Sound System from Omaha. But a ventilation appears to be one motivating factor in moving to Janata and Marik ’s fourth location of the decade.
Janata and Marik advertised their operation as 100% talking pictures to get a leg up on some of the area theatres which were either silent or still booking silent films in a mix with talkies. However, another business operator decided to open a competing theatre on the city’s Main Street. Janata and Marik closed the Bohemian National Hall location for their new theatre in Palik Building launching this theatre unnamed on July 5, 1930.
The New Theatre launched with Jack Oakie in “Hit the Deck.” The pair had a naming contest with a $50 prize for the person who came up with the permanent name for the venue. The theatre was 100% talking using the BesTone Sound System from the previous location. They also installed a Blizzard fan in 1930 so the theatre could operate year-round.
Arlene Coufal won the $5 prize for her winning entry which renamed the venue as the Jan-Mar Theatre - a fusion of owners' Janata and Marik last names. A joke entry from one local entrant was “Kwitcherbelliaiken Theatre”. Entries were received from multiple states.
At the one-year anniversary of the Jan-Mar Thetare, the pair dissolved the partnership. The theatre became the Howells Theatre for two weeks in July of 1930 before being renamed the Colfax Theatre on August 8, 1931 with the film, “Modern Youth”. The Colfax Theatre was named after the county in which the theatre was located.
Dentist J. T. Palensky took on the theatre renaming the venue as the Howells Theatre. Palensky updated the projection equipment in 1939 but Palensky got into the oil industry closing the venue in 1951. A new generation of Verbas took on the local venue the F.J. “Red” Verba became the theatre’s final operator. Verba’s grandfather had started the Royal Theatre and “Red” had played drums at the there.
Verba closed the Howells Theatre in the TV age in 1955. In its nearly 40 years of operation, the theatre had only one projectionist in Benny J. Haas. Verba remodeled the theatre as a pharmacy opening in 1956. The Howells Historical Society featured artefact’s from the Howells Theatre.
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