Post 2 in the Snapshot Series – Occasionally in my travels I come across a theater that I can’t find a lot of information on, or that I only have a chance to photograph for an hour or two. They’re still beautiful and fascinating, so they definitely have a place on After the Final Curtain.
The Jayhawk Theatre opened in August of 1926 in Topeka, Kansas. It was built by local architect Thomas W. Williamson, and designed by the Boller Brothers. The Boller Bros. were known for designing hundreds of theaters across the country, using the Jayhawk design as a prototype. In addition to the theater, the building contained a hotel and a commercial arcade that connected the two sections.
The Eastown Theatre opened on October 1, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. It was built by the architectural firm of V.J. Waiver and Company for the Wisper and Westman Theatre chain. Designed in a Baroque architectural style, the 2,500 seat theater was built for motion pictures and did not have live performances until much later. Most movie palace openings were a grand event, and the Eastown was no exception. Newspaper ads proclaimed the opening to be, “the most glorious event in the history of east Detroit.” The opening film was Clark Gable’s first starring role “Sporting Blood.”
The Madison Theatre opened on October 16, 1920 in Peoria, Illinois. It was built by architect Frederic J. Klein (known for Rockford, Illinois’ Coronado Theatre) for the Robinson Amusement Company. The 1,739 seat theater was originally designed in the Adamesque style and was remodeled in 1936 in the simpler art deco style to ease the maintenance of the building.
The Ramova Theatre opened on August 21, 1929 in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The 1,500 seat theater was designed by architect Meyer O. Nathan in the Spanish Revival style. An atmospheric theater, the ceiling was painted blue to resemble the night sky. A contest was held to name the theater while it was being built, and the winner named it after the Lithuanian word for “peaceful place.”
The Majestic Theatre opened on February 26, 1928 in East St. Louis, Illinois. It was designed by the Boller Brothers for Harry Redmon and Fred Leber. The Boller Brothers were known for the Missouri Theatre in St Joseph, Missouri. The Majestic was nicknamed “The Million Dollar Theatre” due to the high costs of building the theater.
Hi everyone – I want to let you all know about an upcoming event.
On August 18, I’ll be giving a lecture on “The Fall of the American Movie Palace” as part of the Atlas Obscura Speakers series of talks at the Observatory in Brooklyn.
Here’s some information about it from the Observatory’s website:
There’s nothing remarkable about a movie theater today, but there used to be. When the great American Movie Palaces opened, they were some of the most lavish, stunning buildings anyone had ever seen. With the birth of the multiplex, theater companies found it harder and harder to keep these buildings open. Some were demolished, some were converted, and some remain to this day. “The Fall of the American Movie Palace” will take you through the history of these magnificent buildings, from their opening in the early 1900s to years after the final curtain.