Dec 27, 2009

Before Netflix

There was a time in our center cities when movie theaters dominated the cultural scene. Few of these old theaters still exist, such as the Boyd in Bethlehem. Allentown had no less than six movie houses, either on or directly off Hamilton Street. Several smaller theaters were scattered in different neighborhoods, such as the Allen and Town. On Hamilton Street itself, the Colonial and Rialto dominated. Both large ornate theaters, with balconies.

The elaborate promotion shown above for the movie Grand Hotel dates back to 1932. I have been unable to identify which theater or city is shown. The photograph was taken by a professional photographer named Harris, who worked out of the Farr Building in Easton.


Polish Eddie said...

Tell your readers that Irving Thalberg, the producer of Grand hotel, died at age thirty-seven. He was an immigrant Jew who helped make Hollywood what it is today. Thanks MM for keeping these old memories alive. I used to go to the movies and it cost fifteen cents, up from the nickel my mother spent in Bayonne.

petelewnes said...

bayonne saw it's movie houses torn down as well...having grown up there hearing everyone lament the fact that they were torn down. Now there's one of those multiplexes built on the waterfront. What a shame that movie houses suffered the same deal as most downtowns once the malls came in.

There is a great success story though in jersey city of the lowes movie palace (built in 1929 at a cost of $1 million) just prior and during the stock market crash. Threatened to be torn down, a local group saved this's now functioning again...

LVCI said...

Boyd (9th), Earle (8th), Jeanette (Tilghman), Eric (Hamilton), Capri (Hamilton) and of course the big granddaddy The Blvd. Drive-in.

The Rialto before a movie theatre was home to live vaudeville acts.

The stage one time extended straight out to 10th street before being made into a store front.

The Rialto was the 1st theatre to get air conditioning.

Before it's 1st fire there was an eating/seating area overlooking the marble lobby entranceway.

Anonymous said...

TO: 1.04 pm

The Eric Theater was a relatively new and modern theater built in the mid- to early 1960s. It had nothing in common with the others you mentioned, either historically, or architecturally. It really was not on Hamilton Street. Unlike the great old Allentown movie houses, the Eric was built into a quasi 'strip mall' after all the older structures were demolished and bulldozed. If anything, the theater itself was closer to being located on 5th street, closer to Linden.
There were several movie theaters that yo missed that were on Hamiltion, or reasnablel close. I know that there was a smaller theater (torn down in the 1950's or 1940's) on the south side of Hamilton very close to the Merchant's Bank building at 7th and Hamilton. I heard the name mentioned from an 'old-timer', but for the moment it escapes me.
Don't forget the Strand, located on north 8th Street, very near to the Farr Building.


michael molovinsky said...

anon, i believe the missing theater you're thinking of was the midway, where i spent many afternoons watching the matinee's. maybe two serials, such as flash gordon, then 5 cartoons.
btw, my photo store, allentown photographic, was in the strand lobby. that part of the building still stands; the actual theater section was used as the farr shoe chain warehouse for many years. the earle was on the parking lot next to it. across the street was the original Look Steak Sandwich shop.

Anonymous said...

Allentown movie theater update, cont'd.

From the Allentown 1935-35 City Directory:

Embassy Theater - 28 N. Ninth St.
Park Theater - 823 St. John
(today's Zandy's)
State Theater - 35 N. Sixth St.
Transit Theater - 535 Hamilton Victor Theater - 716 Hamilton
Little Theater - 1333-35 Chew St.



Anonymous said...

The Eric was on 4th street between Hamilton and Linden.

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