Friday, February 22, 2019

Corvallis Cinema Business Circa 1920

During 1919, the Majestic Theatre not only showed the movies listed in the last post but also hosted events such as an OAC style show, and college and high school drama productions.
Corvallis High School Thalian Drama Club program
from a performance at the Majestic Theatre
A few traveling acts also performed at the Majestic, including a vaudeville troupe, a minstrel show, and the Bulger Animal Circus. The ledger from that year noted the ticket prices for some of these events (30 cents and 70 cents for the minstrel show and 20 cents for the animal circus) but did not list the regular ticket prices for movies. During 1920, however, the ledger records prices as 5 cents (Saturday), 10 cents (matinees) and 20 cents for evening showings. For a few films such as “Our Teddy” about Theodore Roosevelt and Anita Stewart in “Virtuous Wives,” ticket prices were higher. Twenty cents in 1919 is roughly estimated as equal to $3.06 today.

Owners Small and Whiteside leased space in the building and hired Mr. Layton, pictured here, to manage the daily operations of the theatre.
Expenses for film rentals ranged from $15 to $40, with most in the $20 to $30 range. As these were silent movies, there was no sound track so the Majestic hired a pianist, a drummer, a violinist and a clarinet player.  In later years, they seemed to use only a pianist.  The business also had to hire a projector operator, ticket sellers, ticket takers and ushers. The ledges also record the profits for each year (except for 1916).

Year                 Receipts           Expenses         Gross Profit
1915                $ 7,241.30       $6,574.40        $  666.90
1917                                                                1,983.27
1918                35,591.69       30,716.97        4,875.32
1919                51,977.12       49,241.40        2,735.72
1920                17,748.42       16,989.71            758.71

(note:  I know the 1918 figures don't add up but that's what was written in the ledger).

The theater business was profitable. Samuel Whiteside and his brother George expanded by constructing the Whiteside Theatre building, which opened in 1922.

 By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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