Thursday, February 7, 2019

Majestic Theatre's Early History

What did Benton County residents do for fun in the Circa 1920 era?  One possibility then, as now, was to go to the movies. For many years beginning in 1913, that meant visiting the Majestic Theatre in the newly-built Johnson Porter building on Second Street. The 800-seat theater, operated by Charles Small and Samuel Whiteside, not only showed films but also had a stage which was used for live shows and local events.
Majestic Theatre, Corvallis, Oregon
The Benton County Historical Museum has the Majestic's ledgers from this period.  Not only do these list weekly expenses and receipts, but for most weeks, they also give the movies shown.  I was interested to see what movies were playing 100 years ago.

First of all, I was surprised to see that they showed THREE films per week, with each showing for two days. The theater was closed on Sundays.

The first movie shown in 1919 was Shoulder Arms starring Charlie Chaplin-- one of the top-grossing films in 1918.  That was followed by Turn of the Wheel, starring Geraldine Farrar, and Cecile B. DeMille's We Can't Have Everything. 

The beginning of February marked the film debut of Will Rogers in Laughing Bill Hyde.

Some of the other films they showed in February 1919 included:
Wild Honey starring Doris Kenyon
Good Night Paul starring Constance Talmadge
Just for Tonight starring Tom Moore
Conquered Hearts starring Marguerite Marsh
Hidden Fires starring Mae Marsh
Riddle Gawne starring William S. Hart (one of many westerns shown during 1919)
The Secret of Storm Country starring Norma Talmadge
A Perfect 36 starring Mabel  Normand (one of the big stars of the silent film era)
and Cecil B. DeMille's Till I come Back to You.

Other top-grossing  films that the Majestic Theatre showed in 1919 included
Mickey starring Mabel Normand
The Squaw Man (a Cecil B. DeMille film)
Daddy-Long-Legs starring Mary Pickford.

I'll have a few more notes about the Majestic's operations next week. 

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

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