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

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

Friday, February 1, 2019

Corvallis Businesses Circa 1920

The last post showed some of the stores that two women shopping on Second Street might have entered. 

During the 1914-1925 era, there were some shops the women probably would not have entered.  Because The Pastime, located in the Julian Hotel on Second Street, had a billiard hall in back, the women might have been reluctant to patronize the soda fountain in the front.
The Pastime, Corvallis soda fountain & pool hall
Women in the early 1920s also would not have been likely to enter a cigar store or a barber shop.
W. A. Williamson's Corvallis Cigar Factory
Corvallis barber shop, circa 1925
In 1910, Gus Harding constructed a two-story commercial building at Third and Madison.  The first occupant was the Nolan's Department store, which advertised that “it paid to walk a little further.” During the circa 1920 period, other commercial buildings were constructed in this area as the business district expanded westward. If the women in the photo been willing to walk a bit, they could have visited Corl’s Book store to purchase stationery and other paper goods as well as books.
Corl's Book Shop interior, Corvallis, Oregon
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon