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Clinton Ia. Has Ricj Movie Theatre, Stage History

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  • hawaiiguy123155
    Clinton has rich movie theater, stage history CLINTON - With the opening of the Clinton 8 Theatre in Clinton last fall, residents now can choose from the eight
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2004
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      Clinton has rich movie theater, stage history

      CLINTON - With the opening of the Clinton 8 Theatre in Clinton last
      fall, residents now can choose from the eight or nine movies shown on
      any given night.
      But what many don't know is the first 50 years of the 20th century
      saw the heyday of stage and theater in Clinton - at one time there
      were at least 10 to 12 theaters in town.
      This spring, the last of those theaters, the former Cinema I and
      Capri III at 214 and 218 Sixth Ave. South, respectively, will come
      down to make way for a downtown parking lot with a mix of public,
      customer-only and private parking.
      One hundred years ago, city residents ushered in a period in which
      theaters abounded in the downtown area. As Clinton residents greeted
      1900, the Clinton Theater at 213 Sixth Ave. South was the showplace
      of the city with a stage boasting the appearance of stars like
      Clinton's own Lillian Russell and headliner Sara Bernhart. There were
      also "right from Chicago" offerings such as "The Isle of Spice" with
      an all-star cast and ensemble of 60 performing musical hits and "The
      Fun Show of the Age, A Hollywood Flapper," with Nell Wright's Novelty
      The invention of motion pictures brought in a new twist to
      entertainment in Clinton. There were six theaters, including the
      Clinton, listed in the 1906 directory. Other theaters on the list
      included The Airdome at 319 S. Second St., Boe's at 111 N. Sixth St.,
      The Family at 411 S. Second St., The Lyric at 511 S. Second St. and
      The Nickelodeon at 402 S. Second St.
      Clinton's list of theaters jumped to nine in 1913 including two in
      Lyons - The New Bismark and The Superba, the first movie house in
      Lyons. The south-end screens included The Clinton, A-Muse-U at 214
      Sixth Ave. South, Casino at 220 S. Second St., Colonial at 402 S.
      Second St., Family, Lyric and Royal in the Langan Building.
      There also was a "new kid on the block" in 1914. In fact, there were
      two new faces on the theater board that year - the magnificent
      Orpheum on Sixth Ave. South, later to become the Capitol and Capris,
      and the top-of-the-art Parkside on Main Avenue in Lyons, later named
      the Lyons Theater.
      Both opened their doors at a time when Korns Baking Co. was selling
      German coffee cakes for five cents each, cinnamon rolls were 15 cents
      a dozen and Parker House rolls were 12 cents a dozen. Buehler Bros.
      Market, 310 Second St., had pot roast at 11 cents per pound, rib
      roast 12 cents a pound, fancy salmon three cans for a quarter, and
      fresh oysters 35 cents a quart.
      "The new moving picture theater being erected on Main Street is now
      rapidly nearing completion and it is expected will be in full
      operation a month from today," reported the Clinton Herald on Feb.
      18, 1914. "A monster electric sign, nearly the width of the building
      and about six-feet in height, containing the words, 'The Parkside'
      emblazoned with 98 Mazda lamps, was placed in position this morning."
      Henry Luhr of Chicago was manager of the richly furnished playhouse
      built by Lyons Investment Co. that opened March 25. Miss Mae Dolan
      was pianist and Miss Blanche Simmons, cashier.
      The main room had a seating capacity of 500 and the interior woodwork
      was polished mahogany.
      "Rourke's Drift," an Edison drama in two parts, "Bill's Board Bill,"
      a comedy, and "Buster's Little Game," a Selig comedy, were opening
      night films viewed by a capacity house. Admission was 10 cents.
      The Parkside was built with Lyons capital. Officers of the Lyons
      Investment Co. were W.J. Parker, president; John Galvin, vice
      president; Charles Parker, secretary; and L.P. Tritschler, treasurer.
      Two weeks and a day later, April 9, 1914, the handsome' new Orpheum
      Theater opened in downtown Clinton.
      Hailed as the most beautiful theater in the state of Iowa, the
      Orpheum had two performances daily - a 2:45 p.m. matinee with tickets
      at 10 and 20 cents, and an 8:15 p.m. evening show priced at 10, 20
      and 30 cents. There were two evening performances on Sundays and
      The grand opening show had five of America's and Europe's best
      vaudeville acts and two reels of the latest moving pictures.
      Motion pictures led off the theater's opening program followed by
      Reed's Bull Terriers, Cooper & Ricardo (a man and woman novelty act),
      Copeland & Payton (seen in comedy black-face) and Baron Lichter
      (trick and comedy piano playing).
      Manager Harry Sodini then brought out the headliners, described by
      the Herald as "The Eight Berlin Madcaps, young ladies of pulchritude,
      grace and liveliness of motion, for finished work in dancing."
      Gracing the interior of the theater were electrical fixtures,
      finished in gold, to match the gold trimming of the house. There were
      velvet draperies and carpets and 1,200 seats. On the great stage was
      scenery, carloads of it. Among the many dressing rooms was a monster
      room with facilities for caring of animals in animal acts.
      A capacity audience filled the 1,200 seats and with the addition of
      folding chairs there were probably 1,400 or 1,500 people present.
      Following the performance, management entertained a number of friends
      and visitors at an informal supper in the Lafayette Inn.
      The period between 1915 and 1920 was the highlight of Clinton
      theaters, the number then slowly disappearing.
      By 1931 there were just five theaters remaining including The Rialto
      (formerly The A-Muse-U Theater) and The Capitol (a name change from
      The Orpheum). Other marquees belonged to The Clinton Theater, The
      Parkside, later renamed the Lyons, and The Strand, once The Royal
      On May 15, 1940, the Capitol and Rialto hosted stars Don Ameche,
      Arleen Whelan, Cesar Romero and Mary Healey and the world movie
      premier of "Lillian Russell." Also during World War II, the Capitol
      stage was the scene of at least two War Bond vaudeville shows
      featuring local talent and talent from Schick Army Hospital and
      Savanna (Ill.) Ordnance Depot.
      Many young Clintonians probably had an early start like Joan Schoenig.
      "I applied to Mr. Barnes (Harold Barnes, manager of the Capitol) for
      a job when I was 15 (years old)," said Mrs. Schoenig (the former Joan
      Heath). "He gave me my first job, hiring me to run the popcorn
      machine. When they would have a late show, I remember filling stacks
      of cardboard boxes so they were ready when the crowd came in."
      Mark Barnes, former Clinton County Civil Defense Director, had a
      different story.
      "I was transferred to the Capitol in Clinton from Cresco (Iowa)," he
      said. "I had to explain that I was not Mr. Barnes' son. The move was
      a good one for I met my wife of 55 years (Virginia Simmons) who
      worked at the Rialto."
      Cinema I, formerly the Rialto, opened on Nov. 11, 1965,
      showing "Marriage On The Rocks" with Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and
      Dean Martin. The next year saw Clinton with three theaters - Cinema
      I, Capitol and Lyons. A few years later The Capitol had a new name,
      Capri III, and the Lyons was closed.
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