> > > >

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 155 (121)

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition
1952 Theatre Catalog
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 155
Page 155

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 155

A New Small Town Theatre That Clicked

Three Imaginative People Accept a Challenge, And Bring New Life to a Rural Iowa Community

A Challenge

In the many years I have been working with the problems of theatremen, I have met exhibitors who felt they were unable to keep abreast of the ever-changing conditions within the industry, and moved into other fields; men who, for a variety of reasons, were not willing to invest money in remodeling; small town exhibitors who wanted to rejuvenate their houses but didnit quite know how to go about it, and men whose plans to open small town theatres were quickly canceled by high building cost estimates and other deterrents.

Their problems gave rise to a personal challenge for me, as I always believed that a theatre can operate successfully in any town, regardless of size, if it is attractive, has good projection and sound, comfortable seats, and a good show.

To prove my point I decided to open a theatre, myself, in a location which ostensibly would be hardly suited to ideal theatre operation. The plan did not stem from any grandiose ideas about advancing the progress of the industry # Pm a theatre supply man, and the formulation of such plans had best remain in the province of men more experienced in exhibition than Ibut the showmenls problems I have encountered over the years posed such a strong personal challenge that I felt compelled to do something about that challenge.

Firs'l' Plans

I talked the idea over with two of my friends, Idamae Metcalfe, who had many years experience as a theatre manager and a great talent in interior decorating, painting murals and designing show cards, and George Howard, a young theatre supply salesman who can do carpentry, upholstering, and is adept at installing projection booth equipment. I was to furnish the ideas of how a small town theatre should look, and the three of us would pool our talents and a little labor to set up the theatre. They thought it was a good idea.

For the next several weeks, I spent most of my spare time playing holy scotch over the counties in my territory, trying to find that least likely place anyone would choose for a new theatre.

A 'Leasl' Likely Place'

Dumont, a rural community of 783 population, in the northern part of Iowa, was the town I selected. It was perfect for the experiment. The town never had its own theatre, and the nearest theatre e about 20 miles away had closed weeks before for lack of business. Du



Manager, Narional Theatre Supply Company, Des Moines

mont was situated off the main highway so that its streets Were all but deserted after dark. Even the cafes closed after supper. From all appearances the town had died and rigor mortis was setting in.

When Idamae and George saw the town of Dumont they thought I had lost my mind. How could a theatre thrive in a place like this? I reminded them of the premise we were setting out to prove in our experiment: A good theatre can operate successfully anywhere.

Cooperative Merchant's

However sleepy the town of Dumont appeared, its merchants were wide awake, and they responded enthusiastically when we explained our plans. Several of the business men offered to help finance the theatre with filoans,y of $50 each, to be repaid only if and when the theatre could make the payments. The local Lions Club, under the direction of the towns popular physician, Dr. Erma, offered to contribute $25 a week to the theatre for a whole year for a weekly jackpot giveaway promotion stunt. The Odd Fellows Lodge turned over to us a large hall it owned. It was a well-built, modern building and would be fine for a theatre. We were in business.

The next several weeks were busy ones for us. We tore down walls, and

put up walls; took off paint, and put on paint. A carpenter was added to our crew of three, and as the din of hammers and falling partitions echoed through the town, the townspeople gathered outside the building in curious crowds to watch us work.

A Woman on the Scaffold

They were particularly amused by the sight of a woman in overalls, inerrily painting away atop a 25-foot scaffold. Painting on a scaffold wasnit unusual for Idamae; it all began during the war when she was managing a theatre for an amusement company out of Minneapolis. She couldn't find a painter to refinish the marquee for her, so she tackled the job herself. Since then she has painted about a dozen marquees, and has done several interior jobs, including one at the Times DeLuxe, which her husband manages in Cedar Rapids, Ia.


The theatre I envisioned for Dumont would blend in with the rural, informal atmosphere of the town, so thought it natural to have the 60 by 30-foot walls of the auditorium decorated with huge murals depicting the land, its people, and its history. Idamae painted the murals in fluorescent BlackeLite, and did a wonderful job. In one of the murals a farmer, looking out over his cornfields, with the cornstalks blazing in autumn colors, greets patrons as they enter the darkened auditorium. Other

INTERESTING VIEW of the Dumont lront showing the excellent value of the scroll-shaped display frames and iust a glimpse of the adioining parking area.

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 155