A Big Year for the Arcade Theatre


As I continue to do research on theatres in La Grande, Oregon from 1914-1921, I ran across an article in the La Grande Evening Observer which states that in the spring of 1916, the Arcade Theatre was going to remodel. The news came from the newest manager of the Arcade Theatre, Mrs. H. B. Leiter. So far this is also the only theatre I have come across with a female manager. Mrs. Leiter was going to remove the vaudeville shows entirely from the theatre. She claims that the movies are becoming higher in quality, and that is what audiences really want to watch, not vaudeville. Mrs. Leiter also reminds the readers/audience that they are seeing the same quality pictures for 10 cents, that others are seeing in Portland for 15 cents, as a way to entice them to continue coming to the Arcade.

I have no real explanation as to why Mrs. Leiter would remove vaudeville from the theatre, except that around that time, there were traveling movie showings. Calvin Pryluck talks more about these traveling movie showings, explaining that they had a circuit they would travel, stopping in towns large and small, and showing their movies. While Pryluck couldn’t find evidence, there are stories of some of these itinerant movie showings traveling around Eastern Oregon up until the 1950’s.

For Mrs. Leiter, these itinerant movies could have been a problem for her business if they were able to show a wider variety of movies, while she was showing vaudeville and movies. The second article, which was found directly underneath the first, talks about how Mrs. Leiter is also going to redecorate the theatre to make it new and attractive. She states that she wants everyone to feel at home while at the Arcade, as well as how well taken care of the children will be, especially since from time to time, the Arcade will play specific movies directed towards the children. The remodel, as well as the language directed at the family, could possibly be another way in which Mrs. Leiter is competing against the itinerant shows. While we may never know exactly why Mrs. Leiter was remodeling the theatre and removing vaudeville shows, she was at least making her mark on the Arcade Theatre.

La Grande Evening Observer, 4 Jan. 1916, p.8

“The Itinerant Movie Show and the Development of The Film Industry” Hollywood In The Neighborhood (Calvin Pryluck): 37-52

Theaters, Newspaper, and Prizes

The Morning Astorian in Astoria, Oregon ran this ad for the Automatic Theater September 13, 1908. This short article gives the reader all the information they would need to go see a movie as well as incentivizes them to go. Right below the headline and name of the theater, there is the address or location of the theater, then it tells the reader that it is a “first class moving picture show”. Below that, in bold letters to get the reader attention, the article lists which movies it is playing that night, as well as an illustrated song. Then it gives the admission prices for adults and children and the time that it will be starting. To let the readers know when to look again for something new, the article tells them that there is a change in program Wednesday and Sunday. Finally the ad incentivizes them to go to the theater, by stating that they are giving away a “ladies gold watch” and that every person who goes to the theater will receive a numbered ticket. It finishes off the ad by stating that the drawing will be held October 1st.

Newspapers played an important part for theaters around the country at the time. The theaters needed the newspapers as a way to draw in large audiences, and the newspapers needed theaters to advertise in the paper as a way for the paper to make money. Abel explaines it as, “Sunday editions looked and functioned some-what like department stores, and a version of the ‘display’ ads that lured customers into the stores soon filled whole newspaper pages, becoming a major source of revenue.” (Abel, 10). So it makes sense that the Automatic Theater would inform the readers that next Sunday, it would release it’s change in program to fit along side all the other advertisements in the Sunday paper. It is also interesting to note that many of these advertisements were aimed at women. Abel also says, “85 per cent of the advertising in newspapers and magazines, with the exception of the classified and financial, is dedicated to women and articles women purchase.” (Abel, 10). Which might explain why the Automatic Theater included the prize of a ladies gold watch.

It’s easy to see why theaters and newspapers were such a good match.

Morning Astorian, 13 Sep. 1908, p. 8

“The Newspaper, a Cultural Partner of the Movies,” ​Menus for Movieland,
​ Richard Abel, p. 6-20