Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 The Thanhouser Players Theatre

On Thursday, January 14, 1915, the stock subscription books were opened, and within 26 hours the required capital had been raised to open the Thanhouser Players Theatre. Note Support from studio employees was overwhelming, and nearly all office personnel, actors, and actors purchased shares. Working at breakneck speed under the direction of theatre manager John William Kellette, Clarence Dull and his assistants installed a stage below the screen, renovated the interior, and the beautified lobby. An advertisement Note invited the public: "Meet the Thanhouser players in person. Extra attraction: Mr. Harry Benham will sing, assisted at the piano by Mr. Sidney Bracy." Prices charged were five and ten cents. Shown were films from the Mutual program.

On Monday evening, January 18, 1915, the theatre was thrown open to the public, but not without a last minute scare when it was discovered that the old projector left over from the North Avenue Theatre days would not operate. Harris Gordon was dispatched at noon to New York City, returning at seven in the evening with a Power's Model 6A fitted with a special film magazine so that two-reel pictures could be shown without interruption. The doors of the theatre were opened at 7:30, while Gordon and two Power's employees worked frantically in the projection booth to set up the device. Within 20 minutes each of the more than 500 seats was filled for the first show. At 9:15 the house was emptied, and a new set of patrons filed in. On hand to greet visitors throughout the evening were Thanhouser players dressed in formal evening clothes.

It was announced that on each succeeding evening a Thanhouser player would be in attendance and would give autographs on request. Each evening the ushers were attired in tuxedos. Monday was set as Zudora Day, Wednesday was set aside as Thanhouser Feature Day, and on Friday evening souvenirs were provided for the women. On January 23rd The New Rochelle Pioneer reported:

If the past week is any criterion as to the future of the Thanhouser Theatre on North Avenue, opposite Fifth Avenue, it will have a long life and a gay one.... Manager John William Kellette reports the attendance growing each day, added to the perfect projection and up-to-date Mutual service, each night has its surprises.

The New Rochelle Pioneer, January 23, 1915, printed a letter to the editor signed by Edward Cotter, secretary of the musicians' union, which stated in part:

This house will be the only house in New Rochelle which employs union musicians and the union men should give all of their support to the little playhouse, and if this is done, it is the intention of the management to put in a four-piece orchestra, with first-class pictures and good talent from the Thanhouser Corporation.

On February 27th The New Rochelle Pioneer printed a glowing account of the venture's success:

Thanhouser Theatre Grows in Popularity Every Day: The theatre is drawing its patrons from the exclusive corners of New Rochelle. From Paine Heights to Pintard, Leland Avenue and Sutton Manor neighborhoods, nightly the New Rochelleans who want ventilation, heat and sanitation with their amusement flock to the "Nice little Theatre Where Everybody Goes," and they all go back again. One night Manager Kellette counted eight autos parked along the curb in front of the theatre; by summer it will look like an exhibition of newest models.

"Kell" seems to have the right idea in operating the theatre from the viewpoint of a patron. He is running his shows exactly as he'd like to see someone else run them if he had paid his admission into the theatre. Advertising slides are taboo. The only slides shown are those in relation to coming events at the theatre or slides announcing articles found in the theatre and lost by some patron, which have run from empty purses and odd mittens and gloves, to bank books, muffs, caps and handbags with money. Owners have always been found. There are no long waits between changing reels, and the feature two-reel subject is on one reel and continuous, and part two runs along with part one, so that interest may not be lost in the subject.

Hanging baskets with ivy and artificial Japanese peach blossoms hang from the indirect chandeliers, and the theatre is perfumed daily with dactylus. The lobby is the most attractive in the city, and an artist, very prominent in New Rochelle, living at Paine Heights, marveled at the change that had taken place under the touch of the Thanhouser players. From the beautiful exterior scenes of Mutual settings, artists may draw inspiration for future pictures. The projection is perfect, and as it is the "Home of the Silent Drama," Manager Kellette keeps the little chatterboxes quiet in the evening when the grownups demand quiet and rest. In the afternoon the tots are allowed considerable freedom of expression, but they are never rude. The Thanhouser Players Theatre...is in charge of an able body of officers and directors, who know what the public wants.... Note


Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.