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The caption on the photo, which seems to be a promotional photo of some sort, is “Erber’s Avenue Theatre, East St. Louis Leading Playhouse.”
According to my friend, the music in the theatre was a piano. He only heard theatre organs in St. Louis when they’d cross the river.
He also tells me of another community theatre in his area that is not listed here and of the time when “talking pictures” came to East St. Louis.
I have a photo of this theatre that I hope to get high quality scanned and entered here before long. It was given to me by a 95 year old gentleman who now lives in Atlanta and is a good friend. He attended this theatre in the 1920’s. The photograph shows a two story building with the words Avenue Theatre at the top and a overhanging marquee with “Erber’s Vaudeville and Photoplays” on the side and “Erber’s” on the front. There is a horse and wagon in front of the theatre.
Dr. John Near saved the organ from the Galesburg Orpheum Theatre in 1964. Over three years he cleaned, repaired and installed the Barton in his parentâ€™s home outside Galesburg, IL. When Mr. and Mrs. Near passed away and the home was sold the organ needed to be removed. John and his brother tried to give it back to the Orpheum Theatre but there was no interest in bringing the organ home. At the same time, the Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald, GA was looking for a pipe organ to install in that theatre which has been renovated and is active. The Orpheum Barton was donated to that theatre, has been professionally restored and is being installed in the Grand by the A.E. Schleuter Pipe Organ company of Atlanta, and will premiere on March 26, 2011 with a concert by Jelani Eddington.
I was in the Slovakia Restaurant (now closed) several times and gave it a good look-over due to the unique decor. I saw nothing that would have caused me to think it had ever been a theatre. There is nothing of the interior theatre look left that I ever saw.
My Dad used to take my brother and me up from north Atlanta (Bolton) to the Belmont and drop us off and we would stay there and see the movie a couple of times while he and Mom shopped at the Belmont Hills Shopping Center. That was in the days where you could do such things safely and kids knew to stay where they were told to stay. I remember the restrooms upstairs. I remember seeing a 3D film there but I can’t remember which one it was. It would have been in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Surprisingly, Belmont Hills was the largest shopping center in the South until Lenox Square was built.
Recently, the Cobb Theatre has been occupied by a succession of restaurants. During it’s existence as the Three Bears, Jack took the picture that he has at his site and I also saw that room as it is depicted there. Since then that restaurant has closed and the theatre is now home to a different restaurant. I’m not sure how that has affected the integrity of the theatre appearance. I saw movies at the Cobb several times in the 1960’s.
The marquee of this theatre (and possibly the interior) appear in the “Fire Man” episode of “The Greatest American Hero.” They are the scene of an arson that figures in the story line.
The Tivoli Theatre will host a benefit concert for the Hamilton County Rescue Squad on Saturday, April 5, 2008, at 7:30 P.M. The Wurlitzer theatre organ will be played from the time the doors open about 6:30 P.M. until the start of the show, during the intermission, and possibly at the end of the program. The Wurlitzer has been prominently features on posters, in print advertising, and in radio and TV ads promoting the benefit program.
The Wurlitzer Theatre organ was again restored in the late 1980’s and is currently maintained by a dedicated volunteer group from Chattanooga, Manchester, Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham. When the team is there, the organ is played, primarily by Nashville organist Everett Hertenstein. After the passing of legendary Chattanooga musician Jon Robere, organist at the Tivoli, the organ was not played publicly until a recent effort by theatre management resulted in the organ being used prior to events at the theatre. The organ is re-emerging into the public consciousness after a long absence. A video of Atlanta organist Ron Carter playing the Tivoli Organ at a Nov 2007 program is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQZxjCKf9-4 .
In 1929, the Michigan Theatre in Flint acquired the 4-manual 15-rank Page Theatre Organ that had been installed in the studios of WHT Radio in the Wrigley Building in Chicago, IL. The organ was removed from the theatre in 1950 and installed in a private residence. The WHT/Michigan Theatre Page is now installed in the arts auditorium of Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, GA.
The theatre has not yet reopened but I was recently privileged to be able to attend a tour and the restoration is absolutely stunning and first class. They are in the final stages of the punchlist and the theatre should be open shortly.
As of the beginning of June, the theatre is programming independent films, musical shows, and mainstream films weekly. The restaurant management has changed. The theatre organ is still present and still being used when an organist is available. In April the first annual Macon GA Film and Video Festival (www.maconfilmfestival.com) was held and was very successful. It included concert performances and silent film screenings with the Grand Organ featuring international theatre organ star Ken Double. The theatre seems to be enlivening the downtown area and is an exciting place to be.
Visiting Clarksville today, I drove down to see the Roxy and was graciously admitted by the Artistic Director John McDonald, who was adamant that this is and was an Art Moderne Theatre, not Art Deco because of the era of design and construction was post-Art Deco. Their website indicates that the Lillian gave way to the Roxy in 1945. The exterior of the theater looks good. The lobby has apparently been expanded inward, eating up seating and the stage expanded outward, doing the same. I believe he told me that the current seating is 200. The balcony has been walled off, similar to the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, and converted into a 50-seat black box theatre. Because of rehearsal I was not able to be in the auditorium more than a moment but it appears that it is in “black box” decor. There seems to be nothing visible that is Art Moderne. As successful as the theatre may be, it appears that they took the Art Moderne house and turned it into a different kind of venue so that it no longer resembles the theatre that it once was except outside and to some extent in the lobby. My impressions were affirmed by my friends in the Clarksville are who remember it as it was.
The Imperial Theatre Wurlitzer, Opus 1184, was recently removed from the home in Marietta where it had been installed and expanded to 11 ranks. It is now in the possession of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society. Efforts are underway to return the organ to the Imperial Theatre.
Last week I was assisting with the tuning (and playing) of the Wurlitzer Organ at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga and met Mr. Everett Hortenstein, a gentleman in his 80’s. He was introduced to me as the former theatre organist at the Paramount Theatre in Nashville.