Hudson Theatre

205 Locust Street,
Hudson, WI 54016

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Previous Names: Rex Theatre

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Hudson Theatre

Opened as the Theatre Delight in the early-1900’s. It was demolished and the Rex Theatre was built on the site prior to 1921. In 1938 it was renamed Hudson Theatre. It was closed July 30, 1984.

Contributed by Lost Memory

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LouRugani on November 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm

The HUDSON Theatre was at 205 Locust Street in Hudson, Wisconsin and closed on July 30, 1984, leaving Hudson without a movie theater for the first time in more than 75 years until December, 1989 when the new Southside Cinema 4 opened (later expanded to nine screens and renamed Hudson Cinema 9). In the early 1900s, Hudson had two theatres, the GEM at 501 Second Street and the THEATER DELIGHT at 220 Locust Street. The GEM didn’t last long, but the THEATER DELIGHT survived under the leadership of A. Johnson and later L.H. Clark. In 1917, Clarence “Showhouse” Mickelson purchased the THEATER DELIGHT and by 1921 built the REX Theatre building at 220 Locust Street which evolved into all the later theatres in Hudson.

In 1938 Mickelson sold the REX to J.G. Heywood of New Richmond and E.L. Peaslee of Stillwater; they renamed it the HUDSON and operated it until 1947 when they sold it to Arthur and Ethel Peterson of Kenyon, Minnesota. Their son-in-law Alfred J. Bergmann managed the HUDSON until moving to Ashland in 1961 when his son-in-law Harry Swanson (1943-1984) took over for the next decade or so. In 1969, the HUDSON Theatre building was sold to the State Bank of Hudson (later Wells Fargo Bank). At some time in the early 1970s the HUDSON was sold to Mark Pallas, who in July 1976 sold it to Henry Sampson, Paul Zipf and Don Buchholz (the latter managing) until 1982, when the HUDSON was sold to Hudson native Steve O'Connell who closed it on July 30, 1984. O'Connell said “Up until that time, our only competition were single-screen theaters in neighboring towns like River Falls, Stillwater or New Richmond.” Stillwater got a six-screen theater in the early 1980s, giving the HUDSON more competition. (The Stillwater theatre later was the victim of fancier theatres in nearby Oakdale, Woodbury and North St. Paul.)

“If a theatre wanted to run a new blockbuster beginning on opening weekend, the numbers were vicious,” O'Connell said. “For example, we would have had to pay maybe $5,000 to $10,000 up front. During the first week or two, the Hollywood studio would take 80 percent of the take. During the third and fourth week they would take 70 and then maybe 60 percent. In a community like Hudson, however, it was tough to keep a movie four weeks. And, if after four weeks I had taken in only $3,000 or $4,000, I was stuck. New movies were just too risky. I opened one of the first releases in Hudson in a couple of decades. It was one of the Superman movies.”

Steve praised competitor Stan McCullough of River Falls, who had an advantage over other theatres in being a film agent. “Stan was a great guy and was a great businessman. He was a booker who had control over 30 or 40 theaters so he could get copies of new releases.” He said McCullough tried to convince him to book “ET” for opening-weekend release. “He knew it was going to be a blockbuster when blockbusters really existed. Now everything is a blockbuster — for about a week. I should have taken Stan’s advice on ‘ET.’” The HUDSON finally ran “ET” 12 weeks after it opened in River Falls and still had a good three-week run. “We usually ran movies that were fairly safe. After three or four weeks we knew if they were successful and we could get them at a more attractive percentage. Always know that Hollywood studios are going to get the most money. That’s why selling concessions has become such an important part of the theatre business.”

He said theatre owners are often referred to as glorified popcorn vendors. “No one knows if a theater is going to make it on a movie when they pay such a premium to get a new movie,” and that studios keep precise records on every theatre across the country.

“I enjoyed my days in the theater business, however,” O'Connell said. “I remember if a movie was a little short I’d run a cartoon before the movie. People loved that because in the old days there was always a cartoon first.” the HUDSON was charging about $2 to $2.50 in its final days. At the time, the Twin Cities theaters were charging $4 or $4.50. “You’d be surprised how some people wouldn’t come to our theater because they thought we were showing an edited version of the movie because we didn’t charge as much.”

The Hudson Theatre Building was demolished to allow a bank expansion. With it went some of Hudson’s connection to the golden years of Hollywood.

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