Electric Theatre

1514 S. Main Street,
Joplin, MO 64801

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Additional Info

Functions: Bar

Previous Names: South Main Street Theatre

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Electric Theatre Joplin Valention Cover

The Electric Theatre was built in 1927. It was still open in 1950. The following information on the Electric Theatre comes courtesy of John Schehrer; ‘When I was young, we used to go to Joplin to the Electric Theater there. It was where the OK Bar is now located on South Main Street. There are some of the old seats still there and they line one side of the pool room.

If I could find my original postcard view from about 1939 I think it might be possible to see this place'. Perhaps you can help us fill in more detail on the Electric Theatre.

Contributed by Jeff Chapman

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

raybradley on September 5, 2009 at 10:56 am

That large Spanish style, gray building with all those arches (1532 S. Main) appears to have been a former theatre, more than the brown brick corner structure. Perhaps this was the actual location of the Electric Theatre, and through time the street numbers shifted?
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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Jeff’s introduction for this page says that the theater’s building is now the location of the OK Bar, and the Internets say that the OK Bar is at 1516 S. Main. The building probably includes the addresses 1514-1518. The bar’s sign is readable in Google street view. That’s why I assumed that was the Electric’s building. But when I first looked at Google street view I did think the gray building Cosmic Ray mentioned was the former theater, as it looks like it could have been one.

The gray building’s actual address probably isn’t the 1532 Google Maps appears to give it, though. I think Google Maps got the addresses off a bit, as it often does. Also, Joplin is one of those places that puts odd numbers on the east sides of streets instead of the west sides, so the gray building is probably at about 1507-1511 S. Main. I’m still wondering if it could have been another theater though.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm

I’ve found quite a few references to a Paramount Theatre in Joplin, but it was in operation at the same time as the Electric. The Paramount in downtown Joplin was a Publix-Dubinsky house in 1931, but was later operated by Fox Midwest. The downtown Joplin Paramount was demolished in 1965. I’ve been unable to find an opening date for it, though, or if it had been closed some time before the demolition. It’s possible that the Paramount was a renaming of an earlier Electric Theatre sometime in the 1920s or early 1930s.

I did come across something interesting in the “From the Boxoffice Files, Twenty Years Ago” feature in the June 14, 1947, issue. It said “The new South Main Street Theatre in Joplin was opened to the public on June 4. Harold Gibbons and C.W. (unreadable) are joint owners.”

Harold Gibbons is the guy Fox Midwest bought the Electric from in 1937, so this new theater probably was the Electric, and it was called the South Main Street Theatre on opening. If there was another Electric Theatre in Joplin, later renamed the Paramount, it might have still been in operation in 1927 and that would account for the Main Street Electric having a different name when it opened.

I’ve been unable to find either the Wasson Theatre or the Royal Theatre mentioned in Boxoffice. The owners should have taken the local Boxoffice stringers to lunch once in a while.

seymourcox on September 8, 2009 at 10:55 am

This vintage postcard shows the Fox, with the Paramount located a few doors down -
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seymourcox on September 8, 2009 at 11:01 am

Here are other postcard views of Joplin theatres -
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? theatre
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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I’ve found an item about the Electric in the March 13, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal. It’s an announcement of Grubel Brothers' intention to remodel the Electric Theatre. The project included rearranging the mezzanine floor to accommodate new rest rooms and a lounge, reseating the auditorium, installing a new Wurlitzer organ, and complete redecoration, with new furnishings, carpets, and lighting. The projected cost of the project was $75,000.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 12, 2009 at 10:44 pm

I should add that the item about Grubel Brother’s Electric Theatre might actually apply to the theater that was later the Paramount, farther up Main Street. If that’s the case, then all the early trade magazine references to Grubel’s Electric would be about the Electric/Paramount, not this theater, and it would be likely that the Electric in the 1500 block was not designed by Boller Brothers and was not built in 1912, but was new construction for Harold Gibbons in 1927, and opened as the South Main Street Theatre and then was renamed the Electric Theatre sometime between 1930 and 1935. This would also account for the wildly different seating capacities reported. The 1930 FDY count of 1,522 would be for the theater that was the Paramount by 1931, and the 1935 count of 300 would be for this theater.

Seymour: The mystery theater in your second link might have been the Lyric. The same web site that has the picture has a collection of Sanborn fire insurance maps of Joplin, and the Lyric is shown at 308 S. Main Street on one of the maps from 1906. There were no other theaters on that block in 1906. I don’t know if the Lyric ever ran movies or not, though it had a small stage and must have dated from the pre-movie period.

The 1906 map also shows the New Club Theatre at 208 W. 4th Street. It was much larger than the Lyric, and apparently was Joplin’s biggest theater of the period. I can’t find the Schubert in 1906, so it must have been built later. The Ideal wasn’t open yet either. It looks like a storefront nickelodeon conversion.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2009 at 12:03 am

One more addition. The list of Boller Brothers theaters includes the Wasson in Joplin, and gives its construction date as 1906. Chuck gives the address as 1515 S. Main in a comment above, placing it almost opposite the South Main Street/Electric Theatre.

Also I’ve decided that the pre-1930 comments in trade publications that mention the Electric Theatre have to be about the downtown Electric/Paramount. Nothing else brings sense from the confusion. The current aka and the attribution of the architect should be removed from this page, and the aka South Main Street Theatre should be added, with a construction/opening date of 1927. The architect remains unknown.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Thanks. This must have been quite a lively district in its day if all of the theaters on Main Street one block either side of 15th Street were operating at the same time. There would have been the Royal at 1400, the Glen at 1415, the Rex at 15th and Main, the Wasson at 1515, and the Electric at 1516.

TLSLOEWS on November 5, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Too bad no one can find any pictures although it had a really good name for a theater.

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