James Theatre

2809 James Street,
Syracuse, NY 13206

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Schine Circuit Inc.

Previous Names: Melva Theatre

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The 500-seat Melva Theatre was located at the corner of James Street and N. Edwards Avenue in the Eastwood section of the city. It opened on December 25, 1921 with Rudolph Valentino in “The Sheik” & a Harold Lloyd comedy. In 1932 it was taken over by Arlington Amusement, who installed a new sound system, but it closed in 1933. It was reopened on November 9, 1936 renamed James Theatre screening Clark Gable in “San Francisco”. It was closed on October 27, 1940 with Heather Angel in “Half a Sinner” & Johnny Mack Brown in “Riders of the Pasco Basin”. It was taken over by the Schine Circuit for the reason to keep any competition from reopening, protecting their Schine palace Theatre five blocks away. , when it was listed as (Closed). The James Theatre never reopened and it became a funeral home. It was later demolished.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

dallasmovietheaters on December 13, 2022 at 10:39 am

The Melvin Block building at 2809-2819 James Street was home to the Melva Theatre. The 500-seat theater was a suburban house located originally in Eastwood, considered a village East of Syracuse . Built by Eastwood dentist Percy Myer Kliman, the theater was named for Kliman’s grandchild, Melva. Kliman’s daughters, Freda and Alice, would accompany the silent films on the Melva’s piano. The neighboring Bluebird would serve as the theater’s de facto concession stand. The Melva launched December 25, 1921 with “The Sheik” supported by a Harold Lloyd comedy short and a Pathé newsreel.

In 1926, the City of Syracuse annexed Eastwood making the theater part of Syracuse. The Kliman family would leave the Melva for the new-build Hollywood Theatre on Bremerton Road in the suburb of Mattydal just north of Syracuse. Arlington Amusement acquired the Melva in 1932 installing a new sound system in order to compete with the Schine Palace Theatre five blocks away. That failed in 1933 for the Arlington folks.

The theater was re-lit one last time on November 9, 1936 and renamed as the James Theater with Clark Gable in “San Francisco.” The James closed at the end of lease October 27, 1940 with a double-feature of “Half a Sinner” and “Riders of the Pasco Basin.” It was purchased by Schine Circuit which took it on to rid the neighborhood of competition for its Palace. The space was converted to a funeral home.

Not sure what evidence there is supporting RKO acquiring the post-theatrical venue in 1950 and then re-equipping it for operation as a movie house in the 1950s; but as unlikely as that appears, anything’s possible. However, the building has long since been demolished.

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