Parrot Theatre

702 W. Main Street,
Alma, NE 68920

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Additional Info

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Rialto Theatre, Crescent Theatre, New Theatre

Nearby Theaters

The first movie theatre in town was the Crescent Theatre at the west corner of W. Main Street and St. John Street in downtown Alma. It opened with 150 seats and launched with the ten minute Thomas Edison film, “The Boys of ‘61 (aka "The Blue and the Grey”) followed by patriotic Civil War era music on May 31, 1909.

The theatre was a hit and got a refresh in September which included the removal of the temporary folding chairs - common in the “show-store” era of Nickelodeons - replaced by fixed seating. During World War I, the competing New Theatre was launched by R.L. Keester opening on May 4, 1915 with the film, “The Last Days of Pompeii”.

The Crescent Theatre under William Moore improved its projection to the Edison Powers Kinetoscope Board 6B Theatre Projector in 1916. Future U.S. Congressmen and, then current, Minden businessman Charles Gustav Binderup bought the New Theatre and moved it to the Crescent Theatre reducing the town to its single movie theatre marketplace which would exist in 1918 and last more than 100 years into the 2020’s.

The New Theatre had a new back to its building and expanded to 350 seats. Its relaunch was on July 5, 1918 with Mary Pickford in “Stella Maris”. Signage arrived on July 25, 1918 making the former Crescent - and briefly New Theatre - rebranded as the Rialto Theatre.

In 1923, the Rialto Theatre moved to a new location a block away. The Rialto Theatre was still silent at the start of 1930. Less than eight miles away, the Strand Theatre in Orleans converted to sound siphoning some business while the Rialto Theatre struggled at the onset of the Depression. Paul and Emma Haeker took on the theatre on January 31, 1930 and decided in February to convert the Rialto Theatre to sound and give it a refresh with new paint.

As the sound system was being installed during the venue’s brief closure, the painter hired for the refresh noted that the Rialto Theatre was now “talking like a parrot”. He even painted two parrot plaques for the theatre’s entry - a surprise to the Haekers.

The Haekers liked that concept so much that when the theatre re-emerged with Western Electric’s Bestone Talking Picture sound system on February 27, 1930, the theatre was called the Parrot Theatre. The first film for the Parrot Theatre was Betty Compson in “Street Girl". The Haekers would recall this date and later celebrate their 50th year of Parrot Theatre operation in 1980 albeit it in a different building.

The talking Parrot Theatre was a hit. On June 12, 1931, the Haekers installed air conditioning in time for the hot summer ahead. But by 1933, the Haekers felt constrained by the cobbled together building which had been used for films for 25 years and was likely reaching the end of a leasing agreement. They decided to move to a brand new theatre designed for sound film. The Parrot Theatre was converted into retail use.

The New Parrot Theatre/Parrot Theatre which opened in 1933 has its own page on Cinema Treasures.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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