Grand Theatre

104 S. Beaton Street,
Corsicana, TX 75110

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Interstate Theatres Corporation, Publix Theaters Corporation

Architects: Harry O. Blanding

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The Grand Theatre was located in a converted retail building in the silent era of movie houses in downtown Corsicana. The Beaton Street building housing the Grand Theatre was known as the Neblett Building and had originally been home to a pharmacy, a dry goods store, and book store that were all gutted by fire on January 29, 1919. The building was re-imagined by architect Harry O. Blanding to include a new theatre.

Claude J. Mussellman, operator of three Paris, Texas, movie theatres, was in charge of the Grand Theatre with Mrs. J.F. White, and announced a theatre with 35 foot high ceilings, no balcony and 400 seats exclusively for White patrons. The 27’ lobby was bathed in pink Tennessee marble and brass poster boxes with current and future features. Bevelled glass entry doors added class to the entry. Sam Reed, a Waco-based organist who had played the Hillman-Lane organ at the Ideal Theatre at various events, was hired to be in charge of the Grand Theatre’s $15,000 pipe organ. Given that the rest of the theatre project cost $25,000, it showed the importance of organs in silent film presentation. The Grand Theatre’s policy would be first-run photoplays for a quarter (9 cents for kids). The children’s price was reduced soon thereafter to just a nickel due to pricing concerns.

After a soft launch to test the facility on October 27, 1920, the theatre delivered on its policy as on opening day, October 28, 1920, the Grand Thetare hosted the first Southern U.S. showing of “The Redeemer” with House Peters and Marjorie Daw supported by Buster Keaton in “One Week” a live musical number by Mrs. Leroy Bickle of Dallas, “The Creole Love Song.” Southern Enterprises would then open the Palace Theatre in January of 1921 in direct competition with the Grand Theatre (and Ideal Theatre). In January of 1923, Mussellman bought out the Palace Theatre.

The Palace Theatre and Grand Theatre were competing with the established and larger Ideal Theatre by M.L. Levine. Levine would buy out the competing theatres to control all three theatres in town. Levine then sold all three venues to T.B. Noble, Jr. in 1928 apparently on behalf of Leslie Wilkes’ Navarro Theatres Corporation. Levine was likely concerned about costs of sound conversion which Wilkes performed at the Grand Theatre. But in June of 1930, Wilkes sold all three theatres to L.L. Dent and then Navarro Theatres Corporation, the entity, to Publix Theatres Circuit which assumed control of the three downtown palaces for a brief period.

Publix soon divested itself of the Grand Theatre and Mussellman took it back over on a new 30-year sublease in 1931. He gave the theatre a refresh including a slight addition to the auditorium raising it to 412 seats and an all-new sound system with better acoustical treatment in the space. The New Grand Theatre launched September 29, 1931 with Helen Twelvetrees in “Swing High”. The theatre was doused in gasoline and set ablaze on July 18, 1932 – likely for suspected use of non-union personnel. The theatre survived and was rebuilt as the New Grand Theatre relaunching on September 21, 1932 with Edward G. Robinson in “Two Seconds". The hosted a live simulcast of baseball’s World Series of 1933 with live radio and a large baseball board operated by theatre personnel as the action occurred.

Later in the 1930’s, Interstate Theatres Circuit took on the operation of the theatre along with the Rio Theatre, the Palace Theatre and the Ideal Theatre. In the 1940’s, the neighboring Harry’s Snack Bar / Malt Shop served as the de facto alternate concession stands with people able to secure ice cream and other treats prior to or after the Grand Theatre shows. Interstate reduced the Grand Theatre to two day a week operation showing mostly second-run westerns and exploitation fare. An independent operator launched the Tex Theatre in March of 1946 going after the same audience that the Grand Theatre was trying to attract. The Grand Theatre exited the Coriscana movie landscape with its final two showings – appropriately enough - a 10-year old B-western, “Cheyenne Rides Again” with Tom Tyler and a five-year old exploitation film, “Women in Bondage” with Gail Patrick on February 28, 1948. Interstate decided to leave the venue empty rather than allow a competitor to have the space.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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