Today we can watch movies at home on or televisions or even on our phones. But it wasn’t so long ago that the neighborhood theater was the only place to see a movie.
Movies were distributed throughout the county and most towns had their own movie theater. These theaters usually had one projector, however, early movies were made up of many reels. Audiences had to wait patiently while the projectionist changed reels, sometimes several times during one film.
An article in the January 20, 1926 Jordan Independent reported on the installation of a second electric motion picture machine at the local Grand Theater. They noted “the advantage of the double installation is that patrons now have no wait between reels as formerly, for one machine is ready for continuing projecting the next reel of the photoplay on the screen at the moment the other machine comes to the end of its reel, thus giving the audience a continuous play. Not many towns of the size of Jordan can boast a double-machine motion picture theater.”
Like other businesses, disasters happened. New Prague’s theater was completely gutted by fire in April 1934. The New Prague Times reported that “The New Prague fireman battled with a fire hard to reach, as by the time the alarm was turned in, the theater interior was an inferno of flames.” When it reopened in September, it was transformed from a blackened and charred interior to a luxurious beautiful space. The exterior was altered to include a ticket booth facing the street entrance. New projectors, sound system, lighting were installed as well. The Times also reported that “The theater has been inspected by the state fire marshal and pronounced thoroughly safe in every respect.” The rebuilt theater was renamed The Granada, replacing the former New Prague Theater.
The Jordan Theater also closed due to a fire in November 1956. Seems that the owner, Leo Brazier had turned on the gas heating system in preparation for a movie showing that evening. He went out for coffee and spent some time visiting with Mr. & Mrs. Julius Schultz (who lived next door to the theater), when they saw smoke pouring from the building. The fire was concentrated near the theater stage, but didn’t cause much damage to the exterior, however the interior suffered quite a bit of water and smoke damage. When it was rebuilt it received a new façade.
Scott County not only had a number of movie theaters, but was also home to a film distribution business, North Star Film Exchange. Reno Wilk of Minneapolis and Julius Coller of Shakopee started the company to distribute re-issued films. Julius Coller got into the film business through a toy projector he acquired when he was about 12 years old. In later years he would show films to Shakopee kids in his attic. He acquired quite a valuable private film library, including films such as “The Great Train Robbery” and several Fatty Arbuckle features.
North Star had a list of 62 current attractions in 1946. Among them are such things as “Adventures of Tom Sawyer;” a couple of “Tarzans” “the 39 Steps”, “Half Way House” and others. Upcoming oar others including a couple “Toppers”, “Turnabout,” “Of Mice and Men,” and others. Six Hop-a-long Cassidy and 16 Range Busters westerns are also on the list. In 1949, North Star Pictures was granted the exclusive Northwest distribution rights for the new screen hit, “I Shot Jesse James”.
Let’s not forget Drive-In theaters! Prairie Drive-In was located on Co. Rd. 9 in Jordan, opening in 1965 with capacity for 450 cars. Prior Lake Drive-In also opened in 1965. Champions Drive-In is currently in operation in Elko with capacity for 600 cars!
Patronize your local movie theater, enjoy viewing a film on the large screen, nosh on some popcorn, and chill out this summer!