Let’s All Go To The Movies!

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!

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Presented in Smell-o-Vision!

 

While looking through a 1959 newspaper for marriage announcements, I came across an 1959 article declaring that “Smell-O-Vision” will be movie theaters’ next innovation. I never could understand the appeal of smelling what I’m watching: sewers in Buffy, horses and people in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, job sites in Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, not to mention the tendency of smells to hang around and mix towards the end of the movie. But, smell-o-vision is coming back, it seems. A 4D version of Batman vs Superman in New York came with smells and there is even a device available that emits scents.

In 1959, smell-o-vision was introduced to keep people coming to movie theaters, which were closing in droves, thought to be because of the availability of television. They had 35 scents in one (and it seems the only) film, The Scent of Mystery: including roses, garlic, banana, a sooty tunnel, and the sea. This wasn’t the only innovation, however, the same 1959 article states that a horror film came with a hypnotist so the audience would “experience horrors first-hand through the power of suggestion,” not something I’d be interested in! The only problem the theaters anticipated: a lack of good new films to show!

machine_smellovision

Original Device from www.extremetech.com

As you can imagine, this never quite took off, and who knows if our current reintroduction of the idea will fare any better. One article tells of a Japanese invention where the smells are released directly through the monitor, and only from the pixels of the source of the smell!  It currently can only produce one scent (until the cartridge or capsule of scent is changed), but who knows how many scents might be available, or how large and expensive these cartridges may be?

You never know what you’ll find when looking through Scott County Historical Society’s collections!

Smell-o-Vision image: from www.avclub.com