Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Schenectady Goes to the Movies

Take a trip back in time to Hollywood's golden age, as experienced in Schenectady, through a sampling of images from our holdings. 
Entrance to the Art Theater – 1913. The Art Theater was one of the early movie theaters in Schenectady. It was located at 432 State Street, where Proctor’s Theater is now. The first movie shown in Schenectady was The Great Train Robbery, shown at the Crescent Theater in 1905. The first movie theaters were small. Some makeshift movie theaters were even set up in non-theater buildings, such as a fraternal organization hall. Early theaters were sometimes referred to as nickelodeons, because of the five-cent admission charge that was standard. Photo from Larry Hart Collection.

Advertisement for movie in Schenectady Gazette – 1927. Advertisements for movies were common in the newspaper during this period. This ad for the silent film The Fire Brigade appeared in February 1927, just a few months before sound movies, or “talkies,” became popular nationwide. Most movie advertisements in newspapers during this time featured drawings designed by the Hollywood production company; the State Theater put a local spin on this ad by calling the movie “the sensation of Schenectady.”

Entrance to Proctor’s Theater – 1936. The entrance to Proctor’s Theater in 1936 looks much the same as it does today (minus the "newsie" standing outside, of course), as the original look of the building has been preserved and restored. The first Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady was built in 1912 off Liberty Street by the Erie Canal. The present Proctor’s Theater, designed in an Italian Baroque style by architect Thomas Lamb, was opened in 1926. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a local landmark. Photo from Larry Hart Collection.

Actress Ginger Rogers visits Schenectady County – 1946. This photograph shows actress Ginger Rogers visiting Schenectady County to see the family of her then-husband, Jack Briggs, in Quaker Street. The couple visited on November 24, 1946, to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of Briggs' grandparents. Briggs, a Schenectady County native, was also an actor. The couple met when working on the set of Tom, Dick and Harry (1940) and married in 1943, divorcing in 1949. Many other famous musicians, actors, and entertainers have visited Schenectady over the years, including famous clown Emmett Kelly, jazz legend Duke Ellington, and then-actor Ronald Reagan, who was a spokesman for G.E. Photo from Larry Hart Collection.

Matinee crowd at Lincoln Theater – 1950. A crowd of moviegoers lined up at the Lincoln Theater on Brandywine Avenue. Visitors to the Lincoln Theater during the 1930s and 1940s often saw Edward Spellacy, known as “the popcorn man.” Spellacy sold hot, fresh-popped popcorn for 5 cents per bag from a cart with a steam-powered dancing metal clown on top. Photo from Larry Hart Collection.  

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