NANTICOKE HAD ITS SHARE OF MOVIE THEATRES
Most residents of Nanticoke recall the State, Family and Rex Theatres that stood for decades on E. Main Street and S. Market Street, but few know, much less remember, that the city once was home to at least a half dozen movie theatres when the first moving picture house, the Dreamland, opened in the Keystone Building at 17 N. Market Street in 1907.
In subsequent years, it seemed like movie houses were springing up on every block of the downtown area. Names like the Broadway Opera House, Gem, Wonderland, Casino and Lyric, part of the pre-1910 and vaudeville era, were eventually replaced by modern structures, of which the most elaborate was The State Theatre, constructed by Edmund Connolly and William Quigley as an opera house with a functioning stage able to accommodate traveling stock companies.
Rare 1909 ad for the Wonderland Theatre that opened in 1907 and closed about 1910. The Wonderland was a combination moving picture and vaudeville house. Prof Leroy, who claimed to be a student of Houdini and billed himself as Houdini the Second, appeared in the Wonderland in 1910. Assisted by Madame LeRoy, he escaped from a Siberian Torture Crib in full view of the audience, in addition to freeing himself from a series of chains, ropes and straight jackets. All that for a ticket price of 5c.
The Family Theatre
The Family Theatre opened as The Palace on E. Main Street on Christmas Day of 1909. Like other theatres of the era, it was a combination moving picture and vaudeville house.
In 1910, as publicity for his show, performer Prof. D’Ealmon jumped from the PA RR Bridge into the Susquehanna River (a distance of about 35 feet) with his hands manacled. He hit the water where the river was 20’ deep and emerged with his hands unbound and swam to shore. A large crowd enjoyed the event.
When new management took over the business in 1912, they changed the name to the Family Theatre, and it remained so until it closed in 1951. This is one of the few known photographs of the theatre. If anyone knows of pictures of the facade or interior of the old movie house, the Nanticoke Historical Society wants to hear from you.
The building in 2009 the auditorium, is now a banquet hall for patrons.
The Rex Theatre
The Rex Theatre opened as the Ideal Picture Palace in Dr. Franklin Hill’s Building on W. Broad Street. It was later enlarged to include an entrance lobby on S. Market Street. The theatre closed in 1957. It was used for storage and demolished in 1977.
Ad from 1936
The State Theatre
The State Theatre was constructed in 1922, opening in the spring of that year with the moving picture “The Child Thou Gavest Me.” In 1923, Dainty June and Her Farm boys appeared on the stage. Dainty June was June Havoc and her sister was Louise Havoc, who later became Gypsy Rose Lee. The story of their vaudeville years was told in the moving picture Gypsy.
This fancy logo is from the 1920’s.
This post card shows the State Theatre about 1930 with its original canopy marquee that was later replaced by the familiar marquee that lit up much of Main Street east of Broadway.
Nanticoke’s last moving picture house in disrepair before it was demolished in 1997.