Friday, May 17, 2013

The Theatorium Movie Theater

Karl Kurtz wrote in the July 23, 1977 issue of the Sandusky Register in his “Elderlies” column that the first silent movie shown in the Sandusky area was The Great Train Robbery. Veteran Sandusky newspaper man and showman Dave Wood brought the celluloid melodrama to Sandusky in 1905 and showed it at Cedar Point. The first motion picture house in Sandusky was called the Theatorium, established in 1906. It was located on West Market Street between the old Post Office and the Firehouse.

Charles Reark was the first manager of the Theatorium. He showed first-run silent movies, with eight changes a week. An article from a 1909 issue of The Moving Picture World stated that “Proprietors of moving picture theatres throughout Ohio who have visited Mr. Reark's cozy theatre state that he has the brightest and clearest pictures in the State. Ushers seat the patrons, a new light system has been installed, and no expense is spared to give the amusement goers of Sandusky the best of entertainment at this theatre for five cents admission.” Five Hallberg arc lamps “turned night into day” at the front of the theater. An article from the Sandusky Register of February 6, 1927, reported that the Theatorium was a long narrow room, with low ceilings and poor ventilation. By January 1907, the Theatorium had 140 seats which were all elevated. Besides the main feature of a silent movie, audiences were often treated to the attraction of an illustrated song. A soloist would sing the song played by the pianist, as colored slides were projected on the big screen. The singer would repeat the same song to several audiences each day.

For many years, Manager Charles Reark had a special program at the Theatorium for members of the Sandusky Newsboys’ Association. On Thanksgiving, the newsboys were treated to a silent movie at the Theatorium between 10 a.m. and noon. The newsboys just had to show a badge or membership card for admission to the free show. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1907, souvenir Christmas cards were given away to everyone in the audience. Songs were performed by A.L. Taylor and George Upp. The movies shown that Christmas were The Wonderful Mirror, The Dog Hero, and Thieves Caught in Their Own Trap.  Later owners of the Theatorium included Gustavus Dildine and Voltaire Schweinfurth. The Theatorium closed in May of 1917, but it brought many an evening of entertainment for residents of the Sandusky area for over ten years.

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