Geneva Historical Society will present a lecture, “Schine Theaters: Bringing Hollywood to the Small Town,” by theater historian Karen Noonan, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Prouty-Chew Museum on South Main Street.
With so many activities competing for our leisure time today, it is hard for many Americans to imagine the central role the movies once played in American life. In the early 20th century, movie premieres were big news and Hollywood stars were the most famous people on Earth.
While today’s theaters lure patrons with technical innovations like stadium-style seating and surround sound, Schine Circuit theaters combined technology, architecture, and décor to create movie houses that were destinations in themselves. In this program, Noonan will explore the history of the Schine chain and the movie theaters the company built, especially in the Finger Lakes.
Geneva had three Schine theaters: the Temple on Exchange Street, now gone; the Regent, now the Cinema, on Exchange Street; and Schine’s Geneva, now the Smith Opera House on Seneca Street. All three were owned and managed by Schine’s theater chain.
Founded in Gloversville, in 1916 by Louis and Myer Schine, Schine’s was the largest independent theater chain in the United States at that time. Their theaters were clean, family-friendly and drew patrons with opulent décor, giveaways, and promotions by famous Hollywood stars. Latvian immigrants to the U.S. in 1902, by the 1940s the Schine brothers owned or leased more than 250 theaters in New York, Delaware, Ohio, Maryland and Kentucky.
Noonan is a Geneva native who remembers going to Schine’s Geneva in her youth. She has been researching the Schine Circuit Theaters for many years and is currently president of the Theatre Historical Society of America. She has also worked at the Smith Opera House and Auburn’s Schine Theater.
Following the program, participants are encouraged to share their memories and any memorabilia they have of area theaters. Refreshments will be served; for details, call (315) 789-5151 for more information.
Parking is on the street or in the Trinity Episcopal Church lot across the street.