During the last half of the 19th century, Mattoon was a major theatrical center south of Chicago. The railroad lines helped bring many theatrical companies to the area, while en route to St. Louis. The street fairs and circuses of the 1890's also brought outsiders to Mattoon, allowing the theater industry to profit.
The Dole Theater, opening in 1866, offered minstrel shows, dramatic shows, music concerts, and special appearances. By the 1890's, vaudeville shows became more popular than 'legitimate' theater because they were cheaper. Motion pictures were adopted by vaudeville theaters through the 1910's, until taking over the entertainment business. Movies were, again, the cheaper source of entertainment for families. They were also busy social gathering places for the working and middle classes.
During the silent movie days, motion picture theaters often hired organists or piano players to play music during the movie, using score sheets provided. In the 1930's, Florence Myers played at the Strand and K Theaters and Paul Alcott played the organ at the Mattoon Theater (built in 1896).
|1866||Dole Theater||'legitimate' theater|
|1896||Mattoon Theater||vaudeville||G.H. Johnson|
|1905||Bijou Theater||vaudeville and motion pictures||Ira Seybert|
|1905||Lyric Theater||vaudeville and motion pictures||Nate Stein|
|1910||Bijou II Theater||motion pictures||T.M. Kell|
|1911||Grand Theater||vaudeville and motion pictures||Nate Stein, Elmore Katz, and C.E. Kepner (who ended vaudeville)|
|1912||K Theater||vaudeville and motion pictures||Elmore Katz|
|Strand Theater||motion pictures|
|1921||Mattoon Theater||vaudeville and motion pictures||George Kaiser, W.B. Kneedler|
|1936||Clarke Theater||motion pictures||Dominic Frisina, Edward Clarke, & Bianchi|
|1938||Time Theater||motion pictures||Fitzpatrick and McElroy|
|1946||Ricky Theater||movies||John and Walter Mullaney|
|1947||Skyway Drive-in Theater||movies|
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