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Princess Theatre


Photo from the Darren Snow collection
637 E Broadway
Alton IL

Demolished 1981
Record #10075  
 Opened: 1912
 Closed: 1967
 Demolished: 1981
Capacity:
Architect(s):
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

OPENED: By 1912. CLOSED: 6/67. DEMOLISHED: 6/81.

An Alton Telegraph article on the demolition of the Princess claims that the theatre was "always geared to movies," but a 1920 advertisement in the same publication tells a different story, asking "Why pay more to see less?" The Princess was at that time offering live shows and "photoplays." It’s not known exactly when the theatre was built, but a 1908 Telegraph article mentions an unnamed theatre on the block the Princess would occupy. The Princess would not appear in the Alton directory’s "Theatre" listing, however, until 1912. Manager J.J. Reilly installed two motion picture machines in 1915 (Wait -- wasn’t the Princess "always geared to movies?"), and a pipe organ was installed for accompaniment on 11/30/15. It had cost $8,500 new, but a desperate Princess let it go for only $300 when space was sorely needed for a 1937 remodeling.

The Princess made news on September 13, 1921, when it refused to cancel showings of Fatty Arbuckle films after the actor was charged with murder. Reilly sold the theatre to the United Operating Corp. in 1927, and in 1928-29 the Princess was run by the team of General Manager A.J. Foehrkalb and Manager A. Van Collie. Great States Publix Corp. purchased the cinema in 1930, and the manager in 1933-35 was Vernon H. Everroad. He was followed in 1936 by William Harding, and Richard S. Rodens was the man from 1937 to 1948 -- though his tenure was interrupted in 1944 by Milton H. Gross. Clarence N. Kulp managed from 1949 to 1961; then Donald De Witt stepped in. Paul Laughlin took over in 1968; he was apparently the final manager.

Kulp told the Telegraph in 1981 that the Princess had closed in 1970, after several years of steady decline -- one observer noted that the Grand had become the unofficial "date" theatre by this time. The lease ran out on the final operator, the Henry J. Plitt Corp., and it was decided that necessary repairs were not worth the cost.

In its last years, the building’s owner, A.L. Lindblad, claimed to have tried to find a buyer for the Princess, but he turned down a St. Louisan who wanted to turn it into a disco. A parking lot, apparently, was a more suitable replacement.



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Last featured 3/15/2004. Last edited 1/1/2006.

 
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