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Norside Theatre

2602 State St
Alton IL

Demolished 1956
Record #10073  
 Opened: June 15, 1937
 Closed: February 13, 1956
 Demolished: 1956
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

OPENED: Thursday, 6/15/37; 7 p.m. "When’s Your Birthday?," "Seventh Heaven," plus a Mickey Mouse cartoon and a short called "Adventures of a Cameraman." CLOSED: 1/55. SIGN: Keller Sign Co. DECORATING: M. Romov.

"The most modern and beautiful theatre in Alton" began taking shape in February, 1937, and owner Joseph Desberger invited the public to a grand opening in July. North Alton’s first cinema was also the first local movie house to offer the "Mirrophonic Sound Reproducing System," which "brings you living sound and gives an added thrill to the ears." The seats, it was noted, were of leather. The architecture was surprisingly institutional for the Moderne-crazy pre-war years, with a traditional cornice and arched windows above the marquee suggesting a bank more than a picture show.

Augustus H. Boemler managed the Norside for Desberger starting in (or maybe before) 1944, and the owner apparently passed on around 1945 -- his wife, Rose, appeared in directories as the owner from 1946-49. Martin R. Haycroft stepped in as manager in 1953.

Television wasn’t the only threat to Alton theatres in the early fifties. The local arm of the International Theatrical Stage Employees insisted -- as they had since the introduction of talkies -- on having two men in the projection booth at all times; this hardly seemed necessary to the proprietors, who wound up operating at a loss. The owners of the Norside, Uptown, and State all asked the union to change the rule, but to no avail. The Norside’s owner, Eugene K. Elfgen, stated that the union required a second man in the booth at all times, at a wage of $65 a week. He offered to pay $85 per 40-hour week for one man in the booth, which would be "a living wage for that man, and a substantial increase for him. Also, it would be a reduction of $45 a week in the cost of operating the theater." This would be quite a relief, as the cost of film rental had been increasing while patronage was decreasing.

On May 26, 1954, the Norside’s newspaper ad informed customers that "we will be closed after tonight until further notice! We hope we will be able to reopen soon." The State ran a similar ad, and the Uptown followed a week later. Perhaps the theatre owners were trying to demonstrate to the union that three out-of-work projectionists was better than six. Whether the union caved I have been unable to learn, but two of the three theatres were back in business by June 7 (the State would remain shuttered for several more months). The Norside got into the habit of shutting down on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

By the winter of 1955, "The most modern and beautiful theatre in Alton" had given up the fight. In 1956, the Tri-City Grocery Company moved into the building. It was followed in 1978 by a nightclub called PR’s Nite Out. Yungck Medical Supply now occupies the structure, which has been cosmetically altered beyond recognition.

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Last featured 2002-12-27. Last edited 3/26/2017.

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