Just before Christmas in 1911, the Park Theatre opened to much fanfare. A specially composed piece of music called the Park Theatre March was played for the crowd, in addition to there being a four-piece orchestra led by Earl Benedict. Mayor S. D. Kendrick had the honor of throwing open the doors. As the audience filed in, each of them received a complimentary souvenir copy of the Park Theatre March sheet music. Then came the moment for management to ceremoniously raise the curtain and dim the lights.
The Park Amusement Company was the venture of brothers Fred and James Bellen, Isaac Ginsberg, and Joseph Miller. All four men were experienced entrepreneurs. They knew that this would be the first theatre of its kind in the region, one devoted to moving pictures and vaudeville, and wanted to make an impression. They brought in builder Fred Acker to execute the construction of the $35,000 project. Billed as an “Amusement Emporium”, the first floor, called the “pit”, contained seating for 650. The gallery had seating for another 150, bringing the capacity up to 800 persons. Patrons were treated to the latest moving pictures from the major studios of the time, in addition to high-quality vaudeville acts. As an extra element of entertainment, the basement contained six No. 1 Brunswick-Balke bowling alleys complete with Bacus pin setters. No expense was spared. Four alleys had large pins, two had candle pins, and two had duck pins. Three local teams regularly competed against top teams from out of the area.
In 1913, the Park was sold and the new owners introduced a pipe organ. The organ was a unique addition which proved to be a definite draw. It continued to please Park guests until 1919, when it was transferred to the new Rialto Theater.
The Park showed films until the screen finally went dark in 1933. The building was vacant for several years until being purchased by the local newspaper. It was utilized as a printing plant by the Post Star from 1937 until the mid-1970s.
The Park has come full circle and is once again a place of entertainment. During the 2000s, cinema enthusiast and long-time area theaters employee, Jerry Aratare, opened an independent cinema at the Park. Although he had a following of film fans, he could not afford to replace the aging air-conditioning and closed. Then, in 2014, Elizabeth Miller purchased the building. After extensive restoration work, the Park is now a restaurant and theater for live performances and films.
Courtesy Crandall Public Library Folklife Center