Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, December 1, 1997, pg. 4
Albion once had several movie theatres in the early 20th century. The arrival of the Temple Theatre in 1907 gave residents a chance to view the new silent films that were sweeping the nation. By time the "talkies" arrived in 1929, however, most had gone out of business.
One exception was the Censor Theatre operated by George Bohm, which continued showing films until George opened the new Bohm Theatre on Christmas Day, 1929. By this time, George had established himself as the "king of motion pictures" in Albion and was able to successfully outlast competition.
An attempt to open another movie-house failed in 1932. It was to have been known as the Colton Theatre, an acronym for College and Town. The Gem Theatre opened in 1935 and 204 S. Superior St., and operated for only a year, closing in 1936 under the name Albion Theatre.
One last attempt to compete against George Bohm came in 1938, when a new Albion Theatre opened on March 26 of that year. It was located in the Thompson Building, 416 S. Superior St. This was formerly the location of the Edgar L. Thompson & Jay L. Courtright Livery through the 1920s, and Thompson’s Taxi Service during the 1930s. Thompson (1876-1958) and his family lived upstairs. Many of the second stories of Albion’s downtown structures were once living quarters I’ve been upstairs in that building and you can still see the elegant wallpaper designs there today. It’s too bad that Albion doesn’t have a "loft-friendly" downtown apartment zoning policy like other communities have. A lot of empty potentially useful space is going to waste.
The Albion Theatre was first owned by the Interstate Theatre Corporation and was managed by O. J. Lambiotte. It seated 500 persons. The first movie shown was "Boys of the Streets" starring Jackie Cooper and Maureen O’Connor.
Through some clever maneuvering [George purchased the building and as the owner, had the gas supplying the furnace heat shut off, thus "freezing out" his competition] George Bohm was able to acquire the Albion Theatre in 1939, and continued to operate it concurrently with the Bohm Theatre. After George’s death in 1951, the operation of the theatres passed to his nephews Jack and George Ryser. The Rysers purchased the Albion Drive-In near the intersection of U.S.-12 and M-99 east of Albion during the early 1950s, and would close the Albion Theatre during the summer months when the Drive-In was in operation.
A decline in business led the Rysers to close the Albion Theatre in 1959, "the victim of increasingly popular television," they stated in a March, 1976 interview. The Thompson building was remodeled, and a Spiegel catalog outlet was located in the former theatre site. Today it is the site of John Sharp Realty and the Albion Chamber of Commerce.
This week we present a photograph taken around 1960 just after the Albion Theatre closed. How many persons remember the Albion Theatre?
* Photo Credit Information Below
Albion Theater 1960
Next: ALBION IN WORLD WAR I
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic
"Albion Historical Society Collection / Local History Room / Albion Public Library Collection"