The show goes
on at The Strand
theater survives decades of changes in the movie business
By DENNIS NARTKER
KENDALLVILLE - Remember the Hub, the Airdome, the Colonial
and the Princess theaters?
Today only the Strand Theatre survives as part of Kendallville's
movie theater history.
The twin cinema at 221 S. Main St. may be one of the oldest theaters
in the U.S. in continuous operation of showing movies and is
Noble County's only movie theater today.
It wasn't the first, though, and Kendallville's downtown movie
theater history reflects the evolution of the motion picture
industry in the U.S.
In the early part of this century, about 1907-08, Kendallville
citizens enjoyed film events at the Star Theatre, also called
the Airdome, located just north of City Hall in the 200 block
of South Main Street, and the Hub Theatre at the west end of
the Flint & Walling property on Mitchell Street near the
downtown business district.
The roofless Airdome in a round building seated about 198 comfortably,
according to the Oct. 14, 1909, Kendallville Daily Sun.
Early film events before motion pictures become popular included
photoplays with pianists like Miss Dottie Roseboom, Mr. Bruce
Hartsuck and Miss Clytie Wallace providing background music.
Photoplays were like slide photo shows with still photos projected
on the screen.
The Star Theatre billed itself as an "electric theatre"
with a change of programs every night.
Doors opened at 7:30 p.m. Admission was 5 cents.
By 1900 silent motion pictures had become a popular attraction
around the country in amusement arcades, music halls, traveling
fairs, wax museums and vaudeville theaters.
A method of adding sound to film had not been invented yet.
In Kendallville, showing the new motion pictures proved to be
expensive for Star Theatre owners A.L. Helton and Mr. Burrer.
In an Oct. 14, 1909, Kendallville Daily Sun article "Moving
Picture Expenses Important Item to Star," Helton and Burrer
reported the films cost them $40 a week.
Other expenses included the projection lamps which "eat
up carbon with an avidity that is startling," the singers,
help and never-ending repairs and changes and rent altogether
run the weekly expense account close to $100.
The Star Theatre owners figured they would need to take in about
2,000 nickels every six days to break even.
Movie-goers then enjoyed crude newsreel footage of special events,
hand-painted color films and travelogues.
An Aug. 5, 1911, Kendallville Daily News advertisement described
a "great program of fire pictures is promised at the Airdome
The program included film of the New York Shirt Waist Factory
Fire, and "Destruction of Dreamland," a Coney Island
amusement park fire.
An Oct. 20, 1909, Kendallville Daily News advertisement promoted
"Albert Earl: King of Illustrated Entertainment" in
his famous travelogue "Beautiful Niagara Falls." The
ad calls it a "special motion picture, superb colored views,
vivid interesting description, realistic sound effects."
The Kendallville Daily Sun reported on July 2, 1910, the Star
Theatre would have no Saturday night show because of the hot
In 1903 American film director Edward S. Porter made the first
movie, "The Great Train Robbery," using state-of-the-art
film techniques to tell a story.
Silent story-telling movies became very popular and five-cent
theaters called nickelodeons sprang up all over the country.
Most were stores converted into primitive theaters by adding
Nickelodeons showed a variety of silent films, like the Keystone
Cops classics, accompanied by live piano music.
The Hub Theatre was built sometime before 1905 by Ralph Barr
in a building that formerly housed a skating rink.
He changed the program twice a week and also had a show on Sunday
afternoons in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting movie
exhibitions on Sundays.
Mr. Barr didn't mind. He went to City Hall every Monday morning
and paid his fine.
Barr promoted The Hub as having the "only picture shows
and vaudeville shows in northern Indiana."
In 1905 Barr sold the theater to Charles DuWan who moved it to
the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street.
Harry Henry then became manager and traded the Hub to S.S. Mulchis
of Ashley for an 80-acre farm near Goshen, according to the Jan.
18, 1909, Kendallville Daily Sun.
The Hub opened on Sunday for the first time in July 1909 with
pictures of "Roosevelt on his African trip." Objections
were raised against showing pictures on Sundays, according to
the July 26, 1909, Kendallville Daily Sun.
In 1917 he installed a pipe organ and charged adults 10 cents
and children five cents.
Kendallville's Colonial Theatre at 128 S. Main St. and Princess
Theatre could be called nickelodeons.
The Colonial was located at 108 S. Main St. where Weible's Paint
& Wallpaper business is now.
DuWan managed the theater in 1915 and installed a $1,000 piano,
according to the Oct. 14, 1915, Kendallville News-Sun.
A 1916 Kendallville city directory advertisement described the
Colonial as having "high class photoplays deluxe."
In the 1920s a player piano operated in front the Colonial's
screen and serials with week-to-week episodes drew crowds on
The old Dunbar store in the Mitchell block, the 100 block
of South Main Street, was converted into the Princess Theatre
in July 1910, according to the July 27, 1910, Kendallville Daily
The Princess Theatre, like the Star Theatre, had an inclined
floor and an ornamental front studded with electrical lights.
A.L. Helton, who owned the Star, also managed the Princess when
In 1911 he installed fans for circulation in the Princess and
closed the Star Theatre.
An advertisement in the Jan. 3, 1913, News-Sun described the
Princess as the "House of Quality."
Lawrence Barron "The Human Trombone" was a vaudeville
act performing at the Princess. Admission was 5 cents.
A Jan. 8, 1911, News-Sun advertisement promoted "3,000 feet
of pictures" at the Princess.
In 1890 E.B. Spencer built the Spencer Opera House, which is
now the Strand Theatre, for $26,000.
The Spencer hosted stylish stage shows by touring theater companies
and vaudeville acts.
He sold it to Al Boyer, who renamed it the Boyer Opera House
and continued having musicals, dramas and minstrel shows.
The opera house seated about 750 people comfortably in ground
floor and balcony seats.
By 1912 motion pictures began to move out of nickelodeons and
into real theaters that had been used for stage shows.
The Boyer closed during World War I and re-opened on Aug. 1,
1919, as a movie theater.
The Deardorf family took over ownership in the 1920s before Hudson
Enterprises purchased the building and opened the Strand on Aug.
Three movie theaters operated in Kendallville in 1923. One week
that year "A Blind Bargain," starring Lon Chaney, played
at the Colonial, Ethel Clayton was starring in "For the
Defense" at the Princess, and the Strand featured Dorothy
Phillips in "Hurricane's Gal."
Before 1900 a few motion pictures used sound and depended on
a mechanical hook-up with a phonograph.
In 1926 Warner Brothers used a system called Vitaphone in "Don
Juan," a silent film with music and sound effects on record.
Later the Movietone system was introduced where sound was recorded
directly to film.
Talkies quickly replaced silent films.
Robert Hudson Sr., owner of Hudson Enterprises, purchased the
Strand and Princess theatres in 1928. At one time Hudson Enterprises
owned 24 theaters, including the two in Kendallville and the
Hi-Vue Drive-in on Ind. 3 south of Kendallville.
Elaborately staged movie musicals and gangster dramas were the
most popular films in the 1930s.
In the 1940s the Strand charged 10 cents for admission and had
special prices for servicemen and women.
By the 1950s the Colonial had closed.
Hudson expanded the Strand Theatre seating to 953, installed
a new screen and stereo sound system, offer double features and
serials on Saturdays.
He also closed the Princess.
In the late 1940s television began attracting a large portion
of the movie-going public.
In 1952 the Hudsons installed a 33-foot Cinemascope screen and
a stereophonic sound system and expanded the Strand's seating
Strand Theatre manager Cleon Point was the first theater manager
to introduce popcorn and candy at the movies.
Within weeks he was selling $1,000 worth of candy and popcorn
Hollywood movie companies countered TV's popularity with big
budget, wide-screen blockbuster movies in the 1950s and 1960s
like "Cleopatra," "Lawrence of Arabia" and
"The Bridge on the River Kwai."
1959's "Ben Hur" is the Strand's all-time top-attended
In those days Hudson Enterprises purchased pictures at a flat
rate. A film company salesman came to the Strand to bargain to
get his movie on the screen.
Today's movie theaters operate on a percentage depending on the
company and the film's popularity.
Robert Hudson died in 1972, and his wife took over managing the
In 1980 she turned the Strand into a twin-screen theater with
two 14-by-25-foot screens and expanded the lobby and office area.
The outside ticket booth was eliminated.
"Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Lady and the Tramp"
were the two featured movies.
"Coal Miner's Daughter" remains the theater's biggest
"Smokey and the Bandit I" is the theater's biggest
money-maker on one screen, according to Ron Hudson, Robert Hudson's
son who now manages the Strand.
Hudson Enterprises sold the Strand in 1984, bought it back in
1991 and sold it again in 1992 to David John of Auburn.
One of the Strand's theaters seats 223 in addition to 80 more
in the balcony. The other theater has 222 seats and 82 seats
in the balcony.
Automatic projection equipment with films fed from large flat
pans was installed in 1980 when the Strand was divided into two
The theater regularly has only one weekend matinee show.
Hudson does what he can to limit overhead expenses and compete
with TV and the giant multiplex theaters in Fort Wayne. Coldwater
Cinema on Fort Wayne's north side has eight screens, and Coventry
Plaza on the city's south side has 12.
The Strand is an important part of Kendallville's downtown history
and continues operating seven days a week.