I'm sure it would recall the faces of many people during the depression that came to the theatre to escape the reality of the world for a few short hours by seeing silent movies, vaudeville acts, musical numbers, and stage shows. It would remember the first "talkie" and the excitement of the crowd as it waited for the newest development in the entertainment field. These were the days when the movie theatre was a special place to go.
The Capitol Theatre was built by Bertig Reality Co. and its grand opening was October 25, 1925. My father, John A. Collins, was named manager.
The feature for the opening night was a silent film, The Coast of Folly, starring Gloria Swanson. The program consisted of Norma Maddox as Queen of Music, Virginia Ellis as Queen of Motion Pictures, Isabelle Ellis as Queen of Vaudeville, and Jean Light as Queen of Spoken Drama. The Queen's Entertainer was Ernie Futrell, who presented a solo dance.
In 1936, the Collins family purchased the Capitol and became the sole owners-operators.
Vaudeville acts and stage shows, as well as silent movies, frequented the Capitol in the late 1920s and the early 1930s. There were three theatres in northeast Arkansas equipped with a stage and orchestra pit for vaudeville acts and stage productions. They were the Empire Theatre in Jonesboro, the Home Theatre in Blytheville, and our own Capitol Theatre here in Paragould.
Some of the well-remembered vaudeville acts included Edgar Bergen; Yodeling Jimmy Rodgers; Tex Ritter; Roy Acuff; Ernest Tubb; Smiley Burnett; Cliff Edwards as Ukelele Ike; Lash LaRue; and Johnny Downs and Mary Karnman, members of the original "Our Gang" series.
In 1930, a flood relief benefit show featured Will Rogers and Captain Frank Hawks. Aaron Massengill's Barber Shop was located in the Vandervoort Hotel at this time, and I'm sure an unstable event in his life was the day he gave Will Rogers a shave.
I guess one of our biggest shows would have been George White's Scandals. This show was advertised to be somewhat risque'. It had played in Memphis and was booked to play in Jackson, Mississippi. However, the city fathers of Jackson would not allow them to present their show in that city; therefore, the Capitol got the booking.
I remember that when word got around that George White's Scandals was coming to the Capitol, three boys from Jonesboro A&M College (now Arkansas State University) came and bought our first 10 rows of seats.
You should have seen the size of that production when they arrived. There were two baggage cars full of scenery alone. These were known Broadway stars. Needless to say, the house was sold out.
During this era, silent films such as The Sheik with Rudolph Valentino, Don Q with Douglas Fairbanks, and The Gold Rush with Charlie Chaplin were run. Of course, we had our organist playing for the films. The organist would usually be spotlighted and play a musical variety before the feature would begin.
Our advertising consisted of billboard posters called "24 sheets," placed on the side of the Capitol building. A-frame billboards with a sheet on each side would be all up and down Pruett Street. Handbills were distributed, ads were taken out in the newspaper, and ads were put on the side of napkin holders in restaurants - all announcing that week's showing.
The movie changed every two days, and admission was 25 cents for night showings and 15 cents for matinees. In 1934, The Capitol got its first popcorn machine. It was the only concession and sold for 5 cents a bag.
I must tell you about our weekly publication, Cinemag. It was started May 6, 1938. It was a free paper printed by a hand-fed press on Thursday night, to be ready for distribution on Friday. John Rainey was the printer for the Greene County Citizen and he did our printing for us. The editor was Hugh Ketchum.
Features of Cinemag included a weekly chatter column by Margaret Donaldson giving highlights of goings on around town. J.T. Hale was said to be her ace reporter. There was "Opery Chat," presenting the latest news about movie stars and their new releases. Every two weeks or so, we would have a guest editorial entitled, "What Interests Me most About Paragould." The first guest editor was William A. Kirsch. Another feature was "Microphobia," a column for radio fans listing programs of interest on KBTM.
Local businesses would advertise in Cinemag. At the bottom of each ad someone was named for a free pass to the current showing at the Capitol.
We had what were known as "Cinemag Boys" deliver the paper. In return, they received free passes to the movie. Even though it was a local publication, many stars subscribed to it. We have photos of such stars as Fred MacMurray, Mickey Rooney, Abbott and Costello, Dick Powell, and others reading our publication.