In 1949, McLaughlin Oil Company built the Dexter Theater next to its gas station on Main and Baker. Longtime Dexter resident Dorothy Bates recalls the grand opening: "We were all excited. It was a big deal to have a movie theater in a small town. We all flocked down." The Dexter Leader reported: "The neon sign and the large amount of light gives a good impression as one drives into Dexter at night." Carol Jones, who grew up on a farm north of Dexter, remembers that all the elementary school children in Dexter were invited to an annual Christmas program at the theater, hosted by the local Kiwanis: "We'd see a movie and be given a bag of candy and popcorn."
In the 1950s and 1960s, the towns' movie theaters succumbed to competition from television and from Ann Arbor's bigger selection of cinematic fare. The Dexter Theater closed in 1963, but the cinderblock building with a brick and porcelain enamel front still stands at 3007 Main Street--one of the last remaining vestiges of a time when small-town residents could gather to discover big new worlds close to home.
[Originally published in May, 2010.]