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Saturday September 23, 2017
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Historic Halls



In the summer Dexter residents could watch silent movies in Monument Park at no cost, sponsored by local merchants as a draw to get people to come into town. Elizabeth Kingsbury Davenport, who lived across the street from the park with her family, recalls watching movies as a child while sitting astride a cannon. Later, in the 1940s, local businessmen revived the tradition, showing movies at a ball field on Second Street (now a car wash). But the noise of passing trains interfered, and the exhibitors moved downtown, showing films on the back of what had once been Costello Hall to an audience sitting on blankets on a grassy field.

In Chelsea the Chicago Theater opened in 1909 to present both movies and live shows. Later renamed the Princess, it was on the street level of what is now the Merkel Building, 205-207 South Main.

Movies didn't have a home of their own in Saline until 1920, when the Liberty Theater opened. Saline historian Bob Lane wrote "for several years Zimmerman [the owner] was successful but around the start of 1929 the business began to fail and he began operating at a loss. He closed the theater May 17, 1930, and its loss was keenly felt."

Theaters were slow to convert to talkies, which debuted in 1927 with Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer.

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