When I study black and white photographs from my collection of historical Kerr County photographs, sometimes I forget how colorful our area was in those days. I suppose my mind processes pre-1940s images as grayscale, and jumps to the conclusion that nothing was in full color in those days.
Silly, I know.
I was reminded this week about this wrong conclusion when studying some photographs of the Arcadia Theater, which is in downtown Kerrville. A friend is part of the group working to bring new life to the old theater, and she asked to borrow a few images of the old movie theater from my collection.
As I was sorting through those images, I realized many of the photographs I have of the Arcadia were not dated, and I thought this information might be useful to the group working on the building.
I’ll share a trick with you: If you’re trying to figure out when a photograph of a movie theater was taken, look to see what movie was showing at the time. There are several very good databases online from which you can determine when movies were first released; with this information, you can have a pretty good guess when the photograph was taken.
There was a photograph of the Arcadia for which I’d never assigned a date, but I could see a movie poster on the front of the building. If I squinted just right, I could read the word “MARX,” and make out four faces on the poster.
All I needed to do was pull up an online filmography of the Marx Brothers’ movies, then ask for images of the posters advertising those movies. In less than a minute, I’d figured out the movie playing at the Arcadia when that photograph was taken was the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup,” which was released in 1933.
In the photograph, the movie poster is dim and gray. The words are hard to read. The image of the poster I found online was bright yellow and gold, with bold red lettering. The contrast between the old black and white photograph and the colorful postcard was surprising.
It reminded me life in Kerrville in 1933 was actually in living color, not in sepia tones.
This sent me looking at other photographs of local movie theaters. A different photograph of the Arcadia came to life when the poster of a Hoot Gibson movie was transformed from grays and black to a bright red with color-filled illustrations; this photograph of the Arcadia was taken in 1931.
I learned a photograph of the Dixie Theater, which stood near the corner of Water and Washington streets, site of today’s River’s Edge Gallery, was taken in
April 1922, because the movie being advertised was “Sins of Rosanne,” a silent film starring Ethel Clayton.
The poster in that photograph was baby blue.
A larger billboard advertising “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” starring Harry Myers and Pauline Starke, was originally a bright yellow poster. An advertisement for these movies appeared in the Kerrville Mountain Sun in late April 1922.
The movie “Crime Doctor’s Manhunt,” starring Warner Baxter, was shown in 1946 at the Rialto Theater, which once stood where the parking lot is next to our print shop in the 600 block of Water Street.
That poster had a bright green background.
Even when the front of the movie theater is not visible in a photograph, you can occasionally learn when the photograph was taken.
In one photo of the
700 block of Water Street, a banner is strung across the street in front of the Arcadia, advertising a movie showing there: “East Lynne,” starring Ann Harding.
That movie was released in 1931.
A close look at the photo shows that movie’s poster displayed on the sidewalk in front of the theater.
In my collection of historic photographs is a color photograph of the Arcadia Theater, taken when it was still a movie theater.
On the marquee is “Endangered Species,” a movie starring Robert Urich and JoBeth Williams, which was released in 1982.
I’m hopeful the group hoping to bring the Arcadia back to life is successful — so many have worked on this project before.
A live-performance venue right in the heart
of downtown Kerrville would be a wonderful addition.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who watched many a movie at the Arcadia Theater, starting in the late 1960s. Yes, young people: Kerrville was in full color, even back then.