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Motion Pictures


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



Additional Resources

Motion Pictures, 1900-1930


Evolution of the Movie

The earliest films, of the 1910s and 1920s, lasted only 15 to 20 minutes.  Many were shown in vaudeville theaters as part of the show.

January 18, 1928: 
The Mattoon Theater advertised a show- Bob Davis and his 'Georgians'- which included a jazz band, comedian, dancers, a novelty spinning and hoop rolling act, and the Paramount picture "Honeymoon Hate".

Many theaters in Mattoon were named after famous theaters in other cities.  Managers traveled from other areas of the country to open theaters in Mattoon mimicking the Bijoux, Lyric, Majestic, Grand, and Strand.

In the early 1900s, and especially in the 1930s, big business groups tried to monopolize the motion picture industry.  Marcus Heiman of Milwaukee, for example, owned theaters all over Illinois and Wisconsin before leasing the Mattoon Theater in the 1910s.  In 1930, FOX owned 3 motion picture theaters in Mattoon: the Grand, K, and Mattoon.

In 1928, the Mattoon newspaper headlined that "Television by Radio Soon To Be Reality."  The first TV was tested in Schenectady, NY, and was made available to large audiences by the 1950s.  Mattoon's movie theaters witnessed a decrease in audience attendance.


Architectural Landscape

All of the Theaters were located on Broadway during the 1910s and 1920s.  In the heart of the downtown area, theaters intermingled with other recreational businesses and social nodes.

Broadway was often the focal point of many local events.  Photographs from the period give visual evidence of the street fair events that occurred on Broadway, including parades, vending booths, and theatrical shows.  People also used the theaters for community performances, involving school children and organizations.


Early vaudeville houses were located in city blocks containing businesses and apartments.  The architectural grandeur was often inside.  The Mattoon Theater, 1896, boasted 3 floors, a 60x50 ft. stage, 6 dressing rooms, 10 proscenium boxes, 2 balconies, and steam heating.  Ideal architectural features for small town theaters dwelled on height and modern features that were similar to city theaters.

The Bijou, built in 1906 as the first motion picture house, could not afford the same architectural design as vaudeville.  It was located in an empty store building with plank seats.  By 1908, it was out of business because more vaudeville/motion picture houses were built.

Chicago architects were brought into Mattoon's business district when the Grand Theater was built in 1910.  The newspaper described the white stucco with gold adornments and panels that were surrounded by a gold border.  The arched stage also wore a gold border and included a built-in, $4,000 pipe organ.  Four sculpted women on pillars supported both the doors and the roof.  It also showcased the biggest electric sign in Mattoon.

When the K Theater burned down in 1937, while showing Hell's Angels, its owners remodeled and renamed it the Time.  The facade was of Art Deco style, popular in the 1930s, and proved that movie houses were not going to look so much like theaters any more.  It was lit up brilliantly because of its color schemes and its electric sign.  Art Deco structures, like the Time, emphasized verticality and modernity.