Star Cinema History


Click to EnlargeOriginally there was a Silent Movie Theatre and Vaudeville showa in the Stayton Garrage (Yes, with 2 r's) built in 1910 which is now Cartwrights Building with Cartwrights Music Repair and Kens Radio Station KENC AM 1620 on Third Avenue across the creek from Harold's Jewelry. The owner, Floyd Robertson, also used a tent to show movies at the corner where the Drug Store and Stayton Printing used to be located, as well as a tent to show movies at the location of where the Police Station is now located. After the Stayton Electric Theatre opened on the corner of 2nd & E. Water St. (photo below), the theatre ended at the Garrage. Eventually, The Stayton Theatre was moved to the Masonic Hall and a Mill City man renamed it Star Theatre. Later, Ed Keech built the Star Theatre where the Police Station now stands and the Hall theatre ended.

When young George Schlies heard that a great vaudeville star wasa coming to the new Star Theatre, he couldn’t wait to ante up his pennies for admission.

Schlies and his cousin, Laurence, had chopped wood, earning 25 cents each to catch a glimpse of the headliner, billed only as “Polson.”

The vaudeville act was booked to attract throngs to the May 1, 1912 opening night of the Stayton Theatre, allegedly built in 30 days for $600 by W. W. Weddle for owner Frank Lesley. Ted Rizzo was manager of the playhouse.

Schlies and his cousin actually missed the vaudeville act in the then new theater. They had spent some of their 25 cents on a package of gum, figuring on a 10-cent admission price. They were wrong. That opening performance was jacked to a full quarter, all the money the lads had earned. Click to Enlarge
1920's Photo
But when vaudeville gave way to cinematic features, many youngsters for years to come were all too happy to pack the theater and spend their cash on popcorn and Milk Duds. Going to the movies was good, clean fun – an activity that could help today’s youngsters from getting into any more mischief than tossing a few popcorn kernels at one another. The photo above left is from 1922 when the street was about to be paved. The theatre is the building with the arch opening.  Photo to the right is from 1941.  Notice the paved road and new face.


Click to Enlarge The theatre has a history of owners, including Stayton Mail publisher Lawrence Spraker who bought the theatre in 1937 from then owner Ed Keech. In 1946, Spraker took on a partner, Marcel Van Driesche, a Click to for Van's HistoryStayton High School teacher and coach. They built the new Star Cinema of today. The original Star Theatre was torn down within a year and a Scio Banker built a bank in its place. The bank eventually moved to 2nd St. and the City Hall moved in. It is now the Police Station. In 1977, Van Driesche leased the cinema to Joe and Debbie Janota. And in 1987, the cinema was sold to the city of Stayton, who leased it to Jim Lange until the Fall of 2000.

Opening day was Tuesday April 5th, 1949 at 7pm. Although, they did have an earlier showing for the younger crowd at 3:45pm which was free to students. The projectionist was Burdette Rice. Click on image of Van and Spraker for more images and info. Over 1000 people attended the grand opening!click for more info

The formal opening of the theatre was held at 7pm when the curtains were released by Fred Camp, president of the Stayton Chamber of Commerce, who cut the ribbon to open the handsome gold curtains. A color guard from the American Legion Post 58 presented the colors and the audience was led in the pledge to the flag by Blynn humphreys.

M. Van Driesche, manager, introduced Clifford J. Likes who gave the address of welcome, and distinguished guests were introduced.

Entertainment was furnished by Wilbur Berry and William Ciuickshank, who presented piano and accordion duets, and Ray Mac, the "champion filddle player" of South Dakota, and his troupe from Salem.

aCongratulatory telegrams were received from Jeannette MacDonald, Lloyd Nolan and Claude Jarman Jr. stars of the movie "The Sun Comes Up", and from Robert Taylor, June Allyson and Janet Leigh.

Representative of motion picture distributors of Portland were present for the opening. Introduced were Archie Holt of Universal-International Pictures; Murry Mickelson, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Company.

Other film row representatives who called earlier or later in the evening were Dick Lang, manager of RKO; Wayne Theriot, manager and Frank Doty, Paramount Pictures; Mr. and Mrs. Ken Septka, 20th Centruy Fox; Ed D. Cruea, manager of Monogram Pictures.

Also Present from Portland were Phil Blake of B.F. Shearer company; and Mr. and Mrs. Pete Sabo of the Portland Motion Picture Machine Co. Roy Trask, of the Lyle P. Bartholomew firm of Salem, architect for the building.

Former owners introduced were George Keech and Harry Humphrey's. Also presented were Mrs. Mae Spraker and Mrs. Ruth VanDreische and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis M. Keirsey (Alice Spraker).

Click to Enlarge The first film showing at the new Star Theatre was “The Sun aComes Up,” starring Lloyd Nolan. The homey feature was followed by an array of screen favorites, including “Mother Wore Tights” with Betty Grable and Dan Dailey playing the mom and dad who lived their life and love on the Star Theatre screen. “Southern Yankee” with Red Skelton in one of his funniest roles as the spy for both sides who made a three-ring circus of the Civil War followed.

aThis photo shows the new Star Cinema next to the old Star Theatre. The Star Theatre was torn down and eventually was replaced with today's Police Station. Click images for large view.a


Click to EnlargeThen more people started owning this picture tube box called the television between 1955 and 1960, so the attendance dropped a bit.

Television was invented in 1927 by Philo Farnsworth...... In 1948 Television provides fame and fortune for the hosts of two variety shows debuting: Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, and Toast of the Town, hosted by Ed Sullivan. Berle soon comes to be known as "Mr. Television," while Ed Sullivan introduces the country to various musical and comedy acts.

Here is a link to Cinema Movie History. It's worth a visit!

What was happening when the theater opened in 1949?

aToday the theatre is ran by another couple who have brought it back from darkness and silence. They remodeled it, upgraded the sound to Digital DTS Sound and are keeping the ticket and concession prices low enough for everyone. They want you to experience a movie theatre they way they used to be. Fun, family friendly, affordable and unique.



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Click on these images to see Lebanon's Kuhn and Park Theatres, as well as the Scio Theatre movie listings from many years ago...

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