Astro Theatre

239 Illinois Avenue,
St. Joseph, MO 64504

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Sun Amusement & Realty Co.

Architects: Edwin G. Kratz

Functions: Bar, Restaurant

Previous Names: Rialto Theater, Dex Theatre, Cameo Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Astro Theatre

The Rialto Theater opened October 21, 1926 and closed April 26, 1958 with Pat Boone in “April Love” & Sal Mineo in “Dino”. It was renamed Dex Theatre on December 31, 1965, which closed on May 10, 1970. Reopened as the Cameo Theatre on September 28, 1970 and began screening adult films. It was renamed Astro Theatre on July 2, 1971 and it screened its last adult movie on December 16, 1971. The following day it reverted back to regular movies and closed January 20, 1972. The building is currently home to Holt’s Place Bar & Grill.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

ejellise: The only reference I can find in the trade publications to a movie made by William Leucht is this item from the March 21, 1925, issue of Exhibitor’s Trade Review:

“Exhibitor Becomes Producer

“St. Joseph, Mo., March 11.— Having made a 3-reel home talent comedy last year, which played to S. R. O. business, William Leucht, manager of the Savoy Theatre, is now building a small plant for the developing, printing and finishing of motion pictures. ‘It’s a good business getter,’ he says.”

I don’t know what became of Mr. Leucht’s movie production business, but he was still operating the Savoy Theatre as late as 1929. The “home talent comedy” mentioned in the item might have been The Grocery Boy, which would mean the year of its production was 1924. If he made additional movies later, it might have been one of them, of course. A movie of that title is not listed in any of the online databases, nor in any of the trade publications of the 1920s that are available online, so it is likely among the more than 80% of silent movies that have been lost.

ejellise on April 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Joe Vogel, THANK YOU so much for helping me out on this. You will NEVER KNOW how much I appreciate your time and research on this. “The Grocery Boy” WAS a three-reel “home talent comedy”. I do know at one time the movie still existed because my husband, Bill and his mother, Alice Brazzell Ellis was privileged to go to a movie theater and view it. My husband was born in 1943 and I think he was a teenager when they saw it. They don’t remember the year or the theater though. Thanks again, you are a “keeper”!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 1, 2014 at 10:21 pm

I’m glad to help. If a print of the movie was still around in the late 1950s, and in condition to be screened, someone must have been taking care of it. The nitrate film stock that was used in the 1920s was very unstable, and had to be carefully preserved. If somebody was looking after it for more than thirty years, chances are they continued to do so. The Grocery Boy might still exist in someone’s private collection.

ejellise on April 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

That’s exciting to know! I talked to my husband, Bill again after I told him what you had said and he said it was shown at the Rialto Theater and he was about 14 or 17, which would have made it 1957 or 1960. I am so in hopes we can find it if it is still available and still view-able. Where can one find the complete article in “the trade publications to a movie made by William Leucht is this item from the March 21, 1925, issue of Exhibitor’s Trade Review”. Or is that the entire article? I did some research and both William Leucht Jr. and Sr. are since deceased. And perhaps the Rialto had rights to the film after that. But they no longer exist, right?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm

ejellise: The brief item I quoted was all there was in the magazine. I found two other references to William Leucht, one from 1927 and one from 1929. The 1927 item said that he had recently bought the Cozy Theatre, and the 1929 item mentioned him briefly as operator of the Savoy.

Scans of some issues of Exhibitors' Trade Review and other trade publications are online, the largest collection being at The Internet Archive, which is a rather difficult site to search as their cataloging system is, well, a mess, but there are probably other references to Leucht in the trades. I’ll keep an eye out for them, as new items are occasionally added to the various digital archives. I’ll also see if I can discover who operated the Rialto in the late 1950s.

If The Grocery Boy was an entirely local project it would be unusual. Most “local talent” movies were actually made by itinerant production companies. One outfit in operation as early as 1920, Community Photoplay, sent crews from their Los Angeles studio to cities all over the country. Essentially these companies would make the same movies over and over in different places with different players.

They would make arrangements with a local theater owner, then advertise a casting call for the production in the local newspaper, select the most likely players at the call, scout locations for filming, then spend a few days shooting the movie from the pre-written scenario. After the film was developed it would be edited and then presented in the theater which had contracted for the movie. The whole process would be completed in about two months, and the crew would be on to the next town on their list.

Nobody knows how many “local talent” movies were made during the silent era, but there must have been hundreds, if not thousands. Still, even though the production company “owned” the movie, they usually didn’t keep a copy. The negatives would be discarded and the only print (or prints) would stay with the local theater operator, who could show it as often as he liked, in whatever theater he chose. This is one of the reasons so few of these movies survived. Local theater operators didn’t know enough about preserving the unstable nitrate film over a long time.

The “local talent” business declined rapidly when talking pictures came along, due mostly to the far greater cost and complexity of making sound movies. In any case, local actors who could learn lines quickly and deliver them convincingly would have been much harder to find than people who could mug and posture for the silent camera.

I don’t know of anyone who is researching local talent movies. I can’t even find the term mentioned on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s web site. Still, there are so many people researching silent movies that there must be a few who specialize in local talent productions. Again, I’ll keep an eye out for information about the subject.

As William Leucht originally would have had what might have been the only print of The Grocery Boy, the most likely place to search for information about what became of it would be among his descendants. There could still be a few living in St. Joseph, though Google searches on the name fetch mostly obituaries. Still, obituaries might reveal the married names of daughters, and in my experience women usually remember more family history than men do. The most recent Leucht connected with St. Joseph that I’ve seen is a Geralyn (Geri) Leucht, who is listed at as a 1971 graduate of Central High School.

Good luck tracking down the print of The Grocery Boy. If it still exists, and you can find it, it will be of great interest to fans of silent movies.

ejellise on April 2, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Thanks again Joe. I have located what I believe to be the obituaries of William Leucht Jr and a couple others I believe who were in the film also. I will see if they tell of anything regarding their making of the movie.

Chris1982 on October 17, 2014 at 9:39 am

Shouldn’t this theatre be listed as the Astro Theatre with AKA’s Rialto, Dex amd Camero? RIALTO THEATER opened on October 21, 1926. The last date the Rialto was open: Saturday, April 26, 1958 Last shows played at the Rialto was Pat Boone & Shirley Jones in “April Love” and Sal Mineo in “Dino” DEX THEATER opened on Friday, December 31, 1965 showing 3 movies – Jerry Lewis in “Dont Give Up The Ship”, “Rock-A-Bye Baby” and John Wayne in “Donovans Reef”. The last date the Dex was open, Sunday May 10,1970 The last movies showing was Elvis Presley in “Live a Little, Love a Little” and Hank Williams in “A Time To Sing”. CAMEO THEATER opened on Monday September 28, 1970 with a Live Telecast from the Eden Theatre stage in New York Oh Calcutta, a 2 Hour Broadway Musical Comedy. For mature Audiences only,18 and over,must have prove of age Last date Cameo was open was Thursday July 1, 1971 Last shows was “Hothouse” and “My Swedish Cousin”, both X rated. ASTRO THEATER opened on Friday July 2,1971. They advertised, New Hours: 9am to Midnight Every Day. The Most Adult Movies In St Joseph. New Double Feature Every Friday. There first movies were “The Art of Marriage” and “Precious Jewels”, both rated X. Last X Rated movie was shown on Thursday December 16,1971. Movie shown that day was He and She – Rated X On Friday December 17, 1971 the Astro began showing non-X rated movies. The Astro Theatre’s last date open Thursday January 20,1972. The last showing was “Doctor Zhivago”. On Thursday December 9,1971 the St Joseph Newspress front page headlines read: Trial Of Obscene Movie Charge Delayed Again Projectionist Clearance Wilson arrested on September 17,1971.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 17, 2014 at 10:18 am

Chris: Exceptions to the last-used-name rule are usually made if the last name under which a theater operated was used only briefly. In this theater’s case, the last two names were each used for less than a year, but an argument could be made that it should be listed as the Dex Theatre as that name was used for more than four years.

rivest266 on September 11, 2020 at 9:55 am

Opened as Rialto on October 21st, 1926. Grand opening ad posted.

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