Hollywood Theatre

Geddes Street,
Holley, NY 14470

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Hollywood Theatre

The Hollywood Theatre opened on the south side of Geddes Street near the public square in Holley, NY, on Friday evening, August 10, 1923. The featured attraction was “The Hell Diggers" starring Wallace Reid, a film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures that had premiered nearly 2 years earlier in September of 1921 (per imdb.com). The proprietors of the cinema were local businessmen George McCargo and Francis O’Brien. McCargo had previously run the Lyric Theatre in Holley, with his partner F.W. Gates, whose interest in that enterprise O’Brien had purchased just two months prior to the Hollywood’s opening.

The theater had been scheduled to open a week earlier, but was postponed due to construction being incomplete. An ad in the Holley Standard, a local weekly, announced the originally planned opening for Saturday, August 4, 1923, featuring Dorothy Dalton in “The Crimson Challenge,” another Famous Players-Lasky production and Paramount release that had premiered in 1922. The ad noted, “Although the theater is not entirely ready for opening, it is far enough completed for showing of pictures.” Evidently, this was not the case.

Some weeks earlier, the Holley Standard had reported on the impending opening of the new theatre as construction was drawing to a close, referring to the cinema as “the new Lyric.” The article stated, “Every convenience has been arranged for. In the front, there is a vestibule with a ticket office located on the right side. On the left there is a small checkroom and ladies’ toilet. An up-to-date moving picture booth will be installed and every precaution taken to make it fireproof. Ventilation is one of the principal features of a theatre and the owners have not overlooked this point. Four 18 inch fans, two on each side, will be installed. By these fans and the outside ventilators, the air will be completely changed every eight minutes, assuring patrons of a comfortable and cool place even in extreme hot weather … The building is constructed of tile, one story high, while the front is of tapestry brick.”

On November 12, 1925, the theater changed hands, as McCargo and O’Brien sold to the out-of-town partnership of Freedman and Brotman, from nearby Rochester, NY. A Holley Standard article noting the sale of both the business and the building itself, noted the theater’s “spacious” seating and excellent ventilation, while commending the original proprietors for “running the highest grade of pictures obtainable and in every way conducting a movie house to which the village could point with pride.” As for the new firm, the paper wished them well, trusting “that they will enjoy the good patronage which will enable them to continue to provide the best features.”

The tough times of the Great Depression took their toll on the Hollywood Theatre by March 24, 1932, when a notice in the Holley Standard announced that a foreclosure was pending on the building by the mortgage holders – which included McCargo and O’Brien. The notice offered any takers the opportunity of bailing out the present proprietors via favorable assumption terms of the debt and business.

The Hollywood Theatre somehow managed to survive the Depression and hung on into the early-1950’s, when it finally succumbed to the rising popularity of television. A final notice in the Holley Standard on April 24, 1952, stated flatly that the Hollywood Theatre had exhibited its final attraction and that patrons should visit the Rialto Theatre in Albion, NY, for their future movie-going pleasure. The notice is attributed to the manager, Joseph Melfi, Jr.

Contributed by Ed Solero

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm

It’s just an educated guess, but I pointed the street view looking towards the south side of Geddes Street just to the west of Holley’s public square. There is a greyish, one-story building with a stepped facade just visible next to the two-story brick building on the left side of the image. It might be that this is the original Hollywood Theatre building. There are no street views available that are actually on Geddes Street. One of the articles in the Holley Standard noted that the theater was opening next to the millinery store of Jennie M. Webster. Unfortunately, due to the small size of the town, ads in the Standard did not typically reference an address or specific intersection for local merchants. The fact that both the Webster millinery store and the theater were either advertised or associated with Geddes Street is an indication to me that both were located OFF the public square rather than right upon it. Occasionaly, an ad or news item about a shop or theater might have referenced a particular block – as in the “Matson Block” or the “Frisbie Block.” I believe these were actual land blocks containing multiple building lots that were on the square itself. The only one in Holley I’ve been able to pin-down was referred to as the “I.O.O.F. block,” which stood for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an organization that constructed a meeting hall for themselves on the north-east corner of the square, where the 1890 building still stands today.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm

An interesting anecdote is that opening night for the Hollywood Theatre coincided with the same date on which the remains of President Warren G. Harding were entombed in Marion, Ohio. According to an item in the August 9, 1923, edition of the Holley Standard, all stores in the village were to close for the evening at 4 pm that Friday, in honor of the late President, who had died suddenly while still in office just 8 days earlier. I wonder if the original opening date (August 4th) had been postponed out of respect for the President’s passing? The August 9th ad for the rescheduled opening did state emphatically that the theater would open “Friday night for sure, unless the world comes to an end!”

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 24, 2012 at 6:54 am

Further research revealed that ground was broken for this theater on November 21, 1922, on a lot adjacent to the millinery shop of Jessie M. Webster, which was located on the “Newton block.” An 1875 map of Holley shows that the southwest corner lot on Geddes St and the Public Square was owned by H.G. Newton. This is the red brick building pictured on the left side of the street view above. I think its a very safe bet to assume that the one-story grey building in the center of the street view currently occupies the site of the late Hollywood Theatre, if it isn’t the former theater itself.

Also learned that the firm of Day & DePhillips were to erect the structure with materials furnished by N.L. Cole. No word on who the principal architect was. The interior was to be “tastefully decorated and all modern equipment installed.“ Construction was anticipated to be completed within three months, "depending on the weather.” Since the theater did not open until nearly nine months later, we can only assume it was a long, cold winter in Holley. Seating capacity was expected to be between four hundred and five hundred.

The Hollywood Theatre would be the first, last and only purpose-built cinema erected in the village. “Photo-plays” had previously been exhibited at several other theaters in town, such as the Lyric Theatre (in its two incarnations) and the Frisbie & Sawyer Opera House, but these were either built for stage presentations or converted from storefronts.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Just thought I’d keep the conversation I’m having with myself going a bit further – what are the odds that anyone from Holley, NY, or surrounding areas, are members of CT? Anyway, a regular feature in the Holley Standard was one that looked back on the history of the village at varying intervals of time for the week of the current publication. On September 3, 1953, under the heading “Twenty-five Years Ago —1928,” the paper noted the following anecdote:

“The new organ recently installed at the Hollywood Theatre was heard for the first time, and lent a metropolitan air to the attractive little theatre. The picture, ‘The Street of Sin’ was shown in Holley simultaneously with its appearance at the Eastman Theatre. It was stated that it was unnecessary to go out of town to see the new pictures as they would be shown in Holley almost as soon as at the city theaters.”

Not sure where the Eastman was located – it is not listed on CT – but I can only assume it was in the city of Rochester.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Thanks for that info, RK. It was getting awful lonely in here, all by myself. Territory Wholesale Supply lives on, sort of, via acquisition by the company VP Supply. They list a Holley address at 14 Geddes Street, but I am unsure if this was the exact location of the former Hollywood Theatre. It appears that VP occupies two buildings, the smaller of which is the grey one-story building I refer to in the first comment above, with a stepped facade. I believe that this building is the original Hollywood Theatre structure. VP also owns the larger grey building just next door, with peaked roof. This is likely their warehouse, and appears to be a much newer structure. I’m not sure which of these belongs to the address of 14 Geddes. Either way, a street view along this portion of Geddes, is still not made possible by Google maps, so we can’t get a good look at the building.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 19, 2013 at 7:01 pm

In your Bing Map link, there is a blue circle marking the approximate location of 14 Geddes. If you move to the right there are two buildings with peaked roofs. The second one, the smaller of the two, with a grey roof – which appears to have a rear bay door open – is the one I presume to be the original Hollywood Theatre structure. It seems about the right size for a small, single level, 300 seat movie house. And this is the building that now has a VP Supply Corp sign hanging above its entrance, as can be viewed from down the block in the street view set at the top of this page (if you were to zoom-in).

But, as you say, still not sure which building is number 14.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Agreed. I did rotate the view all the way around. Interestingly, the view facing east must be an older image, because the larger warehouse isn’t there. A couple of smaller buildings are depicted, which must have been razed to make way for the warehouse. The office structure appears pretty much the same from all angles.

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