Plaza Theatre

Maple Street,
Friend, NE 68359

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Family Theatre, Friend Theatre, New Plaza Theatre

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The Family Theatre was opened on February 20, 1920 with Lewis Stone in “The River’s End”. On January 5, 1933 it was renamed Friend Theatre, with 242-seats. On January 3, 1937 it was renamed Plaza Theatre with 200-seats.

The Plaza Theatre was destroyed by fire on May 2, 1940.

Contributed by Chris1982

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Friend being a very small town it’s likely that the Plaza closed in 1940 when a new, 252-seat house called the Vogue was opened. The Vogue’s opening was noted in the November 22 issue of The Film Daily.

Chris1982 on March 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm

Joe, could the Vogue have been a remodel of the Plaza? The Sentinel listed the Plaza and the Vogue both on Maple at 2nd St.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 12, 2015 at 10:54 pm

It’s possible. The trade journals did sometimes just announce a “new theater” when the house was only renovated and renamed, perhaps with a new owner. The Vogue was opened by Wally Johnson, who operated it until 1957.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 25, 2020 at 12:43 am

The congratulatory ad placed by the Yost Lumber Company notes that the Plaza had been remodeled and redecorated. I’ve found C.W. “Wally” Johnson, owner of the Plaza, mentioned in trade journals from 1935 to 1953.

Friend’s theatrical history began with the opening of the Warren Opera House in 1886. The Warren, an upstairs venue, went into decline with the opening of the ground floor San Carlo Opera House in 1908. The town’s first regular movie theater, the Elite, opened a few years later. Both the San Carlo and the Elite were listed in the 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory. Either of those early houses might have become the Plaza. I’ve been unable to find addresses for either of them.

dallasmovietheaters on January 24, 2021 at 7:51 pm

Joe Gilmore built his structure opening it for retail on April 7, 1882. It hosted some dances and live events, as well. His new Gilmore Building was launched in late April of 1906. J.H. Hungerford had taken on the lease of the recently-closed San Carlo Theatre land on February 20, 1920 re-opening it with William Farnum in “The Lone Star Ranger” and a two-reel Sunshine comedy. But Hungerford was dissatisfied with the San Carlo and bought the Gilmore building - likely the latter 1906 building - a month later. He opened the Family Theatre here on June 5, 1920 playing “The Rivers End”. The Family Theatre became the full-time movie theatre and the San Carlo Theatre switched back to live fare just months later.

Hungerford sold the Family in 1932 and the theatre had a grand reopening on April 23, 1932. C. William “Wally” Johnson and Paige with A.W. Person, operator of the Lyric in Crete, took possession of the venue in December of 1932 reseating it with upholstered chairs and new projectors. It reopened on Christmas Day with a naming contest. The winning name was the Friend Theatre which is the name it used as of January 5, 1933 shows with Joan Blondell in “3 on a Match.”

Johnson would take over sole possession of the Friend and closed it for major improvements in November of 1936. The theatre relaunched on January 3, 1937 as the Plaza Theatre with Shirley Temple in “Dimples” for its soft launch. The theatre would have a gala reopening upon finishing all of its improvements to formally welcome the Plaza moniker on February 5, 1937 with “Three Men on a Horse.” On May 2, 1940, the Plaza was destroyed by fire just hours after the conclusion of “Castle on the Hudson" which would be the venue’s final screening. Johnson would create a new space for the Vogue Theatre relaunching November 14, 1940.

dallasmovietheaters on January 29, 2021 at 9:03 am

Address: 151 Maple Street, Friend, NE 68359

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