Clinton Theater

161 Clinton Street,
Binghamton, NY 13905

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One of Binghamton’s most obscure movie houses, the Clinton Theater’s two and a half year run from 1912 to 1915 began and ended ignominiously.

The first record of the Clinton Theater appears in the Press on Halloween, 1912, when one A.R. Richman advertises for “125 second-hand folding chairs. Must be cheap.”

Records of the Clinton Theater appear sporadically for the next few years, culminating in a news story on January 25, 1915 that relates that Richman had sold all of the theater machinery to a third party on January 19 (apparently the last day the theater operated). The next day, when the new owner arrived to take possession, the “camerograph” had been stolen…and so ended the run of the Clinton Theater. The owner vainly offered a reward of $50 for a few weeks for the return of the equipment, and there the story of the Clinton Theater fades away.

The theater, obviously a shoestring sort of operation, did not advertise and the only clue we have to its nature is in a 1954 article about early Nickelodeons that claims the Clinton Theater was billed as “The Home of Sensationalism”.

A funeral home is at this address now, and has been since at least 1929, with the family associated with the home living at this address for at least a year prior to that. claims the building was built in 1930, but given that the funeral home predates 1930 that date is probably erroneous, and there is some chance that the building is the same.

Curiously, in 1926 someone attempted to start a Dreamland Theater at 159 Clinton Street, which is next door to (and probably in the same building as) the 1912-1915 Clinton Theater. This apparently never happened, and the building (assuming it is the same one) became a funeral parlor shortly thereafter.

Contributed by Adam Marsland

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

adamghost on February 18, 2016 at 1:24 am

Hold the phone. The 1927 Film Year Book indicates there WAS a Dreamland Theater in operation that year. Was there a brief resurrection of the Clinton in 1926-27, before the funeral home?

walterk on February 19, 2016 at 7:57 pm

The someone who attempted to start a Dreamland Theatre in 1926 was Frank P Saunders. According to the March 5, 1926 issue of Variety, Saunders was directed to make certain safety changes before he would be granted a license to operate. The March 20th issue of Motion Picture News was more specific, reporting that the council that would grant the license wanted several changes in exits, aisles, toilet accommodations and the projection booth before granting it. I didn’t find any mention of this work being completed or that the theatre ever opened other than the Film Daily Yearbook listing.

adamghost on March 1, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Great detective work, Walter, thanks…

Those articles indicate changes to a theater that already existed in some form. I’m thinking that the Dreamland was probably an attempt to restart the Clinton Theater, perhaps with a different front entrance (which would explain the different numbering). Since the Clinton appeared to have been a slipshod affair it’s not surprising that there might have been code concerns. Given that the family who opened the funeral home apparently was living in the building from 1928, it indicates that the building was converted to that use around that time (or that the building was torn down and a new building constructed in its place). It would be interesting to know if the funeral home part of the building, which would have been the auditorium area for a theater, bears any earmarks of that kind of prior use.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 14, 2021 at 4:11 pm

Marginal though it may have been, the Clinton Theatre was listed in the 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory.

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