Eric Musgrove

Eric Musgrove

I know that last week I said this would be the last article on the Alimar Theatre, but as I tend to do, I discovered more information regarding the building. Next week (next year) will complete this series on the Alimar instead.

In 1934, the Motion Picture Herald printed no less than 19 movie critiques by Alimar Manager Tom Fleming that had been shown during that year. Some did poorly with local patrons: concerning “Wild Gold”, Fleming stated, “Made the mistake of using this one on Saturday in place of my usual western and it disappointed. Not enough action, the comedy was weak, not much story and Boles completely miscast, and for that matter, so was Miss Trevor. Harry Green might have been good, but his role did not offer too much possibility. Picture as a whole mediocre.”

“Let’s Try Again” with Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook had an even worse reception. “Played this one family night in a pinch and was not liked at all. No action, weak comedy, acting just so-so. Practically no story, just sixty-seven minutes of dialogue and even that was practically about nothing except domestic squabbles, and even then the story wound up just about where it had begun. If you don’t have to play it, then skip.”

On the contrary, while discussing “Viva Villa!” with Wallace Beery and Fay Wray, Fleming noted, “A marvelous picture from every angle. Truly an epic. I read the story in advance of my showing and felt that ladies would not like, but they did and turned out along with the men folks to give me a nice business. No question about this picture being big and having class. It and ‘House of Rothschild’ about the two biggest and finest pictures of the current season.” Other movies that Fleming critiqued included ones with contemporary stars such as W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Durante, Buster Crabbe, Joan Crawford and a host of others.

Although the theater portion of the building was the main draw during the Alimar’s history, other patrons came to the various venues operated in the two shops flanking the front entrance. The Alimar Coffee Shop was opened by Fleming and Cecil Bass within the structure in February 1937, drawing a crowd with free coffee and hot rolls the first day. The next month, Fleming sold the Alimar building and theater to the Roy Martin chain of theaters, although he retained ownership of the Alimar Coffee Shop.

From 1937 on, the ownership of the Alimar Theatre and its coffee shop diverged, rarely being owned by the same person. Furthermore, the Alimar owners would normally hire someone to manage the property instead of running it themselves. Managers and/or owners throughout the theater’s history included D. D. Biggs, Leonard Vaughn, Bob and Dorothy Cannon, and Russell and Roylyn Johnson. The coffee shop and its successors were owned and/or run by George Demedicis, Johnnie R. Baker, Jack Plair, Wilmar Greene, Mr. Wise, and Carlton Davis, among others.

We’ll finish the Alimar next week.

Eric Musgrove can be reached at ericm@suwgov.org or 386-362-0564.

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