Sunday, July 22, 2012

Horne's Nickelin Theatre, 423 Spring Street, Los Angeles

The trade publication Motography, May 1911, features an article on Horne's Nickelin, the theatre's name an obvious reference to the five-cent admission. However most sources list this early movie house as Horne's Big Show. That is how it appears in the photograph accompanying the Motography article. Perhaps the theatre had just undergone a change.

Excerpts from Motography, May 1911:
"Horne's Nickelin Theater, 423 S. Spring street, is one of the popular motion picture theaters of Los Angeles."

"....Horne's show is devoted to pictures exclusively; there are no vaudeville stunts, nor illustrated songs. The only music is that which accompanies the films."

"The program consists of three reels all second run -- another distinctive feature. Every film  is thus fresh and up-to-date. They are run through the machine with only a slight pause in between, and no intermission. It is a continuous performance, lasting from 10:30 A. M. to 11 P. M. The work is done by two machines with two operators in attendance all the time. A third machine is kept in readiness in case of accident. The two 'busy' machines bear the brand of Nicholas Power; the auxiliary machine is an Edison.
"New we come to the rarest feature of all. The screen is neither canvas, white-wash, mirror or patent paint. It is a piece of pure satin! What do you know about that? It is Mr. Horne's  own invention, and he has kept it a secret up till now."

"Horne's theater seats 350 people. It is not such a large place, as motion picture theaters go nowadays, but like many nice little things it cost a good deal of money. A glance at the sumptuous exterior will give an indication of the style in which it has all been carried out.
"The architecture is Moorish and those pillars in front are of solid 22-karat gold--at least they seem to be. It is known as 'The Place with gold pillars.' It was built in 1908; the house has a 25-foot frontage and a dept of 120 feet; the admission price is five cents; the place keeps ten employees busy; there are seven large fans and a cooling apparatus to entice pedestrians out of the California heat; and at night some 350 incandescent lamps blaze a welcome."

"The 'Nickelin' is a favorite with everybody, especially with theatrical folk. Members of the Biograph stock company make it their own particular haunt."

"All who have ever met Manager W. T. Horne know just why his place is what it is."

It is unclear as to when the Nickelin/Big Show closed. The building was demolished by the mid-1920s.

For a  little bit More

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

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