Friday, September 24, 2021

Prospect Hall and the Venetian Gardens


Brooklyn's historic Prospect Hall is slated for demolition. In 1908, the hall and its outdoor gardens  were also the studios of the Crescent Film Company operated by Herman Kolle (brother of hall proprietor William Kolle) and Fred J. Balshofer.

Excerpts from One Reel a Week by Fred J. Balshofer and Arthur C. Miller, University of California Press 1967:

“Next to and in connection with the dance hall was an open air summer beer garden. On warm summer evenings neighborhood families would sit around at the separate tables, drink nickel schooners of beer, and watch second-rate vaudeville on a stage raised about seven feet above the ground. A screen rolled down from the arch over the stage and this was used to show movies.

“A song plugger sang popular tunes, accompanied by a piano, while the hand-colored lantern slides on the screen changed according to the lyrics of the song. There was only enough business to warrant operating on Saturday and Sunday evenings. If it rained, people would move into the dance hall and the show would continue there.” 

“We used one corner of the summer garden for our open-air studio and, as in the early days of Lubin, daylight was our only source of light for photography. We arranged a tiny laboratory under the stage and bought a used Pathe field camera that had seen better days.”

The Moving Picture World, November 28, 1908

Since 1997 theatre historian,  Cezar Del Valle, has conducted a popular series of  theatre talks and walks, available for  historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.
Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres.
The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.
Currently seeking funding for “Editing & Formatting” the first three volumes of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, 3rd Edition

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