THE TIMELESS VICKERS THEATRE
CELEBRATING 102 YEARS AS A MOVING PICTURE THEATRE
The first moving pictures to be shown in Three Oaks were at the Acorn Opera House back in 1907. Ironically, the opera house was located right next door to the present Vickers Theatre, in the space were the parking lot now exists. The first regular program of movies began in the spring of 1909 by Melvin Smith of Three Rivers, who opened a Moving Picture and Vaudeville tent show, pitched on a vacant lot in Three Oaks business district. The venture met with immediate success and by fall had moved into the Davidson Building. In the next two years, two other "movie houses" sprang up from tents into buildings. These three theaters bore the enchanting names of The Princess, The Idle Hour, and The Fairyland (which eventually became the Vickers).
In 1911 Frank Lee and partner Clarence Perham opened their movie theater originally located at 14 N. Elm St., which became the third of the three theaters in Three Oaks. Frank Lee soon purchased his partner's interest in the business and the theatre became Lee's Theater (or The Lee Theater). Before the Talkies, members of the Lee family even played in the orchestra, including Bea McGrath (Lee's daughter) on piano, who also ran the box office for many years. Son Eldon Lee played the coronet, while Mrs. Lee played the drums. Les Lee (Grandson), remembered tearing tickets as an 11 year old boy. The first sound movie to play here was THE PAGAN (1929), starring Ramon Navarro.
In 1939, Lee's Theater moved to its present site at 6 N. Elm St. (3 doors south) and was "air-cooled". Our present theaters location was built in the 1890s as a livery and feed store (Fishers).
Several former Popcorn Girls pop in from time-to-time, including Dorothy Klute Jackson (1947-49), who still lives in town, and Lenore Dellinger Hauck who was a Popcorn Girl when GONE WITH THE WIND played it's original release.
Different generations of the Lee family operated the theatre until the 1970s. From then until the early 1990s the theatre changed hands many times until finally closing. Serving for short periods of time as a real estate office and a warehouse.
The theatre was purchased by Jon and Jennifer Vickers in 1994 and after 2 1/2 years of restoration opened in June of 1996 with “Citizen Kane.”
The Vickers Theatre’s Outdoor Film Event, the “Sound of Silents Film Festival” was an annual treat for local residents and theatre patrons. People have attended from all over the Midwest and beyond. In 2013, The Andrew Alden Ensemble accompanied THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) live, with their own original score.
In addition to film, the theatre has offered other art forms including live theatre, poetry readings and music ranging from folk to punk. The ACORN THEATER had its beginnings on the modest stage of the Vickers. Since opening, the theatre has also been an art gallery to local artists who exhibit their work each month for theatre patrons viewing and/or purchase. Recently, directors Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm graced theatre patrons with conversations on their movie "The Red Machine". Director Jennifer Burns brought her documentary VINCENT, and even brought Vincent himself! Producers Jim Hemphill, Sr. and Nancy Hemphill spoke after their film THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH.
Retired Columbia College Film Professor Judd Chesler leads film discussion groups on a semi-monthly bases.
Harbor Country Progress sponsors the Last-Tuesday-of-the-Month Documentary Film and Discussion Events.
Our town's Three Oaks History Day includes silents movies at the Vickers, from back in the day.
In June 2010, Judy & Joe Scully purchased the Vickers Theatre with partner Bill Lindblom, who also manages the theatre.
The old film projector was replaced with a digital projector in November of 2012, a necessary upgrade to continue screening new releases. The first digital film screened here was BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.
The Vickers Theatre has had five names in its 102 year history, originally known as; The Fairyland, then for many years, Lee's Theater, and for short periods, The Family Theater, The Oak Theater and finally the beloved Vickers Theatre.