THE TIMELESS VICKERS THEATRE
CELEBRATING 106 YEARS AS A MOTION PICTURE THEATER
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 (Ada) played the drums and occasionally a player piano. Les Lee (Grandson), remembered tearing tickets as an 11 year old boy. Frank Lee was also the leader of the town band.
In 1939, Lee's Theater moved to its present site at 6 N. Elm St. (3 doors south) and was "air-cooled". Our theater's present location was built sometime before the 1880 as a livery and feed store (Fishers).
Several former Popcorn Girls pop in from time-to-time, including Dorothy Klute Jackson (employed 1947-49), and Lenore Dellinger Hauck (1939), who was a Popcorn Girl when GONE WITH THE WIND played it's original release. Family member Julie Sittig served popcorn here in the 1960's. Jeanie Thomas was a popcorn girl in 1970, and remembers getting a poster from LOVE STORY her favorite film back then.
Different generations of the Lee family operated the theatre until the 1970s. From then until the early 1990s the theatre changed hands several 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 recent years, The Vickers has hosted many Q&As with actors, directors, producers, and editors, as well as several movie premiers of films with local connections.
In addition to film, the theatre has offered other art forms including live theatre, poetry readings and music. 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 for purchase.
The Three Oaks Theatre Festival presented a live staged reading of Larry Kramer's THE NORMAL HEART, at the Vickers, as part of their second season offering. The original Chicago cast from the TimeLine Theatre Group performed the play. In it's third season the festival presented CHAPATTI, starring Penny Slusher and John Mahoney.
Retired Columbia College Film Professor Judd Chesler leads film discussion groups on a semi-monthly basis.
Harbor Country Progress sponsors the First-Tuesday-of-the-Month Documentary Film and Discussion Events.
Our village's Three Oaks History Day includes silent 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 first "sound" movie to play the theatre was THE PAGAN, starring Ramon Navarro. It was fairly primitive, technically speaking, and was not quite synchronized sound, but a series of special records played along with the movie, a stop-gap solution for small town theatres, trying to cope with the new technology, until all new projectors and sound systems could be aquired. The first movie to play at the new location was AT THE CIRCUS, starring the Marx Brothers.
The Vickers Theatre has had five names in its 106 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 Vickers Theatre.
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