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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Q-C boasted 30 movie houses in their heyday - A Q-C Century - Progress 99

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Q-C boasted 30 movie houses in their heyday - A Q-C Century - Progress 99:


houses in their heyday

By Sean Leary, Dispatch/Argus Entertainment editor

Photo courtesy of Showcase Cinemas 53
The new Showcase Cinemas 53, in Davenport, represents the latest in theater technology. The new theater, located at the 53rd Street exit of Interstate 74, opened in December as one of 15 like it across the country.
When the Showcase Cinemas 53 opened in Davenport in December, it was a grand occasion. The state-of-the-art theater is one of only 15 of its kind in the United States, and its opening meant local film-goers would be among a select group of viewers nationwide.

However, the opening was merely the latest event in a long and colorful history of cinematic franchises in the Quad-Cities, a history going back to the invention and introduction of film as a popular entertainment at the turn of the century.

The Quad-Cities' cinema experience has mirrored that of the rest of the country from the beginning, when silent film theaters dotted the landscape. In the teens and '20s, venues such as the Dreamland and Rialto theaters in Rock Island and the Lyric in Moline showed the short, mostly sound-free flicks, accompanied by live music and performers inserting the ``soundtrack.''

The dominant theater of that era was the Capitol in Davenport, which still houses one of the organs that accompanied the works of such stars of the time as Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix.

However, none of the theaters was used solely as a movie venue. Various performers and vaudeville events were the primary draws of many of the buildings, and some films were shown in storefronts and other odd environments.

``Movies were still thought of as a fad,'' said Bob King, local film historian and long-time member of Open Cities Film Society.

That changed once the ``talkies'' came in vogue. Suddenly the upstart medium began to draw large crowds, and with the money they brought came a new respect and financial cache for the burgeoning industry.

The number of theaters grew in the next few decades. The Capitol remained a major player, along with the Fort in Rock Island and the Orpheum, which became the RKO Orpheum, and now the Adler Theater.

``The big films, the Disney films would be at the RKO,'' Mr. King said. ``That was where all the kids and families went. Just about any Disney film would become the buzz of the school. I remember `The Shaggy Dog' playing at the RKO and the next day at school everybody was talking about the movie.''

However there were many other Quad-Cities film houses. Moline had the Hiland, Roxy, LeClaire, Paradise, Mirror, Illini and Orpheum, while East Moline had the Strand and Majestic.


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