Saturday, October 20, 2012

Florida History: Miami's spacious Hippodrome opens in 1917

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By Jane Feehan

Miami’s second Hippodrome, a large movie house that replaced the original, smaller venue across the street, opened in January, 1917. Located downtown at the 200 block of Flagler Street, the theater was acclaimed for its spaciousness, seating 1,100.

When completed, the new building cost New York-based owners Hickson, Whitener and Scacht (sic) $200,000. Its interior, with balcony, was painted white and dark green and featured a lattice work ceiling for an open, airy atmosphere. The Hippodrome took four months to complete and was designed with “Italian lines of architecture” for both the exterior and interior. Illumination, according to the Miami Metropolis, was provided by “inverted bowls” containing lights that could be regulated from a bright flood of light to a dim glow.

“Pictures will be thrown upon a Silveroid screen – the last word in the line of screens …” the paper reported.  There were to be two hour shows throughout the day between 1 and 9 p.m. Music was to be furnished by an eight-piece orchestra and a five thousand dollar pipe organ.

The Hippodrome was leased by Ohioans Joseph F. Foster and his son, Raymond W. Foster who planned to show the best films available, including Where are My Children, Purity, and the controversial Birth of a Nation. For opening day they featured 
six-reel The Common Law with Clara Kimball Young.

In 1928, the Hippodrome proudly announced the showing of The Lights of New York, the first all-talking movie (The Jazz Singer was the first partly-talking film). Dialogue was through the latest film industry gadget – the Vitaphone - and starred Helene Costello.

No doubt the Hippodrome was one of the most popular Miami theaters of the day, featuring not only movies but also plays, comedy acts, and musical events. It’s hard to imagine 1,100 people seated in a building without air-conditioning in August. The Hippodrome closed in 1930 and reopened as the Rex Theater in 1931. Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

Miami Metropolis, Jan. 05, 1917
Miami Metropolis, Jan. 6, 1917
Miami News, Aug. 19, 1928
Florida State Archives, Florida Memory

Tags: Florida history, Miami history, movie houses in the early 1900s, film industry research, film researcher

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