The Massac Theatre when built in 1938 was the pride of Massac County and the Owner R. C. Cluster of Salem, Illinois. The Designing Architect, O. W. Steigemeyer of St. Louis chose an Art Deco architecture with yellow brick to match the Post Office next door. The Contractor and Supervising Architect was E. H. Barenfanger of Salem, Illinois and the Interior Decorator was Archie Bethel of Mount Carmel, Illinois.
The theatre held 727 seats with 542 on the main floor and 185 in the balcony. The seats were made by the American Seating Company and great detail was given to their quality in the reporting of the opening. The distance from the last row in the balcony to the screen was 120 feet. The theatre also housed a stage, as well as, the movie screen.
When constructed, the Massac Theatre was one of the first buildings in Metropolis to have air conditioning. Installed by Betz Air Conditioning Corporation of Kansas City, the air conditioning used refrigerated water to cool the air. With no hum of fans and no draft, the air could be cooled in two to three minutes. The projectors were the new Simplex E-7 type which had only been on the market for two months before the theatre opened.
The labor to construct the building was all done by Metropolis companies. The brick and stone work was done by Barfield and Sons, the concrete by Odis Oakes, the roof and metal by W. C. Scott, the plumbing by Louis LaVeau and the electrical wiring by Orval Conley. The small lobby floor has a terrazzo floor that still exists. Originally the theatre had two additional entrances on either side of the lobby doors which were used to enter a shoe store and jewelry store. Eventually these two spaces were used for bathrooms and the concession stand.
Eddie Clark worked at the Illinois Theatre in Metropolis before becoming the manager of the Massac Theatre. He greeted everyone on opening night when “The Texans” showed on September 1, 1938 and continued to greet moviegoers for nearly forty years. Movies from Lowes, Fox, Warner Brothers, and Paramount were shown at the Massac. The stage was used for magicians, hillbilly bands, ragtime bands, and even a cooking show. Metropolis’ own WMOK radio station held its grand opening at the Massac on February 1, 1951. Eddie Clark used the stage to display a bicycle which would be given to some lucky boy or girl with the draw of a ticket. He eventually made the move from manager to owner. When Eddie Clark became ill in 1976, the theatre was closed for a year after nearly forty years of service. A young man named Joe Smith leased the property and reopened it. But when Eddie Clark passed away in August of 1977, the theatre was closed and never used as a theatre again.
Sun Industries purchased the building in April of 1982 and used the balcony area to house one of their radio stations, WRIK. After the theatre suffered much deterioration, the city sued Sun Industries to obtain the building by imminent domain. A jury valued the property at $61,250 and awarded the city the property after a long court battle. In May, 2009, the city placed the building on its condemned property list and the Save the Massac committee was formed to save this historic icon of the City of Metropolis.
The Save the Massac committee began negotiations with the City to save the building. In April 2010, the building was named to Landmarks Illinois’ annual Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list. In the Summer of 2011, STM began working with Larry Ward whose vision for the Massac Theatre were the same as the committee. Ward was able to purchase the Theatre from the City in January 2012 and began renovations. He was able to replace the roof and clean the debris from the theatre. The Save the Massac committee worked with Larry until unable to continue due to health issues, Larry made the committee a very generous offer. And in April, 2013, the Save the Massac committee became the proud owners of the Massac Theatre. Today they are working towards their goal of restoring the Massac Theatre to once again be a vital part of Metropolis and Massac County.
Bringing Massac Memories Back to Life!