Digital Commonwealth

Four theaters in a row, Lawrence, Mass.

Lawrence Public Library

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Just after the turn of the 20th century, new theaters began to spring up, some in converted older buildings, most as new theaters. At first, the silent film program also included vaudeville shows or celebrities like John L. Sullivan or Helen Keller. At first, Toomey & Demara (Thomas F. Toomey and Napoleon Demara) Amusement Co. owned and operated the Empire, Premier, Colonial, and Broadway (built by Louis B. Mayer) theaters. Later, The Empire Amusement Co., headed by Dr. Alexander l. Siskind, purchased the Empire, Palace, Broadway, and Premier and took a lease on the Colonial. Dr. Siskind had started his association with the movie industry when he opened the Marquise Theater, one of Lawrence's earliest cinemas. His next purchase was the Victoria, which sat opposite the "4 theaters in a row." In the 20s, the Empire, Palace, and Broadway were leased to Warner Brothers (the Empire would ultimately be called the Warner). The four theaters were: the Astor, the Strand, the Broadway, and the Modern. This was considered so unusual that it was highlighted in Ripley's believe it or not! All of the theaters were torn down in the 1970s.

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