Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
The New American Picture Show
Bonham Daily Favorite, March 19, 1995
Despite the national craze for the new motion pictures, the citizens of Bonham seem to have taken in stride this new form of entertainment. Prior to World War I the local media seemed to paid little attention to the images flickering across the screens of Bonham.
Obviously the new entertainment was popular; otherwise four theaters would not have flourished in a town the size of Bonham. None of these theaters were housed in buildings large enough to seat a very extensive audience.
The movie theaters were still competing with all sorts of live entertainment. The Steger Opera House still advertised frequently of a wide variety of entertainment from dramatic and comedic productions from touring theatrical companies to varied productions of a vaudeville nature. The more cultural performances were still in full force at the Russell Opera House and on the stages of the towns schools and colleges.
Movies theater owners showed a marked reluctance for advertising their latest offerings on the silver screen. Photographs show us that each theater exhibited a variety of billboard advertisements in front of each establishment but display ads in the local papers seemed to have been totally absent in the early years.
The powerful studios with their stable of popular stars was only just beginning to emerge. Instead most of the offerings were those of amateur cinematographers, former stage directors, and less than talented actors and actresses.
Among the first advertisements for a motion picture to be shown in Bonham is found in the May 24, 1914 edition of The Bonham News. Rather than the typical display ads with which we are familiar today, the advertisement takes the form of a news story.
The manager of the Queen Theater, Don Ryburn, announced the attractions for Friday and Saturday evenings with a Friday afternoon matinee. The Friday feature was a two reel comedy entitled "When the Girls Joined the Force," starring Stella Adams.
The Saturday feature was billed as "the grand old story of California, Delores d'Chada" (Lady of Sorrows) featuring Cleo Morrison.
The advertisement also stressed that as a special added attraction the music that was to be played to the pictures would be provided by Miss Bo Vard, late of the Crystal Theatre in Dallas. And as further enticement postcard pictures of the audience's favorite actors were free for the asking.
By the time the United States entered the World War, the local theaters were advertising a variety of productions with the showbills being changed several times a week. The movie industry by this time was claiming a lions share of American popular entertainment and true stars of the screen were beginning to wield their influence and these same stars were demanding more and better vehicles in which to display their talents.
The local theaters were expanding their operations and more and more features were becoming available although the two reel movie remained standard with only an occasional foray into an occasional four reeler.
Bonham entered into the movie kingdom big time in 1921. The front page of The Bonham Daily Favorite on July 10, 1921 contained the headline NEW PICTURE SHOW NEARING COMPLETION. Following was an article addressing what had been the main topic of conversation since earlier that Spring.
"The Contractors on the new American Picture Show are making every minute count. And Mr. Steger who has charge of the building says he is going to show the people that his workmen are not loafers. The brick work has all been completed and workers are at work today on the roof and the concrete floor will be in next week. The lessees of the building, Messrs Robb and Rowley, inform us that they have placed their order for the seats and a pipe organ. The price of the organ is $6,950 and it will be one of the best in this part of the state.
The building has been built out of brick by the Bonham Brick Company and if you want to see a pretty wall take a look at this building. It is understood that the show will about the first of September."