NOTICE: Beginning Sunday, May 26, Central Library will begin observing summer hours and will be CLOSED on Sundays until September 8. 

NOTICE: All KPL locations will be CLOSED on Monday, May 27 in observance of the Memorial Day Holiday. 

See the latest updates about Alma Powell Branch.

The New Theatre

Downtown Kalamazoo Theater (1912-1947)


North side of West Main Street (Michigan Avenue), east of Rose Street (126 West Main Street).

Claimed to seat 240 including balcony. Opened and operated as a film and illustrated song theater by Frank P. D’Arcy from 2 March 1912 until 6 September 1947. The name “The New Theatre” was derived from a Kalamazoo Gazette “theater name contest” entry submitted by N.B. Leonard.

new-theatre
Postcard view of Main St. (Michigan Ave.) looking east c.1914. The New Theatre is circled on the left. Private collection

sanborn-map-1908-new-theater
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1908. Library of Congress

new-theater-2
New Theatre, 150 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, 1941. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file P-895

The following articles were published in the Kalamazoo Gazette in 1911–12, around the time of opening. They give a fairly clear description of the theater and who was involved (all sic).

“During the next twenty days F.P. D’Arcy, west Main street jeweler, will sell his stock, opening the first of the year a moving picture show in the building which he now occupies.

Last night Mr D’Arcy said: ‘For some time I have considered opening a moving picture show here. I have obtained a thorough picture man to manage the house, which will be one of the finest in Michigan.’

It was stated by Mr. D’Arcy that he has obtained the services of C.B. Cole, of the Royal theater, Fort Wayne, Ind., to take charge of the proposed theater as manager. Cole has been in the moving picture business for several years and is well known in that business.

Contracts for seats and decorations were made several days ago while the building will be reconstructed as soon as is possible. A new front will be put in.

Mr. D’Arcy expects to be able to open his new theater to the public on or about February 1.

Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 December 1911, p.11


“For several days past a gang of workmen in the employ of the Chicago Decorating company has been engaged in tearing out the interior of the D’Arcy jewelry store at 128 West Main street preparatory to remodeling the large storeroom into a beautiful little theater devoted to motion pictures and illustrated songs.

In dimensions the room is 24 x 80 feet and in transforming it into a place devoted exclusively to the entertainment of the public Mr. D’Arcy states that he will expend $5,000. The seating capacity will be 297 and the seats which have been purchased for it are as fine as those in any theater in the state. They are made after a special design, cost nearly $5 each or about $1,500 altogether, and are know as the auto cushion chair — full springs edge, covered with genuine goatskin leather and finished in mahogany and gold.

DECORATIONS OF UNUSUAL BEAUTY.

The color scheme of the interior will be ivory and gold, with marble pilasters running to the ceiling along the side walls. Embossed designs will be employed in decorating, the figures being artistic and harmonizing with the general decorative scheme. At each side of the stage will be a large ivory figure, the effect being striking and beautiful.

The ceiling will be of steel, thickly studded with electric light, the wiring for which and the front has cost more than $500. Particular attention will be paid to the illumination of the theater, the general effect being soft and pleasing to the eye. Other trimmings of plush and stain with carpets of special design will complete the interior decorations.

The floor will have a four-foot drop from the rear, the slop to the stage being gradual, so that an excellent view of the pictures may be obtained from any seat in the house.

FRONT WILL BE A BLAZE OF LIGHT.

The one big attractive feature in connection with the theater will be the front, which will fairly blaze out into the night, 300 incandescent and other lights being used in the illuminating scheme and outlining the entire three-story front of the building. The entrance will be exceedingly ornate; it will have the arch effect and will be finished in ivory, gold and mahogany, with brass and mahogany trimmings.

Owner manager D’Arcy already has contracted for a costly picture machine and for one of the best licensed film services in the country. He will run two films, changing the pictures every day. All the films are censored and nothing will be shown that will shock or offend anyone, so Mr. D’Arcy states. He has a line out for some of the best and highest priced singers of illustrated songs in the state and will make this a feature of each show.

The Chicago Decorating company has the contract for remodeling the D’Arcy store into a theater and will have it completed for opening February 15.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 January 1912, p.10

 


“No description of the New can do it justice. One must see it to appreciate it. The interior is artistic in the extreme, the color scheme being in gold, ivory and old rose, this idea being wrought out in the wall decorations and trimmings, as well as in the lighting. There is a large statue at each side of the stage, painted to represent ivory, each of which supports a large colored glass shade. There are other figures and raised work on the walls, giving a rich and attractive appearance to the interior. On the side walls hang eight cut glass vases, which are newly filled each day with cut flowers. The ceiling is studded with electric lights and there are a number of pretty side lights, the illuminating effect being soft and subdued, although the place can be flooded with light when required, as there are 260 lights in the house.

FRONT IS ONE OF UNUSUAL BEAUTY.

The front of the New theater is by far one of the most attractive of any in the city. Like the interior it is done in ivory and gold and mahogany and the trimmings are elaborate. There is a mahogany staircase at the left of the entrance, leading to the second floor. The entire front is outlined with incandescent lights — 60 in all — while the sign is an attractive one.

Mr. D’Arcy is especially proud of the 240 sears which he has placed in the New theater. The framework is of mahogany, while the cushions are of goat leather and are springy and soft to sit in, being much the same as an auto seat. The seats are roomy and comfortable.

In the matter of shows Mr. D’Arcy has sprung an innovation, giving the first show at the noon hour for the benefit of clerks, shop and factory girls, downtown workingmen and any who may be downtown shopping during the noon hour. Then follows a show every hour until 5 o’clock — this show lasting until 6 — when there is an intermission until 7:30, with four shows between that time and the closing hours, between 10:30 and 11 o’clock. It is planned to give nine shows during the day.

SPACIOUS REST ROOM A FEATURE.

One feature of the New that will particularly appeal to the lady of the house is the roomy, handsomely appointed 20 x 24 rest room down stairs.

Two colored girls in uniform do the ushering and between shows pass water through the audience. The tipping of maid or usher is positively prohibited by Mr. D’Arcy.

The orchestra is in charge of George Gould, violinist. Mrs. Ruby Dunton is pianist. A cornet and drums and bells complete the orchestra.

James McCarty operates the film machine and Frank Guyser is house electrician.

Miss Lillian Hoag, formerly cashier at Gilmore Brothers and the J.R. Jones Sons & Co., is in charge of the ticket office.

The theater is well supplied with exits. There is one at each side of the stage and the front is so arranged that it can be thrown wide open.

‘The house can be emptied in 60 seconds,’ said Mr. D’Arcy, ‘as the main aisle is wide and there is a 32-inch space between each row of seats.’”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 6 March 1912, p.10

Sources

Information originally compiled in 1995 by J.P. Jenks. Additional information was later added by library staff. Information compiled from Kalamazoo City Directory listings, details obtained in researching newspaper reports published at the time by the Kalamazoo Gazette and Kalamazoo Telegraph Press, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Kalamazoo County Warranty Deeds and numerous other sources.

Updated March 2019.


Additional Resources

Books

A history of theater in Kalamazoo
Pixley, Jorge V., 1958
H 792 P694

Theater in Kalamazoo from 1860–1890
Johns, Marion, 1955
H 792 J65


Articles

“D’Arcy to open moving picture show Feb 1”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 December 1911, p.11

“D’Arcy’s picture theater handsomest in middle west”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 January 1912, p.10

“N.B. Leonard gets theater name prize”
Kalamazoo Gazette, February 18, 1912, p.4

“New Theater most beautiful in state”
Kalamazoo Gazette, March 6, 1912, p.10


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Theater

Subject File: Elite Theater

Subject File: Majestic Theater

Share: Facebook Twitter