The Montana Theater - some questions
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
I'm working on a painting. It includes the MT theater hopefully back in the day when all the lightbulbs lit up, the paint wasn't cracked or flaking as much as currently, neon lit up, etc.

Reaching back to 1970's...

The marquee sign, the metal silhouette of Montana, the State, that has the letter "M" swooshing across it... I believe it lit up at one point? If so, wasn't it backlit by neon? If so, what color? Did the "M" itself light up too (eg. is it metal or a neon tube itself)?

The poster/one-sheet windows for what's playing. There is a poster case on the left of the doors and one to the right of the doors. What was in the left side window (eg. was that the matinee poster or the 9pm show?). What was in the right poster case (eg. Was that the main attraction poster)?
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
Also...

I know there's been a Chamber office to the West, but what was in the two East-side, small units circa 1973/74?

My best recollection is the State Farm has been there over those many years. I can barely make out the name in this awesome photo from Bruce Boe:

http://www.flickr.com/pho...otostream/

Hazy memory of what was next to next to that... The Bean Bag? There was a Miles City Books & News store the last I saw a few years back - but not positive what it was in the 70's.

[This message has been edited by Dan Mowry (1/21/2012)]
Top
moderator
founder
Posted by David Schott (+17055) 9 years ago
Byron "Bus" Beals' State Farm Insurance agency has been in the east office space portion of the Montana Theatre building for a long time. I think it's still there. It appears that a different State Farm agent had that space in the Bruce Boe photo.

Apparently when the theatre was originally built that office space was a candy/concession store where moviegoers bought their snacks before going into the theatre. There wasn't a concession stand inside the theatre like there is today.

The Masonic Temple Building is east of the theatre and I think that building has 3 street-level storefronts. During the 70's M.D.U. was located in there someplace (possibly where Family Floral is today -- eastern most space) and Bob Perkins Jewelry was, I think, where the Historic Preservation Office is (was?). The space where Miles City Books and News was may have been a fine gifts shop or something along those lines but I can't recall for sure.

The Bean Bag Grocery was located one block east in a building that was demolished to expand the M&H parking lot.
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
Hmmm... so, that small office we can see was a State Farm - as evidenced in Bruce's photo. We just don't know the name of the agent. I can scrub around that.

The Preservation office... yah, that's tricky, but the jewelry store rings a bell AND... if you look reeeeally closely in Bruce's photo the storefront has this roof awning that appears to be just a rectangular overhang and that rings even more bells from the idea of a jewelry store.

Man, I can't recall ever seeing an exterior candy store but it's jostling my mind - so that's interesting. I was born in 1969, so not sure if that was before my time or not?

I wonder, then, if the MDU building isn't the thing I'm looking for - one building over to the right of the State Farm?

BTW, thanks so much for the help, Dave!
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
DING DING DING!

You were right, Dave - MDU. Further back in Bruce's photos show the triangular MDU sign between the theater and Super America. Very cool!

I'm painting in the parking meters and that awesome orange garbage can now - right in front of the theater. There's also that hysterical little 2 foot tall "No Parking" sign near the fire hydrant. Man, things were different back then. Not even a tree planted that's so dominant now, nor the old style western tie-ups for horses. It was just bare sidewalk between meters and the hydrant.

I also see hints of what must be a pinkish/purple glow that looks to be the State of Montana silhouette on the front of the marquee.

[This message has been edited by Dan Mowry (1/21/2012)]

[This message has been edited by Dan Mowry (1/21/2012)]
Top
moderator
founder
Posted by David Schott (+17055) 9 years ago
If you watch Kurt Reinhart's time lapse video of setting up the Beef Breeders show you can see that in recent times the M on the front of the marquee is lit up in neon. The state outline is not.

Top
moderator
founder
Posted by David Schott (+17055) 9 years ago
The concession store in the space where the State Farm office is dates way, way back to the early days of the theatre. It was before our time, Dan. Sometime in the last few months the Star did a great story about the theatre and that is where I learned about the concession store.
Top
supporter
Posted by Mrs. M (+711) 9 years ago
Wasn't Lex or Lexie's Giftware in there? She was Bosco Finlanson's sister.
Top
moderator
founder
Posted by David Schott (+17055) 9 years ago
That's right, Mrs. M. "Lex's Fine Gifts" located at 907 Main St. -- 406-232-3425 according to my 1986/1987 Miles City phone book.
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
Regarding the "M"

With the letter lit up in that purple/pink - that may be what I saw in that distant glow in Bruce's 1973 photo, which would jibe with the timelapse video. So, I think I can commit to that.

I'm having to make color corrections against reference photos for the fact the street lamps were white back then - not the orange glow ones now.

I've had to research the original movie poster too - I hope I got the right one (white, lots of faces in the center, as opposed to the black one).

I'll check back to see what might be on that corner where the Chamber/Preservation office is - I think that's the final piece of the puzzle. I wouldn't mind finding out who "Don" the State Farm agent was, too. ha ha.
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
Okay...

American Graffiti is 110 minutes.

Would the MT have played it at 7 & 9pm or something more like 7 & 9:30?

...or only one showing at 7?
Top
Posted by Corrina (Sturdevant) Harrell (+71) 9 years ago
I believe the movie poster on the left was the now showing and the one on the right was coming attractions or coming soon. At least that is what I remember from standing in line waiting for the Wednesday afternoon summer matinees.
Top
Posted by Wil Nelson (+81) 9 years ago
State Farm Insurance has occupied the space since at least 1956, when it was owned by Don Ayre(sic, not sure of the spelling of the last name), next to it was Shultz Electric until '57 when it became L and N Electric until about 1973 and this space then became a book store sometime after that, and next of course Perkins Jewelry and then Montana Dakota Utilities in the next store front. The Standard Gas Station was on the corner lot. I do not recall the date that Perkins Jewelry opened.
Top
Posted by BR5490 (+23) 9 years ago
901 Main was Mann Credit Jewelers, 903 Main was the Montana Theater, 905 was State Farm Donald Eyre, 907 Bob Perkins Jewelers, 909 Masonic Temple, 911 MDU,919 Eddies Standard or Super America
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
I really can't thank you all enough for the fantastic help. All the little details (no matter how small one might think) can be big clues - not to mention wonderful recollections which is the reason I'm doing this piece.

Since we seem to be on a roll I'd like to add to my request for info...

1. Any idea or even distant/in-the-background shots of what that far, 901 Main building would have looked like? Right now I'm mocking up a rather plain front, long, tall windows, no door visible facing Main, and just a steep vertical stretch above the awning. I'm not sure about the current angled out awning - I think that's not original?

2. Also, ideas about the color of the MT Theater's marquee - the front part that the State of Montana piece is on? I have it white but have seen it painted blue, yellow, etc.

3. Same goes for the wood on the wall that the biggest neon fixture is attached to - the tall part that spells out "Montana" going up to the roof. It's been painted different colors over the years, too.


Again, thanks for all the feedback. I'll certainly share my progress once I get ramped up. I'm needing to get this piece finished in a couple of days. This is a digital painting, larger format (5k pixels by 5k pixels). However, digital or not, it's going from scratch - so I'm picturing 2 days, 20 hours total. It'll be a marathon.

The reason for the hustle is I'm a consultant/tester for a company that produces digital-to-canvas products and I'm testing a new canvas printing technique. So, I'm on their time frame but I don't want to let the quality or details suffer. So, coffee was on for me at 4:30 this morning.

Thanks everyone!
Top
Posted by MG (+105) 9 years ago
When was the ticket booth protruding from the center removed?
Top
Posted by Forsyth Mike (+475) 9 years ago
Regarding the American Graffiti question above -- the Montana would have almost definitely played it at 7:00 and 9:15 (or possibly 9:10).

I saw that movie there, but I'm not sure if I went to an early or late show!

By the way how is Bob Johnson, former owner, doing these days -- anybody know?
Top
supporter
Posted by Mrs. M (+711) 9 years ago
I don't think Bob is doing well at all. His wife is working at WalMart and I am sure she would appreciate your concern. (Jan J)
Top
supporter
Posted by Dan Mowry (+1437) 9 years ago
Is Bob the tall, slender gentleman I remember pretty much through the 80's welcoming us and tearing out tickets at the podium?
Top
moderator
founder
Posted by David Schott (+17055) 9 years ago
Always dressed in a suit and tie.
Top
Posted by Forsyth Mike (+475) 9 years ago
Yes, that's Bob. He was one of the first friends I made in the theatre business when I got into it in '79. Lots of great memories of him at the theatre conventions...he was a lot of fun to hang out with. More than one hangover courtesy of Bob!
Top