EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. Information for the current series on Findlay “live” theaters came from the research of the late Don Smith of Findlay.
By R.L. HEMINGER
More ownership changes were to come in the operation of the Mystic motion picture theater in Findlay in the years succeeding the Stanley Lawrence regime, which started in 1911 and continued until the summer of 1915. It was Findlay’s first movie house, its operation dating back to 1907.
The C.F. Jackson Co., owner of the Mystic building at 510 S. Main St., adjoining the department store on the south, acquired the theater from Mr. Lawrence in mid-1915. Mr. Lawrence had become ill and had to give up the theater business. The Jacksons sold the theater in July 1915 to Hal B. Clark, of Tiffin, who had owned and operated the theater earlier.
Louis Gregory, of Battle Creek, Mich., bought the theater from Mr. Clark in March 1916. During 1917, the theater was closed several times for a couple months, an announcement on Aug. 3, 1917 saying hot weather made a closing necessary. During 1917, J.F. Coburn, former manager of the Majestic theater, became owner and he was followed by H.W. Irons, of Detroit.
In June 1918, W.T. Huber, owner of the original Royal theater in Findlay, bought the Mystic from Mrs. A. Orem, who came into the ownership when her husband died four weeks after he had bought the lease. The theater was never opened under the Orem ownership, having been “dark” when bought by Mr. Orem.
Mr. Huber, whose “Royal” theater at 237 S. Main St. closed when Cleveland interests bought the building to open a department store, immediately changed the name of the Mystic to the New Royal and opened his new theater July 1, 1918.
In April 1919, D.G. Raley, of Salem, Ohio, bought the lease from Mr. Huber. The Raley ownership did not continue very long, the new owner selling on May 26, 1919 to W.K. Richards, who had formerly lived here. Several years later, Mr. Richards became manager of the Majestic theater, continuing also to conduct the New Royal.
A.R. Kraft, then owner of the Lyceum theater here, in 1925 bought the New Royal lease from Mr. Richards. He continued to operate both theaters. An extensive improvement program was carried out.
Frank G. Helman, of Van Wert, became the next owner, buying the New Royal from Mr. Kraft in 1928. Under the Helman ownership, “talking pictures” were introduced in 1929. Financial difficulties overtook the Helman ownership, however, and the theater closed down May 3, 1930.
The Royal was later acquired by Mrs. Leslie Kraft, whose husband, A.R. Kraft, had died June 19, 1930. Her father, Milton T. McKinley, of Freeport, Ill., formerly of this city and area, returned to Findlay to assist her in the operation of the Royal and Lyceum theaters.
Mrs. Kraft reopened the theater Sept. 15, after extensive improvements including the installation of new sound equipment. She changed the name back to Royal, dropping the “New” from the name. Special musical numbers were introduced from time to time on the Wurlitzer organ. In the first week, Miss Alberta Hull played.
Mrs. Kraft’s father, Mr. McKinley, was connected with newspapers in Rawson, Gilboa and Bluffton early in his career. He was a brother of Mrs. Minnie Fenstermaker, who was in the women’s attire business here for some time.
On Feb. 6, 1932 announcement was made of the formation of the Leslie Theater corporation to own and operate the Royal and Lyceum theaters. Mr. McKinley retired completely from the entertainment business and Mrs. Kraft continued as manager of the Royal. Frank Nolan, of Cleveland, and who became president of the Leslie Theater organization, came here to manage the Lyceum. The new business was named in honor of Mrs. Kraft. At the time she had had 11 years’ experience in theater management, having operated theaters in Carey and North Baltimore as well as in Findlay.
On Sept. 19, 1932, R.C. Stueve came to Findlay from Canton and took possession of the Royal and Lyceum theaters here. Then began a 38-year connection with the Findlay theater business that ended late in October 1969 for the Stueves (father and son Walter) and Howard Wilson, an associate of the Stueves, with the sale of their theater interests here to Sterns Ohio Theaters, Inc.
The Royal was closed in the spring of 1970.
Next: movies at Riverside Park.