The Jeffris opens
Among the many surprises researching the history of Janesville movie theaters presented was that the one my friends and I visited most —the Jeffris—opened in 1924,83 way earlier than I imagined.
A panel ad in the Gazette stated it cost $250,000,84 which is equivalent to more than $3.4 million in 2015 dollars.85 This seems ridiculously high.
Another ad that appeared in the September 13, 1924, Gazette claimed the Jeffris had 1500 seats, “each visually perfect.” 86
Costing $30,000 apiece, according to the ad, were the “Golden Voiced Organ” and ventilation plant that “Pure Washed Air Continuously.” 87 In 2015 figures, these expenses total more than $832,000. 88
The expressive, versatile, and expensive organs that were installed in Janesville theaters had their lives cut short by the advent of sound motion pictures in the late twenties. A Gazette article from January 11, 1930, mentions that the Jeffris and Beverly were modified “to accommodate talkies.” 89
In the same edition, a panel ad for the Jeffris promotes the new “Western Electric sound system” and the “perfection of acoustics and installation of the latest, most sensitive lenses for use in the projection room.” 90
EntertainmentFor a sampling of movies that were advertised in Janesville at about the time the Jeffris opened and around a decade before the Hays Office began wagging its particularly anti-sex finger, click here.
By 1930, smaller theaters, from the pioneering
Electric to the Majestic, were gone.
The above are from a scrapbook compiled by a
a Milton, Wisconsin, high school student and
date to 1929 and '30. It's possible the
Jeffris stub was handed back to
her by one of the ushers
pictured to the right.
Click for larger image and
The first Jeffris entrance and marquee. Photograph was taken on
October 10, 1924, about a week after the theater opened.
Click for close views.
Letters on the marquee are reversed meaning the photo-
graph was inserted incorrectly which probably caused
some student staff anxiety when noticed too late to
correct. The line might read, “Movie Tone News”—a
popular newsreel service in the United States
between 1928 and 1963. Probably the
ushers pictured were born in the
early nineteen teens.