"Complete remodeling of the Jeffris"All the great equipment that was installed in the Jeffris in 1924 was obsolete by 1937, when the theater underwent a major updating, as reported in the Gazette: "The biggest single building job of the year was the complete remodeling of the Jeffris theater at 319 West Milwaukee Street. The building permit estimated construction costs at $25,000, although theater officials said the total value of the project...was about $85,000." 98 This seems a bit "puffed up," as long-gone Tiny Tim might say. An online inflation calculator puts $85,000 in 2015 dollars at $1.4 million.99
The building was only 13 years old, but its facade and marquee looked dated at the height of the Art-Deco-Art-Moderne-Streamline thirties. Even the seats were replaced with "Airflow" models, a name possibly borrowed from the aerodynamic Chrysler made between 1934 and 1937.
Thomas Saxe (born, 1874100), "head of Saxe Amusement Management Company, Inc. operators of the new Jeffris Theater," 101 said: "In the new Jeffris, we have seats made by the same company that made chairs for the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. They also seated the Radio City theater, the Paramount and Capitol theaters, the Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Civic Opera in Chicago, the west coast houses in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and many more throughout the United States." 102
Saxe ticked off the industries, from logging to spring making, that were needed to build a good support system for the backs and derričres of Janesville movie goers: "I know that our patrons will realize that in this 'House of Enjoyment' they will find that extravagances of a character to be described as garish display have been subordinated to the most personal physical enjoyments to be realized from comfortable seating of fine character, which we hope will so caress the body as to constitute a cordial invitation to 'Come again—come often.'" 103
More improvementsThere were also image and sound improvements, according to a Gazette article: "The world's greatest maker of electrical equipment and projection machines installed its latest equipment in the projection booth of the new Jeffris theater insuring patrons against eye strain, ear strain, and headaches. Visitors will marvel at this equipment when they attend the opening..." 104
Western Electric's "microphonic sound" was audio "brought to such a stage of perfection that audiences can for the first time actually experience the full emotional effects of the sound as it is originally produced." 105
Even those with poor hearing were accommodated according to an article sub- titled, "Mechanism at Jeffris to help deaf persons to enjoy films"106: "Patrons desiring to use the hearing aids may make their request at the box office at the time of purchasing their ticket. There is no extra charge for the service. An usher then conducts the patron to the section of seats wired for this equipment. The patron can adjust the volume of the instrument to suit his individual taste." 107
Modern, in the manner of the times.
A short article published by the Gazette the day after the Jeffris grand re-opening on December 16, 1937, observed: "The metropolitan atmosphere prevailing throughout the theater, especially the front and foyer, was commented upon by many." 108
New marqueeCalling attention to current offerings was a new triangular marquee. "Jeffris," in large neon-outline letters, stood atop the sides of the triangle above the walk, easily visible to motorists or passersby heading east and west—at the time Milwaukee Street was two way. Horizontal neon tubes framed the triangle.
By the time I began attending movies at the Jeffris in the mid- to late-1950s, I believe most of the neon tubing was gone though the letters still featured neon outlines.
By then, capturing attention was the job of bug-light-yellow bulbs that flashed on and off to give the appearance of flowing light.
Congratulatory ads taken out by Monterey businesses upon the 1937
opening of the remodeled Jeffris indicate that in addition to a
cocktail lounge, the hotel had a barber shop (three barbers
and a manicurist are named) and cigar store.
The latter also sold candy, fountain
specials, and magazines.
Click for larger view
and reverse of card.
Hotel Monterey completed in 1929 and the Jeffris, given its new
facade in 1937, were among the few buildings in Janesville
with thirties architectural features.
Postcard purchased online; no copyright listed.
Click for earlier page about the Monterey.