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SMITH HISTORY BLOG: March 17, 1931: Schine’s Geneva Theatre’s Opening Night

By Gretty Hollister

Picture it: The old Smith Opera House block has been under construction for over a year. The newspapers have been giving updates periodically, but it’s really starting to seem as though the new theatre will never open. But then, it’s announced: On March 17, Schine’s Geneva Theatre will open with the film Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath. Are you ready?

Advertisements for the new theatre stretched from local publications to newspapers as far as Newark and Penn Yan. An article in the Penn-Yan Democrat from March 13, 1931, four days before its opening, boasts, “Not only is it destined for the entertainment of the Geneva public, but for the theatregoers of western central New York as well” (“New Theatre” 7). The article goes on to describe the cushy seats, the atmospheric style, and even the flag plaques along the walls. An article in The Newark Courier from March 12, 1931, claims, “Its beauty is unsurpassed by any theatre in this State and its programs will feature the highest class of talking pictures” (“New Half-Million Dollar Theatre” 11).

And, the theatre opened with the comedic stage-play turned film Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath starring Buster Keaton. The play had been at the Smith in 1918 (McNally 54), so it made sense that such a popular show should return to the Smith to ensure a large crowd. The play tells the story of Jeff, who wants to marry Virginia, but who won’t get married until her older, hard-to-please sister Angelica gets married. So, Jeff tries to pass off Reginald (Keaton), a “shy, never-married nobody” (IMDb), as a great lover in order to try to get Angelica to fall for him, allowing him to pursue Virginia. Think, 10 Things I Hate About You, but for the 1930s.

There are shows at 7 and 9:10, doors open half an hour before, so you can ensure you get a good seat. Though, there are no bad seats! And they all cost 40 cents. Smell the popcorn; hear the music and the chatter. There are lounges in the basement and on the mezzanine levels for both men and women to sit or wait for a friend. Or, just go into the theatre and sit back in a plush seat and admire the starry and cloudy sky above you. When the lights dim, you’ll enjoy “The Funniest Picture ever Made!” (McNally 56). I almost wish I had a ticket.

Works Cited

“Geneva’s Beautiful New Half-Million Dollar Theatre That Will Open Tuesday, March 17.” The Newark Courier, 12 March 1931, p. 11.

“Geneva’s New Theatre.” Penn-Yan Democrat, 13 March 1931, p. 7.

McNally, Charles. The Revels in Hand: The First Century of the Smith Opera House October 1894-October 1994. Finger Lakes Regional Arts Council, 1995.

Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath.” IMDb, Accessed 10 July 2018.