Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

The Needham Theatre – Programs and Ephemera


    The Needham Theatre – Programs and Ephemera

    In the days when attending the movies was like attending the theater, movie houses published programs with information about the films, colorful posters, event flyers, etc. Special events, such as the Needham Theatre’s opening night, were accompanied by souvenir books. And, of course, the local papers carried the news of what was playing each week.

    Click on any image to enlarge.

    Advertisement in the Needham Chronicle for the opening of the Needham Theatre in 1915.  The Theatre opened with the drama The Christian (1914), starring Earle Williams and Edith Storey.  Tickets were 25 cents and proceeds went to charity.  The normal schedule started the following week, with alternating feature films accompanied by other short features. Tickets were 10 cents and 15 cents.
    The movie program for The Christian.  The movie shown at the Needham Theatre on opening day was the 1914 film.  There were actually three silent movie versions of this story – this one in 1914, one in 1915 starring Derwent Hall Caine (the author’s son) and Elisabeth Risdon, and one in 1923 starring Richard Dix and Mae Busch. Popular actor Harry Northrup had roles in both the 1914 and 1923 versions, playing different characters.
    Movie program for The Christian, inside pagesThe program was intended as a souvenir as well as an advertisement, and had scenes from the film and a summary of the of the movies tangled and melodramatic plot (Read it – seriously).
    Movie program for The Old Homestead (1915), a prodigal-son-rescued-from-the-wicked-city genre film starring Frank Losee, Creighton Hale, and Louise Huff.
    Movie program for The Old Homestead, inside pages.  In which we find that Reuben Whitcombe tastes the city’s bitter dregs while the folks at the old homestead wait for their boy’s return. Happily, Uncle Josh finds his wandering boy at last and reunites the lovers.  The movie was remade in 1922; there are also two other films with this name, but they are not remakes of this film.
    Program flyer for the week of 21 March 1919. The feature films alternated days to maximize variety (and ticket sales) in the single-screen theater. Patrons also got the Pathe News and short features, as well as special showings on weekends.
    Color Program cover for the film Wild,Wild Susan (1925), a romantic comedy starring Bebe Daniels and Rod La Rocque.  Susan is a society girl. Her father wants her to marry (he has the guy all picked out), but Susan wants to be a private detective so she runs away from home.  Her first client turns out to be the man (incognito) that her father wants her to marry.  Needless to say, they fall in love and she settles down.  This film has been lost, and there are no known extant copies.
    Color poster for Wild, Wild Susan.
    Complimentary season passes to the Theatre for 1915-1917.  These were given to Mrs. Walter Proctor, and signed by owner David Murdoch.
    Tickets to a benefit performance for the New Century Club Charity Fund, on 18 February 1938. The New Century Club was the precursor to the Needham Women’s Club.
    A ticket to the benefit performance for Comrades of the Way, on 18 February 1941.  (I believe that Comrades was a congregational Church youth group – checking on this).
    The Publix Theater Screen Review – the Needham Paramount’s monthly program magazine, for May 1930.
    The Needham Theatre Opening Day Program.  This, and the images that follow, are from the booklet that was published to accompany the Opening Day reception on 11 February 1926.
    Theatre owner David Murdoch, and his son David Jr.  David Jr. was the Theatre’s manager.  Murdoch Sr. served the town in numerous capacities, including as Selectman, Chair of the Emergency Health Committee during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919, President of the Board of Trade, President of the Boy Scouts Council, and others.
    A rendering of the Theatre as it looked from Great Plain Avenue, with the six retail shops alongside.
    David Murdoch’s Foreword, a message to his patrons.
    Opening Night program of activities.
    The site plan of the Theatre.  To fit the auditorium, the building angled to the west.  To use the space in front and fill out a facade that lined up to the street, Murdoch built six retail shops, three on each side.  This not only provided a more attractive street view, but the rentals added to the revenue of the property.
    The seating plan for the first floor.  Murdoch noted that the seating was spaced for comfort and well exceeded the requirements of the MA Department of Public Safety for ease of access.  By using the state’s spacing formula, he could have added another 300 seats.
    The seating plan for the second floor balcony.
    The Needham Theater – Exterior and Street Views, 1915-1958

    The Needham Theatre – Interior Views, 1949

    A Last Look Before Demolition