On November 10, 1939, Eugene Deeter bought a ticket to the show in the newly-opened Wilmer and Vincent theatre at 23rd and Filbert Streets in Mount Penn. That theatre was the Majestic. Sixteen years later, Mr. Deeter would take over its management
Below: The building which housed the Majestic was built in the early part of the 20th century and had previously been used as a gymnasium and auditorium before being converted to a theatre by the Wilmer and Vincent theatre chain, which also operated the late, lamented Embassy and such other theaters as the State, the Orpheum, the Capitol and the Rajah.
The feature film chosen for the grand premiere was Darryl F. Zanuck’s production of “The Rains Came,” starring Tyrone Power and Myma Loy. The doors opened that evening at 6:15, with admission prices of twenty-five cents for adults and ten cents for children. For this “astronomical” sum, patrons were treated to the feature film, a cartoon, a short subject, and the Fox news. On Saturday, there was a continuous showing of the program so that if a patron arrived late, he or she could simply stay for the next show.
Shortly after the Majestic opening, Wilmer and Vincent opened the Penn Theater in West Reading
By May of 1940, Zimmerman and Friedland had assumed control of the Majestic, where Harry Friedland would remain until the fifties with William Richter as assistant manager.
During the forties and fifties, the Majestic continued to run the typical neighborhood theatre fare, including the popular “kiddie shows” and “special enticement” programs like the one which was advertised in the January 6, 1949, edition of the Reading Eagle. Patrons attending that show would not only see the feature film, “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” but also receive a free record and a chance to win a record player. Another exciting program was the one which was advertised in the January 20, 1950, edition of the Eagle. This one featured the popular comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the film, “Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer,” along with Chapter 4 of “King of the Rocketmen,” three color cartoons, candy on the house, and “Free to Some Lucky Girl or Boy a Schwinn Bicycle.” It was every kid’s dream show! Also appearing in the Majestic’s ad for that day was a call for drivers, male or female, who would be admitted free to the theatre if they would bring three or more patrons to the show.
Then in the mid-fifties, the man whom most patrons remember as “Mr. Majestic” leased the neighborhood movie house from the Mount Penn Fire Company. He was to be its last manager. Under Eugene Deeter’s operation, this house of film was quite successful, a success which might be attributed to his willingness to feature the avant-garde films which were becoming a staple of Hollywood in the fifties and sixties. Mr. Deeter received considerable flak from church organizations for showing these films. The Majestic also drew thousands of patrons for its showings of wilderness films during this time period.
Below: The Majestic in Mount Penn, circa 1956.
People remember various things about this movie house that were unique, like the brightly-patterned curtains that hung from its stage or the rumors of a ghost that haunted its auditorium.
In February of 1984, this neighborhood film house was forced to close its doors due to rising fuel costs and increasing competition from the large theatre chains. The last film to play the Majestic was, ironically, the Mel Brooks production, ‘To Be or Not To Be.”
When the doors were locked after the last show, the era of the neighborhood theater, the second-run houses, almost as common at one time as the proverbial bar and church in the Reading area, came to an end.
After the theatre closed, the building was rented out for various functions, with a renovation being completed in 1994 by the owners, the Mount Penn Fire Company.
Leave A Comment