The Baden Theatre A Time Capsule

The Baden Theatre: A Time Capsule

By James Grebe

             The Baden Theatre opened in the year 1916 as a neighborhood theatre having 939 seats at 8201 N. Broadway in a    predominantly German neighborhood.  One would assume that music accompaniment for movies would have been from a piano or small band as there is no record of any kind of organ ever being installed there.  Toward the end of theatre operation it went from weekend only operation in 1965 till its closing in 1972.  It is now known at the Town Hall and is a rental hall facility.From corespondent Wes Kamischke:  In the building adjacent to the Baden to the right was an opening from a place called the “Sugar Bowl”.  There was a window higher than normal from the Sugar Bowl into the theatre where patrons could buy their snacks for the movie.  According to Wes , the Baden had no concession stand of it’s own.  This was during the 1940’s when also on Thursday and Friday nights, ladies got free dishwarre for attendingCome back with me now to November 19, 1992 when I was called to tune a piano for a function at the Baden Town Hall, formerly the Baden Theatre. I gained access to the building from what would have been the front left exit door.  When you go in that door, to the immediate left, which would have been the stage area behind the screen, there is about 2-3 steps and that is where the ownr’s office is.  A Mr. Carpenter owns the building and has owned it for about 25 years. Before WWII he sold popcorn at the theatre.  When he bought the Baden, at the same time, he had an opportunity to buy the Kingsland Theatre for $5,000.00.  At that time, he, and one of the Kaimann brothers had planned to build the North Drive In Theatre on land they had purchased, but before the deal was consummated the one brother died and the Kaimann family decided to build the North Drive-In on their own.  When Carpenter bought the Baden theatre about 25 years ago he remodeled it.  He simply gutted the interior and what would have originally been the entrance and vestibule is now a kitchen with bathrooms on either side.  There is no evidence of a projection booth but the whole interior is covered with a drop ceiling.  One cannot be sure there is no projection booth up above the ceiling.  Mr. Carpenter seemed to be a very crass person and he said the main reason the owners of the smaller neighborhood theatres have bad tastes in their mouth about their buildings is because most of them lost their shirts financially on them.  The way things were set up back then, the only way the owners could make a fair profit was to rent the films for one price for an extended period of time and for the owners to have a close co-operation with other small theatres close by where they could trade off the films among themselves.  Mr. Carpenter mentioned that he would trade off with the O’Fallon Theatre (1931-1955) at 4026 W. Florissant and the Janet (also, earlier known as the Cardinal, Theatre) Theatre at 6900 W. Florissant (1937-1955) and would transport the films themselves.  That way there evidently was a big reduction in rental costs because it would show one theatre renting the film, rather than 3 separate theatre renting the same film.  So, competitors found a way to co-operate in spite of their rivalry in order to survive. Sources: Charles  Von Bibber, Gerald Alexander, James Grebe Archives‹ The (Steinway designed) Essex Piano CompanyupThe Baldwin Piano ›

© Copyright 2009 James Grebe. All rights reserved. 

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