Colby Avenue Rivals
In the mid-Thirties the Everett Theatre received an impudent challenge from a small, slick, Moderne movie house which arose from the shell of a store building directly across the street. The Roxy opened in May of 1935 under the management of former Everett Theatre manager Chuck Charles. With the mischievous Charles at the helm, the 700-seat Roxy was to engage in gleeful rivalry with its more imposing counterpart across Colby for nearly forty years. Charles especially seemed to enjoy the role of apparent underdog, single-handedly taking on the Everett, Granada and Balboa.
During the decade of the Depression, the ammunition for this rivalry was an embarrassment of cinematic riches. Gable and Garbo. Cagney, Bogart, and Robinson. Tracy and Hepburn. Harlow. Dietrich. William Powell and Myrna Loy. Carol Lombard. Bette Davis. Cary Grant.
This was the era of the gala movie musical and Everett audiences embraced the genre. Busby Berkeley, Astaire and Rogers. Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald, Bing Crosby. And the wonderful Thirties comedies were well received, from Mae West and W.C. Fields to Will Rogers and the Marx Brothers.
Sometimes outgunned by blockbuster features at the Everett, the Roxy wooed and won the younger audience with horse operas starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger. Interestingly enough, both the Everett and the Roxy were scooped in March of 1938 when the Granada hosted Disney's "Snow White." It's uncertain just why the smaller house was chosen, but the picture's RCA-enhanced "Magic Voice of the Screen" sound system may have been more easily adaptable to the Granada's Vitaphone equipment and fixed screen than to the Fox Movietone setup at the Everett, where the screen was rigged to be raised and lowered.
Mickey Mouse was so popular that there was an Everett Theatre-based Mickey Mouse Club with its own newsletter as early as 1931. During the Thirties it became standard operating procedure to fill out any bill with a couple of the irresistible rodent's adventures. Manager Hartford advertised these mouse cartoon multiples as "Mickey Mice."
Thirties classics like "Grand Hotel" and "The Thin Man" drew crowds in spite of the hard times. The timeless Universal monster films "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" and RKO's "King Kong" were popular cinematic fare. Errol Flynn's memorable "Robin Hood" was especially well-received locally, in part because the screenplay was co-authored by Everett High alum Seton Miller.
When the Everett Theatre scored impressively with "The Wizard of Oz," which played September 8-13, 1939, the Roxy countered with Cagney and Robinson crime dramas from Warner Brothers. The breathlessly awaited local showing of Selznick's "Gone With the Wind" also took place at the Everett Theatre in March of 1940, three months after the Atlanta premiere and prefaced by a week's worth of ads for advance tickets.
It was a time of great movie stars and memorable movies and for local audiences the memories were fondly linked to the theater where they enjoyed those wonderful films.