Where technology brought us 

DeGreve Oil Change
1618 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

DeGreve Oil change
3560 N Brady St
Davenport, IA

1305 5 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Pratt's Antiques
125 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Main St Antiques
114 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Conner Co
PO Box 888
East Moline, IL 61244

Kimball Cleaners
308 SW 5th Ave
Aledo, IL 61231

Williams Studio
New Windsor, IL 61465

Andalusia, IL 61232

Hideaway Plastics
1801 17 St
PO Box 379
Viola, IL 61486

Deer & Co Credit Union
3950 38 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Walcott Trust & Savings Bank
101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Q-C boasted 30 movie houses in their heyday

By Sean Leary, Dispatch/Argus Entertainment editor

Photo courtesy of Showcase Cinemas 53
The new Showcase Cinemas 53, in Davenport, represents the latest in theater technology. The new theater, located at the 53rd Street exit of Interstate 74, opened in December as one of 15 like it across the country.

When the Showcase Cinemas 53 opened in Davenport in December, it was a grand occasion. The state-of-the-art theater is one of only 15 of its kind in the United States, and its opening meant local film-goers would be among a select group of viewers nationwide.

However, the opening was merely the latest event in a long and colorful history of cinematic franchises in the Quad-Cities, a history going back to the invention and introduction of film as a popular entertainment at the turn of the century.

The Quad-Cities' cinema experience has mirrored that of the rest of the country from the beginning, when silent film theaters dotted the landscape. In the teens and '20s, venues such as the Dreamland and Rialto theaters in Rock Island and the Lyric in Moline showed the short, mostly sound-free flicks, accompanied by live music and performers inserting the ``soundtrack.''

The dominant theater of that era was the Capitol in Davenport, which still houses one of the organs that accompanied the works of such stars of the time as Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix.

However, none of the theaters was used solely as a movie venue. Various performers and vaudeville events were the primary draws of many of the buildings, and some films were shown in storefronts and other odd environments.

``Movies were still thought of as a fad,'' said Bob King, local film historian and long-time member of Open Cities Film Society.

That changed once the ``talkies'' came in vogue. Suddenly the upstart medium began to draw large crowds, and with the money they brought came a new respect and financial cache for the burgeoning industry.

The number of theaters grew in the next few decades. The Capitol remained a major player, along with the Fort in Rock Island and the Orpheum, which became the RKO Orpheum, and now the Adler Theater.

``The big films, the Disney films would be at the RKO,'' Mr. King said. ``That was where all the kids and families went. Just about any Disney film would become the buzz of the school. I remember `The Shaggy Dog' playing at the RKO and the next day at school everybody was talking about the movie.''

However there were many other Quad-Cities film houses. Moline had the Hiland, Roxy, LeClaire, Paradise, Mirror, Illini and Orpheum, while East Moline had the Strand and Majestic.

Davenport movie houses included the RKO, Capitol, Columbia, Casino, Sunset, Uptown (later the Coronet), State, Garden, Grand, Gem, Best, Royal, Elite, Liberty, Bijou, Palm and American (now the Col Ballroom).

Downtown Davenport had its own ``theater row'' along 3rd Avenue, which included the RKO, Garden, State, Capitol and Esquire.

Rock Island had the Rocket (which became the Capri), the Spencer, Ritz, Fort (where Circa '21 is today), the Riviera, Dreamland, Family and Rialto.

Most of the theaters were second-run houses, which meant they would get movies months and sometimes years after they had been in general release. (Obviously, this was before the age of video and cable TV.)

``The Fort was Rock Island's main theater,'' Mr. King said. ``The Capitol and the Fort showed the same film at the same time, first-run films. I heard all kinds of stories from people during the railroading days when there would be guys driving the prints back and forth between theaters.

``There would be one print (of a film) for a group of cities and it would be driven around to hit the different times. It could get pretty crazy, trying to get it across the bridge by the next showtime.''

Drive-in theaters were another breed. They began popping up in the '50s and early '60s. Some of the bigger ones were the Memri in Milan, the Semri in Silvis, the Corral in Coal Valley, the Oasis and Bel-Air in Davenport and the Maquoketa theater (which is still operating).

``You'd see stuff like `Attack of the Giant Shrew,' and those cheapo American International films, Roger Corman stuff,'' Mr. King said.

By the '60s, the variety of film theater options was beginning to narrow. The growing popularity of television dealt a gigantic blow to the movie business, and with home video looming in the '70s and beyond, the number of theaters dwindled.

``Television killed the second-run houses, the neighborhood theaters,'' Mr. King said. ``The Capitol and the Fort could show the blockbusters, an experience you couldn't duplicate at home, so they stuck around a while longer. And the Coronet held on because it had an alternative audience and then switched to first-run. But it couldn't hold on either.''

Showcase Cinemas multiplexes owned by Redstone Cinemas (now National Amusements) opened, first in Milan, then Davenport. Showcase eventually took over the Super-Savers Cinemas in Moline.

The multiplexes' smaller and more plentiful theaters allowed them to feature a greater variety of films, drawing more people. Their corporate budgets allowed them to outbid neighborhood theaters for first-run flicks.

In the '70s and '80s, neighborhood theaters were either forced out of business, into another business (as was the case with the RKO, Col and Capitol), into niche categories (such as showing only martial arts films) or into the only growth industry for film in the '70s and early '80s -- porn.

``That was discouraging,'' Mr. King said. ``The Coronet becoming a porn house, it was a discouraging thing, to think you could see Bergman films there in 1959 and by the '70s all you could see was porn. You got the feeling the rot was setting in somehow.''

However, as VCRs became more prevalent in homes, the audiences for porn and niche theaters dried up. That left National Amusements-owned theaters in Davenport, Milan and Moline as the only Quad-Cities outlets.

The Open Cities Film Society, which shows classic and second-run art films, formed in 1979, eventually settling into the Mary Nighswander Theater in Davenport.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.