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The Maplewood Theater 1926-1967

A short history of the very popular Maplewood Theater and a proposal to restore the marquee.

In 1912 the Maplewood Theater was operating in its new building (constructed two years earlier?) at 7320 Manchester.  In 1915 it was listed as the Maplewood Lyric Theater but apparently operated only briefly under that name.  For unknown reasons its tenure at this address was short.  By 1916 the building was sold to Emil L. Scheidt who converted it to Scheidt Hardware (see previous post) which it is today.

In 1926 the Maplewood Theater reopened in a new building at 7180 Manchester very near the City of Maplewood’s eastern limit.  1926 is also notable as the year of the creation of Route 66 running just a few feet away from the front of the new theater building.

This new building seated 1079 customers.  Interestingly the entrance was in Maplewood and the auditorium in the City of St. Louis.  The auditorium was very wide with four aisles and a large stage which was used to host movie stars promoting their films.

The Maplewood Theater closed in 1967 and the auditorium was razed in 1969.  Since the auditorium was accessed by a pass-through in the street front building its razing left the larger building of apartments and storefronts unrazed if not unfazed.

Due to some admirable work by unknown preservationist/s the original letters spelling MAPLEWOOD were saved after the marquee had been demolished.  They were restored in the last decade for a project that didn’t gel. They are now crated and in the city garage.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the marquee was rebuilt and they were returned to their original positions?  There are no longer movies to be advertised but the marquee could sport new electronic billboards advertising city events.  Additionally, since the location of the marquee is just inside the city’s eastern limit, the restored letters would perfectly bookend the MAPLEWOOD signs installed on the MetroLink overpass at the western end of town.

These original artifacts survive as does the original theater building created the same year as the now legendary Route 66.  Reunited they would rapidly become a source of pride for the community and an attraction to the much wider community of fans of the Mother Road that once ran straight through the heart of Maplewood.

Some of the information in this article was found on the website Cinema Treasures.

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Doug Houser January 20, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Since posting this article I've been made aware that the theater auditorium survived much longer than 1969 the year gleaned from my earlier source, Cinema Treasures. It may have still been around as recently as the late 1980's. DH
John Heidenry January 31, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Doug, By curious coincidence I came across your recent story about the Maplewood Theater because I was trying to find the name of the person or company that owned it in the late sixties. My cousin Jim Heidenry, my wife Pat, and I operated the theater under the name Maplewood Film Festival Theater from about 1976 to 1979. We opened it only on weekends (we had other jobs--I was editor of St. Louis magazine at the time), and we showed both first-run foreign films that the chains wouldn't touch (not profitable or too racy or too weird, or both) and old-timey films like Casablanca and Blue Angel (our first offering). We also had several live performances by local musicians who played accompaniment to several silent films. Sometimes we got six people on a night, other times 350 or so. If you know the name of the owners in the 1960s please let me know (my only reason is one of mere curiosity). Thanks. John Heidenry
Doug Houser January 31, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Hi John, I'm sorry I don't have the information you've asked for. I truly appreciate your adding your part of the story. If you have any photos of the theater from those days, I'd love to copy them. Thanks.

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