Donna & “Chin Chin” play Franklin Opera House – 12 Mar 1920

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Franklin Opera House in Franklin, Pennsylvania on March 12, 1920

Ad for Franklin Opera House, showing "Chin Chin" is coming, Friday Mar. 12th 1920

Franklin Opera House, Friday Mar. 12th – “Chin Chin”

“Chin Chin” came to the Franklin Opera House for a show on March 12th, 1920. It had played at the Lyceum Theater in Rochester, NY, sometime during the week of March 5th. I am not sure where the show was during the week between Rochester, NY, and Franklin, PA.

Ad showing Walter Wills, Roy Bender, & key cast members of "Chin Chin"

Preshow advertising begins with a standard “Chin Chin” ad and a photo of the famous Tom Brown clown band, three days before the show.[i]  Additional ads ran on the 10th and the 11th. Finally, on show day (March 12) there were several ads and illustrations printed in the paper[ii] –  Page 2 had a photo showing key cast members and page 7 had a normal ad.

Reviews

Interestingly enough, I was unable to find a pre-production story about the show nor a post-production review of the show

Theater

Franklin, PA was one of the smaller towns that the show played at. The 1920 Census indicated that the population was just under 10,000.[iii] The “Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914” indicates that the Franklin Opera House seating capacity was 925 people, 401 on the lower floor, 200 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery, and 24 boxes. The stage was 28×22 feet with a 6-foot apron.[iv]

Image of parade of the Grand Old Army, Franklin, PA, Aug 1887.

The Franklin Opera House is the second building from left (with 2nd-floor awnings. SOURCE: Facebook-Venango County Historical Society – GAR Parade – Franklin, PA – Aug 1887.

I have not been able to find a good, clear photo of the theater, however, the photo of the Grand Army of the Republic in Aug 1887 parading does show the theater. In that photo, the building on the left is the town hall, next to it is a building with awnings on the second-floor windows. Looking closely, you can see it says “Opera House” across the building.

The Opera House opened in 1866 and provided theater presentations and speakers for many years. In 1883 the city hall was built next door on the Corner of Thirteenth and Buffalo Streets. The opera house was on the Thirteenth side of city hall. I have not found any evidence that the Opera House ever make the switch to movies, nor have I found evidence of exactly when the theater closed or was demolished. However, it was clearly gone by the time the old city offices, were demolished and the new city hall was built during the 1960s.[v]

In 1864, John Wilkes Booth formed an oil company in Franklin and resided in Franklin when he performed at the Franklin Opera House.[vi] Besides theater productions, the Opera House provided a venue for famous speakers such as Samuel Clemens and Susan B. Anthony.[vii]

Today, the site is the location of the Franklin City Hall.


Endnotes:

[i] The News-Herald (Franklin, PA) March 9, 1920 – Page 2 – Tom Brown Band image, column 6&7. Newspapers.com

[ii] The News-Herald (Franklin, PA) March 12, 1920 – Page 2 – Cast image, Column 3. Bottom. Newspapers.com

[iii] Wikipedia – Franklin, Pennsylvania – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%2C_Pennsylvania

[iv] The Cahn-Leighton official theatrical guide. (1913). New York, N.Y: Publication Office, New Amsterdam Theatre Building.

[v] Internet:  City of Franklin, PA – Old City Hall and Opera House. https://www.franklinpa.gov/files/part4.pdf

[vi] See Endnote i above.

[vii] See Endnote iii above.

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