The Hollywood Theatre

212 N. Phillips Ave.
On January 28, 1939 the Hollywood Theatre opened its doors to the public.
The Hollywood Theatre was the creation of L.D. Miller and Joe L. Floyd.

L.D. Miller owned the land once occupied by the Riewert Hotel (AKA The Commercial House, AKA The New Teton) and footed the bill for the construction of the Hollywood Theatre. Miller first made his name in Sioux Falls with his livery stable, followed by a taxi service and then by his funeral home. Miller Funeral Home is still in business today.

Floyd previously made his name locally as manager of the Granada Theatre. He started his career in the entertainment industry in Minneapolis. Floyd's organization, Minneapolis-based Welworth Theatres, paid for the theatrical equipment and decorations for the Hollywood Theatre.
Harold Spitznagel 
The Hollywood was designed by architect Harold Spitznagel (left), who's previous claim to fame was Sioux Falls' City Hall. The Hollywood was described as "having a flat-surfaced exterior of brick, slate, black serpentine, and blue-gray porcelain" by Building South Dakota: A Historical Survey of the State's Architecture to 1945 by David Erpestad & David Wood.

The attractive facade (right) was perhaps overpowered by the 36 foot-high Hollywood Theatre sign.

[Hollywood Theatre 1939] The bulbs on the front of the sign would chase in a cascading pattern from top to bottom. Green neon tubes bordered the letters and there were hidden neon tubes indirectly lighting the base of the sign. The picture at right shows this subtle effect nicely. A mechanical controller for the sign was in the offices upstairs and produced a clickety-clack sound when the sign was on.
The guests of the Hollywood would come through the front doors to a vestibule which was designed to provide protection during inclement weather. This room was coated with a new type of flexible rubber. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, the whole thing was rubber-coated. Kind of kinky, but whatever.

From the vestibule, the customer enters the abnormally tall lobby (2 stories tall!). It has multi-colored floor coverings (carpet) and is lit with recently invented fluorescent lamps. In this room, the guest will first lay eyes on the amazing photo mural.
The much-lauded pictorial mural, was photographed for the theater by big-time Hollywood still photographer Whitey Schaefer. Whitey used actual Hollywood actors and behind-the-scenes technicians to depict twelve phases of movie production from script writing to projection. As the twelfth image proves, he didn't neglect still photography. Whitey sent the pictures to Chicago, where Architectural Photographer Kenneth Hedrich, blew the images up to 10' making the whole series 45' wide if viewed in a straight line.

According to Roger Blair, movie theater projectionist in Sioux Falls from 1965 to 1995, the mural images were covered with layers of paint during a 1950s lobby update and completely hidden in a 1967 remodel. The images above were rescued from a broken picture frame in the basement. Though there was some talk of rescue, the mural itself may have been lost to the wrecking ball. The possibility of their continued existence has been looked into. No word on that yet.

Some of the mural images were assembled in order using my best guess. Click on each panel to see them blown-up a bit (though no where near as big as 10' tall).

From the lobby, guests of the Hollywood enter a circular foyer with a dramatically lit, round plaster ceiling (think upside-down bowl). There was, in this foyer, a curved staircase leading down to the richly-appointed lounge. Even in the end, the restrooms found down here were surprisingly modern and pleasant.
Joe Floyd (right) described himself as "a helluva salesman" and used his mad sales skills to fill the seats of the Hollywood Theatre.

Floyd's more memorable promotions at The Hollywood include a house give-away in the 1940s, and a WWII era game called GI Blind Date, where 3 eligible young ladies were hidden behind a screen and questioned by a GI stationed at the Army Air Forces Training School. If this sounds familiar, you might recognize it as being very similar to The Dating Game. Chuck Barris could not be reached for comment.

The dates were well-chaperoned, so it wasn't quite as naughty as the more modern version of the show.

As the State Theater before it, the Hollywood Theatre used the Argus Leader to build-up to the grand opening. (left) Little teasers in the paper hinted at the look of the theater, but the actual facade was hidden from public view behind a wooden shield until Saturday the 28th. The shield was not, however, big enough to hide the 36-foot sign festooned with over 1,500 bulbs and neon tubing that rose above Phillips ave. Hard to miss that.
The Hollywood was advertised from the beginning as the movie house for the rest of us. The ad copy says "for all the family, all the people". "Every patron is king" (or queen, presumably), although the theater is delightfully homelike. Clearly they're appealing to the people who don't ordinarily wear ties, rural folk. The kind of clientele who might understand what an acre of seats might look like. Incidentally, an acre can hold 786 self-lifting seats, while still leaving room for aisles. The Hollywood was the only theater in the state, let alone the North-West with comfort-cushioned seats rigged to flip up when you got up. We take these things for granted now days, but this was cutting-edge technology in 1939. Lifting armrests and cup holders took a couple more decades.
For its opening feature the Hollywood chose Blondie. A feature ripped from the headlines.. er.. funny pages. Actually released a month earlier, this was it's first run in Sioux Falls.

The ad copy boasts perfect Western Electric Sound, the aforementioned acre of self-rising seats, and luxurious comforts abounding. I can see the appeal of the marketing. Joe was promising that you'd be treated like royalty even if you showed up in your dungarees. After all, you're paying 20ยข for the seat, you should get your money's worth.

Phone 2222, it says. I'm guessing a real person would answer and meet your needs. I tried the number. It no longer connects.
The Desperadoes came out in 1943 and starred Glenn Ford and Randolph Scott. What ever happened to Randolph Scott?

The enormous billboard (24-sheet) atop the marquee was used only occasionally and lasted into the 1970s. When not in use, it was pulled flat against the building and then laid face-down on the canopy (marquee) so you never saw it.

I love the contrast in the Hollywood sign. Too bad the photographer cut it off. Color photography is cool and all, but sometimes black and white does so much more.
Information on this page was plucked lovingly from:
The Argus Leader archives at the Downtown Library.
Building South Dakota: A Historical Survey of the State's Architecture to 1945 by David Erpestad & David Wood.
KELO TV's website.
A very special thanks to Roger Blair who provided information, some excellent exterior photos and the excellent rare photos of the Lobby's mural.
Final picture of the Hollywood Theatre's marquee by Mike Roemer from the February 14, 1990 Argus Leader.
Additional photos Courtesy Midcontinent Media/Ken Mills.
Another special thanks to Dave Fetters who provided some excellent information.