I wrote about The Summer Theater, constructed in the lower level of Rock Springs Park by C.A. Smith in 1903, on pages 34 and 35 of Images of America: Rock Springs Park. Although it was used mainly for live shows, like minstrels and vaudeville productions, silent movies were often featured there.
Now you can get a feeling for what it was like to watch a movie in The Summer Theater at Rock Springs Park thanks to an unusual site which uses postcard images of early American theaters to create a very low-tech version of the original. The site called “Cinemat.org”, places moving pictures against the backdrops and prosceniums of these early entertainment venues, so that the viewer can watch a piece of cinematic history from the center aisle.
The Summer Theater show begins when the backdrop is raised and a couple of animated clipart scouts are revealed paddling a canoe in darkness (not exactly the type of animated short one would see in the early days of cinema). Click “Next” and a 1942 Oldsmobile Custom 8 Cruiser ad plays, then it’s a real cartoon short called “Short’nin Bread,” followed by Ozzie and Harriet, Buster Keaton, and a full length feature from 1936: “Daniel Boone,” starring George O'Brien, John Carradine, and Heather Angel. The film, set in 1775, is about the early settlement of Kentucky where Daniel Boone faced, “menacing Indians and renegade whites,” according to IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
To see the film at The Summer Theater click here. Then scroll halfway down until you see the image shown at right. Click on it and continue to hit “Next” to work your way through the show. Like I said, this is extremely low tech, but it’s kind of fun, and more than a little surprising, that The Summer Theater in Rock Springs Park is used since it lasted only fourteen years, having burned down 1917.
Anyway, it is a neat bit of nostalgia and it goes without saying that I’m always glad to find Rock Springs Park included on any site.