Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
“If you can think of anything to make our show better, tell us.” Those words were quoted in the newspaper by then owner Mr. C. W. Benjamin of the Dream Theater in 1924. This 1920’s silent movie theater was probably located in a narrow, one-story attachment to the building that is now referred to as the Millers/Our Katahdin building on Penobscot Avenue. Old map books at the museum indicate the space was first a bowling alley. The theater has ads in several of the Stearns yearbooks in the 20’s. The ads say, “When in Search of Amusement Visit the Dream Theater, the Little House with the Big Show, Orchestra every Evening.” The ads say Benjamin and Gilman were the proprietors. A piece of stationary in the museum collection indicates Cutliffe and Ferland were the owners (no date given).
The 1924 article says Mr. Benjamin established the business in 1922 and “sprang into popularity by reason of the carefully selected class of films and the excellent Dream orchestra.” The orchestra is quoted as being “one of the most melodious in this section of Maine.” It was made up of local men and women and often someone from Houlton or Presque Isle sat in when a regular was unavailable. The orchestra sometimes loaned their sheet music to the school or other groups. Apparently, many locals went to the theater “for the pleasure afforded them by listening to the many well-rendered selections both popular and classical.”
The Dream Theater seated 300-400 patrons, had 4 convenient exits, 3 in the rear and one in front. Shows were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 and 8:30 PM. When the Dream closed (approx. 1927), it left the Opera House as the only theater (silent movies also as the first “talkie” didn’t come about until 1929). The Opera House seated 692 movie-goers.
Another news article states that “history does tend to repeat itself” and the Dream site was in process of being made into a bowling alley again in November of 1927. “The large space will be made in to a 1st-class hall which will contain 4 alleys and is designed for the use of clubs and individual parties of ladies as well as gentlemen, and promises when complete, fine entertainment for long winter evenings.”
The museum has one photo of that portion of Penobscot Avenue showing a sign for the Dream Theater. If anyone has another, let us know!