Today we look back with great appreciation at the unique contribution of this art form and the movie houses that drew millions of Americans into an era unprecedented in America culture.
Poplar Bluff was no exception to this phenomenon. It boasted at least 3 movie theaters before 1914, and it was in that year that a man named I.W. Rodgers came to the city and bought the multiple theaters and built the Rodgers Theater. He and his family continued to furnish the movie entertainment in Poplar Bluff for 52 years, until 1966 when the Kerasotes Brothers theaters of Springfield Ill. bought the company.
The Rodgers theatre, at the corner of Pine and Broadway, still stands as a tribute to this bygone era. Mr. Rodgers built this theater and said at the time of opening, “When the Rodgers opens, my plans and ambitions will fully be realized.”
The theater opened June 1st 1949, with a great deal of fanfare and showing the movie “Red Canyon”. 1,800 people attended the opening festivities including a ribbon cutting, music by the Poplar Bluff Municipal Band and a dedication to the city mayor. E.W. Robinson. He bought the first ticket to the show.
The theater was reported to be the finest between St. Louis and Memphis at the time it opened. It was fully air conditioned and warmed by forced air and radiant heat.
The building occupies 11, 648 Sq. Ft. At opening it contained 1160 red plush seats, and there was also a cry room for small children and their mothers. The marquee was brilliantly lit which still displays red letters that spell the name of the theater. Movie goers entered the lobby through solid walnut doors. Leather benches lined one of the walls of the lobby.
The owners, Kerasotes Theatres, gave the building to Butler county in Jan. 1999 when they moved to a new multiplex theater on 67 S.
Today the city and county have many residents of the boomer generation who went to Saturday cowboy shows and stayed to see it again and again and who remembers when there was seldom a movie that required parental guidance and never on Saturdays.
Mr. Rodgers died in 1958, at the age of 83, after a long career in the motion picture world. The memories linger on, perhaps a new year will welcome new life and a new mission for this building of so many memories. The need is here for a medium sized theater for live performances and community events. A place for people of all ages to come together and celebrate the visions, the creations and the talents of artists and dreamer and more.