Wonderland Theatre in Glens Falls
Ernest Eastman ran promotions such as prize drawings for a diamond ring and a $5 gold piece, and offered free matinee admission to women and children.
But he wasn’t able to turn around finances at the short-lived Wonderland Theatre at 23 Ridge Street, an early motion picture venture in downtown Glens Falls.
“Will open Saturday afternoon, August 7, under new management. Everything new but the price (5 cents) and place,” Eastman advertised in The Post-Star in 1909. “Only the first run films will be shown in this theatre. Pictures and Songs changed daily.”
Eastman, a vaudeville actor, had gotten his start in the theater business earlier that year singing the illustrated songs shown between features at the Fairyland Theatre in Warrensburg, which John Pratt and Walter Dickinson of Glens Falls owned.
Joseph Cohen and L.S. Berman of Jefferson County opened the Wonderland in Glens Falls on Feb. 19, 1907.
The building, roughly across Ridge Street from where Gold Star catering was located in recent years, was previously an early location of Goodson Brothers department store.
“When the Wonderland Theatre was opened, the wiseacres predicted disaster for the venture and said, ‘Who would sit and watch moving pictures in the summer?’” Post-Star history columnist Dennis F. O’Connell wrote in 1931.
It was known informally around Glens Falls as “the electric theater” because of a large lighted advertising sign on the front of the building.
Eastman closed the theater in October 1909, moved his wife and step son back to Warrensburg, and went back on the vaudeville circuit, taking up at Utica as leading man in R.C. Kinston’s production of “The Moonshiner’s Daughter,” set to appear Oct. 13 at Empire Theatre on South Street in Glens Falls.
The slanted floor, theater seats, and the electric sign were removed as part of renovations to reuse the space for retail — first as the Sperry and Hutchinson trading stamp business, later as an automotive dealership, and eventually as Van the Shoe Man.
Sources: The Post-Star Aug. 4, Oct. 9, Nov. 17, 1909; Lake George Mirror Jan. 22, 1909; “Listening In,” by Dennis F. O’Connell, published 2009 by City of Glens Falls; “Bridging The Years,” published 1978 by Glens Falls Historical Association