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(The National Theater & The Arcadia Theater)
The building located at 1008 Halsell Street was built in approximately 1907. The lot the building occupied was originally owned by the Wise County Coal Company. It was a hotel by the name of Iowa Hotel and was owned by Mr. Kilmore. In 1920 the building was sold to Herman Smith and became the Smith Hotel. At some later time a theater called the National Theater was added to the downstairs portion of the hotel and belonged to a Mr. Box. The upper portion of the building remained a hotel. The theater was later owned by a Mr. Adams.

In 1922, John and Olive Curley bought the National Theater from Mr. Adams and ran it until 1946 at which time it was closed. Photographs of the front and back of the National Theater are shown on the left. The theater was divided into two rows of seats with an aisle down the center. Each row was about eight seats wide with approximately twenty five rows, thus seating 400 people. There was a small balcony in the front of the building seating about ten people in two rows. The projection booth was next to the balcony. Brinkley Williams ran the movie projectors. The theater was cooled by a large water fed evaporative cooler located in the rear of the building. Heating was from a natural gas fired heater. Lighting was electric. A typical poster to advertise a movie is shown on the left.

The photograph of the young boy on the left is Royce Raven. The picture of Royce was made in 1937 when he lived on a farm south of Bridgeport in the East Mound Community. You can click on the picture of Royce and read an interview with him regarding his remembrances of the National Theater.
The National Theater was closed in 1946 and replaced by the Arcadia Theater which was built by W. J. Mann for Steven Curley, son of John and Olive Curley. The Arcadia Theater was located across the street from the National Theater at 1007-1009 Halsell Street.

Opening night at the Arcadia Theater in downtown Bridgeport was 17 December 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Opening night featured the movie, “The Best Years of Our Lives,” the story of servicemen returning home after the war. Builder and owner Steven Curley wanted opening night to be something special so he featured the favorite movie of this time. Movie tickets were 34-cents that night, 30-cents admission, plus a 4-cent excise tax.

Patrons entered an orchid colored foyer. Seats in the 520-seat theater were upholstered in red. Popcorn was 5-cents and 10-cent a bag. Cold drinks were served in paper cups.

The Arcadia became a destination for folks who lived in the country and were drawn to town on Saturday. Western movies were the bread and butter for Steven Curley as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry became heroes of the silver screen for youngsters who paid 12-cents to see them. The Arcadia was open every day of the week except Sunday, and Mr. Curley said Saturday was his biggest day because that’s when people who lived in the country came to town.

The Arcadia provided entertainment for many years for the people of Bridgeport and surrounding areas. Mr. Curley later moved to Fort Worth and tried leasing the theater for a couple of years but that proved to be unsuccessful.

The Arcadia closed it doors in 1963.

The Arcadia Theater stood empty and more or less abandoned for many years until the mid-1990s when a dedicated and ambitious group took on the task of essentially rebuilding it from the ground up.  It took more than a decade of hard work and perseverance and hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation and private donations, but the efforts were a great success.  The art-deco inspired building boasts seating for more than 250, a performance stage, sound system and full-service kitchen. In 2006 the Fine Arts Theater Board donated the facility to the City of Bridgeport so that it could once again be a place for citizens to gather and be entertained.  Although it’s no longer a working movie theater, the venue has played host to productions by the Off 380 players, concerts, pageants, political rallies and meetings. The theater currently houses the Bridgeport Main Street department and is available for rent. A photo of the building in 2007 is shown on the left. Click on the photo to enlarge. For more information call 940-683-3485.
The upstairs of the old National Theater building was converted into apartments in 1947 while the theater remained closed. The building was sold to John Burt in 1955. While Mr. Burt owned the building he let the teenagers use the downstairs for dancing after the show at the Arcadia Theater. Mr. and Mrs. Drew Grantham purchased the building in 1965 and used the upstairs portion as an antique store. The antique store was moved and in 1980 a shoe store, Shoes & More, moved into the building. In 1984 Sonny Coleman's Western Wear occupied the building. Dean and Jimmy Carpenter purchased the building in in 1985. The Carpenter's ran the Gingerbread House store for a while but was soon closed due to Dean's health problems. Robins Nest ( Robin Melton) occupied the building from 2003 through 2006. The building is presently closed. A photo of the building in 2007 is shown on the left. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Thanks to Denny Deady, Angie Tyson, Jimmie Armes, Carlos Mann, Virginia Silver, Donna Munn and Carroll Fisher

for their contributions of information.

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