The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Esquire Theater

Esquire 1947-1-31MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, January 31, 1947

    Matt Freed, district manager of the Oregon-California Theaters, Inc., announces that following extensive remodeling, Medford's Roxy Theater will be reopened under a new policy. The firm recently purchased Walter Leverette's theater chain in southern Oregon and northern California.
    According to Freed the Roxy will be remodeled into a super deluxe theater and will show only fine pictures of a type which will appeal to adults.
    The interior will be decorated by Santocono from Oakland, Calif., who has a reputation in California for the originality of his designs. The theater will be renamed "The Esquire."
    It is believed that Medford and vicinity would welcome a show house on the "little jewel box" type, the new manager stated, where discriminating theater patrons could spend an evening in a theater free from distracting elements.
    Holly will remain a first-run theater as it is now, and there will also be no change in the policy of the Craterian or the Rialto, Freed stated. M. O. Bessonette has been engaged as contractor for the remodeling.
Medford News, January 31, 1947, page 1

    Sunday marks a new milepost in theater entertainment for Medford, with the grand opening of the new Esquire Theater, Medford's first postwar luxury theater.
    Formerly the Roxy Theater and now part of the Oregon California Theaters, Inc., it has been closed while carpenters, decorators and electricians have been reconverting it into one of the finest small theaters on the coast. Renovated, redecorated and many structural changes in the front have been made.
    The Esquire, "The Jewel Box of Movie Entertainment," will be just that, states Matt Freed, general manager of the Oregon-California theater circuit and local representative of Robert L. Lippert theaters' owner.
    The opening program presentation features Darryl F. Zanuck's motion picture classic "The Razor's Edge," from W. Somerset Maugham's novel, starring Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb and Herbert Marshall. Also included will be a special feature and the latest pictorial news.
    Doors of the Esquire will be open at 12:45 p.m. Sunday and shows will be continuous to 11:30 p.m.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 31, 1947, page 11

Many Innovations and Post-War Designs Featured--Officials Here for Opening
    Today at 12:45 p.m., the doors of Medford's newest entertainment palace will be thrown open to the public with the opening of Medford's luxury theater "The Esquire." The house will be under the management of Paul C. Lawrence, formerly of Los Angeles, where he was employed by Fox-West Coast Theaters in their Hollywood Music Hall Theater. To be on hand for the opening will be many guests including Mr. Robert L. Lippert, owner and operator of the Oregon-California Theaters, Inc., and the Robert L. Lippert Theaters, Inc. of California. Accompanying him is Mr. Frank Woods, division manager of the circuit. Matt Freed, general manager of Oregon-California Theaters, Inc. and other members of the organization will be on hand to greet the Esquire guests.
    Many new innovations in motion picture presentation will be incorporated in the Esquire policy. Featuring the latest in postwar theater design and decoration, the theater will also offer to discriminating patrons presentation in "the intimate style" . . . great stress will be laid on quietness, comfort, safety and services.
Popcorn and Candy Out
    In order to insure perfection in service, the floor staffs, including usherettes and doorman, have been attending special classes, learning the finer points in the handling and caring for the theater guests. These classes are still being conducted for all theater floor staffs, to insure finer service in all Medford theaters.
    Outstanding among innovations in operation and in answer to many requests by the public for quiet during the show, popcorn and candy will not be sold or admitted to the theater. Great stress on quietness and order will be made at all times.
    Programs will include all the big attractions, the first being "The Razor's Edge," starring Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Ann Baxter and Herbert Marshall. Among the pictures scheduled for early showing will be extended runs for the outstanding pictures which will open at the Holly and then will be moved to the Esquire. These include pictures such as John Payne and June Haver in "Wake Up and Dream." The Technicolor hit "Time, Place and the Girl," starring Dennis Morgan and Jackson Carson, Betty Grable in "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim," James Cagney and Annabella in "13 Rue Madeleine," and George Raft and Lynn Bari in "Nocturne."
Local Firms Aid Construction
    Many of Medford's local business firms participated in the work and in helping to make the Esquire one of the finest small theaters on the coast. They include Bessonette Construction Co., Trowbridge & Flynn Electric Co., Medford Neon Sign Co., Building Specialty & Appliance Co. Designs and decorations are by Santocono of Oakland, Calif. Drapes and other furnishings are by the B. F. Shearer Theater Supply Co., of Portland, Ore.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 2, 1947, page 8

Roxy Theatre in Medford Revamped and Renamed
    MEDFORD, ORE.--Closed January 19 for remodeling, the 450-seat Roxy Theatre here, one of those recently acquired by the Robert Lippert circuit from Walter Leverette, was scheduled to reopen this week under the name of Esquire. Matt Freed, district manager, said the small house would become a "little jewel box" type which would play only pictures of particular interest to adults.
Boxoffice magazine, February 8, 1947, page 58

    The premiere opening of the new Esquire Theater was attended by a large and appreciative audience Sunday. Playing to packed houses at every performance, Esquire guests were impressed with Medford's luxury theater.
    The feature, "Razor's Edge," quickly received the approbation of the large audience, and many favorable comments were expressed in regard to the house policy which brings only the best selected pictures. Popcorn and candy have been eliminated, and the management thinks that this policy will be well received by the public.
Medford News, February 7, 1947, page 1

Munchers View with Alarm As 'Snacks' Are Ostracized


    Popcorn munchers, who do their munching in the movies, viewed with alarm this week reports from Medford, Oregon, where, as a result of a bitter editorial campaign waged by the Medford Mail Tribune, the new operators of the Esquire Theater agreed to ban the sale of popcorn "and other edible and audible 'snacks'" from the lobby.
    The pronunciamento was made by the recently organized Oregon-California Theaters, Inc., and there is fond hope on the part of many that the new program will be carried out in some eight other houses owned by the organization in northern California and southern Oregon.
    The editor of the Mail Tribune was, naturally, delighted at the success of his campaign:
    "The Esquire is a comparatively small theater," he wrote under date of Feb. 3, "and this is a comparatively small community, but perhaps--we said PERHAPS--this little break in the close and profitable association of the movie and the popcorn business may lead eventually to a final divorce, or at least a separation. And we don't mean in Medford alone, but throughout the state--and who knows--perhaps throughout the country."
    The point of all this is that Oregon-California Theaters, Inc. happens to be Clarence Laws, Robert Lippert and Ed Downer, all of whom have their fingers in a series of local theaters such as the Esquire, Roxie, T&D and goodness knows how many others. Could be that in time, the customers in Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley and Richmond may be forced to do their eating at home.
Oakland Tribune, February 13, 1947, page 26

    Dick Applegate was to arrive home [from incarceration in China] via West Coast airlines at 3:15 today.
    The public is invited to greet him at a public meeting in the Esquire Theater starting at 8 p.m. Doors will open one hour before that time.
"Welcoming Meeting for Dick Applegate Slated at 8 p.m.," Medford Mail Tribune, September 30, 1954, page 1

After being closed for several months, the Esquire reopened with a new strategy:
Esquire Theater ad, November 19, 1954 Medford Mail Tribune
Medford Mail Tribune, November 19, 1954

Medford's downtown theaters, under financial pressure from television and the new drive-ins in the middle 1950s, began running double features, lowering admission prices and placing much smaller advertisements. The Esquire only sporadically advertised in its last years; below is the advertisement for the Esquire's last last known film showing.
Esquire 1956-2-19MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, February 19, 1956

    The Esquire Theater on East Main St., Medford, has been leased by the county Democratic Party as 1956 campaign headquarters and will be opened tomorrow, according to Robert Boyer, chairman of the state and county Democratic committees.
"Democrats To Open Party HQ Monday in Esquire Theater," Medford Mail Tribune, August 26, 1956, page 12

    Mary Greiner Kelly, Democratic Headquarters, Esquire Theater, Medford.
"Registration Places," Medford Mail Tribune, September 14, 1956, page 15

    Sen. Albert Gore of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate public works subcommittee, will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Esquire Theater. . . .
"Senator Albert Gore Speaks Here Sunday," Medford Mail Tribune, October 12, 1956, page 1

    A reception for [Sen. Richard] Neuberger will be held at the Esquire Theater following the dinner.
"Neuberger Due Here this Week for Campaign Talks," Medford Mail Tribune, October 15, 1956, page 1
Three years later the Esquire briefly came back to life:
Esquire 1959-7-26MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, July 26, 1959

    The general board of the Medford Gospel Mission has agreed to postpone a decision on moving the mission into the Esquire Theater building on East Main St. from its present location on South Front St.
"Board Postpones Decision To Move Gospel Mission," Medford Mail Tribune, March 19, 1961, page 1

Building on Main Street Being Razed
    Demolition of the building adjoining the old Esquire Theater on East Main Street was begun last week by the owner, William Skyrman.
    The action was taken as a result of condemnation by the Medford City Council Oct. 8. Skyrman commented, "We have never been able to keep a renter within the past 20 years who could meet the maintenance and upkeep costs. As it was ruled unsafe by the council, we determined it would be best to raze it."
    The adjoining building, the Esquire Theater, also condemned by the council, is owned by Walt Young. He commented last week that he has no immediate plans concerning the structure.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 5, 1965, page 8

    One lane of traffic was blocked on East Main Street while sign crews removed the old Esquire Theater sign.
"More than 35 Signs Removed in WASP Project in County," Medford Mail Tribune, February 21, 1966, page 10

Owner Told to Remove Debris
    Walt Young, owner of the Esquire Theater building, East Main Street and Bear Creek, has been notified by the City of Medford to complete the removal of combustible debris on the premises. The Medford City Council determined that the building was unsafe on Oct. 7, 1965 and gave the building owner 90 days to raze the structure.
    The original order provided that if the terms of the request were not met within the prescribed time, which expired Jan. 7, the city could finish the work and bill the property owner.

    The owners of the west half of the original building razed that portion, which has created an additional safety problem, unless the west wall is stabilized.
    The terms of the original order have not been met, and the city extended the time to April 9, according to city attorney Roy Bashaw. Should the orders not then be complied with, the owner may be fined $100 and sentenced to 50 days in jail for each day thereafter the terms of the order are not met.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 1, 1966, page 1

Esquire Theater Building to Be Razed in 90 Days
    The Esquire Theater building, East Main Street and Bear Creek, will be razed within 90 days, according to Walter J. Young, owner.
    Young made his intentions known by letter to Medford City Attorney E. Roy Bashaw in which he requested an additional 90 days in which to complete the work. The extension was granted.
    The property owner was acting in response to a resolution Oct. 7, 1965 by the city council and subsequent city action to correct conditions at the theater building. The resolution called for the removal of combustible debris on the premises, determined the building was unsafe and gave Young 90 days to correct the hazards.
Deferred Action
    During the interim, the owner of the westerly portion of the building razed that section, which affected Young's plans and left the "easterly portion in disputed condition." Young had to defer action on his portion of the building in order to determine the effect of the other owner's work.
    "We are sorry you considered us in contempt of your order. During a 15-year span we have invested much time, effort and capital in improving Medford property," Young said in his letter to the city.
    Young explained that he intended to develop the property from the framework of the building into a new store for his office supplies business. He believed that the structure was sufficiently sound to undergo extensive remodeling.
Improvement Plans
    "The attractive and substantial remodeling planned," he said, "would have created a substantial improvement in the core area of Medford."
    Young has no plans now for the property, and after it has been razed a board fence will be built to screen the area.
    The council's resolution was drafted to include two portions of the same theater building, each held under separate ownership. The resolution was based on reports by the city's building safety director and the fire marshal.
    Young feels that he has not been treated fairly by the city and the news media. When he purchased the property last year, he immediately made several improvements preparatory to completing his planned development, and this action was not considered by the city, he said.

Medford Mail Tribune,
April 10, 1966, page 2

Last revised January 15, 2018