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PICTURE IT: LOWELL GOES TO THE MOVIES
 
Movie Houses on the Merrimack
From the 1920s to the 1960s, downtown Lowell was a major entertainment mecca in the Merrimack Valley, and movies were what people flocked here to see.

     The Strand, the Merrimack Square, and RKO Keith featured first run films and fans stood in line for hours to catch the current blockbuster.  At second and third run movie houses like the Rialto, the Royal, the Crown, the Capitol, the Victory (later, the Tower/LGM Memorial/ Palace), and the State (the Opera House/Gates), they saw B-movies, serials, cowboys, comics and their favorite movie stars the second and third time around.

     Lowell was caught in an entertainment frenzy even before these legendary theaters attracted crowds.  That happened here, as it did all over the nation when Thomas Edison invented motion pictures in 1892.  His half-minute kinetescopes featured Vaudeville players, circus stars, animal acts and Wild West celebrities like Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley.  They were shown in kinetescope parlors which sprang up around the country after the first one opened in 1894 in New York City.  People paid 25 cents, later only a nickel, to peer at five Edison shows through special viewers.  Lowell's early movie palaces included one called the Edisonia.  Others were the Parlor Theatre and the Bijou/Gaiety/Boston. All showed kinetescopes in the 1890s.

Bettie Davis and Sister

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