For 59 years the theater at 8th and Phillips welcomed audiences.
On December 25, 1916, The Strand Theatre opened to the public. This Strand was the first of many names this theater used. At the southeast corner of 8th and Phillips, the location was pretty hoppin'. Just a block from the famed Cataract Hotel, and at the center of all the downtown hullabaloo. The Strand showed movies and had a stage for vaudeville performances. The first film shown to those Christmas day theater-goers was The Truant Soul. A silent film about a doctor with a drug problem and the headstrong nurse who would save him and become his wife. This sort of fare was popular at the time as popular opinion about alcohol had rolled to a boil. Prohibition would become law in fewer than three weeks.
As you can see, this image finds the theater not quite ready for action. The retail space to the north is still being worked on and there is no marquee yet.
The Strand replaced the Northern-most (Van Eps 1882 block) building at the left of this shot, leaving its twin to the south (Van Eps 1885 block) intact. The upper floor was used as office space as was the case in most downtown buildings.
On September 8 of 1929, the Strand Theatre closed with The Student Prince. The usual sort of young man of affluence finds love in the gutter story.
On October 1, 1929 the theater re-opened as The Granada (pronounced Gren-ah-dah). It's first offering was The William Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. It was touted as all singing, all dancing, all talking (very talented and busy actors, no doubt). It was 1929 and silent movies were old shoe, and this was Sioux Falls' New Deluxe Talking Picture Theatre, according to the copy in the Argus Leader.
The interior architecture was designed to celebrate a Spanish influence as suggested by the new name. Spain was an exotic getaway at the time, and those who couldn't afford to go there, could still see it on the big screen and in the theaters that provided them with an escape.
Eddie Ruben of Minneapolis bought the Granada from Benny Berger in the mid-30s (exact dates vary from source to source) and assigned a 19-year old named Joe Floyd to run it. Ruben and Floyd's partnership at this point was the beginning of a media empire that would stretch from movie theaters to radio, broadcast television, cable television, and internet services. You might know it as Midcontinent Media.
Just look at all those bulbs in the marquee! I bet that really lit up the street at night.
Here we can see some of the surroundings circa 1937. We're looking North, probably from the roof of the Citizen's Bank building. If you put your mouse over the picture, the Granada will become more obvious. Neat trick, eh?
Up the street to the north you would find the Teton Hotel, which at this point was to be razed to make way for Floyd's Hollywood Theatre. All the buildings on the block to the upper-left side of the picture would eventually be torn down and replaced with the Holiday Inn.
Floyd ran the Granada until he lost the lease in 1939 to Aberdeen businessman Art Johnson. In a 1987 interview, Floyd mused that Johnson "was always getting in someone's way". This take-over sent Floyd on his way to opening the Hollywood Theatre. Despite the dust-up, Johnson and Floyd became good friends. Both solid businessmen and upstanding members of the community, they surely could separate business from friendship. In fact when Johnson ran The Inn on Lake Okoboji, Joe would park his cabin-cruiser at the end of the dock in front of The Inn. Art's son, Tom remembers; "When I was an Inn bellhop, Joe asked me to bring a 10 cent Coke down to his boat for a lady friend" he said, "he then tipped me a Dollar!" This was a huge tip for a 16-year old in the 1950s, and it impressed Tom greatly. Joe would later hire Tom to work in the Kelo-TV promotion department.
It's Christmas 1941 and the Granada is packing the house. Check out the garland that hung across Phillips avenue. As was the norm at the time, the theaters advertised as much as possible in the street. Nearly every angle is covered. You hardly notice the other stores' entrances under the marquee. E&W Clothing to the south and the Tick-Tock Cafe to the North. Aside from this, most likely local theater-goers were eager to see any newsreels to help them learn more about the war we'd just gotten ourselves into. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that year. Art Johnson was elected the President of the War Activities committee of local theaters, and Joe Floyd the publicity director.
A couple more pictures from the same cold day. The Granada was showing the Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson film Hellzapoppin'. The Dead End Kids were busting up a fifth-columnist group in their serial Junior G-Men.
Pictured by the taxi cab stand to the right is Helmer Rierson, a Sioux Falls native who served in the capacity of assistant manager. It amazes me that Sioux Falls once had Taxicab Stands, a queue where passengers and cabs would line up for a quick, easy ride home.
The sign under the marquee advertises Pirate Nite! One of the many attractions used to draw crowds in these days. Pirate Nite would later move to the Hollywood. At the Granada it was replaced by Wahoo!
On May 30th, 1944 the war was still going on, and so was the show at the local theaters. In this shot, you can see the Hollywood in the background and the Granada in the foreground. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was playing at the Hollywood, while Betty Grable and Victor Mature showed us Song of the Islands and Roy Rogers entertained with Hands Across the Border at The Granada. The US Army Air Forces Technical Training School north of town would rotate trainees every six weeks. On the sixth week, Johnson would book Gunga Din and King Kong for an action-packed double-feature. Nightly, all seats at the Granada were filled with cheering G.I.s!
Notice the gigantic Pan-O-Gold bread ad center frame. One can still enjoy this fine bread these days in parts of the midwest.
Here's the same spot today (well, summer of 2007 anyway). The Granada closed in July of 1957. Art Johnson went on to run the Dakota Theater in Yankton. Joe Floyd was busy with KELO Television, but his company still ran The Hollywood and eventually other theaters for years to come.
On November 30th 1957 the theater re-opened as The New Strand, and featured family fare. Eventually they dropped the New moniker.
In December of 1967 The Strand changed its name to Cinema. It played some decidedly un-family features. Around 1972 the name was again changed, this time to Downtown Cinema, most likely to differentiate from the K Cinema which opened near the K-Mart on South Minnesota.
January first, 1975 saw the Downtown Cinema closing its doors for good. There were other, more powerful theaters in town that could easily fill the void left by this great old theater. Fifty-nine years is a good run for a theater in this town, and it holds the record for the most renamed.
If anyone has any pictures of the theater after 1950, I'd love to see them and share them with those interested.
Page Updated: 03/17/2008
1933 Photo courtesy Roger Blair.
1937 Photo from Modern Sioux Falls in Pictures.
1941-1950 Pictures and piles of information contributed by Tom Johnson.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Arthur R. Johnson.