Liberty Theatre Timeline

By Observer staff February 17, 2010 02:34 pm

• November 1910 — the building that would later become the Liberty Theatre opens as the Orpheum Theater. S.A. Gardinier and his wife Madeline are the owners. The Gardiniers had purchased the theater property earlier and then built the Orpheum.

The Gardiniers already owned La Grande’s Scenic Theater.

The Scenic, which opened in 1902, may have been La Grande’s first film theater. Four other theaters opened in La Grande between 1902 and November 1910, The Dime, The Electric, The Isis, The Pastime and The Lyric. The Isis later became Sherry’s, The Colonial, and then the The State Theater, according to La Grande historian and author Bob Bull.

• 1911 — The Orpheum Theater is renamed The Arcade Theater.

• 1930 — The Arcade is closed after being purchased by Inland Theaters Inc. Following extensive remodeling the movie show house opens on Oct. 3, 1930, as The Liberty Theatre. “So This Is London,’’ starring Will Rogers, was the first movie shown in the Liberty, according an October 1930 edition of The Observer. Admission to the film was 50 cents for adults and a dime for youths.

 Prior to film showings and during intermissions, spectators were treated to music played on the theater’s Robert Merton pipe organ. Isabel Miller was the Liberty’s first organ player.

• January 1931 — The “Big Trail,’’ the first motion picture in which John Wayne had a  starring role, is shown at The Liberty. The film was a lavish production about the Oregon Trail. The Liberty offers free passes to everyone who signed a form certifying they came to the state on the Oregon Trail. Thirty-six people, all from Union County, received free coupons. They had arrived in the state between 1863 and 1897.

• February 1952 — the Granada reopens after extensive remodeling. The “new ‘’ Granada ended the Liberty’s reign as La Grande’s best theater, according to a National Register of Historic Places application submitted to the U.S. Park Service.

The Granada was considered one of the largest and most modern theaters in Eastern Oregon. Its features included 800 staggered seats, cry rooms for babies and advanced camera and light systems.

• 1959 — The Liberty quietly closes. It was open for a portion of 1959 before shutting down.

• 1962 — The first floor of the old theater is remodeled to house retail establishments.