Selinsgrove Times readers had two weeks to prepare…

In the October 24, 1929 issue of the local paper, the manager of the Victoria Theater in Sunbury announced that the borough would soon enter the “talkie” age. Sunbury had made the jump several months earlier, and now it was Selinsgrove’s turn. The Stanley Theater, opened in 1920, was about to show its first movie with sound—once management installed the equipment needed to make it happen. This followed a wave of sound installations at other theaters owned by the Comerford Amusement Company, a regional theater empire based out of Scranton.

Like the Victoria, the Stanley needed an electric turntable installed in the projection booth. Once connected to the film projector, the turntable, with its discs rotating at 33⅓ rpm, delivered sound that was more or less synchronized with the moving images. Wires connected the sound box to speakers on the stage and in the rear of the theater. Charles Search, the Stanley’s manager, explained that as long as projectionist Frank Kocher started both halves of the operation at the same time, moviegoers would enjoy more realistic performances from then on.

On Monday, November 4, it finally happened. The first talking picture to play at the Stanley was On With the Show, a star-studded feature that went on to make Warner Brothers plenty of money. The film scholar Harry Geduld described it as the first “audible prismatic feature film” (basically, a sound picture with the latest in film technology). Like other early talkies, On With the Show was set backstage at a vaudeville show. This allowed for singing, dancing, and simple, audience-friendly plotlines. Comerford’s management hoped that bringing the latest in Hollywood tech to the Susquehanna Valley would maintain the local moviegoing buzz.

Well, it worked in Selinsgrove. The Times noted that the theater had been mostly empty in the months leading up to the sound revolution. People had been going to Sunbury to see (and hear) the latest movies. That changed overnight, said the Times: “But now that talkies are talking in Selinsgrove, the theater is crowded and everybody is happy.” Columnist Agnes Selin Schoch said she was “tickled pink.” By the end of the first week, the Stanley Theater was dubbed “The Home of Talking Pictures.”

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