New Bremen residents were introduced to motion pictures in 1913
with the opening of the community’s first movie house on this location.
Adults paid a dime and children a nickel to see “Mills of the God”;
a three ‘reeler’ billed as a ‘subject’ not a movie.
Ironically, the theater was called the “Crown Picture Show” or Crown theater long before Crown Equipment Corporation came into existence.
New Bremen businessmen Herman Laut and Herbert Schulenberg originally owned the facility located in the heart of the community’s commercial district. Construction on the building began in 1912 by Builder Herman Schaefer and upon its completion was considered “state of the art” for its time. The owners boasted the building possessed all the necessary equipment in the way of fire protection and exits, important for those early moviegoers.
Historians say “talkies” arrived on the scene in 1927 and the Crown theater was on the cutting edge with The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson.
The Crown theater became a popular source for banquets, meetings and receptions for area organizations and guests, many who used the electric railway that was located on Monroe Street as a means of transportation.
New ownership took over in the late 1920s and with it came a new sound system and screen. In July 1937, owner Tom Larkin attracted considerable local media attention by installing one of the wonders of the ever-changing world -- air conditioning!
In 1933, the building also had a new name, the Roosevelt Theater, reflecting the time’s political climate and honoring the country’s president. Over its history, the theater went by several different names like “The Little Theater” and the “New Bremen Theater”.
In January 1945, tragedy struck the theater. On a Sunday evening between the first and second shows, a fire began in the projection booth. While the show’s patrons were carefully ushered out, the manager’s wife and daughter were trapped inside. Fortunately, the two escaped with only minor injuries.
By the time local firefighters extinguished the fire, the damage was severe to the Roosevelt. While the owners rebuilt, the now New Bremen theater was entering its last decade. In 1955, The Sun Printing Company purchased the building. Later in 1969, the New Bremen Senior Citizens bought the building for their growing membership until moving to their new location in 1996.