Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
THE CONTROVERSY OVER SUNDAY MOVIES IN FARMINGTON
When the manager of the Grand Theatre in Farmington announced a program of movies on Sunday, he was met with a great deal of opposition from area ministers and businessmen. He decided to ignore the protests and opened his theatre for a Sunday night performance!
Mr. Burkhalter faced a dilemma. His business was hardly profitable. His patrons demanded that he show the same movies appearing in larger cities at modest prices, and it was obvious that they would not support mediocre pictures. His attempt to harness Sunday business might, however, put his little operation on a paying basis.
Mr. Burkhalter's opponents charged that showing movies on Sunday was immoral.
The manager argued that he offered wholesome amusement, and that his motion pictures were no more sinful that the dramatic programs that were put on by the Chatauqua Assembly or the Sunday baseball games that people enjoyed during the summer. He received many signatures on a petition he sent out in an attempt to keep his small theatre open on Sunday, as he had advertised and scheduled.
However, the protestors were not happy. On the night of the first Sunday movie showing, they called the sheriff down from Keosauqua. It is not clear what he was supposed to do but his presence prevented the selling of tickets. Mr. Burkhalter packed the house by opening the doors free of charge! Then he cleverly passed a collection box that netted him a considerable sum of money.
The editorial comment from the newspaper article of November 30, 1922 suggested that Mr. Burkhalter was making a serious error by defying the strong protests and would lose the support of most of his steady patrons just to gain a few new customers. The theatre manager was in a "no win" situation and apparently the suggestion proved true, because pressure got to him and within a month he had abandoned the idea of opening his doors to the public on Sunday.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick