Moving picture theaters in downtown Mountain View grew up with the movie industry. The first nickelodeon appeared as silent films were just starting to draw audiences. They expanded and improved to support the conversion from silent films to 'talkies' in the late 1920's, and the evolution from black and white to Technicolor films. For a time, they even withstood the advent of television and modern multiplex theaters.
The film industry was in its infancy in 1903 when The Great Train Robbery lured audiences to a new form of entertainment. The center of the film world was Europe and the east coast, a long distance from a brand new little town south of San Francisco, called Mountain View. It didn't take long for Mountain View to catch on because, by the time the legendary D. W. Griffith directed the 1910 film Her Terrible Ordeal the town had joined the party and had a movie theatre of its own.
A seemingly inconsequential notice appeared in the July 31, 1909 issue of the Mountain View Leader, stating that a Mrs. M. E. Hersperger of Oakland had purchased space in the Swall Building that had formerly been used as for a bakery. The movie house, called the Glen Theatre, would be situated next door to the Swall's Market, and was opening for business that afternoon. The movie industry was still five years from Mack Sennett's first feature length comedy Tillie's Punctured Romance, and six years from D. W. Griffith's extremely controversial and groundbreaking feature length drama Birth Of A Nation.
The Glen would offer two performances every evening with weekly matinees. Mrs. Hersperger announced that the "enterprise intends to remain here permanently if the patronage will warrant it". The cost of admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for children. Clearly the 'patronage' supported the 'enterprise' as a downtown theatre became a fixture for most of the twentieth century. At the same time, another businessman was constructing an auditorium for the production of dramatic plays. The Clark Auditorium announced that the great Frank Bacon, a famous stage actor and part time Mountain View resident, would be starring in the comedy-drama play, The Young Mrs. Winthrop, on August 19th. The gracious Mrs. Hersperger responded with the news that the Glen would be closing for the day after the early showing and encouraged local citizens to join her and attend Mr. Bacon's impressive performance at the Clark.
Apparently 'permanently' meant about six weeks for Mrs. Hersperger because by mid September of 1909 the she sold her moving picture business to an English couple, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Smith. In November of that year a local businessman, Fritz Campen declared that the moving picture business needed a more suitable facility and that he was beginning construction of a new building for that purpose. By the time the construction of the 'new' Glen Theatre was completed in June of 1910, Fritz Campen had closed a deal for the purchase of the movie business from the Smiths. Mr. Campen put his son, Fritz Jr. in charge of the movie business and his daughter, Anna, would take charge of the ticket selling office. According to the 1914 Mountain View City Directory, the new location of the Glen Theatre was at 174 Castro Street, with the Campen Bakery next door at 170 Castro and the LoveJoy Ice Cream Parlor on the other side at 178 Castro. Movie-goers had the choice of pastries or ice cream and candy to consume while enjoying the movies.
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