In 1940, you could catch “the big show” with the Browning Brothers Carnival on Columbia Street between Broadway and Second Avenue in Seaside, with live pony rides, “roll-o-plane,” tilt-a-whirl and Ferris wheel. You could store your mat, fruits and vegetables at the Seaside Frozen Food Lockers at 729 Broadway in the Beacon Hotel.
Craft beer? Not back then, although you could “satisfy yourself” with a Blitz Weinhard and you could even tour the Portland brewery if you were so inclined. The Gearhart Golf Course opened three new holes — No. 2, No. 4, No. 8 — and you could play “all the golf you wish” after 5 p.m. for a mere 50 cents.
And one more addition came to the city with the “gala opening” of B.J. Callahan’s “beautiful new Times’ Theatre” at Broadway and Columbia on June 29. The theater debuted with Vivien Leigh’s “Waterloo Bridge,” billed as her “first film since ‘Gone With the Wind,’” co-starring with Robert Taylor and directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
The theater was one of three — along with the National and the Strand — founded by Callahan in Seaside. Seaside’s “pioneer movie mogul,” Callahan was born in 1863 and lived 87 years that spanned stage, silent films, talkies and two world wars. He ran a Seaside theater called “The Critic” in 1909. The Strand screened its first silent film in 1916. After a remodel in 1925, replete with a $15,000 pipe organ and seating for 360 people, the first talking films arrived in 1929. Callahan is probably the only theater owner in history to have instituted a “pay as you please” policy for patrons — an experiment quickly ended by the Northwest Film Board of Trade, which ordered a fixed admission charge. In 1922, that charge was 35 cents for adults and a dime for kids.
The Times Theatre was his crowning achievement.
The Times Theatre is “unusually attractive,” wrote the Signal in 1940, “built in the modern style of architecture. The interior is finished in bands of two shades of tan on the walls, with bands of green and rose on the ceiling. Indirect lighting effects will add to the beauty of the interior.”
For sound and projection, “there will be no finer theater in the United States.” In 1948 filmgoers could watch “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” and “The Perils of Pauline.” In 1952 Lana Turner starred in “The Merry Widow” while Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward starred in “David and Bathsheba.”
In 1956, Gregory and Pat Kershul purchased the Sunset Drive-In from Harold Wright and Avery Combs. The drive-in was located on a 12-acre property north of Gearhart junction, now largely residential. The drive-in closed its doors in 1989.
Kershul, who died in 2016, was not a movie buff, his son Bill Kershul recalled. “He hardly watched any movies. Pretty strange to think of. He was a very outdoors type, hunting, fishing, golfing. But he was also an extrovert. I think that’s what made him so successful at the theater.”
The Kershuls bought the Times Theatre from the Callahan family in 1959.
For decades, the theater was the place where parents could drop off their kids and feel safe that their kids were going to be safe. “If they were screwing around, he’d kind of discipline them — and in those days people were happy with that.”
Kershul, who worked in the theaters from 1960 to 1976, remembers “The Sound of Music” as one of the theater’s most popular films. When “The Poseidon Adventure” opened in 1972, there were lines around the block, he said. “That one was heavily advertised on TV and I remember the lines down the street past Bjorklund’s Furniture. It surprised everybody with the turnout.”
The Kershuls operated the Times Theatre until its lease to Don McMurdie of the McMurdie Theatre Company in 1979, Kershul said. “My dad just got tired with dealing with all the punks and the kids on the corner, trying to run the movie. Getting older, we want to do something else. The property became more valuable than the business.”
Seaside’s Robin Knoll was a projectionist and manager at the Times Theatre in the 1980s. He remembers a crowd of more than 400 for a double-feature of “Crocodile Dundee” and “Top Gun.”
“It was a place people depended on to be able to have some entertainment,” Knoll said. “It lasted many, many years. At the end of the end of the ’80s, attendance was dropping a little, but, it was still fairly steady. People needed entertainment and they didn’t want to drive all the way to Astoria.”
Showings stopped when McMurdie decided not to renew the theater lease in 1989 and Kershul sold the building. “Batman” had a long run that summer before “Parenthood” finally unspooled as the theater’s last show on Oct. 12, 1989.
Marla Olstedt, marketing director of TD&M Enterprises, told members of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce in February of plans to expand Finn’s with outdoor seating. Looming even larger on the event horizon is the anticipated summer reopening of the Times Theatre as a movie theater and brew pub under the helm of Seaside Brewing co-founder Vince Berg. TD&M is the downtown entity behind Finn’s, Funland, Fultano’s, Fultano’s Pizza, Gearhart Bowl, Phillips Candy and Twisted Fish Steakhouse.
The theater will show second-run movies and special events like the Super Bowl and March Madness.
“A lot of people tell us the last movie they saw there, so we’re thinking a list of those a walk down memory lane,” Olstedt said.
Beer will be brewed in-house, and served to guests in theater-style chairs and 10 to 12 four-top tables. The former Tom & Larry’s Candy will serve as the kitchen area. Seating capacity is estimated at 350.
“The chairs will be more of a recliner type theater-style chair, than your basic movie theater uncomfortable who-gets-which-armrest what-do-we-do-here chair,” Olstedt said. “Everybody has an armrest.”
Owners hope for a summer premiere, although opening could be later in the year.
“Don’t hold me to it,” Olstedt said.
“My dad passed in the summer of 2016,” Bill Kershul said. “Not quite two years ago. It would have given him quite a thrill to see somebody do something with that place.”
“I’m going to be down there as soon as it opens, because I want to check it out.” Knoll said.
R.J. Marx is The Daily Astorian’s South County reporter and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette.