In early 2007, I purchased this movie schedule for the Leon Theater in De Leon, Texas.
What can a 58 year old movie schedule tell us about the Leon? More than you might expect but not as much as we'd like to know!
This single sheet of paper reveals the name of the theater and the city in which it was located. The theater was open in May 1949 and used the U.S. Mail to promote its attractions. Movies were exhibited as single features except for tuesday and wednesday nights, which were almost always double features.
The "marquee" at the top of the schedule has a woodland theme. On the top left, the statement "Attend the Church of Your Choice Every Sunday" appears superimposed over a pair of rabbits. Rabbits are associated with Easter and Easter Sunday fell in April in 1949. To maximize the benefit of this schedule, it was probably mailed out in late April. This may simply be a coincidence, but the facts do fit together.
At the bottom right of the schedule, a summary of films being shown at "The Texas" is displayed. At a minimum, this suggests a promotional agreement between the two theaters. It's even possible the same person owned both theaters. You'll note that "The Texas", as far as we can tell, was showing a different set of movies and that it used a different schedule format. For example, on 6 and 7 May 1949, "The Texas" was exhibiting "Son of God's Country". The Leon was showing two different films on those dates. On 6 May 1949, the Leon exhibited "Words and Music" and then switched to "Feudin' Fussin' and A-Fightin'" on 7 May 1949.
A detailed analysis of the movies scheduled at the Leon yielded even more information. In the table below, I've combined the information from the schedule with the film release dates as reported by the Internet Movie Database. Note: Not all the dates are complete.
|Feature||Release Date||Schedule Date||Day(s)|
|Red Canyon||5 May 1949||1-2 May 1949||Sunday / Monday|
|Melody Time||27 May 1948||3-4 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Words and Music||31 December 1948||5-6 May 1949||Thursday / Friday|
|Feudin' Fussin' and A-Fightin'||June 1948||7 May 1949||Saturday|
|Tulsa||26 May 1949||8 - 9 May 1949||Sunday / Monday|
|Hi Neighbor!||27 July 1942||10 - 11 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Jiggs & Maggie In Society||12 December 1948||10 - 11 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|3 Godfathers||1 December 1948||12 -13 May 1949||Thursday / Friday|
|Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap||8 October 1947||14 May 1949||Saturday|
|The Life of Riley||16 April 1949||15 - 16 May 1949||Sunday / Monday|
|Angels with Dirty Faces||26 November 1938||17 - 18 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Taming of the West||7 December 1939||17 - 18 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|The Last Bandit||25 February 1949||19 - 20 May 1949||Thursday / Friday|
|Sis Hopkins||12 April 1941||21 May 1949||Saturday|
|Bad Boy||22 February 1949||22 - 23 May 1949||Sunday / Monday|
|Race Street||11 September 1948||24 - 25 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Rusty Saves A Life||1949||24 - 25 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Hills of Home||December 1948||26 - 27 May 1949||Thursday / Friday|
|Pirates of Monterey||1 December 1947||28 May 1949||Saturday|
|Wake of the Red Witch||1 March 1949||29 - 30 May 1949||Sunday / Monday|
|The Gangster||25 November 1947||31 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
|Heart of Virginia||25 April 1948||31 May 1949||Tuesday / Wednesday|
Notice anything interesting about the schedule dates for "Red Canyon" and "Tulsa"? Unless the Internet Movie Database is simply wrong, the Leon was advertising these two films as being available for viewing before their release dates! A printing mistake? Yet another example of commercial "bait and switch" tactics? Or something else completely different? I'd speculate that the release dates for these two films changed after the schedule went to the printers. That fits in with my theory about Easter!
What else does this table tell us? The Leon was presenting its newest films on Sunday and Monday. Given the times, I'd describe them as first run films. Generally, the oldest movies were exhibited on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Having exhausted the information in the schedule, the next step is to consider what it didn't tell us.
There is no address for the theater. There are no show times for the films. There are no hints about tasty treats that might be available at the snack bar. In fact, there is no real proof that this theater is even a drive-in!
Suprised? I certainly was when that realization hit me!
When I first saw this schedule, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Leon was a drive-in theater. Why? The format is familiar. I remember seeing schedules like this one posted in the windows of local businesses in the places that I grew up. The schedules were always for drive-in theaters. I don't ever remember seeing such a schedule for an in-door theater. In-door theaters advertised in the newspapers, not on the glass at the Dairy Queen!
Was the Leon a drive-in? I had to know! Like so many other Americans, I turned to the Internet for answers!
The On-Line Handbook of Texas describes De Leon as being located at the intersection of State highways 6 and 16, in northeast Comanche County.
I was unable to locate any references to the Leon on the Internet, but I did discover several references to a Weeping Oak Drive-In. This theater was described as being '3 kilometers south of De Leon'. This aerial view of the site was taken in 1995.
Towards the bottom center of the image, you can see what appears to be the eroded remains of berms. A small building, which could be either a snack bar or projection booth, is located at the approximate center of the berm "arc". Near the roadway, traces of the entrance and exit to the property are still clearly visible.
If the Weeping Oak followed the traditional single screen layout, the screen would have been located between the entrance and exit lanes. The front of the small building is nearly parallel with the road (and with the screen if it was located at the traditional location). The small building is also nearly centered between the entrance and exit lanes. The building appears to have an "L" shape.
These two images are reported to have been taken at site.
While they lack detail, they do reveal that the projection booth was located on the ground level and attached to the side of the snack bar. Based on the number and positioning of the windows, the projection booth was not designed for use with a platter system.
The snack bar appears to have an over hang extending out from the front of the building. If so, this theater may have had covered outdoor seating. It's also possible that the front of the building was glassed in and that the glass has long since been broken out.
The projection booth portion of the building isn't as deep as the snack bar and its associated overhang. This explains why the building appears to have an "L" shape in the aerial view.
There are no obvious traces of speaker poles in the lot. Could the Weeping Oak have survived until the age of drive-in radio or were the poles simply removed in favor of the tractor and the plow?
Could the Leon be the Weeping Oak Drive-In theater? Unless one of our trained operatives makes the drive to Commanche County, I doubt we'll ever learn the truth!
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