Spanning 80 years, Newman's movie theatre legacy began over a century ago. Ten movie theatres in five locations conducted business in the city between 1904 and 1984. Three of the theatre buildings were purpose built, one theatre was an open air space ("The Airdome", where movies were presented outside for one summer season in 1912), while the other concerns shared or inherited pre-existing space.
Prior to the advent of motion pictures, professional entertainment in Newman consisted largely of spoken voice recitals, live music, and theatrical productions. Many of these commercial exhibitions were conducted from tents, saloons, and hotels.
The first films were known to be shown at the Opera House but the first official full time movie theater in Newman was "The Lyric". The Lyric began showing films in 1908 which marked the onset of cinema in the city.
In the formative years of cinema, movies were silent, presented in black and white, and were occasionally accompanied by live piano music. The films rarely exceeded 30 minutes in length, yet their novelty, coupled with affordability, garnered immense popularity among the residents of Newman.
The silent film era in Newman featured performances by renowned (and still remembered) actors such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, all of whom contributed to the burgeoning appeal of this innovative entertainment medium that Thomas Edison introduced to the world in the 1890s.
It should be noted that In addition to performing their primary duty of presenting the latest movies of the day, Newman's early theaters also served a multifunctional purpose by hosting live performances, civic meetings, and school events such as plays and graduation ceremonies.
Subsequent to the initial "moving picture" venues, two notable movie theaters emerged: the "Star Theatre" (later rebranded the "Newman Theatre" ) and the most recent addition, the "Westside Theatre." These later establishments introduced high-end sound systems and air-conditioning to elevate the overall entertainment experience. Featuring top-tier films, these theaters played a pivotal role in ensuring that rural Newman remained on par with larger cities in terms of first class motion picture offerings.
Below is a table which shows the life timeline and location for each of the former establishments: