Apart from its Art Deco architecture, what makes Garner’s movie theater unique is that it was built in the brief snapshot of time when the motion picture industry was literally re-inventing itself. This movie house was the first in the region expressly built for high quality sound movies. Though a musician’s pit for the silent films was included, it was known this would soon be obsolete.
To recap the evolution of motion pictures, on August 6, 1926, the “world’s first commercial movie with sound,” Don Juan, premiered on Broadway. More than a year later on October 6, 1927, Warner Brothers debuted “The Jazz Singer” with Al Jolson. Disney’s first sound film, Steamboat Willie featuring Mickey Mouse, followed in 1928. MGM premiered its first “all talking, all singing, all dancing” film, The Broadway Melody, on February 1, 1929.
It was a slow progression. Studios had to sort through then select from among competing, emerging sound technologies. Movie houses then were retrofitted with sound equipment. By 1930 most motion picture soundtracks had become standardized, but it is another five years before speaker systems reach this status. It is in this volatile environment the Avery is designed and built.
Timeline of Key Avery Theater Events
Note: The dates and newspaper clippings come from the archives of the Garner Leader & Signal, The Leader, and the Mason City Globe-Gazette: