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In 1929, crowds jammed Billroy's tent shows during opening night

Bob Cox • Oct 27, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Positive proof that there was a demand for popular priced amusement that really entertained was evidenced on a Monday evening when Billroy's Comedians were greeted by a downtown crowd that jammed and packed every nook and cranny corner of the big tent and even then forced between four hundred people to seek entertainment elsewhere, disappointingly being unable to gain admission to Billroy's.

This, in the face of capacity business at the picture houses, where a big "Gala Week" was in progress, indicated that amusement at 15 cents and 25 cents was really in demand, provided it was fully worth the money, as was the case with the Billroy attraction. Last season, Billroy did capacity business here all week and indications were that the same thing would occur that season.

In analyzing this, we find three things chiefly contribution to the success of Billroy organization as contrasted with the poor business done by other attractions operating under canvas here this season.

Billroy had a company of nearly fifty people and they were all good entertainers. He selected joy, popular stage hits and then introduced numerous comedy bits and musical numbers, resulting in a semi-review type of show that had a universal appeal.

Then. he offers plenty of singing, dancing and jazzy orchestral numbers. These attractions always appealed, especially so when a chorus of attractive ladies was featured. And last, but by no least, Billroy believed in the old rule of "quality production."

In other words, he had a sizable tent theater with plenty of seating capacity, and by filling this at low prices, he took in just as much as he would with a smaller audience at higher prices.

Thus, he sent out after every performance hundreds of boosters who return again and again during the week. The gross was considerable augmented by his candy and novelty "pitches," which were handled in a snappy, fast-working manner that entertained his audience.

Billroy was able to secure the space from land that would later become the Arcade Building between West Market and West Main.

Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.