Note – 8/16/16: This research was initially completed in 2006 as part of a Film History class taught by Jeff Klenotic at UNH Manchester. Each student was charged with researching movie theatres of a specific era in a town of their choice. I chose to research theatres in Manchester, NH from 1933-1948. It’s very possible that more recent research has proven some of what I had written to be incorrect, or that some of the theatres that were still standing have since been torn down (please leave a comment if this is the case!). Also, upon reading these pages again, I’d like to apologize for my spelling and grammar. 2007-era Chris apparently needed an editor.
Additional note – 9/24/17: I’ve removed some incorrect information from this page about Mr. Descoteaux and his family. Many thanks to his daughter Janet for the comment. I’ll add that the bulk of my research on Mr. Descoteaux was taken from old census records, and may not be completely accurate.
Theatres Managed by Lucien:
Lucien Descoteaux was born in St. Sevre , PQ Canada on January 1, 1897. He immigrated to Manchester sometime in the early 1900’s. By 1932 he lived on 131 Orange Street in Manchester, NH with his wife Roseanne Descoteaux (Guilmette). By 1935 they had moved to 721 Beech Street, and by 1939 they had moved to 707 Chestnut Street. Together they had seven children, Theresa, Rene, Louis, Rita, Beatrice, Janet and Celia. Again, this data was derived from old census records, and may not be completely accurate.
During his time in Manchester, Mr. Descoteaux managed three smaller movie houses. His managing duties (as far as I could tell from the research i’ve done) began with the Empire theatre in October of 1931. He remained its manager until it’s first closing (one of many) in December of 1946. He also managed the Globe Theatre on Elm street, at least from 1938 to it’s close on June 13, 1943.
The third theatre he ran was the Rex Theatre on Amherst Street. This theatre was the first (and only as far as i’m aware) owned chiefly by Descoteaux. For the time it had many modern features (namely air conditioning, despite its small 550 seat capacity). It is believed that he ran the theatre up until February of 1962, which is allegedly that last day it was open. He died on August 26, 1968.
All the theatres owned by Desocteaux could be considered second or third run theatres. It was uncommon for any of them to play features that were newer than 4 months old. The houses sometimes shared pictures, and would often receive a film another had played previously. It is interesting to note that I could not detect any sort of hierarchy between the theatres, they all seemed to share their films equally.
The height of Descoteaux’s management in terms of number of theatres was from 1940 to 1943, where he was managing the Globe, Empire and Rex concurrently. During this time it was common for their advertisements to appear in the same column and with similar design in the newspaper. The Rex was promoted the most and usually given the biggest heading, although it didn’t seem that it necessarily played more desirable pictures (Editor’s note, 2016. More research needed here to confirm).
I like to think that Lucien operated his theatres as a slightly down-market version of the State Operating Company (who operated nearly all the higher end movie palaces in Manchester). Desoteaux (by my estimation) had the largest number of 2nd/3rd run picture houses under his belt at the time. This second run empire of Lucien Descoteaux is one that has largely gone forgotten in the city’s history, but it is a story that I think bears remembrance and further research. Unlike many of the movie palaces that outclassed Descoteaux’s theatres, the majority of his theatres still stand (as of 2006). The Rex and Empire both lived on into the early 90’s, still playing movies nearly half a decade later, while the more opulent theatres of the past either lay dormant or destroyed. To study the exhibition of films in Manchester without placing emphasis on the less appreciated theatres, you are marginalizing the importance of certain kinds of films and certain kinds of people. Largely an immigrant, working class town, not everyone in Manchester could afford the State, Palace or Strand. Second run theatres like the Rex, Empire and Globe were accessible, and while the seats might not have been as comfortable, the movies were just as good.