Motion pictures first appeared in Cokato in 1907, when a group of men petitioned the city council for permission to use the second floor of the village hall to show movies. Shown once or twice a week, these silent movies--which usually ran about twenty minutes--thrilled local audiences.

The first theatre building was opened in April 1914, on Broadway Avenue (later the site of Moberg Motor Co.). Its owner, A. G. Hansen, named it the Cecile Theatre, after his wife.

The next year, Esle Larson built a new theatre on north Millard Avenue, now the site of Mike Ackerman's barber shop. The theatre had its grand opening on August 3, 1915, showing "The Quest," a Mutual Film production starring Margarita Fischer and Harry Pollard. Music for this silent feature was provided by a local orchestra. Later, Mae Harkman played the organ for many of the silent films.

Movies with sound, "talkies" as they were called, made their debut in February 1930. Audiences were treated to MGM productions "On With The Show" and "It's A Great Life." "The actors live and talk with startling reality," reported the Cokato Enterprise. Shortly before World War II, a new owner changed the name to the Cokato Theatre.

The theatre was a popular social gathering point for people of all ages. Children viewed Saturday matinee serials and adults enjoyed the latest full-length feature from Universal, MGM, and Twentieth Century Fox. Admission charges ranging from 5 to 25 cents were not a problem for people who wished for an evening of entertainment.

But time took its toll on the theatre, with the "The Swinger," starring Ann Margeret and Tony Franciosca as its final film in late August, 1967. Eighteen monthls later, the building was demolished. Noted one onlooker at the demolition site: "Well, considering the kind of movies being made these days, it's just as well."

© Cokato Historical Society, 1996.