Four hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money.
It was a lot more in 1931, considering that the country was deep into the Great Depression. To escape their troubles, the rich drank champagne, danced the hoochie coochie and sailed on cruise ships to Europe; ordinary Americans went to plush movie palaces.
Movies starring Charlie Chaplin made them laugh and King Kong with Fay Wray made them swoon with excitement.
Entrepreneur and banker Winfield W. Watson wasn’t dismayed by the Depression. “Those were great days,” Watson would say years later, “Days when men dared big things and either won or lost. If they won, good and well; if they lost, they promptly forgot it and turned their attention to something else.”
One of Watson’s dreams was the art deco style Fox-Watson, now called the Stiefel-Watson Theatre in Salina.
Dream big, he liked to say, and so he began a campaign which lead Fox West Coast Theaters to build the Fox-Watson. Boller Bros. of Overland Park, Kansas designed the theater. Watson donated the land for the theater and was active in raising bond money to construct the $400,000 theater. In February of 1931, Salinians celebrated the opening of the theater with a parade and a week-long festival. Not Exactly Gentlemen, starring Fay Wray, was the first feature film shown.