One of Forsyth's oldest businesses
has reached retirement age -- passed it, in fact -- but it shows
no signs of slowing down. The Roxy Theatre turns 66 years old
The Roxy is actually Forsyth's second movie theatre. The first,
known as the Lincoln Paramount, featured silent movies and was
housed in a converted storefront building next door to the current
The Roxy's original owners were Frank Faust and Tony Wolke, who
came from Pierz, Minn., in 1922. They had traveled to Polson
to look at a theatre that was for sale there. On their way home,
they stopped in Forsyth to visit a friend, and found out the
Lincoln Theatre was for sale.
They purchased the theatre, and two years later they purchased
the Home Trading building (which was located on the corner where
the Roxy is now). In that building they set up a car dealership,
selling Hudson Essex and Graham Paige cars, until that business
was destroyed by fire in 1929.
Realizing that the Lincoln Theatre was too small for the growing
crowds, and recognizing the need to convert their operation to
handle the newfangled "talking" pictures, Faust and
Wolke purchased an additional lot west of the corner, removed
some existing buildings, and the Roxy was built during the summer
of 1930. The total budget for the project was $35,000.
In an article he wrote for the Rosebud County history book, Frank
Faust said, "Business people
of Forsyth were very happy to see some activity during those
depression days and to know that someone had faith in the future
of our town and community."
The Roxy was one of the finest theatres to be built in this region,
according to newspaper articles of the time. The seating was
"the height of comfort" and "no detail has been
overlooked" in ensuring the comfort of patrons.
An acoustic engineer from Denver was brought in to test the building
for sound quality, and he proclaimed it "perfect for the
presentation of talking pictures."
The Roxy has undergone many changes during its 66 years. The
first was the addition of the neon marquee, sometime in the early
1930s. The building originally featured a flat awning, and the
shows were announced by placing large posters called "three
sheets" in a frame next to the front doors.
In 1940, the first popcorn
machine was added. It was installed in the outer lobby, and popcorn
was the only thing on the menu
no drinks or candy.
In 1953, in order to compete with the new sensation of television,
the theatre was remodeled extensively. Steel posts which had
supported the balcony (and blocked the view from some rear seats)
were removed, and replaced with a large I-beam running across
The screen, which had been 14 feet square, was replaced with
a new 30 foot wide screen to accommodate the new Cinemascope
movies. The bigger screen "makes the old screen look like
a postage stamp," according to a 1953 newspaper article.
And finally, the concession stand was built in the inner lobby.
Two flavors of pop were offered (Coke and root beer) along with
two sizes of popcorn (one plain, one buttered) and a selection
Another accommodation was made in the '50s: A men's rest room.
When the theatre was built, only a ladies' room was provided.
When the law required that a men's room had to be built, a broom
closet in the lobby was converted. ("It's the world's smallest
men's room," according to the Roxy's current owner, Mike
Tony Wolke died in 1936, but Frank Faust continued to operate
the theatre until 1957. Roy Welter operated it for a few years
in the 1960s before selling it to Don and Georgie Herndon, who
ran it from 1967 to 1979.
In the spring of '79, Mike Blakesley and Tom Clifford, both employed
as projectionists, purchased the theatre from the Herndons. Blakesley
purchased Clifford's interest in 1992 and continues to operate
The Roxy has continued to evolve and change with the times. In
1980, the projection booth was refitted with automated equipment;
and in 1982, the auditorium was remodeled with new seats and
In 1992 the neon on the marquee, which had been missing for years
due to vandalism and "just plain old age;" was restored.
The windows above the marquee, long painted and boarded over,
were replaced as well.
Also in 1992, Blakesley added a stereo sound system, and in the
summer of '94, the Roxy became the third theatre in Montana to
install DTS Digital Sound.
The latest improvement to the theatre is a new popcorn machine,
which was installed in August.
"That was more out of necessity than anything else,"
Blakesley says. "We basically wore out the old one."
Next up is a new exterior paint job, which has been on the drawing
boards for awhile and should be completed this fall.
The Roxy continues to enjoy popularity with moviegoers young
and old alike, and Blakesley is grateful for their support. He
says he gets a kick out of seeing the audiences enjoy the movies,
"I like to stand in the back during the 'good parts' and
watch the reactions," he says. "It's really gratifying
when you see people enjoying themselves."
"The Roxy has survived two fires, the TV age, the video
age, and the disco age," Blakesley says. "I'm really
thankful for all of our moviegoers, because we wouldn't be here
if it wasn't for them."