The Latchis Theatre
The Latchis Theatre
Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was the last picture to be shown at the Latchis Theater before a devastating early morning fire gutted the building on March 25, 1965. It was already tough days for movie theaters competing against the extreme popularity of television but a second fire in 14 years spelled disaster for Milford's only movie house. The Milford Cabinet related that "Guess that picture was just too hot" was a common quip around town the next day but owner John Latchis, awoken at 3AM at his house in Brattleboro, Vermont, did not find it very funny. A 1951 fire had laid waste to the cinema but after asking readers of the Cabinet, "I'd like to know whether we can expect any support from the townspeople, whether they are sincerely interested in having a theater here?” he apparently heard enough of a response to convince him to reconstruct, adding lots of (but apparently not enough) fireproofing to boot. The theater, however, was never a big money-maker as it competed with the likes of Howdy Doody and Mr. Ed.
Opening in 1937 with great fanfare as a modern replacement ("the last word in design and equipment") for the shabby Strand Theater on Middle Street, which was operating out of a former blacksmith's shop, the Latchis was well-regarded. The new cinema boasted 594 seats, two rows, three sections and a steep tilt to the floor, along with state-of-the-art RCA sound equipment (a key feature now that almost all movies were talkies). Peter Latchis had bought land off the Oval in the 1920s and after delays due to the Great Depression, finally tore down the dilapidated Wallace house and negotiated an exclusive license for a movie house from the town. When the theater finally did open on September 29, 1937, it was quite the spectacle. The high school orchestra and drum corps joined girl scout ushers and town selectmen to welcome in the new theater - and thirty cents got you a seat to see the Oscar-winner Broadway Melody.