By Kris Leonhardt
The year is 1937, and films like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Saratoga,” “One Hundred Men and a Girl,” “Topper,” “Wee Willie Winkie,” and “The Prince and the Pauper” are playing on screens throughout the country. “Snow White” is the biggest hit of the year, which comes as no surprise as it remains a Disney classic to this date.
John Peter (J.P.) Adler is turning 50 this year and about to add a new theater to the Adler Theater Company. The New Adler Theater would open on his September birthday, featuring the latest picture show, “The Big City,” a movie starring Spencer Tracy as Joe Benton whose wife is deported for a crime during a New York City taxi war.
This is the Adler Company’s third introduction to Marshfield since his father built the Adler Opera House in 1897. Adler was just nine years old at the time the Opera House construction began. He would help haul bricks for his father while the structure was going up.
As he grew, Adler took up different jobs with the business, beginning as a bill boy, distributing playbills throughout the city, and ending in his take over in 1908. Within a year’s time, Adler would fall victim to the invasion of motion pictures, an event that would bring about the demise of the road shows that had provided entertainment there for so long but would take his business in a new and ever-expanding direction.
Ten years later Adler purchased the former Trio Theater and began remodeling it. After a contest to name the business, the theater was christened the “Relda,” which was Adler spelled backwards.
With his third Marshfield business, Adler created a state-of-the-art facility with a polished granite and black glass façade and an 18,000-watt electric sign featuring color and neon bulbs. The interior was a sight for its time as well with auto air conditioning, a hi-fi sound system, and technologically advanced projectors.
In addition to the Marshfield city businesses, Adler would expand his company to include two Merrill theaters, two Waupaca theaters, two Neillsville theaters, as well as a drive-in at the corner of Highways 10 and 13 on the south side of Marshfield.
The last movie was shown at the Adler Opera House in 1955, and the facilities were converted to a hall. It was sold in the early 1960s and was later demolished.
In 1958 the Relda Theater was altered into a retail shop. As Adler celebrated 50 years in business, the industry was beginning to feel the effects of television’s introduction. All that remained of his entertainment business in the city were the New Adler (now Rogers Cinema) and the 10-13 Drive-In (now an exotic dance club).
The following year J.P. Adler suffered a heart attack on the No.5 tee of the Marshfield Country Club course. He died shortly after, leaving behind a successful entertainment business that he had labored so hard to build since the time of his youth.