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Melody Schubert

The Wheel of Life Still Turns In Bloomington, Indiana
By Melody Schubert
Sep 10, 2004 - 10:33:00 AM

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Attempting To Save A Piece Of History
Jump back in time 136 years and you would be amazed by "wheel of life" or "zoopraxiscope." This was the first machine to show animated pictures or movies. The only way to view the moving drawings or photographs was to gaze through the slit of the wheel of life, which was patented in the U.S. by William Lincoln in 1867.

Movies as we know them today would not exist without the invention of the motion picture camera. Several inventors who created similar machines, but the Frenchman, Louis Lumiere is given credit combining three important elements in one machine. His invention called the Cinematographe, was the combination of a portable motion-picture camera, a film processing unit, and a projector.

Louis and his brother were among the first to present this amazing concept of moving pictures to a paying audience. Edison took this idea a step further by introducing the Vitascope projector in 1896. His invention became the first successful projector to be used commercially in the United States. The advances in technology would amaze inventors like Edison today. If the radio broadcast of H. G. Wells classic War of the Worlds made people shiver with fear, imagine the affect of the movie the Passion of the Christ would have had at the time.

The early days of Hollywood resemble an age of innocence. We can still click our ruby slippers and go back to the innocent days of entertainment at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater located at 114 E. Kirkwood in downtown Bloomington, Indiana. The beautifully restored theater, previous known as the Indiana presents The Golden Age of Hollywood Movie Series held Free to the public on Wednesdays. Movie lovers relax in the 600 seat Theater for suspenseful murder mysteries like, "The Thin Man," (1934) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, Hollywood’s most romantic married couple. Schedules for show times can be found by visiting their web site at or by calling (812) 323-3020. In addition to The Golden Age of Hollywood Movie Series, the historic theater is the site of many wonderful performances like the Lotus Festival throughout the year.

The Wheel of Life occasionally turns a few blocks down Kirkwood Avenue at the Von Lee Theater. Those who attend the showings do not enjoy the comfort of classic red velvet seats. These dedicated movie lovers brought their own lawn chairs and gathered to view the classic Ray Bradbury film, "Fahrenheit 451." The Von Lee Theater, located at 517 East Kirkwood Avenue closed in the spring of 2000. Since then movies have been sponsored by the Save The Von Lee Committee, a group dedicated to the preservation of the classic theater.

If you driven down Kirkwood Avenue on the weekend you may have noticed the signs urging you not to purchase popcorn at the local Kerasotes Theater. The boycotts against Kerasotes, who owned the property, have been in protest of their no-movie clause that prohibited anyone who purchased the property from showing movies again. The property has changed hands several times and now the theater's fate rest in the hands of a new owner. Whether or not the clause affects the new owner is yet to be seen.

The Von Lee Theater attracted those who enjoyed art and foreign films. Such classic films are rarely, if ever seen in multiplex theaters such as Kerasotes. It appears that this large company swept into town like a hawk and plucked two of Bloomington's financial vulnerable historic theaters off the map. Yet, sometimes even on the silver screen we are only shown a portion of the creator's original concept. Such is the case with Kerasotes, which is a third generation family owned business. Gus Kerasotes love for movies inspired him to open a Nickelodeon theater in 1909 in Springfield, Illinois. Since then the Kerasotes legacy has grown to include over 500 screens in over seventy theaters, including the Bloomington Kerasotes Theater. It is Gus Kerasotes vision of creating a place where people could gather to have a good time and enjoy a movie that lives on today on a grander scale than even he could have imagined in 1909.

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater remains a shining example of arts in a vibrant and diverse community. Step inside and you can imagine musician and composer, Hoagy Carmichael performing on stage, which may be why this theater has survived. His glory days are remembered each year with a festival held in late summer at the theater where Vaudeville acts and live bands performed. Today it is host to a variety of art events like, The Golden Age of Hollywood Movie Series, and others throughout the year.

If you plan to visit Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University, visit the Buskirk-Chumley Theater’s web site for a schedule of upcoming events at or call: (812) 323-3020.

While the fate of the Von Lee remains uncertain, there is still hope. After all this is the underlying theme of many classic and present day movies, including Armageddon, and the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. Hope for better times is what inspires us and keeps us motive when everything else seems to fail.

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Melody Schubert
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