Negaunee had 7 movie houses besides the Vista dating back to 1907. There was the Electric, Bijou and Grand located in the Sundberg Block/Building and the Wonderland in McDonald's Opera House where the current Elks meet. In 1911 the Star came into use at the corner of Iron and Pioneer Streets where the Negaunee Mall is located presently. The Royal opened in 1913 also in the Sundberg Block. By 1918 the Liberty where the current Liberty Children's Art Project is located and last but not least, the Vista was built in 1925.
Jafet Rytkonen had taken a trip to Hollywood around 1911 to check for himself what all the movie excitement was about. Was it just a passing fad or was it something that was going to be around for awhile? This was the impetus for him to dream of a larger movie theater that what the Star was, which he was a partner. The grandest theater north of Milwaukee and East of Minneapolis and having the latest advancements. Ground was broken on April 9, 1925. The "Vista" was chosen from a contest whereby Miss Mae Duchane of Negaunee, was the winning contributor and she was presented with $25.00 in gold.
On opening night, September 20, 1926, Jafet Rytkonen, in a formal program, had this to say:
The first finnish film, Kuin Uni Ja Varjo, ("As Dream and Shadow")to be shown in the United States was shown at the Vista on April 17, 1938.
Movie houses prospered until the popularity of television took over in the 1950's. Jafet retired in 1950 and his son, William, and son-in-law, Peter Ghiardi, took over the operation. Upon William's death in 1972, the Vista closed.
This was not to be the end of the Vista as a group of like-minded citizens had a vision to present amateur theater productions, plays, and musical programs, annual concert series, family, and classical films, weekend cartoons, matinees, puppet shows, art exhibits, and visual arts workshops. Thus, in 1973, the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council (PAAC) was formed.
For the past couple of years, PAAC has had a vision to restore the Vista to its original splendor. We have had professional architects, and other contractors studying and submitting proposals for renovations.
Plans are to have the theater opened year-round with many of the aforementioned arts as well as bringing back old movies. We are indeed proud to be the only local theater to survive and with a building still structurally intact and being used, all this since 1926!
We parallel our goals with Mr. Rytkonen, to have the Vista remain an integral part of Negaunee and the entire surrounding community by bringing quality entertainment and enjoyable experiences to many more generations!
The Vista Theater acquired Historical Status on July 22, 2005.
The Years in Review
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