Come the summer of 1937, the Union-Bulletin developed some very distinguished readers in Tinseltown.
In between takes, a number of prominent movie stars, including Clark Gable and Shirley Temple, were photographed reading the paper following a June 6 story that celebrated Frederick Mercy, Sr.’s 25th year in the business of owning a chain of movie theaters.
Mercy got his start as a theater magnate in Yakima when he purchased his first theater in June of 1912. That lone theater soon became several theaters, and by 1937, Mercy had expanded the reach of his chain to Walla Walla and beyond.
While it is unclear just how much of the paper these A-list celebrities read, Mercy’s role in the movie business warranted their attention. His chain of theaters throughout the Inland Empire included the Liberty Theatre in Walla Walla, which was the third movie theater in Washington to gain the capability to play movies with sound.
In addition to the Liberty, Mercy also owned the Roxy Theatre and the Capitol Theatre in Walla Walla. At the time of his Jubilee, he also owned theatres in Pasco, Kennewick, Sunnyside and Toppenish.
That film empire earned him the attention of some of Hollywood’s upper crust, and that was enough to send copies of the paper to Los Angeles.
In the intervening years, Mercy’s film empire has dissolved, but some remnants of his legacy remain.
The Roxy and the Capitol have since been demolished. The Liberty Theater is part of Macy’s in downtown Walla Walla. The original seats and sloping theater floor have been covered over with a false floor, and the marquee is long gone, but a small collection of articles about the theater hang on the second floor.
The Union-Bulletin does not currently have any subscribers in Hollywood.