Fred Fritz opened up his theater on September 6 of 1902. The theater was located on the 200 block of Burnside St. The grand opening of the theater was featured in an ad in The Morning Oregonian. It was advertised that the building was “remodeled and enlarged” at a cost of about $20,000. That is the equivalent of about $600,000 today! I would like to believe that much money went into a theater renovation, but advertising that amount could have also just been used to draw in more theatergoers. The opening article draws in the locals by announcing the opening bill which will feature acrobatics, vocalists, dancers, and of course, Edison’s newest invention: the kinetoscope. The theater promoted itself as a “high-class vaudeville theater”, which is interesting considering that I found a few articles mentioning the controversy surrounding Fred Fritz after the opening of his theater.
Before Fritz opened the theater on 2nd and Burnside, he owned a few saloons in the same area. Fritz is mentioned in the Labosier article, From the Kinetoscope to the Nickelodeon, in that when something controversial was brought up about Fritz, one would say, “Oh, it’s only Fritz’s, you must expect such things here” (313). Fritz had gained a major reputation of being controversial in Portland that the police would regularly perform blockades or searches at his theater. According to The Morning Oregonian, police performed a blockade at the theater in December of 1906. It consisted of police entering the building every ten minutes to make sure the business was complying with city ordinances. This was because women who were supposed to be part of the vaudeville acts were reported to be selling drinks to male patrons at “outrageous” prices. Inspector Bruin says that “Fritz’ Theater is a cancer on the city”. Another statement made about the theater is that “the women he employs are flagrant” and that “no one can imagine any place that could be worse”.
While I could not find any articles about Fritz's Theater permanently closing, there are two articles from 1907 of Fritz being threatened to close by not complying to adhere to fire safety regulations. There was shock around this because Fritz had been arrested 13 times in relation to illegally selling liquor, but it was fire hazards that led to almost having to close his theater if he did not make the correct changes. Some of the hazards include the seats being too close together, no automatic sprinkler apparatus, and no exit lights. However by 1908, according to the Sanborn Maps, Fritz had made those renovations and it is stated that Grinnell automatic sprinklers were installed.
Later in 1908, The Morning Oregonian would report about the chief of police would be leading a raid in removing “objectionable picture machines”. This raid was ordered by the District Attorney, John Manning, and he wanted any film unfit for public exhibition to be removed. He also wanted the machines showing the films to be removed by force if it was deemed necessary. These so-called obscene films were owned by the one and only Fred Fritz, the “proprietor of the notorious theater on Second and Burnside Streets”. Fritz’s business partner, J. W. West, was the manager of the theater and they both owned a chain of penny arcades located throughout the Pacific Northwest. What I found most interesting in this article were the lengths in which numerous officials went out of their way to secure arrests against theater proprietors. Given that Fritz had been arrested about 13 times by 1907, I cannot imagine the lengths he had to go through to keep his businesses running.