The Star Theater of Salem Oregon was opened initially as a high-class theater, often performing longer films as well as a variety of live performances, before later moving its business strategy towards becoming a nickelodeon theater, performing more shows weekly to keep audiences entertained. The Star Theater was primarily managed by Frank Bligh, a beloved owner who always kept the theater relevant with exciting entertainment, and wholesome promotions like bringing in a “tiny horse” for families to pet and see on exhibition in the theater. The theater was successful during its early years of operation, with only minor setbacks such as a small fire that occurred in the film room once, leading to a memorable story of manager Bligh entertaining the guests and keeping the peace while the fire was dealt with. The theater during the early years of operation, the theater focused on the more prominent names, new productions as well as big name in-person performers such as Ed Berg, a singing comedian who was a known actor throughout the vaudeville circuit, having several successful tours completed before he began his residency at the theater in its opening year. The Star Theater slowly began to transition to a more accessible and available nickelodeon into the 1910s due to economic instability, and financial hard times. The theater tried to stay open until 1914 when it closed temporarily, being bought by a man by the name of W. A. Ayres in early 1915, however, after the purchase of the theater and its renovations that followed, there is little to no mention of the theater in any Salem-based newspaper, presumably closing the same year. The only available source of information about the theater after the initial closing was an article discussing the building's use as a polling station in 1916.
The primary locations I used to research the Star Theater and where the most information regarding the theater can be found in three newspapers based in Salem, the Capital Journal, the Statesman Journal, and the Daily Capital. The Daily Capital was primarily useful in finding advertisements concerning the Star Theater, with the primary references to the theater being the shows performed in the theater. The next main source I used was the Capital Journal. The Capital Journal primarily had various stories, talking about the attractions and various special events that Frank Bligh would occasionally hold. Finally, The Stateman Journal had most of the data on the theater’s operation and the different effects on the theater whether it is the economic hardships leading to its change to being a nickelodeon or its various occasional openings and closings. All these papers were available through Newpapers.com. However, finding data such as Sanborn maps of the area during its years of operation is impossible as the data doesn’t exist so instead, the closest available map was used. Finding digital media of the theater was also difficult, with the search for any digital media of the theater or information on the structure of the theater, with the seat count and design of the theater remaining unknown.
During my research of the Star theater, I had to employ a variety of strategies to find and document the history of the theater. The primary search method I used was to begin by casting a wide net for any type of information I was looking for, for example when looking for the opening of the theater, I began with the most general and broad search of any matches of the words Star, Theater and Open. After viewing the general trend of information from significant sources, I would then tailor my search to match more of the wording or repeating patterns related to the theater, such as “Star Theater” as well as “Frank Bligh” and “Open” and refined my search to 1906-1908, two years leading up to the first known reference to the theater, which led me to documents describing the illustrious theater becoming a mainstay in the Salem community following its opening. Other techniques I used were to search for specific quotes that would apply to certain scenarios, such as “Old Star theater” when looking for any reference to the theater’s life after its initial closing, but only finding minimal references at all about the theater use after refurbishment.