Then & Now
The Arcade Theatre was a business project of Italian immigrant Andrew Carollo and Peter Lalumia. The latter appears to have been Carollo’s friend as well as an interpreter for the immigrant, who never learned to speak English well. Lalumia and a previous partner, G.G. Baker first purchased the property on which the theatre stands in 1911. Carollo purchased Baker’s half interest on September 15, 1916. Carollo’s daughter, Rosalea Carollo Fontana, who was born in 1906 and thus, was an adult during the major portion of the theatre’s period of significance, dates the theatre’s construction to 1927.
The family employed a number of strategies to draw patrons, including the distribution of flyers by hand. Newspaper advertisements, sometimes including a photograph of an upcoming movie’s star, helped to bring in customers. Promotions such as “Bank Night” on Thursday nights that included a $25.00 prize were held to draw audiences to the Theatre. Mrs. Fontana recalls one jackpot reaching up to
$1000.00 when there was no winner for a prolonged period of time.
The family’s strategies and promotions, combined with the theatre’s status as the only place of amusement within Slidell other than a dance hall, made the Arcade Theatre the area’s family entertainment center. The Theatre provide a variety of entertainment opportunities, including films and serials, midnight shows, special matinees for school children, benefits shows for charitable organizations, beauty pageants, baby contest and an occasional vaudeville act. According to local residents, the Arcade Theatre was considered the “Courting Place” for teenagers.
It was the coming of television in the 1950s that began to displace theatres like the Arcade. Studies revealed at that time that theatre attendance and public library use declined when television became established in a given community. This development, combined with the deaths of Luke Fontana in 1960 and Russell Carollo in 1962 brought the Arcade’s period of service to an end. The family closed the theatre in 1963.
In May 1994 Kevin R. Jordan purchased the Arcade Theatre and was determined to bring the deteriorating theatre back to life. From 1994 to 1999 the Arcade Theatre began a massive reconstruction that included rebuilding the stage area, adding handicapped accessible restrooms and adding a large copper-top bar. During the reconstruction, the Arcade Theatre received the honor of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 29, 1997. In October 1999 the Arcade Theatre officially opened its doors.
At present, the Arcade Theatre is a multi-functional assembly facility that holds Wedding Ceremonies and Receptions, a variety of Parties, Holiday Entertaining, Dance Recitals, Theatrical Performances and much more.