wurlitzer pianino
Wurlitzer Pianino
February 21, 2016

Wurlitzer Theater Organ

wurlitzer theater organ

Manufacture date: Circa 1915-1920

Location: Music Hall

The Wurlitzer Theater Organ was made by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., North Tonawanda, NY, and has always been one of the most popular instruments in the Music Hall.

Theatre organs were installed inside the walls of the most expensive and elaborate permanent movie theatres during the silent movie era of the early teens to the beginning of talkies in 1926. A human operator alternately played the organ manually, or automatically by Wurlitzer Concert Organ rolls, adding sound effects coordinated with the action on screen. Today, these rolls are extremely rare. A mechanism also cycles through various sound effects at the end of each tune.

In later years these instruments became unnecessary when talking pictures became popular, and while some theatres continued to have live organists play before the show and at intermission into the 1930’s, many more theatre organs fell into disrepair. In the 1970’s some were turned into “Pizza Organs” and thus received a few more years of life, but many of these magnificent instruments were unfortunately junked.

Originally installed in the theatre in Dillon, Montana in 1914, this model features a piano with organ keyboard and pedal organ. There are three theatre organs remaining in playable condition in Montana: The Ellen in Bozeman, the Wihna in Missoula, and this one. Ozzie Wurdeman installed a Coinola spool frame so it can play the wonderful arrangements found on O Rolls.