While a true Fort Myers icon, the Edison Theatre is perhaps a lesser-known area landmark. Confusion even surrounds when the theater was built. While some claim it happened in the early 1920s, others put its start a couple of decades later, making it perhaps one of the River District’s younger structures.
Named for inventor and Fort Myers winter resident Thomas Edison, the building, no doubt, came years after the first theater opened in Fort Myers. That particular theater showed silent films, accompanied by a piano, much to the delight of area residents.
But the booming population and economy of Southwest Florida soon translated to new and even more impressive entertainment offerings, with people eager to escape the reality of the Depression. That led to the opening of several new area theaters, including the Edison Theatre.
With 800 seats, the Edison Theatre was a destination all its own. Found in the River District at the corner of Main and Hendry, the Edison became a popular location for area residents to enjoy. In fact, going to the movies became a popular pastime for many living in the area at the time.
It soon transitioned into a place to catch up on the latest news too as theaters of this time often showed newsreels, along with the scheduled movies during the war. It the coming decades, though, people began watching news and entertainment from televisions in their own homes.
The time period also brought about the enjoyment of drive-in theaters. Eventually, many of the old downtown theaters and movie houses began to close. As for the Edison Theatre, it reportedly stayed in operation until around 1980, after which it was changed over into law offices.
Still, though, theaters such as the Edison, no doubt, played an important role in the community. The once vibrant movie theater now holds a special place in the history of Fort Myers.