Documenting the American South


Going to the Show

Joyland Theatre Ledger

The Cape Fear Museum of Science and History has preserved the manager's ledger for the Joyland over a 15-week period of the theater's operation, from September 28, 1910, to January 14, 1911. The information we find here provides us with a rare glimpse into the operation of early storefront theaters.


Daily expenses for the Joyland during this period were kept, along with expenses for other business dealings, in a small bound ledger. The name of the person who kept the ledger is not indicated. It might have been Frank Peiffer, the theater's proprietor and manager when the Joyland opened in 1909. By the fall of 1910, however, the Wilmington Star indicates that Ed Reilly was managing the Joyland and serving as its illustrated song singer. Peiffer's name is not among those listed as receiving payment; Reilly receives a salary every week of the journal's covered time period.

All expenses for operating a small storefront theater seem to be included in the ledger's daily accounting, which takes up twelve ledger pages. The daily expenses are followed by two pages of receipts for the period October 1, 1910, through December 2, 1910.

View Annotated Expense Ledger


Following the entries for expenses, the Joyland ledger contains a partial summary of ticket receipts for the period October 1 to December 2, 1910. For the period October 1-20, 1910, there is a daily tally.

The receipts section of the ledger confirms that the Joyland, like all movie theaters in Wilmington, was closed on Sundays. Receipts dropped off sharply on Mondays ($16.85 on October 3; $17.25 on October 10; $16.40 on October 17), when fewer than 350 paying patrons attended. Thursdays and Fridays in early October saw attendance rise, but only to around 2/3 of the Saturday take those weeks. Saturdays accounted for roughly 30 percent of the Joyland's weekly ticket sales.

View Annotated Receipt Ledger