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Haverhill, Louis B. Mayer, and the Academy Awards

Louis B. Mayer 1885-1957

After several years working at his father-son scrap business in Boston, Mayer grew tired of the family business. Lucky for him, in 1907, a friend informed Mayer of a rundown burlesque theater for rent in Haverhill, known as the Gem (or to locals as either the “Germ” or “Garlic Box”). Mayer was able to borrow and scrape together enough money to make a down payment and rented some one-reel films from his Boston friend. Thus, starting his career as a theater manager. He changed the name to the Orpheum, and by 1918 he owned the largest chain of motion-picture theaters in New England!

Having done all he could in New England, Mayer moved to Hollywood after World War I. Several years later MGM was formed by a merger with Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, with Mayer as the controlling head of the new company.


Orpheum Theater

1927 The Start of the Academy Awards

After a discussion about creating an organized group to benefit the film industry durning dinner at Mayer’s home in Los Angeles, 36 invitees from all the creative branches of the film industry dined at Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel to hear a proposal to fund the International Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, with actor Douglas Fairbanks as president.

In 1928 one of the first Academy committees was established, the Awards of Merit. This committee suggested to the Board that awards be presented in 12 categories. The following year the first Academy Awards (more banquet than awards ceremony) was on May 16 at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room with 270 attendees.

Read more about the history of the Academy Awards at Oscars.org!

Mayer Visits Haverhill 1954


Lafayette Theater


Colonial Theater

Paramount Theater


Strand Theater




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