Museum hoping for blockbuster

Britt Thurman, executive director of the Museum of North Idaho, stands in the entrance to the museum’s new exhibit on Wednesday.

Staff Writer | April 1, 2021 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — They’re rolling out the red carpet treatment at the Museum of North Idaho.

This season’s featured exhibit, “Hollywood of the North: North Idaho and the Film Industry,” opens today.

Museum Director Britt Thurman has high hopes for a smash hit that pulls in a steady flow of film fans.

“Setting this up was so much fun,” she said Wednesday as she and her team made the final adjustments before a sneak preview that night.

The exhibit, with red curtains at the entrance, highlights films that included scenes shot in North Idaho, or performers with ties to the area, including Bing Crosby and Patty Duke.

“Immerse yourselves in the cinematic history of our region as you explore the movies that were filmed here and the stars who called our mountains and valleys home,” says a press release. “Step onto the red carpet and back in time with a sensory experience through Coeur d’Alene’s earliest movie palaces.”

It outlines the history of Coeur d’Alene’s Wilma Theater, complete with ticket stubs. It opened in 1936 under the name of Huff and was changed to Wilma in 1939. It remained open for nearly a half a century before closing in 1983 and being torn down in 1997.

One section is dedicated to Nell Shipman, a silent film star who in 1919 moved her film company in Hollywood to Spokane and then to Priest Lake.

Another section, “Hollywood Heads North,” focuses on films connected to the area. They include the volcano action movie, “Dante’s Peak,” starring Pierce Brosnan, filmed in Wallace in 1997. Thurman even tracked down a rare T-shirt that reads, “I survived Dante’s Peak.”

A rare T-shirt featuring the film Dante’s Peak is on display at the Museum of North Idaho’s new exhibit.

The independent film “Talent for the Game,” a 1991 sports drama, was shot in Coeur d’Alene and Genesee. It opened in Florida, then went straight to DVD.

“It was not a big hit,” Thurman said.

Actress Lana Turner, born in Wallace, is featured, too.

Patty Duke’s Oscar and Emmy were loaned for this exhibit, as was a hat and pipe of Bing Crosby’s, and other artifacts connected to local movie theaters and movie productions.

Patty Duke’s Oscar and Emmy were loaned for the Museum of North of North Idaho’s new exhibit.

A seat from the Wilma Theater recently donated to the museum by Cindy and Clark Summers is on display. It was made of cotton and hay wrapped in red leather, with a wrought iron frame and wood armrests. The museum plans to restore it.

Trailers of the films will be running on a big screen throughout the day. An interactive component will allow visitors to hear sheet music played at the Dream Theater.

Thurman said it was the donation in December of sheet music for silent films played at the Dream Theater, which opened in 1914 and closed in 1957, that inspired the exhibit.

The sheet music was signed by pianist Vera Anderson, who played during the silent films.

Anderson lived at a boarding house until she departed in the middle of the night. She left her music behind and was never heard from again.

“I loved that her name was on it, that she signed it. It has a really great story,” Thurman said.

The Museum of North Idaho, 115 Northwest Blvd., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $1.50 for kids.