From Neighborhood Theater To Photography Studio

The Story Of The Historic River Park Theater

This all brick structure first opened in 1927 as a movie theater. It was named the River Park Theater, and for 60 years it was the place to take a date, go out with friends, or experience the famous Saturday matinees for kids. I grew up two blocks away and have fond memories of my time spent here. Jerry Vogel was the man people remember most as the owner when the River Park was a theater. The last movies were shown in 1986.

After an intense 18-month renovation, the River Park Theater was reintroduced to the area as a commercial photography studio in 1988. The sloped floor of the theater was flattened and the curved theatrical ceiling was cut down to open up more space up high. A complex grid of catwalks was built to allow for lighting and shooting from above. A balcony was constructed from which clients could view their productions, and a very large curved studio cove wall was raised to provide a seamless background effect. Overhead doors were installed allowing vehicles as large as semi trucks to be photographed indoors. The concession area was enhanced with Hollywood memorabilia, the pop fountains flowed again and the popcorn popper filled the air with the smell of hot butter and salt. The upstairs offices were converted to darkrooms for traditional film processing and printing, and the barbershop next door was renovated into a conference room.

View movie of a drive down Mishawaka Ave. in the 1950's
The new studio bore the name of Bourdon and Bourdon Studios after my father and partner Harlan Bourdon, and myself. The studio was successful in the days of large format film cameras and traditional commercial photography. Eventually times changed and the business did too. Digital imaging and the Internet changed life as we know it, and our studio got involved with drum scanning, electronic retouching, virtual reality, and eventually direct digital capture. Digital photography grew and film-based photography receded in all but a few specific target areas of the business.

By 2001 my parents Harlan and Dinah Bourdon retired, and I renamed the company Scott Bourdon Studios. Merging the artistic lighting and photography skills I had mastered through the years, with the latest in digital technology became the cornerstone of my business. Digital and film photography coexisted for a couple of years with digital increasing at a steady pace. By 2003, I made the decision to go 100% digital and I have never looked back since then. The upstairs area was renovated again, this time to replace my film and print labs with our computer department that had outgrown its space on the main floor. Plaster was removed that exposed beautiful brick and the floors were stripped to discover 1920’s tongue and groove wood floors we never knew existed. The theater made it through yet another transformation in style.

The historic River Park Theater truly is a landmark building that I am proud to be associated with. Times may change, but it is heartening to see that this grand theater from the 1920s is still in the picture business after all these years.

Thank you for your interest,

Scott Bourdon