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  • Today

    Waynesboro, VA – History: The Cavalier was Waynesboro’s ‘Other’ Theater

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    From the News Leader: Between 1920 and 1929 Waynesboro movie-goers enjoyed three movie theaters all within a mile of each other. But the youngest, the Cavalier, was considered the bad boy of the three.

    The city’s first was the Star Theater, located at 544 West Main Street, in a building that still stands. A former Presbyterian Church, the structure was bought and converted into a theater in 1922 by Col. Max Patterson and Carl C. Loth, film impresarios who were eager to capitalize on the booming 1920s movie business. The small, spartan Star played silent films with piano accompaniment probably provided by Wenonah School music teacher Frank Vanderherschen. In 1925 the Loths started constructing the Wayne Theatre just down the hill, and the Star closed when the Wayne opened in 1926.

    While not an extravagant “movie palace” like those built in larger cities, such as the Byrd and Lowes Theatres in Richmond, the Wayne was still considered “lavish,” and a distinct improvement over the Star. A pipe organ – also played by Vanderherschen – provided accompaniment to the silent films until talkies arrived in the late 1920s. In 1929 the Wayne installed an “RCA high fidelity” sound system, and the first commercial sound film, “The Jazz Singer,” was a sensation, with lines reportedly stretching up the hill.

    Buoyed by their enormous success with the Wayne, Patterson and the Loths incorporated, then built another theater at the other end of town at 307 West Main Street to better serve eastside and Basic City. They held a contest to name the new cinema, which was won by Eva Yount for her suggestion the “Cavalier Theatre.”

    While the Wayne was designed and operated as a luxurious first-run movie house, the Cavalier was more of a rowdy adult recreational destination, with films and live shows that reflected its earthy atmosphere and blue-collar demographic. With a capacity of about 900, the interior walls were painted cinderblock, a luncheonette served up fast food until after midnight to cater to shift workers at nearby Stehli and DuPont, and a bowling alley (with cigar smoking encouraged) operated in the basement. Since there were no automatic setters, local boys earned pocket money in that hot, smoky basement setting pins after every roll.

    Historian Curtis Bowman in 1967 described the distinct aroma upon entering the Cavalier (also nicknamed “the flea bag” and “the scratch”) – “a mixture of disinfectant, perspiration, cigar smoke and cooking food … the proximity of rest rooms to the entryway did not help.”

    After the 1941 flood ruined the Cavalier’s basement bowling alley, the Loth Corporation – consisting of President Max Patterson; F. R. Loth, vice president and manager of the Wayne; J. Ellison Loth, secretary and manager of the Cavalier; and Col. C. C. Loth, treasurer and manager of the bowling lanes and the luncheonette – built the Cavalier Lanes on Federal Street. On February 23, 1952, that building was completely destroyed in a five-alarm blaze. The Cavalier Theatre frequently featured live shows by traveling movie stars and performers, especially cowboys. Actor Billy Barty, film’s first “little person,” appeared in 1938. The following year, Roy Roger’s singing group the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in person, and happily posed for pictures with star-struck locals. The Three Stooges stopped by in the early 1940s. Johnny Mack Brown brought his horse on stage to do tricks.

    Throughout the 1950s the Cavalier maintained its “PG-13” reputation as an eastside hangout, showing more provocative grade-B horror, western and juvenile delinquency films. The former basement bowling alley was sometimes used at this time as a shooting range.

    As a result, many Waynesboro parents refused to allow their children to attend the more risqué movies shown there – so of course, many teens dropped off at the more reputable Wayne would sneak three blocks to the Cavalier.

    In 1964 the Loth Corporation sold the theaters to the B&K Virginia Corporation, then in April, 1966, Davidson Theaters in Washington D.C. acquired the Wayne Theatre on a long-term lease but passed on the Cavalier, which was forced to close. The building was purchased and torn down by Advance Auto.

    Despite being gone for 50 years, the lowly Cavalier still had the distinction of being the last movie theater built within the city limits of Waynesboro until Zeus Theaters opened in 2010.

  • August 22, 2016

    Allegan, MI – Historic Regent projector gets rebuilt for display at theater

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    From the Allegan Co. News: A piece of history is returning to Allegan’s iconic Regent Theatre.

    The theater’s film projector for at least 70 years is being rebuilt for display by Lake Allegan resident Michael Huth.

    For more than two years, Huth has disassembled every piece, cleaning, repainting and rechroming and then reassembling the subassemblies.

    “Plans are to put it in the lobby for all to see the history of film,” he said. “It’s a magnificent piece of machinery you might see at Henry Ford Museum but it will be right here in Allegan.”

    The projector became obsolete after the Regent, along with movie houses across the country, were forced into digital conversion in order to receive first-run movies. The last movie the old projector played using 35 mm film rolls was “Hunger Games.” It was also the first movie played on the new digital projector Dec. 4, 2013.

    To get the old, 6-foot-tall film projector removed from the projection booth, it was disassembled in five or six sections. That’s when Huth noticed it was about to be lost forever.

    “I didn’t want someone to heave it in a dumpster so I volunteered to restore it,” he said.

    Like the community members before him who restored the theater itself back to its original glory, Huth said he has a fondness for the Regent, it’s architectural art deco style, and that it’s locally owned.

    Living in the area for the past 20 years, he’d like to find out more from old-er-timers about the projector—when it was installed and when it was modified to Dolby. He wants to list that information along with names of projectionists on a plaque for display.

    “There were originally two projectors used, and feature films came on five to six reels,” Huth said. “After playing Reel 1, the projectionist would switch to Reel 2 on the other projector and, if he was really good, the audience wouldn’t notice.”

    At some point in time, the second projector became obsolete when splicing began to be used. Using a platter 6 feet in diameter, the film was spliced together into one roll and then the splices were broken up to rewind the film back up into smaller rolls.

    “I’d also like to know the time of conversion for that,” he said.

    Huth scavenged some of the parts from the second projector to make one that was operable. The lamp housing will be lit underneath with LED lights to show the engraved glass and how it would look while it was running.

    Today, movies arrive on a hard drive that plugs into the projector’s processor.

    Huth has an engineering background working 33 years in machine design making printing presses at Rockwell in Chicago before retiring.

    “I didn’t know there was a Rockwell in Allegan until I moved here,” he said.

    He continues to split his time between Allegan and Chicago where he is involved in set design and playwriting for live theater. In Allegan he owns Whisper Ridge bed and breakfast. It includes a refurbished 1893 wooden caboose on Lake Allegan.

    Another volunteer in the project is West Michigan Painting, a body shop on Ida Street.

    They’re doing all the painting,” Huth said. “I turn stuff into them, they paint it and turn it around.”

    Huth has even called Henry Ford Museum to get tips on how to clean nameplates and maker decals without stripping them with solvents.

    “I think people who aren’t interested in mechanics will stop in their tracks to look at it,” he said. “It’s all bright and shiny with a black gloss and has been rechromed.”

    The project is about three-quarters complete.

    “I am hoping for completion by the end of the year,” he said.

  • August 19, 2016

    Jamaica, NYC, NY – Exclusive: This year’s Open House New York will include the Metropolitan Opera House and ornate Loew’s “Wonder Theatre”

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    From Time Out New York: If you’ve always dreamed of being on stage at the Met, here’s your chance to come pretty close.

    The Metropolitan Opera House is one of this year’s brand-new additions to the Open House New York, the weekend-long festival where more than 250 fascinating sites across New York open their doors to the public. The incredibly popular two-day event offers glimpses into spaces that are usually off limits to the public, from sky-high rooftop gardens to palatial apartments. This year’s OHNY will be held on October 15 and 16. In addition to the opera house, curious New Yorkers will be able to explore Pier 17, a redevelopment project in The Seaport District, Westbeth, the largest artist community in the United States, the state-of-the-art WABC-TV studio, the construction site for The New York Wheel on Staten Island and the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People, the first of five Loew’s “Wonder Theatres” (Loew’s Valencia) built in the New York area. All sites are new to the festival this year.

    On top of those additions, the National Park Service will be partnering with the festival to celebrate its centennial anniversary. A dozen NPS sites will be open for ranger-guided tours, historical re-enactments and general exploration. That will include tours of Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, the General Grant National Memorial, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial and a sunrise tour of Ellis Island before it opens to the public.

    The festival will also once again be partnering with Curbed this year to provide a look into intriguing residences around the city. You’ll be able check out recently renovated apartments in the historic skyscraper 70 Pine as well as spaces in The Charles and Clifton Residence.

    Many OHNY favorites will be returning this year as well including the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Google, Masonic Hall, City Hall, Jefferson Market Library, Jeffrey Hook’s Lighthouse, the New York State Pavilion and the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

    The full list of sites for this year’s festival will be revealed on Wednesday, October 5. You can pick up a free event guide with all of the Open Access sites in the October 5 issue of Time Out New York. Most sites can be visited for free, but some require Advance Registration with a $5 fee per person. You’ll be able to register for those sites on October 6.

  • Charleston, IL – Willstock music festival to raise money for (Will Rogers) theater’s restoration, rehabilitation efforts

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    From The Daily Eastern News: In its heyday, the Will Roger’s Theater was a local hot spot for Big Bands and movies.

    Now, the theater, located in the heart of Charleston, awaits restoration.

    The “Willstock” music festival, set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kiwanis Park, aims to benefit these rehabilitation efforts.

    Funds raised from the festival will go to this project.

    Though admission is free, donations will be accepted throughout the day and evening.

    According to the festival’s website, organizers have raised over $30,000 of their $100,000 goal.

    Earl Halbe, the president of the project board, said the community is committed to the project.

    Halbe said the board’s vision for the theater once it is restored is to not only host independent film festivals and performances but to also offer a stage for Eastern and Charleston High School students.

    “Will Rogers [will be] an economic anchor,” Halbe said. “[Once opened] it and the other storefronts on the block will make several jobs available, and it’s great for Charleston.”

    Halbe said though the damage looks bad on the outside, the original art deco lights and features on the walls in the theater are still there as well as the original orchestra pit.

    It is the only theater in the area that has an orchestra pit, Halbe added.

    “People think it’s falling apart on the inside, but it’s in fair condition,” Halbe said.

    The theater first opened in 1938 and the adjoining commercial block, containing four storefronts, were completed several years later.

    However, the theater and four storefronts were sold in 2010, and the new owners did not finish the task of re-opening it, Halbe said.

    “What we want to do is involve the entire Charleston community,” Halbe said. “We hope to, within reason, to make it exactly the way it was.”

    According to a press release, The Will Rogers Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and was designated a Landmark Property by the city of Charleston in 2011.

    It was also placed on the list of the ten most threatened historic sites in 2011.

    “Of course it will take some years to be accomplished but we can get it started,” Halbe said.

    The festival will host several performances including headliner Charlotte Martin, a Charleston native and Eastern alumna, who has recorded several major label and independent record albums, according to Willstock’s Facebook page

  • Jackson, MI – Installation process begins for 1,000 new seats in historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson

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    From Mlive.com: While it may eventually be moved from where it’s positioned now, employees worked on installing the first new seat at the historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson on Thursday.

    The other 999 seats will be installed before the end of the fall, said Michigan Theatre Executive Director Steve Tucker. They replace 1,559 red velour seats that were installed around 1951.

  • August 18, 2016

    Joliet, IL – VenuWorks plans quick start at Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet

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    From The Herald-News: VenuWorks plans to take the management reins Sept. 1 at the Rialto Square Theatre – and begin looking for shows even sooner – after being selected Wednesday as the firm to run the theater.

    The Rialto board voted 6-0 to hire VenuWorks to manage the theater.

    The one possible dissenting vote – Mary Beth Gannon – was taken from the Rialto in an ambulance just before the meeting started while repeatedly coughing violently for several minutes. A friend said Gannon was having an asthma attack.

    The vote on Wednesday does not immediately give VenuWorks the job.

    The Rialto still must negotiate a contract with the Iowa-based venue management company.

    But both sides expressed confidence they would get that done so VenuWorks could begin work Sept. 1.

    “We’ve developed a good relationship with them,” said VenuWorks Chief Financial Officer John Siehl. “We want to make this work.”

    Siehl said the company’s booking office will start looking for acts at the Rialto immediately.

    “Probably tomorrow we’ll start making calls and letting people know that this is part of our roster,” he said.

    VenuWorks manages 37 theaters, sports facilities, conference centers and outdoor venues.

    The Rialto board rejected requests from a few people who asked that the selection of a manager be slowed down for a month. The call for delay came amid a push to give the management contract to Ron Onesti, who runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

    Onesti Entertainment was one of five companies reviewed by a Rialto committee that recommended VenuWorks and Pinnacle Venue Services as the two finalists for the job.

    Gannon last week helped initiate an online petition drive urging Onesti for the job, and Onesti appeared at a City Council meeting on Monday with supporters suggesting the city intervene in the selection process.

    Pinnacle in making its final presentation on Monday announced that Onesti had become part of its team and would be involved in the Rialto if the firm got the job.

    The Onesti movement took another turn Wednesday when Onesti sent a letter addressed to city officials and the Rialto board calling all five management proposals “worthless” because the firms did not know enough about the theater. Onesti also urged a delay.

    Pinnacle Managing Partner Doug Higgons, when asked before the Wednesday meeting, said he was not aware of the Onesti letter.

    Adding Onesti to the team may not have helped Pinnacle.

  • Cleveland, OH – Ohio Theatre Lobby gets restored to 1920s glory

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    From WKYC.com: From the world’s largest outdoor chandelier to the marquees and arches welcoming patrons of the arts downtown, the revitalization of Cleveland’s theatre district has been a long time in the making.

    But there was one final piece needed to complete the puzzle, and that piece was the lobby of the Ohio Theatre.

    The last of the five historic Playhouse Square theatres to be restored, the Ohio Theatre was ravaged by a fire initiated by a malfunctioning concession stand machine in 1964. Lost in the fire were the murals, ornamental plaster ceiling, wooden columns and fireplaces, and there were enough resources to undertake the full restoration project.

    “Starting last summer, we took out everything that we had put in,” said Tom Einhouse, Vice President of Facilities and Capital for Playhouse Square.

    “We took out bathrooms and the little foyer lobby and everything else and gutted it back to the walls, back to the brick, back to the underside of the roof, and literally, recreated everything.”

    When the Ohio Theatre reopened on July 8, 1982, it had a modernized look. However, through a generous gift from the Gordon Gund Foundation, and countless hours of research of original renderings, work began on the full renovation in July of 2015.

    The sculpting of plaster for the ceiling took more than 8,500 hours and the murals, which span 30 feet long and 10 feet high, were created by six artists at Evergreene Architectural Arts in New York City. Also, the chandeliers were restored, cleaned and rewired by Bruening Glass Works in Rocky River, and carpets were replicated from original drawings by Brinton’s in England.

    Complete with hand-picked marble from the Vermont and mahogany columns, the new-look lobby took 11 months to fully restore, and now, with the final piece in place, Playhouse Square’s puzzle is complete.

    …And what a picture it has revealed.

  • Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Theatre plans relighting ceremony for refurbished marquee

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    From WVLT-TV: After months of work replacing light bulbs and refurbishing the vertical sign and marquee outside the Tennessee Theatre, it’s time for the signs to light up again.

    The theatre will celebrate the return of the iconic signage to Gay Street with a free open house and relighting ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

    “The vertical sign is an important part of downtown Knoxville’s visual identity and our theater’s history,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “After more than two months of work, we will welcome back our vertical sign and refurbished marquee, both of which will shine on Gay Street even brighter and better. We look forward to the public joining us for the celebration.”

    McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects and Interior Designers is sponsoring the open house, which includes self-guided tours of the stage and backstage areas from 6:00-8:00 p.m., and organ music from house organist Dr. Bill Snyder on the Mighty Wurlitzer. Visitors can also get their portrait with the marquee thanks to a caricature artist.

  • August 16, 2016

    Middlebury, VT – Town Hall Theater preserves historic character of building while enlarging stage door

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    From the Addison Independent: MIDDLEBURY — There was only one problem with the original 1884 loading dock door at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. It was too small to actually load anything into the theater.

    “The original door gave us a 4’ by 6’ opening, far too small for the kinds of set pieces we use in productions today,” said THT executive director Douglas Anderson. “The old door was historic and lovely, but it seriously limited the kinds of productions and events we could host here at THT.”

  • Pontiac, MI – What we learned from the Flagstar Strand Theatre construction preview

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    From the Oakland Press: One of Pontiac’s oldest performance venues is scheduled to reopen its doors on December 1 after $20 million worth of renovations and rebranding.

    The Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts announced the news during its “Choose Your Seat” event held on Thursday, August 11 at the historic Pontiac venue. Guests had a chance to reserve a seat in the theater for the next three years, priced from $500 to $2,500.

    The event also served as a construction preview that showcased the renovations completed to the date. Guests were given a tour of the progress made in rebuilding the structure’s interior, which is nearly 100 years old.

    “I’m blessed to be here,” said Kyle Westberg, owner of the Strand and developer in downtown Pontiac.

    Aside from the estimated opening date, here is what we learned regarding the Strand’s progress.

    1. Slows BBQ will open in mid-November and operate seven days a week on its own separate schedule

    The Strand will be adjoined to the first and only Slows BBQ location in Oakland County – the company’s fourth restaurant. Slows had previously been offered openings in other parts of Oakland County but turned them all down.

    “Slows said yes to Pontiac 15 minutes after getting the Strand’s offer,” Westberg said.

    The Detroit-based restaurant will serve their signature barbecue dishes including “The Yardbird,” their award-winning pulled and smoked Amish chicken sandwich, along with side dishes, craft beer and cocktail offerings throughout the theater’s bars, lounges and VIP areas.

    1. The venue will feature a mixed bag of performers

    According to the Strand, ““Performers will include an eye-catching mix of national touring artists in Rock, R&B, Blues, Classic Rock, Country, Classical, Jazz and more in addition to touring Broadway, theatrical productions, comedy and family entertainment.”

    1. The Strand almost became another nightclub

    According to Westberg, three buyers were interested in purchasing the theater in 2013. One of the interested purchasers wanted to turn the building, which served as a movie theater from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, into another downtown Pontiac nightclub like Elektricity or Tonic (now defunct).

    Westberg’s company eventually won the bid and has been renovating the Strand in compliance with federal historic restoration processes that give tax breaks to the private sector for rehabilitating and reusing historic buildings.

    1. Movie screenings will take place in a small viewing room

    Westberg said that community outreach is important to the Strand. The company plans to work with Oakland University and Pontiac Schools on concerts and theater productions that will benefit local students.

    Westberg also envisions holding a weekly movie series for Pontiac senior citizens at little to no charge. A small room adjacent to the second level of the theater will have a movie projector installed for small movie viewings and business meetings.

    1. The theater will be an intimate performance destination for high-profile artists

    The renovated Strand will accommodate up to 900 people. The room will feature oversized luxury chairs for added comfort across three levels of seating. Though no performances have been announced, President/CEO Bill Lee has been in talks with acts such as Celine Dion and Chris Rock for booking.