The latest movie theater news and updates
September 23, 2016
From the Commonwealth Journal: “Yes! Virginia” is phrase commonly associated with the gift-giving figure Santa Claus.
It’s also now associated with a wonderful present Somerset residents hope to find under their tree at some future date.
On Tuesday evening at the Pulaski County Public Library, the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation (DSDC) shared its vision for what a renewed Virginia Cinema theater might look like — and what kind of financial quest it would take to get there.
“Most everybody here has probably been at the Virginia at some point,” said Adam Richardson, chair of the DSDC Virginia Cinema committee, at Tuesday’s community meeting. “It’s something that we’ve all missed for a long time. Also, there’s a big generation of folks who have never had the opportunity to go to the Virginia.”
The Virginia Cinema, along with the old Kentucky Theater, was a hub of downtown Somerset activity starting in 1922, built by T.E. Jasper, who named the theater after his daughter. It continued on, even fighting through leaner years after the Somerset Mall opened with its own larger movie theater, until 1994, when the Virginia closed its doors — and, that same year — suffered a devastating roof collapse that left the inside in ruins.
Work has been done over the years to improve the outer facade of the building, but despite much talk and hope, efforts to fix up the interior and turn the theater into something fresh and viable have failed to produce much fruit.
However, the DSDC is hopeful the “Yes! Virginia — There Is a Future” campaign can make a successful push for the kind of fundraising needed to make this feel-good story come true, just like something out of the movies.
The DSDC is dreaming big. Talks with architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky have yielded an ambitious plan that would potentially turn the Virginia Cinema and its neighboring storefronts into a unique entertainment complex.
One key feature is retractable seats. This would allow for plenty of seating when a film is shown or the stage is being utilized, but for a wide open space in case of events that need more room — like a ball (yes, “ballroom” is one of the many possibilities associated on Tuesday with a revitalized Virginia). And they aren’t cheap fold-up chairs either — it’s a state-of-the art system for allowing quality seats to retreat backward into a space underneath the balcony, which would also be restored.
In fact — despite what Richardson noted were minimalist renderings provided by Kirby Stephens of the KSD design firm in Somerset — the idea is to get as close as possible to the original look and ornamentation of the Virginia, which is listed on the register of historic places and is eligible for accompanying tax credits. Restoring the Virginia with nostalgia in mind will allow those tax credits to be made possible, helping provide some of the crucial funding for the project.
The theater itself could prove extremely versatile. Long lists were made available of uses the DSDC foresees for a renovated Virginia, including concerts (Master Musicians Festival-associated events were mentioned specifically) and plays, event hall-type functions like weddings and dances, children’s theatre events, and of course films — ideally smaller independent films, the kind that don’t play at the major multiplex, a la Lexington’s Kentucky Theatre.
Considerations would also be made for concessions and alcohol, and potentially live recordings could be made and sold there. Films would be presented digitally, with up-to-date technology, and there could be officer or presentation space for local arts organizations, with some room available in the adjacent storefronts and on the third floor as well.
Of course, the basic clean-up and makeover is just part of the plan — or “Phase 1” as Richardson and fellow presenter Dave Weddle called it. “Phase 2” would incorporate the large restaurant space in the next-door building, which has previously held such businesses as Brandywine Studios, The Gondola, and 4 Girls Cafe.
If an enterprising restaurateur wanted to take over that space and cooperate with DSDC, the vision is to knock out parts of the wall for large garage door-type portals, where traffic from the theater after a show could pour right into the restaurant, or vice versa. Between the two buildings, where there is currently a narrow, empty alleyway, there would be a glass enclosure (perhaps not altogether unlike a smaller version of that in between the two First Baptist Church buildings on North Main Street) that would allow safe movement between the two spaces no matter the weather conditions.
That would be contingent upon finding the right buyer for the restaurant space, as it was noted that DSDC wasn’t looking to get into the restaurant business. Neither, said Richardson, does anyone there know anything about running movie theaters, meaning that finding the right entity or individual to actually run day-to-day operations at the Virginia would be paramount, likely involving hiring a director.
Of course, unlike with Santa Claus, this gift to the community won’t come free from the North Pole. There’s a steep price tag attached to this project.
DSDC provided line item cost estimates just for Phase 1, not including the restaurant attachment plans, for a total of $2,711,500 needed to make the new Virginia Cinema a reality. The steepest cost is for the retractable seating, at $700,000; other six-figure expenses include $200,000 for the clean-out and acquisition of extra space, $200,000 for electrical work, and $250,000 for theatre systems, including audio.
Richardson also presented a chart breaking down how fundraising would ideally go, with a target amount of $2,800,000.
DSDC would kick in $350,000 and local governments another $150,000, in this scenario. Federal funding and tax credits would account for another $600,000 (Richardson said DSDC would be able to sell off tax credits to other corporate entities), and naming rights for $500,000 (specifically mentioned were individual parts of the theater, including seats or rooms, up for donations — “We might sell bricks, we might sell shares,” said Richardson).
Foundations and grants account for $350,000 of the projected fundraising, with the remainder of $850,000 that will need to come from somewhere else — likely, support from a community eager to see the Virginia Cinema come to life again. Thus, the “Yes! Virginia” campaign is being launched to raise awareness and interest in providing the necessary funds to revitalize the theater according to these plans.
“That’s going to be a pretty significant challenge in and of itself,” said Richardson. “When you break it all down, it doesn’t seem as impossible. … I feel like the amount of money it would take to make the Virginia happen is minor (compared to) the impact it would have for Somerset, not only for downtown but for the community as a whole.”
That’s because the idea is to make the Virginia something that draws people to downtown as a nightspot and on the weekends. Weddle noted that in the recent past, people have packed up at the end of the work day and left downtown Somerset quiet in the evenings, and with new restaurants, bars and breweries in the area, that’s started to change some, but those entities can feed off each other symbiotically, allowing people to do multiple activities at different locations in the same night out on the town.
Weddle, who called the facility “a center not just a theater,” said that these plans are a “culmination of 20 years’ worth of work” on behalf of DSDC, which launched the “Save the Virginia” program many years ago just to keep the facility standing so that these plans would even be possible.
“How do we get the energy back on the street? How do we get people out there after dark?” he asked, “We do not want another false start. … We want to make a concerted effort to bring the Virginia Theater back into the grandeur that it needs to be.”
Parking issues wouldn’t be a problem in the evenings, with the DSDC parking lot and the judicial center spaces being available, said Richardson.
He also said that regular operating costs once the hypothetical new Virginia is up and going haven’t been determined at this early stage, but “in order to make this work, it’s got to be self-sufficient.” That could be through its own income or outside grants, or a combination of both.
“I hope you agree with me that ‘Yes! Virginia, there is a future,’” said Richardson, “but also remember that we need your help to make this happen.”
From Time Out NY: When it comes to movie theaters, NYC doesn’t exactly have an embarrassment of riches. We’ve all sat in theaters with broken air conditioners, taped-up screens and incompetent concessions employees. But with chain theater admission dropping, a new generation of dine-in theaters are popping up to reclaim the cinematic experience. Before Alamo Drafthouse and a second Nitehawk Cinema arrive in Brooklyn next year, Manhattan’s South Street Seaport will launch the city’s first iPic theater on October 7.
September 21, 2016
From The Tennessean: “We anticipate that area becoming a very lively and engaging commercial corridor and we hope to have announcements over the next few months after we identify and come to terms with potential tenants,” Kyle said.
827 Meridian Partners LLC, the Kyle-led buying entity, bought the properties at 827 and 831 Meridian Street from Robert Solomon. The purchase included just over half an acre on which the 1930-built, 9,352-square-foot former historic theater sits at the northeast corner of Meridian and Wilburn streets plus 0.23 acres on vacant commercial land at 831 Meridian St.
Robbie Jones is a board member of Historic Nashville Inc., which included the Roxy Theater on its 2013 Nashville Nine list of the city’s most endangered historic places.
“As one of the only remaining historic movie theater buildings in Nashville, Historic Nashville is very excited about plans to preserve it,” Jones said. “The Roxy is a beloved neighborhood landmark in East Nashville and definitely one of the historic places that makes our city unique.”
From UPmatters.com: Its been 90 years since the historic Vista Theater opened its doors for the first time.
It closed in 1972 and became a movie theater under the operation of ‘PAAC’.
Today, the vista is used for mainly theatrical shows and sometimes a live music venue.
Andrew ‘Bear’ Tyler, the Executive Director of the Vista Theater said, “Fred Waring, the Dukes of Dixieland, Frank Sinatra Jr, Peter Nero…Lots of legendary acts have come to this place and played here and not many places around here can say that.”
The future is bright for the vista theater. Tyler says the plan is to restore the theater to the beacon of arts and entertainment it once was.
From The Times: The Wow 7 Cinema in Sandwich is under new ownership and plans to reopen as Cinema 7 on Friday.
Classic Cinemas, from Downers Grove, purchased the location and is currently renovating the building.
Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for Classic Cinemas, expected the renovations to continue at least until the end of the year.
From The Sioux City Journal: The “Save the State Theatre” shirts made popular in Holstein during the past year must be changed.
To past tense.
The State Theatre in Holstein, you see, has been saved!
An ambitious $100,000 fundraising goal was reached and surpassed, allowing the Save the State Theatre group, working under the auspices of the Holstein Development Authority, to purchase and install what was necessary to get the 1927 theater on Main Street up and going again. A $50,000 movie projector will be installed this week. Movies might be showing as early as this fall.
The Holstein Development Authority purchased the theater from Fred Saunders, of Denison, Iowa, for an undisclosed amount. The structure, which became a quonset structure in 1948, an oddity in theater circles, was deemed sound by Midwest Cinema, the consulting group tapped by the local committee in the restoration effort. Thankfully, there was no water damage at the site, which closed for good in 2013.
“I’ve been in here hundreds of times during the past year and it’s so amazing how tightly this building was sealed,” said Kathy Vollmar, the committee co-chair. “I’ve not seen any mice and only a couple of crickets.”
Fellow co-chair Brenda Cronin mentioned a rabbit that seems to inhabit a space between the interior structure and the outer quonset shell in the back.
The restoration effort features new drywall, carpeted walls (for better acoustics), 150 high-back leather seats that rock, a new neon marquee, a new furnace, a $6,000 movie screen with 3D capability, a new digital projector, seating areas for those in wheelchairs, and more.
The lobby and theater sparkle with new paint, lighting and carpet, all completed in a 13-month span, thanks to fundraisers that range from a daily lemonade stand to sales of seats inside the reclaimed theater.
A fundraiser Sunday features pianist Richard Steinbach, of Sioux City, who headlines a “Piano & Pie” event at the Rosemary Clausen Center inside Ridge View High School in Holstein. Steinbach, the Briar Cliff University professor who has played at Carnegie Hall, will be joined by soprano Katie Pacza and flutist Christina Kjar-Hanson.
There’s a symmetry in having a concert in one new theater being held to breathe life back into an 89-year-old theater about six blocks to the west, all in a city of 1,409 residents.
The development is a testament to the can-do spirit of this community. The theater chairs, according to Vollmar, were trucked by VT Industries, Holstein’s largest employer, from Michigan and then unloaded by high school student-athletes.
“It’s been so neat to see how the community has reacted and joined in,” Vollmar said. “Whenever we’ve posted something about needing help cleaning or something like that, boom, 12 people show up ready to help.”
Residents volunteered to bake pies over the weekend to serve with ice cream and coffee at 2 p.m. Sunday, prior to Steinbach’s 3 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students.
One volunteer jumped into the restoration effort and we see it continue. Alyssa Dreeszen, a native of Lehigh, Iowa, remembered seeing the State Theatre when she first visited Holstein eight years ago. The facility seemed to be on its last legs.
“It looked then like it had just been closed,” said Dreeszen, who went on to study digital filmmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute. “When I was young, we used to go to Fort Dodge or Webster City to see a movie. It’s so cool a town like this has a theater.”
Dreeszen was so taken with the State Theatre, she offered to volunteer her services as the first manager. She’s currently planning theme months and show schedules, excited that the State, as an independent, won’t be obligated to show everything other theaters must.
“We’d also love at some point to make the balcony seating usable,” Dreeszen said, noting how the narrow space in the balcony has been cleared.
Vollmar said plans remain to refurbish the two cry-rooms for parents with young children. And, at a future date, the area behind the screen might be made into a party room. After a theater is saved, the thinking goes, there’s reason to celebrate.
From the Press of Atlantic City: In the years since the city took over the Gateway Playhouse, work on renovating the heart of the 116-year-old Bay Avenue landmark has hit a dramatic, and extended, pause.
The building’s interior still looked Friday just about like it did since at least 2010, basically torn down to bare studs without a seat or a stage in sight.
But work is finally ready to start back up after the city, which bought the building in late 2006, awarded a contract to a Vineland company to finish the inside of the theater. Capri Construction is scheduled to start work in early October, although Somers Point’s city administrator, Wes Swain, said Friday that the company could get moving on the project as soon as this month. The target date for finishing the job is April, Swain added.
That would be a pleasant plot development to Mayor Jack Glasser, who has dealt with delays and drama at the Gateway almost since he was elected in 2007. The mayor sees a redone theater improving Somers Point’s economic life almost as much as it does the area’s cultural life.
“In the summer, we have our beach concerts right across the street, and look how many people come to those,” he said of the Friday music series that, on big nights, can fill most of a block of Bay Avenue with beach chairs and blankets full of music lovers.
The renovations are being funded largely by two state grants, including $400,000 from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and $102,000 from the New Jersey Historic Trust.
Jim Dalfonso heads the Theater Collaborative of South Jersey, a nonprofit group that’s worked for years to raise money to restore the Gateway. He said the group has research showing that even a “light season” at the 240-seat theater should bring 16,000 customers to Bay Avenue, one of the city’s business hubs.
“Those folks are going to want to go out and eat. Parents are going to want to go shopping while their kids are in (rehearsals),” Dalfonso said, plus the renovation plans include meeting rooms in the theater that will be available for use when there aren’t performances going on. The theater’s supporters expect those accommodations to be a draw, too.
“People from all over our area seem to think that Somers Point is a place that’s easy to go to. Folks will come up from Cape May, people will come over from Margate” and other places, he said. “This building’s audience base has historically drawn from a wide area.”
Dalfonso, a music major who sells ceiling materials in his day job, knows the outside of the Gateway looks much better than it did when the city bought the onetime movie theater about 10 years ago.
“The siding was put up three or four years ago,” a new Gateway marquee was added along Bay Avenue in the fall of 2013 and a new roof protects the inside, he said. “We got the exterior of the building done, and then the city applied for the grants and we had to halt construction on the rest of the building.”
And since then, he added, “Absolutely nothing has been done.”
But the city has been pursuing the money needed to do the work, and making sure it has enough to do the job right.
From NJ.com: The news about movie theaters in Hunterdon County in 1976 was decidedly better – and more unique – than today.
Back then, Kapow, Inc. of East Orange announced it would be taking over as operators of the Clinton Point Theater in Clinton Township and the Barn Theater in Frenchtown as of Oct. 1, according to the Hunterdon County Democrat archives. The announcement meant the two movie houses would remain open.
The New York Times had reported in 1973 that Brandt had agreed to a six-week ban of X-rated movies at the Clinton Point Theater after some in the community protested. The experiment failed and the adult films continued to be shown.
A bit of interesting trivia about the Barn Theater: Workers digging a well when the building was built in 1939 struck water that still flows to the surface to this day. For some 50 years the excess water poured from a pipe where it could be collected by anyone.
From marinij.com: A plan unveiled for Sausalito’s shuttered movie house is good news for city film fans — two theaters are part of the new design, as is a restaurant and upstairs office space for the Caledonia Street building.
Operations at the old CineArts Marin in the city’s downtown wound down in January after Texas-based Cinemark Holdings Inc. informed the building’s owners in late 2015 it will not renew its lease, citing poor attendance.
Sausalito Mayor Jill Hoffman formed a committee made up of residents, local business owners and city staff to work with the property owner to find ways to keep a theater at the location. The work appears to have paid off.
Now the design is going through the city process. The Historical Landmarks Board signed off on changes to the 14,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1909. Next up is the Planning Commission on Oct. 5.
The new plan includes a restaurant and two theaters on the first floor. There had been three screens before.
One of the theaters would be set up to accommodate live performances and lectures, Bruce Huff, property manager, told the City Council Tuesday.
The larger theater would have about 75 seats and the smaller theater roughly 50. The seats would be plush, reclining and have more space for patrons. The movie theater rooms would show first-run and art films.
Offices would go in a second floor that had been used mostly for storage. Glass walls would be used around part of the restaurant and the building would be veiled in timbers, conjuring up images of the city’s waterfront and ships.
“It’s a design that adds to vibrancy and life of Caledonia Street,” Huff told the council as part of an informational hearing. He added that parking was available within a short walk of the building.
A theater and a restaurant operator have been identified by the building’s owners, but will not be named until the building work gets city approvals.
“We are right in the middle of this process,” said James To, the building’s owner. “We understand there is still a long way to go. We are looking forward to any feedback from the community, council members and the Planning Commission have for us.”
The original style of the building was Mission Revival. The building was constructed as the Tamalpais Pavilion with the ground floor serving as a garage to the hall above, according to the Historical Landmarks Board.
The structure may also have functioned initially as a livery stable with openings for a hay loft uncovered at the rear of the structure on the second floor. It was an automobile repair shop with a ramp from the first floor to the second floor allowing for car parking, according to the Historical Landmarks Board’s history.
September 20, 2016
From the South Bend Tribune:
The historic State theater, a proud and elegant entertainment anchor for downtown through much of the 20th century, again faces an uncertain future after it was “sold” for back taxes last month to a Chicago firm.
Still, the current owner insists he plans to keep the building, calling it, “a unique asset.”
First National Assets, specializing in municipal tax liens, purchased a lien on the property for $36,843.83 at a county tax sale on Aug. 26. That’s the same amount owner Banko Capital owes in back taxes, penalties and fees on the property, which anchors the 200 block of South Michigan Street downtown.
First National Assets did not return a call seeking comment Thursday, but the firm specializes in “purchasing and servicing delinquent taxes,” according to its website.
The building, with a significant downtown footprint, has had an up-and-down existence since first opening as a 1,500-seat vaudeville house called the Blackstone in 1920. According to Tribune archives, it transitioned into a movie house in the 1950s and was renamed The State. As movie theaters began to spring up in suburban shopping malls, The State struggled and eventually closed in 1977.
Following a $500,000 renovation, The State reopened in 1994 and has since served as a theater, concert venue and nightclub.
Banko bought the 41,865-square-foot theater out of foreclosure in 2011. It is currently on the market for about $1.2 million, down from about $1.5 million last year. Banko, which also owns the Wayne Place building downtown, has one year to redeem the property for 110 percent of the sale price plus any penalties or fees, or First National Assets may apply for ownership.
Until recently, the theater, which includes three active storefronts, had hosted infrequent events, including a live performance of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Its status now is not clear.
Signs taped to the front entrance Thursday read, “Maya Capital has taken over management of the State Theatre. Any person(s) entering the State Theatre without consent of Maya Capital will be trespassing.”
Assaf Dagan owns both Maya Capital and Banko Capital, which share an address on Main Street in Mishawaka, according to records on file with the Indiana secretary of state.
Dagan, who lives in Israel, said Thursday he was unaware of the tax sale, but intended to redeem the property as soon as possible.
“I definitely intend to pay the taxes and keep the State,” Dagan said. “We’re definitely going to move forward with events and do more activities as much as we can.”
Dagan blamed the situation on previous management, which he said failed to keep him informed of day-to-day and financial operations over a period of several years.
“Even I didn’t know about it, that the taxes were not even paid,” Dagan said. “That was a sign that I need to stop everything and freeze everything and change to a new management company.”
That new company is not Maya Capital, he said.
“That’s just a temporary solution until we can do our own checking about who is the best management company to run this kind of an asset, because we are aware that it is a unique asset,” he said.
And yet Dagan refused to invest in the property, said Jacqui Oberlin, the former manager, despite significant maintenance issues.
“I really didn’t get paid to run the theater,” Oberlin said. “In order for me to pay my bills, I not only had to run the theater, which took an exorbitant number of hours … I also had to work at other jobs.”
As a result, Oberlin said, she fell behind on the books.
And the delinquent property taxes?
“That was not ever my responsibility, that was his responsibility,” Oberlin said, noting she only began managing the theater last year while the tax issues date back several years. “Why that would even be assumed by anybody is crazy.”
As for when the theater will reopen, “Very soon,” Dagan said Thursday.
That’s little comfort to groups with upcoming events at the State.
“This has really put us in a bind,” said Jennifer Jacobs of BSR Paranormal, which had planned to host a conference and ghost hunt at the theater next month. “This is just a mess.”
Now, Jacobs added, “We’re looking for a new place to have it.”