The latest movie theater news and updates

  • July 28, 2016

    Tucson, AZ – Get to know Tucson’s historic Rialto Theatre

    Image

    From the Daily Wildcat: Vaudeville, furniture sales, pornography and Español. Much like your attention-seeking little sister, The Rialto Theatre has gone through many distinct phases.

    The iconic theater originally opened in 1920. Built in conjunction with its neighbor Hotel Congress (which opened a year earlier), had acts the likes of Ginger Rogers and the original black minstrel band to grace its stage.

    The Rialto went through several reiterations, including a stint as a pornographic theater that showed the original screening of “Deep Throat.” The 1970s really epitomized the “Dirty T” for Tucson — contrary to present day, downtown was not the place to be.

    The Rialto had a bad reputation and the theater was on the verge of being torn down to become a surface parking lot. Ironically, it took a boiler fire explosion to save the theater from being repurposed.

  • Morristown, NJ – MPAC Named Outstanding Historic Theatre 2016 by League of Historic American Theatres

    Image

    From BroadwayWorld.com: Mayo Performing Arts Center has been named 2016 Outstanding Historic Theatre by The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT).

    Allison Larena, President and CEO, and Ed Kirchdoerffer, General Manager, accepted the award at LHAT’s annual conference on Sunday, July 17 in Chicago. The conference is the largest gathering of historic theatre professionals in North America.

    “It is an honor to be recognized by a distinguished group of peers who work to make historic theatres vital economic engines, community gathering places, and arts and educational centers in the towns we serve,” Ms Larena said.

    LHAT’s Awards Program inspires excellence by recognizing theatres and individuals for their significant accomplishments or distinguished service. The Outstanding Historic Theatre Award recognizes a theatre that demonstrates excellence through its community impact, quality of programs and services, and quality of the restoration or rehabilitation of its historic structure. An award-winning theatre will have demonstrated excellence through significant achievement, the impact of its services and breadth of populations served, and the length of time and/or intensity of its activities. Each year, one theatre and one individual are honored by LHAT at its annual conference. Former winners include the Fabulous Fox in Atlanta, New York City Center and Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

    “Mayo Performing Arts Center beat out an impressive list of nominees to claim this award this year,” said Ken Stein, LHAT President and CEO. “There are a great number of historic theatres doing great work across the country. The community of Morristown should be very proud of MPAC’s accomplishments.”

    “We share this honor with the thousands of community members who worked tirelessly, and continue to work tirelessly, to build, support and improve this venue that has brought so much joy to countless individuals for the past 80 years,” Ms Larena added. “We know that our work today will continue to inspire future generations to sustain MPAC as a vital performing arts center and the cultural center of our community.”

    MPAC, built in 1937 as The Community Theatre by Walter Reade, is recognized for its impact and leadership in the New Jersey arts community in scope and diversity of programming, community outreach and arts education. The rich history of Morristown revolves around community organizations, in which the Theatre has been central as a longstanding community gathering place since it first opened its doors. MPAC presents over 200 events annually, with over 200,000 patrons, has a robust education program that touches the lives of over 40,000 children and their families, and creates an economic impact of over $15 million in the economy (Americans for the Arts Economic Prosperity Calculator).

  • Rutherford, NJ – Williams Center re-opens this Friday with ‘Bad Moms,’ ‘Jason Bourne’

    Image

    From NorthJersey.com:
    “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Bad Moms,” and “Jason Bourne” will be the first digital movies to be shown at the Williams Center. The movie theaters will re-open this Friday, July 29, equipped with new digital projectors courtesy of a community fundraiser.

    The reopening of the cinemas to first-run movies comes just over a year after the center stopped showing new movies. Community members and Board of Trustee members launched an effort to purchase digital projection equipment necessary to bring new titles back to the Rutherford theater, as trustees said obtaining first-run movies on its outdated technology was cost-prohibitive.

    The Williams Center is operated by a non-profit board of trustees and the building is owned by Bergen County.

    The concession stand and common areas have been revamped by volunteers and professionals, said Board Vice President Evelyn Spath-Mercado. Rug cleaning, painters and other touches are being done to make the cinemas “look fresh.”

    “Of course we had the professional installers put in all three digital projectors, they are up and running,” Spath-Mercado. “It’s going to look pretty darn good.”

    Over the past year, volunteers have kept the Williams Center active – hosting classic and second-run movie nights, a comic convention and other events – all with the goal of raising money to fund the digital upgrade. Can collections, a GoFundMe page, fundraising events held at the center, t-shirt sales, a municipal donation and donation by BCB Bank were some of the ways the community pitched in.

    “Everyone who contributed from just a quarter, up to the big donation [from BCB Bank], are involved in the opening,” said Spath-Mercado. “Just the cans alone raised $1,100. It truly was a community effort.”

    Center officials crossed the $22,500 threshold needed to make a first payment on the three, previously-owned projectors last month. Spath-Mercado said she is confident that the funds needed for the next $22,500 payment will be made, given the new revenue source.

    Ticket prices will be $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and children. Weekend matinees will also be $8.

  • July 27, 2016

    Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theater’s Dramatic Remodel Expands Cultural Reach — And Accessibility

    Image

    From Nashville Public Radio: Six months after temporarily shutting its doors, the Belcourt Theatre reopened last week, showing off both new updates and meticulous preservations.

    The cinema has restored the designs of its two original theaters, built in 1925 and 1966. But the entrance to the 91-year-old building is modern, sleek and sunny with floor-to-ceiling windows. The seats are more comfortable, says executive director Stephanie Silverman, and the air conditioning now works consistently.

    After the ribbon-cutting, Silverman acknowledged there are big changes throughout – while proudly showing off the new women’s six-stall bathroom.

    Silverman says she’s especially excited about the bathrooms: They not only serve three times as many patrons as before, but they also are now fully accessible, as is the entire theater. Before the renovation, patrons in wheelchairs had to go to another building to use the restroom.

    “It’s hard to change things people love, and they really forgave us for a lot of sins,” she said. “But I hope that now it’s a place that is as supportive of the audience as the audience is of us.”

    The Belcourt, the first home of the Grand Ole Opry, has also expanded to a second floor that includes a third small screening room and an education space.

  • Batesville, AR – Melba Theater opening to celebrate old, new

    Image

    From the Three Rivers Edition: Downtown Batesville’s historic Melba Theater has come a long way from the deteriorating state the theater’s current owners found it in just over a year ago. Now, as the last bits of sawdust are being swept away and fresh layers of paint dry, the theater is wrapping up finishing touches and will soon reopen to the community.

    The grand opening of the Melba Theater, 115 W. Main St., will take place Aug. 12. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the event will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. Melba Theater owners have spent a year updating and preparing the building for opening night and look forward to seeing people’s reactions to the improvements.

    “It’s been reiterated to us through people’s excitement,” said Janelle Shell, who co-owns the building with her husband, Joe, and another couple, Adam and Mandi Curtwright. “They remember their first movie here, their last movie [here], they remember their first date was here, their first job was here. There are so many attachments that people have to this particular theater that I think we’re excited to bring that back to life.”

    Owners encourage formalwear for the theater’s red-carpet-themed grand-opening celebration, which will include gift bags for guests.

    Adam, who while in banking school with Janelle in Memphis began brainstorming about bringing the theater back to life, has a personal connection to the building.

    “It was my first job in high school, working here,” he said. “My grandma, she graduated high school in this building.”

    The theater is believed to have opened in 1875 as an opera house. In 1916, the building was a mercantile store, then opened as the Melba Theater in 1940. The Batesville Commercial Historic District, which includes the theater, is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

    “The Melba actually opened down the block a little ways in 1934, but it opened here in 1940,” Joe said. “We’ve tried to maintain the history and the spirit of what they originally built there. The ticket booth had been moved to the side and changed, and there were several changes that’ve been made. We tried to kind of go back to the original, of the way it looked, and tried to restore as much as possible.”

    Ticket prices for movies at the 496-seat theater will be $4 across the board — no matter one’s age.

    “We are keeping our pricing low so that families have affordable, family-friendly entertainment,” Janelle said.

    Adam said that moviegoing is a fun experience because while he can’t remember every movie he’s ever seen, he can describe what the moment was like while viewing them.

    “That’s kind of what we were wanting to generate here,” he said. “It might not be the best movie in the world that’s being shown, it might not be the top-rated film of all time, but if you can come and have a good time, and you can afford it and actually sit back and let the rest of the world kind of go to the side for a minute and enjoy yourself, then I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

    Joe said that many people who have visited the theater have a “Melba story.”

    “People that are not from this area that come in and visit say, ‘Oh, I was here back in the ’80s,’ or ‘I did this,’ or ‘I met my husband here,’” he said. “We met one lady whose dad died not long after he brought her here as a young child, and this is one of her few memories of her dad. It’s not just, ‘Oh, we went there and had fun.’ It’s a life-changing experience sometimes, which is an amazing thing to us.”

    Before renovations, Joe said, the building had water damage and asbestos, and also needed treatment for mold and termites. During work on the building, Adam even stepped through the floor because of weak wood. But the building’s steel structure proved sturdy, Joe said, and the owners did not have to replace the existing screen in the theater.

    “As in any old building or an old house or anything, you pull something back and you think, ‘Well, I’m going to fix this one thing,’” Joe said. “And you pull it back and find out you have to fix three things behind it in order to fix it. That’s a lot of the nature of what the job has been.”

  • July 26, 2016

    Lakewood, NJ – Behind-the-scenes at the Strand Theater

    Image

    From The Asbury Park Press: Glenn Harrison has distinct memories of growing up in Lakewood — some fond, others a tad more awkward.

    It was 1969, and like many pre-teens, Harrison was venturing in the world of dating. He took his crush to the Strand Theater, which used to solely operate as a movie theater.

    “I probably shouldn’t even tell you this,” Harrison said, “but I remember being 13 years old and taking a girl on my first date (to the Strand). I saw the movie ‘To Sir, With Love’ with Sidney Poitier. I spent the whole time trying to get my arm around her. I was pathetic.”

    Today, Harrison is 60, and he’s reunited with his first love.

    No, not the girl. The theater.

    The Strand Theater in Lakewood is approaching its 95th anniversary, and for many the venue has an air of nostalgia. Harrison, who serves as president of the board, is one of the many people working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to keep the theater relevant and make sure it remains an arts center.

    Behind-the-scenes

    Walking inside the theater, visitors are greeted by maroon, blue and tan colored walls and ceilings — all adorned in gold leaf accents.

    The Strand puts on about 150 shows throughout the year. There’s local and national acts, including musicals, ballets, comedy acts and live music.

  • Mission, KS – Mission Theatre building on Johnson Drive to reopen as wedding and event space after renovation

    Image

    From the Shawnee Mission Post: The historic Mission Theatre building on Johnson Drive will reopen later this summer as a wedding venue, according to the owners who are in the process of rehabbing the building.

    The building has not been used as a movie theatre for a number of years. The renovation of the building started last fall. Main Street Events, an events management company now owns the property and intends to open it for weddings and other events when the renovation is complete.

    ”It’s such a privilege to be right in the heart of Mission, Kansas in an iconic building,” said Kip Unruh, owner of Main Street Events along with his wife, in a release. “It seems like every day people stop by to express their appreciation for the investment and work we are doing to restore this building and bring it back to life.”

    The theatre was built in 1938. Unruh said the renovation has tried to preserve as much of the past as possible. “I loved tearing into this building which was one of the first theatres in the country made from all concrete walls,” said Unruh. “We discovered some really cool things like the original glass block concession stand that we have protected and incorporated into the bar. Also, when we tore into the drop ceiling, we discovered a barrel vaulted wood ceiling. It was made from the original boards that were used to form the concrete walls and was covered up from the moment they finished the building in the early 1930’s. We are really looking forward to making this place come alive again.”

    The building will be available for all types of events – from corporate luncheons and gatherings to elaborate weddings. It will have a new stage and sound equipment plus a prepping area for caterers to serve up to 250 for a sit-down dinner or 425 for a standing party. Bride and groom suites will be in a loft area.

    The company is opening three venues by 2017, including one in Grandview and one 30 minutes south of Kansas City in a rustic barn on family property of the Unruhs.

    “We love being a part of the community of merchants on Johnson Drive. There’s something special going on here,” said Kris Unruh. “Some of the friendliest, hard- working people we have ever met are doing business shoulder-to-shoulder. They seem to really want each other to succeed and they’ve made us feel quite welcomed.”

  • July 25, 2016

    New York, NY – Sneak Peek of Hudson Theatre Restoration

    Image

    From Broadwayworld.com:

    Situated just off Times Square in New York on 44th Street, between Millennium Broadway Hotel and The Premier Hotel,The Hudson Theatre opened on October 19, 1903 with a production of Cousin Kate starring Ethel Barrymore. Built by Henry B. Harris, a famous Broadway producer of that period, The Hudson Theatre is one of New York City’s oldest Broadway showplaces. The 100-foot long lobby was the largest ever seen on Broadway at that time. Among the stars that have graced the Hudson’s stage are Douglas Fairbanks, William Holden, Helen Hayes, Edward G. Robinson and Dorothy Gish. Barbara Stanwyck and Judith Anderson both made their debuts on its stage. On September 27, 1956 the first nationwide broadcast of “The Tonight Show” starring Steve Allen originated from The Hudson Theatre. It was granted landmark status for both its internal and external features in 1987.

    The venue will receive significant front-of-house improvements to better serve its patrons including all new state-of-the-art seating, Ambassador Lounge premium lounge service, and increased and improved ladies' washrooms. In addition, significant backstage and technical upgrades, including new and expanded dressing rooms and new fly systems will transform The Hudson into a leading legitimate Broadway theater and destination for producers, directors, actors and creative teams. The anticipated re-launch of the theater is slated for the 2016/2017 Broadway Season.

    Ambassador Theatre Group, through its subsidiary, Hudson Theatre LLC, has entered a long-term lease for The Hudson Theatre, its second theater on Broadway, from a subsidiary of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C). M&C and ATG will be, in a multi-million dollar project, restoring the landmark venue to its former glory as a Broadway playhouse.

    M&C’s Chairman Kwek Leng Beng, said,

    “The Hudson Theatre is one of the great historic landmarks in New York City and we have always been proud to have it in the Millennium & Copthorne family. We have proudly owned and maintained the theater as a cherished conference venue within our New York hotel estate since we acquired the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York in 1994. It was time for The Hudson to again become a destination where New Yorkers and visitors from around the world will experience great theater and entertainment. We are so pleased to have Ambassador Theatre Group partner with us on this new journey for The Hudson Theatre.”

  • July 23, 2016

    Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie gets approval on $20M expansion to historic theater

    Image

    From the Asbury Park Press: Curtains have gone up on a $20 million expansion project for Count Basie Theatre, after the borough’s Zoning Board approved the project on Thursday night.

    The board’s approval means engineering work can begin and building permits can be pulled, though it could still be months before any construction commences on the site.

    Adam Philipson, president and CEO of the nonprofit that runs the theater, did not return calls on Thursday and it’s unclear when work on the expansion would begin.

    What does the plan include?

    Plans call for the expansion of both ends of the current theater, doubling its footprint and occupying an entire block on Monmouth Street, between Maple Avenue and Pearl Street.

    The east expansion is two stories and totals 11,489 square feet, including a larger entryway into the theater, more concessions, a lounge and an elevator. The work on the building’s west side will be a three-story, 30,000-square-foot expansion. The west wing will have a second performance venue, improved dressing rooms, rehearsal space, classrooms for community education, two elevators, a roof deck and restrooms.

    Improving Basie’s backstage facilities was among the top priorities of the project. At a zoning meeting last month, Philipson told the story of singer Harry Connick Jr. calling the dressing rooms unacceptable in front of a Count Basie crowd.

    Count Basie officials asked the zoning board to approve an exception on building height restrictions. The building will rise to just over 66 feet, slightly taller than allowed. Board members had few problems with that issue and focused mainly on parking, which is at a severe shortage in Red Bank.

  • Chicago, IL – Congress Theater Hotel Rooms? They Are Part Of The Latest Overhaul Plans

    Image

    From DNAInfo: The massive overhaul of the historic Congress Theater took a new twist Thursday, with news that plans could include an additional 10-story residential building across the street from the theater.

    The new plans reveal the developer, New Congress LLC, also is considering building hotel rooms on the site.

    The theater, 2136 North Milwaukee Ave., has been closed since 2013.

    There have been multiple proposals presented by the developer over the last few years, but this is the first time the 10-story residential building has been considered.

    That new building would be built on a vacant lot across Rockwell Street from the theater and could include 120 residences, according to the plans.