July 4, 2007
WYANDOTTE, MI — The long limbo of Wyandotte’s large art deco theater is about to end; unfortunately, with its destruction, as reported in Detroit’s metromode.
The Wyandotte was the first multi-screen theater built in Michigan when opened in 1936. Ironically consultants to the city reportedly claimed that the theater couldn’t be viable now without ten or more screens. It only ever had two, and couldn’t be renovated to include more than six.
While the deco styling was cool, even when I was a kid, it seemed a little sparse for the huge space in the main theater, and I was always struck more by the large Indian heads motifs, which seemed very unique.
Though the theater went through the inevitable descent through second-run films, it’s been closed for years, and weathered a couple of attempts at failed renovations that have left it gutted. Though my friends and I rode our bikes or made long summer walks to see matinees, my best and last first-run memory of the place is sitting with feet on the backs of seats, only a couple of rows back from the massive screen, watching “Stand By Me.” Even the empty and closed presence of the theater rekindled those memories. It’ll be missed.
July 2, 2007
CHICAGO, IL — The Nortown Theater, designed in 1930 by J.E.O. Pridmore in what the late founder of the Theatre Historical Society, Ben Hall, described as “King Neptune-Gothic-Atmospheric” style, is currently being demolished.
After suffering years of neglect under a series of owners, starting with triplexing, use as a church, and later a Pakistani community center, the Nortown was left a ghost of its former self, damaged and stripped multiple times.
The current demolition work is limited mostly to the interior, while parts of the shell will likely remain up for a while. The small fraction of decor that remained to this point is being carefully salvaged by Urban Remains, a Chicago salvage firm.
May 22, 2007
OWOSSO, MI — For the first time since the Lebowsky Center was gutted by fire during the late night hours of February 13, Park Street alongside the now partially demolished theater has fully reopened.
The big Caterpillar machine is gone and the street has been cleaned up. So it looks as if most of the demolition is finished. I’ve contacted Sascon Inc., the project’s contractor, and the person in charge of the Lebowsky project named Ted was unavailable. I’ll try to keep in touch with him about the status of the project.
As I may have mentioned previously, the Owosso Community Players will make a final decision about the future of the Lebowsky Center by the end of summer.
(Thanks to Gary for providing the photo.)
May 15, 2007
OWOSSO, MI — Most of the demolition of portions of the Lebowsky Center has taken place as I write this. Demolition required a lot of coordinated preparation. Two blocks of Park Street were closed on either side of the theater to protect the utility lines. One truck used to install utility poles was being used to support a pole. Chains and support cables were strung on the poles alongside the unstable east wall in case the wall fell in one big chunk on the lines.
According to WLNS, the demolition was delayed a day due to problems getting the heavy equipment on site. The big Caterpillar machine brought in for the demolition is so heavy that the treads easily gouge the asphalt pavement.
The actual demolition began Wednesday morning. The demolition crew worked slowly and determined which parts of the theater could be saved with the help of machine’s big arm. The Owosso Community Players which own the theater is saving the bricks. Upon my return visit late Thursday, the bricks the machine took down had already been removed. There was still a lot of cleanup work inside what’s left of the theater. More info about the demolition and salvage efforts from WLNS.
May 11, 2007
LOMBARD, IL — Despite a heroic batttle fought by the Friends of the DuPage Theater, two courts refused to extend a restraining order that prevented further demolition of the theater. The auditorium was “deconstructed” earlier to facilitate a developer’s plan for the rest of the theater. The Village of Lombard had a demolition crew waiting for the 3:00 deadline to come. They wasted no time. The marquee succumbed this afternoon.
For more, check out the Chicago Tribune.
A renowned developer had $40 million plans to redevelop the site which was to include portions of the 1928 vintage building. It is truly a sad day for Lombard.
April 19, 2007
CORONA DEL MAR, CA — With the permits granted, the Port Theatre’s demolition seems inevitable.
The only question is when.
It was named one of Newport’s landmark buildings in 2003, but that designation apparently won’t save the historic Port Theater from bulldozers.
The single-screen Art Deco movie theater on East Coast Highway, which opened in 1950, once hosted the Newport Beach Film Festival and was an art house theater for nearly a decade until it closed in 1998.
In March, Port Theater owner Rick Aversano got a city permit to demolish the building, then he sold it. The new owner is Pand Realty LLC, but no plans for the property have been submitted to the city and it’s not clear when demolition will start.
To read more, go to the Daily Pilot.
April 16, 2007
MILWAUKEE, WI — Did anyone save any of the terra-cotta from the Venetian? Unfortunately with today’s sue happy society, most wreckers will not let people on site.
Fortunately back in 1990 when the Parkway Theatre (Milwaukee) was torn down, I was able to purchase salvage rites to the theatre. I gathered up anyone I could find and we took down the entire facade and adjoining business section consisting of over 3000 pieces of terra-cotta all chiseled out by hand. Now it awaits a second showing at a site yet undetermined. I even have the original blueprints from 1921.
In the mid 1980’s the owner of the Venetian sold off the interior lady lobby statues. A dealer in Denver purchased four and I purchased the other one. Fortunately they were removed otherwise they would be crushed surely. I will post photos later. Greg F.
April 10, 2007
MILWAUKEE, WI — The Venetian Theater Building is being razed. A crew arrived Tuesday, April 3rd and as of this afternoon, most of the west wall including the terra cotta corner, most of the east wall and a larger percent of the roof are torn down. The roof was pulled down away from the stage. This afternoon Milwaukee police had Center street blocked off to all traffic while the east wall was removed as there was concern that the front wall may colapse into the street.
Some items to note: The projection booth was intact, with the details around it including handrails for the balcony. The balcony was present as was the stage with the colored details around it and above it as well. It is very easy to see the bases of the ledges that were over the stage. One person who has been watching the razing continually over the last 4 days reported to me that upon opening the west wall, where work started, none of the interior was visible or intact. It was a crumbled mess as he described it, except for the items I have mentioned above.
April 6, 2007
NASHVILLE, TN — As part of the ongoing retail/residential “redevelopment” of the property, the auditorium of the Deco/Moderne Belle Meade Theatre in has been demolished. Word is that the building’s storefronts, the theatre’s front facade, marquee and part of the lobby will be part of the “redeveloped” structure, to be called “Belle Meade Town Center”. The url for the redeveloped property is here: Giarratanna Properties.
(Thanks to Rick for providing the photo.)
March 26, 2007
NEWPORT BEACH, CA — After years of discussions on its future going back and forth, the Port Theatre is going to be demolished.
The final credits rolled a decade ago, but the final curtain hadn’t fallen until now.
The historic Port Theater, which closed in 1998 but sought to reopen ever since, will fall victim to the wrecking ball, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The California Coastal Commission approved a demolition permit last week, an agency spokeswoman said, and theater owner Rick Aversano applied for similar clearance through the city Tuesday.
For more, go to the OC Register.