• September 13, 2016

    Stamford, TX – Stamford’s Grand Theater flickering back to life


    From the Abilene Reporter-News: All this action ultimately ruffled a few downy feathers.

    “We found a little baby pigeon, I guess the momma ran off because of the situation here,” said Toni Welch, hefting a towel with a small dinosaur-looking creature nestled inside.

    Rain was falling off and on Saturday morning on the square. It kept the dust down as a crew of volunteers used heavy equipment and shovels to gut the rotted wood behind the marquee of the Grand Theater.

    “The theater has been closed for about five years,” said Jessica Decker. She runs a public relations firm called Oreana Communications, her father Gary is chairman of a committee that is restoring the 80 year-old movie house.

    “A lot of people were really sad to see it close,” she said, adding that the theater, like many others in rural communities, faced a major expense in switching to a digital projection system if it wanted to continue.

    The Grand saw an earlier renovation in the mid 1990s. In 2002 I did a photo column on the theater, it was owned by Pam and David Scott from Graham at that time.

    “There were a lot of changes and updates that needed to be made, and they just couldn’t do that,” Jessica said. “So the Economic Development Corporation of Stamford acquired the building with the intention of hopefully selling or reopening it.”

    Jessica’s father recalled going to the Grand when he was growing up.

    “I went to it as a kid when we lived up north of here in Munday,” Gary said. “It’s such a historic part of downtown, we want to replace it just like it was.”

    Other than the wood behind the marquee, the rest of the theater seems to be in pretty good shape. Jessica said the plan is to replace the carpeting, seats, and fix the neon. But aside from the accumulated dust, there’s a sense that the theater could show a movie tomorrow if only the popcorn machine worked.

    David Mims, a retired school administrator, came to watch the men work after hearing something was finally happening with the Grand.

    “Oh man the popcorn, we just loved the popcorn,” he recalled, his eyes bright with that memory. “I would have never imagined they would bring this back.”

    Often when a business closes in a small town, that’s the end of it. The empty frame might sit there, a phantom-like reminder of a time when life sparked brighter within the community.

    “I’ve seen a lot of these just close and nobody does anything,” Mims said. “I just figured this was gone; it was going to be abandoned and we would see it torn up like the old theater over at Lueders.”

    He smiled and didn’t appear to mind the approaching rain. He talked of the significance that a simple movie theater holds for young people, and how sharing its communal experience with family and friends enriches one’s life. In this age of on-demand video, that experience is an endangered one.

    “There are so many things that our young people are not aware of, because we haven’t taken the time to share those things,” he said. “It just amazes me that there are some people still willing to put some effort into keeping things.”

    Back in 2002, the projection booth still had a few fire extinguishing grenades lying around in the back. They were purely sentimental, the agent within had likely long ago lost its ability to put out a blaze.

    Until the 1950s, Cellulose Nitrate was used as the base for film. Highly combustible, it could ignite with the heat of a cigarette, according to the National Media Museum, or spontaneously catch fire at temperatures as low as 120 F.

    The grenades were pear-shaped glass bottles, wrapped with two protective wires. If a fire broke out, the projectionist would throw the device at the base of the flame to immediately knock it down.

    The high temperatures generated by movie projector light bulbs made operating them a dangerous job back in the day. But there were perks — behind the projector at the Grand a modern toilet resided within its own doorless nook. But of those grenades, there was no trace.

    Jessica said it’s going to take about $75,000 to fully fund the project, and they are about a third to their goal. If all goes well, the Grand should reopen in March 2017. The only question after that is what’s the first movie they will show?

    “I want to see "McLintock!”, is what I want to see,“ Gary said. "I’m a big John Wayne fan, but we’ll see if my vote goes.”

    But if there is one thing that he is thankful for, it’s how the town feels about seeing its theater once more return to life.

    “My dad used to have a fried-pie business,” Gary said. “He told me years ago when I first moved to Stamford, he said the coolest thing about Stamford has always been the people.”

    He looked around the square, saw Mims across the street, and noticed passing drivers as they slowed down to eyeball what was happening.

    “Things don’t work in a small town unless you’ve got a lot of support behind you, and we are blessed with lots of community support behind this project. Stamford is a good place with good people,” he said.

    “It’s the people that make a town, not the buildings.”

  • August 26, 2016

    Elkhart, KS – Historic theatre proves more than a hub in town’s revival


    From The Washington Times: Brent McKinley recalls it well – watching Willie Nelson in “Honeysuckle Rose” on the Doric Theatre’s big screen.

    The 1980 movie “probably wasn’t very good,” he said with a chuckle.

    But it would be the last movie the then-10-year-old McKinley would recall watching on the Doric’s screen before Morton County’s only theater went dark a short time later.

    The theater was turned into apartments for a while before becoming a deteriorating storage building. McKinley, who tried to lead a revival of the theater last decade, didn’t figure it would ever flicker on again, due to the expensive price tag.

    Now, the 35-year intermission has ended. The popcorn is popping again. The movies are rolling.

    At the age of 98, there is a breath of new life in the Doric.

  • Irwin, PA – Lamp Theatre in Irwin ready to shine for 2nd grand reopening


    From Triblive: A second grand reopening of the renovated historic Lamp Theatre is planned for Saturday, about three years after major renovations were started on the former Main Street movie house.

    “The goal has been to entertain the community. It has been mission No. 1, and it has been a great response. We keep exceeding expectations,” said John Gdula, president of the Lamp Theatre Corp. board of directors, which oversees the multi-use performance center. Irwin turned over ownership of the structure to the theater corporation in August 2015.

    In the past year, the Lamp has attracted more than 10,000 patrons to watch a variety of performances, including concerts, comedies and musical theater, said John Cassandro, general manager of the Lamp and president of Irwin Borough Council.

    “Our gate receipts are really good,” Gdula said.

    With a year of operations under their belt, managers have a better idea of how to operate the facility, Gdula said.

    “It was a learning curve. We’re evaluating the market and seeing how the community is responding” to the kind of acts that are being booked, Gdula said.

    Those theatergoers flowing into downtown Irwin have benefited the restaurants and has given the community more vibrancy, said Lois Woleslagle, president of the Irwin Business and Professional Association, a volunteer group that promotes Main Street activities.

    “Some businesses are profiting from what is going on,” Gdula said.

    For the grand opening, a VIP reception will be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for donors, business owners and those who played key roles in its revitalization. The evening will feature the Beatles tribute band Hard Day’s Night.

    The night’s festivities “will be able to show those people who so kindly donated their time and money exactly what has been done with both,” said Bill Elder, operations manager. “We can show everyone where the theater started, where we stand now and where we plan to be in the future.”

    The Lamp closed in 2004, a victim of changing times, when movie buffs were opting for multi-screen theaters in shopping malls and plazas. Downtown theaters in places such as Greensburg, Charleroi and Monessen became a relic of the past, although the Lamp hung on longer than most.

    The Westmoreland Cultural Trust, a Greensburg-based foundation that owned and renovated the city’s Palace Theatre, assumed ownership of the Lamp in January 2007. But progress toward reopening suffered a setback in March 2009 when a fire in the abutting Irwin Hotel damaged the theater. When the proposed renovations for the theater came in at $250,000 over estimates in July 2012, the project again stalled.

    Irwin took ownership of the building in May 2013 and began exterior renovations. Officials hoped to have it opened by fall 2014, in time for the 150th anniversary of Irwin’s founding.

    “It was a little bit daunting at first,” Gdula said of the necessary renovations.

    To get the point where it was viable again and worthy of a grand opening, backers had to raise sufficient money to save the 79-year-old theater. It was the beneficiary of about $600,000 in county and state grants and another $150,000 of in-kind contributions. The renovations that relit the Lamp could not have been completed with the money that was available were it not for an estimated 3,000 hours of volunteer work from more than 300 people, Gdula said.

    Gdula said he was “amazed” by the community’s response to rebuild the Lamp.

    “The whole community got invested into it,” Woleslagle said.

    The rebirth of the Lamp is proof “there’s a phenomenal group of people in that town,” said Irwin native Christine Orosz, executive director of Stage Right!, a Greensburg-based theater company that put on children’s and adult performances at the renovated Lamp.

    “It’s a nice-sized place. People are as happy to be at the Lamp as we are,” Orosz said.

    Orosz remembers going to see movies at the Lamp as a youngster. Now, it’s fun to see the students they have taken to Irwin for performances enjoying the town as she and her brother, Anthony Marino, artistic director for Stage Right!, did years ago.

    For the next 12 months, Gdula said, the theater board will focus on two initiatives that will require fundraising — obtaining a digital projector that costs an estimated $50,000 and extending the theater into a proposed courtyard with a walled-in area and a concessions section, a project estimated to cost $100,000.

    So many of the patrons have asked management, “ ‘When can we start seeing movies again?‘ ” Gdula said.

  • August 3, 2016

    Fort Lee, NJ – Luxury Movie Theater Opens in Bergen County Friday


    From Fine dining and luxury seating come to a new movie theater opening in Bergen County this Friday. iPic, a chain of dine-in movie theaters, is unveiling its fourteenth location, iPic Hudson Lights, on August 5 in Fort Lee.

    The theater features over-sized, extra-cushioned leather seats, a menu designed by Chef Sherry Yard, as well as an assortment of “classic candies” and “custom treats,” according to iPic’s website.

    Food is delivered to your seat while you’re watching the movie and the waitstaff is trained as “ninja waiters,” so as not to disturb the viewing experience for any customers, iPic president and CEO Hamid Hashemi told

    There will also be a restaurant on-site called City Perch Kitchen + Bar, which will serve “abundant appetizers, just-picked vegetables, generous salads and outstanding main courses from spit-roasted chickens to char-broiled steak,“ according to iPic’s website.

    Ticket prices range from $12-25, depending on the seat. Tickets for the 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. screenings of “Bad Moms” on August 5 are already sold out. Also screening for the opening weekend: “Jason Bourne,” “Nine Lines” and “Suicide Squad.” Grab your tickets at the iPic website.

  • August 1, 2016

    Indiana, PA – Palace Gardens Drive-In reopens with digital projector


    From the Indiana Gazette: Equipped with an added piece of expensive technology, the Palace Gardens Drive-in Theater finally opened for the summer Friday evening.

    But the technological upgrade wasn’t made just for the sake of becoming more modern. To the contrary, theater owners Clarine Beatty and husband Mike Hudzick made a significant financial investment in Palace Gardens to help preserve much of the 66-year-old drive-in’s tradition and nostalgia.

    Making its debut at dusk Friday at the drive-in along Indian Springs Road in White Township was a 2007 model Christie digital movie projector. The addition of a digital projector means Palace Gardens will be able to continue showing new-release movies. About three years ago, movie studios started phasing out 35 mm film prints and began a switch to an all-digital distribution system. Theater owners who choose not to change with the times and acquire a digital projector will eventually be forced to screen only old movies that exist on celluloid.

    The change to an all-digital distribution format left the future of Palace Gardens uncertain for the past few years. Beatty said the cost of a new digital projector approaches six figures — a hefty outlay for a business that only operates on weekends during the summer.

    Because of the unavailability of movies on 35 mm film, Palace Gardens did not open this Memorial Day weekend as it has for decades. Beatty announced then that the drive-in might open later in the summer if she and Hudzick could “find a digital projection option that works for us.”

    “This has been quite an endeavor,” Beatty said this week while preparing for opening night. She started early in 2016 — making a lot of phone calls, contacting other drive-in theater owners and her other movie business contacts — trying to locate a suitable projector.

    “We’re a two-person business. … This is not the only thing we do,” Beatty said. She is a schoolteacher and Hudzick’s day job is as a contractor.

    The search was complicated by the fact that Beatty and Hudzick not only needed a used projector, but a big one that could cast an image large enough to fill all of Palace Garden’s 92-foot-wide screen, one of the larger screens in the drive-in industry.

  • July 28, 2016

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


    “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 23, 2016

    Richmond, VA – Cinephiles plan first take along East Broad Street


    From Richmond Biz Sense: Inspired partly by the closure of a West End movie theater, two Richmonders plan to open a film center in a recently redeveloped downtown property.

    James Parrish and Terry Rea plan to open in August the Bijou Film Center at 304 E. Broad St. The pair have a short-term lease for the 1,400-square-foot space on the ground floor of the three-story building.

    “We wanted to bring movies back to Broad Street,” Parrish said. “We see it as a starter home. We’re going to start with folding chairs.”

    The Bijou Film Center will show movies and sell beer, wine, coffee, popcorn and other food. The August opening won’t be for a fully realized Bijou, but the single-screen film center will have limited screenings until the building is fully built out later this year.

  • July 12, 2016

    New York, NY – Bjarke Ingels’s Tetrahedron Will Get a Landmark Movie Theater At Its Base


    From Curbed New York: Bjarke Ingels’s so-called “courtscraper” on Manhattan’s far west side—recently named the best tall building in the Americas—is getting a big addition: The Durst Organization, the developer of the ballyhooed building, announced today that Landmark Theatres will bring an eight-screen theater to the development. It’s expected to open early next year.

    It’ll be more than just a screening room, though—the new theater will apparently have a private bar where Q&A’s and special events can be held, along with “unique design elements” like a video wall and a special light display. As is de rigueur for movie theaters these days, the theaters themselves will be equipped with plush leather recliners, plenty of concessions, and laser projection screens. Fancy!

    Landmark’s only other New York City theater is the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street on the Lower East Side. As of last year, that particular cinema was possibly being marketed for sale, though it’s still operating as of now.

  • July 8, 2016

    Muskegon, MI – Harbor Cinema to reopen after short closure; will show first-run films


    From Harbor Cinema is back open for business.

    Less than two months after the charming movie theater in Muskegon’s Lakeside District announced it would be closing its doors, owner Dan Taylor-Tubergen has made the decision to reopen. He said it was a change in policy by one of the film industry’s leaders that provoked the change of heart.

    “We decided to reopen because (21st Century) Fox has dropped the issue of clearances which is what was stopping us from showing their first run films along with the Carousel before,” Taylor-Tubergen said. “So now we will be able to show some first run movies.”

    The Harbor Cinema, 1937 Lakeshore Drive, has had a long up-and-down history in Muskegon. It has operated under several owners and names over the years. The theater had been closed since May 8 with owners citing “unwelcomed theater competition in the community by another corporate theater chain.”

  • June 3, 2016

    Washington, DC – Miracle Theater Opens in historic Meader’s Theater Building


    From Washington City Paper: In early May, single-screen art-house theater Suns Cinema opened in Mt. Pleasant—the latest addition to D.C.’s recent movie theater boom. But a couple weeks earlier, another small movie theater quietly opened, this one on Barracks Row: The Miracle Theatre.

    The building that houses The Miracle Theatre, which had its soft opening on April 22, hosted movies and vaudeville shows in a previous life as Meader’s Theater, which opened in 1909. Miracle, which is owned by the National Community Church, is intent on celebrating that history. “We knew we wanted to revive that history for the community,” says Miracle Theatre manager Juliet Main. When the NCC purchased the building in 2011, she says they begin researching its history and decided to furnish and decorate it like a 1920s movie theater.

    In addition to showing second runs of new movies, Main says the theater will also host special film series, repertory cinema, and will be used as a live performance venue. “Since we’re setup with a stage, we want to do special events,” she says.