• October 19, 2007

    Bethesda returns with live theatre

    WASHINGTON, DC — The Bethesda Theatre opened again after renovations first mentioned a few months ago.

    The Bethesda Theatre joins this group of preserved deco landmarks with some of the same compromises. On Thursday, the 1938 movie palace reopened as a venue for live dramatic performances with “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” The title of the musical revue well summarizes the attitude toward reviving the old cinema on the part of Smith Payes of Bethesda and the Bozzuto Group of Greenbelt.

    After skirmishes with local preservation groups, the developers embraced Montgomery County’s requirement of finding a new cultural use for the building and enlisted Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment to operate it as a theater for lighter off-Broadway fare. They resuscitated the worn-out structure by hiring Oehrlein & Associates Architects of the District to meticulously restore its interior, down to 32 original paint colors.

    Read the full story in the Washington Times.

  • October 10, 2007

    Lady’s Island movie theater shuts its doors

    BEAUFORT, SC — The Lady’s Island Cinema will cease its film showing operations but stay open to serve other purposes.

    The owners of Lady’s Island Cinema shut its doors as a public movie theater last month, hoping to seize an opportunity to rent the property for other uses.

    Trask Development’s L. Paul Trask Jr., manager of the building at 100 Sea Island Parkway, said Wednesday the decision to close the 11-year-old, family-owned business stemmed from a desire to make the location “available to other groups for meetings and so forth,” and was not due to any financial hardships at the theater.

    Trask pointed out that two area churches — The Parish Church of St. Helena, an Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina congregation, and the Waters Edge United Methodist Congregation — will continue existing leases to use the facility.

    Read more in the Island Packet.

  • October 5, 2007

    More screens in Baltimore

    BALTIMORE, MD — A new multiplex in Baltimore will suddenly add to Baltimore’s theater count while providing a new venue for arthouse fare. One can only hope this won’t affect the performance of some of the city’s older cinemas.

    The number of movie screens within Baltimore is set to practically double, with the planned Nov. 2 opening of a seven-screen theater in Harbor East, the burgeoning neighborhood between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

    The 1,300-seat facility, to be operated by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres, will be part of a 35,000-square-foot commercial and residential complex at Aliceanna and President streets. Its opening will increase the number of theater screens within the city’s borders to 15, including five at the Charles, two at the Rotunda Cinematheque and the single-screen Senator.

    Read the full story at the Baltimore Sun.

  • October 4, 2007

    Ritz Theatre Grand Re-Opening

    WELLINGTON, TEXAS — This small Texas town has successfully turned back the hands of time with the restoration of the beautiful Ritz Theatre on the downtown square. On Oct. 13, Wellington is throwing open the doors to its hometown pride for all to see as the Amarillo Little Theatre presents, “Sweet Dreams, Peggy Sue” live on the Ritz stage at 8 p.m.

    Tickets are now on sale every evening in the lobby at the Wellington Ritz Theatre from 6:30 until 7 p.m. Tickets also can be purchased by mail at Wellington Ritz Theatre, P. O. Box 202, Wellington, TX 79095.

    Following the opening night event, a week of clasic movies is planned to celebrate the Ritz’s cinematic heritage that dates back to April 1929 when the Ritz showed the first talkies in town through the magic of Vitaphone and Movietone singing and talking pictures.

  • October 2, 2007

    Historic Balboa to reopen in 2008

    SAN DIEGO, CA — The end is near for the Balboa Theatre renovations.

    The historic Balboa Theatre is just a few months away from a grand reopening. The vaudeville-era 1,300-seat live performance theater in the heart of downtown San Diego is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    After numerous unsuccessful efforts over the past 18 years to renovate and reopen the Balboa Theatre, the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC), the public, nonprofit corporation created by the City of San Diego to oversee downtown’s redevelopment, is nearing completion of the $26 million restoration project to return the venue to its original glory. The restoration is being completed in collaboration with the award-winning architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky of Phoenix, Arizona. Scheduled for early 2008, the grand opening festivities will include a Roaring Twenties-themed gala, public tours and more.

    “Like the Balboa, Downtown San Diego has undergone a great transformation. Preservation of this magnificent building is extremely important for the future character of the city,” said CCDC President Nancy Graham. “The Balboa Theatre is a testament to San Diego’s thriving arts and cultural community and CCDC is committed to restoring and returning this treasured icon, in its original grand style, to all who live, work and visit here.”

  • September 12, 2007

    Manhattan loses Times Square icon

    NEW YORK, NY — The Playpen may have had more theater incarnations than any cinema in town, but apparently that’s not enough to keep it going. The changing trends of Times Square will almost certainly soon demolish the building.

    The homogenization of the Times Square area (yes, The Times has contributed to the phenomenon with its new headquarters opposite the Port Authority Bus Terminal) has claimed another quirky victim: the Playpen, a former cinema that closed recently after 90-odd years.

    Very odd years.

    What Eighth Avenue will lose with its disappearance is more than an adults-only emporium with suggestive neon come-ons — “Live Girls,” “Preview Booths,” “Leather & Lace.” It will lose the last home of the Funny Store, an almost vaudevillian novelty shop. It will lose one of the most distinctive facades of any surviving theater from the early 20th century, a kind of heroic Palladian composition. And will lose a three-dimensional history lesson in the evolution of Times Square.

    The rest along with the history of the structure over its changing years is in the New York Times.

  • September 7, 2007

    TV news story on AMC Orleans closure & nearby Philadelphia cinemas

    PHILADELPHIA, PA — Watch a TV news clip of former Philadelphia movie houses! The AMC Orleans 8 opened as a single screen cinema showplace in Northeast Philadelphia in 1963 with reportedly the largest screen in Philadelphia.

    TV Fox 29 reported on the closure of the Orleans last night, and showed what’s left of the exteriors of other former Northeast Philly single screen moviehouses- the Tyson, Castor, Benner, Devon (which will reopen for live shows), and the Mayfair. Those theaters were Art Deco and opened in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Watch the clip here.

  • September 6, 2007

    Vogue Theatre Reopens

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA — My long-time friend and theater buff/walking encyclopedia; Jim Lewallen, former door man at the famous Castro Theatre, has kindly called me with happy news of the 1910 Vogue Theatre.

    Apparently, it closed, only for a short while, and it was thought that the dreaded wrecking ball was heading its way.

    “Not so” says Jim… “because she was snapped up by a small non-profit group and reopened after some volunteer TLC.”

  • September 4, 2007

    Regal Riviera brings people downtown

    KNOXVILLE, TN — Far from the usual story of a new multiplex driving people away from downtown businesses, this new theater seems to be improving business.

    “We couldn’t wait until it opened,” said Hossein Ghodrat who owns the Market Square Kitchen. “So far it’s helped a lot, we see a lot more people coming downtown that we’ve never seen before.”

    Ghodrat says his restaurant was nowhere near this busy when it opened four years ago.

    “We didn’t have a Saturday and Sunday like we do now,” he said. “Today we can’t find enough good help around here.”

    You can read more at WVLT.

  • August 23, 2007

    Rialto now dark

    SOUTH PASADENA, CA — My wife and I battled our way along the insane freeways of California to say “goodbye” to South Pasadena’s venerable Rialto Theatre.

    This was our only visit and found the old lady looking very stressed-out -the facade looked like a bad case of sunburn from decades ago. In fact it must be countless decades since the structure, in and outside ever saw any TLC.

    Entering the almost pitch black auditorium we were welcomed by the wonderful sounds of George Wrights recorded pipe organ music… so lovely, but not the NON-air conditioned atmosphere which smelled hot and very stale. The latter must have come from the rock-hard, ancient seats. No wonder the audiences moved away.