• October 18, 2016

    Flint, MI – Historic finds uncovered as Capitol Theatre renovations continue


    From It’s a landmark that’s been around longer than most Flintstones.

    Yet, not even experts leading the restoration know all the hidden secrets the historic Capitol Theatre holds.

    “Very often on historic restoration projects, we hear about the conditions that you find that make things more complicated or add time or add money,” said Jarret Haynes, CEO of the Whiting Auditorium. “But sometimes, you find things that you say, ‘Wow, we didn’t know this was here, and we could refurbish this restore this and even more bring back the character of this lobby of what the original design intent was.’”

    Haynes said the latter has mostly been the case with the $32 million Capitol project, which began when The Whiting and Uptown Reinvestment Corp. acquired the building in July. The Whiting will manage operations at the Capitol.

  • Ashtabula, OH – Shea’s remaster moving forward


    From The Star Beacon: After buying Shea’s Theatre earlier this year, Dominic and Dom Apolito of DMS Recovery, have spent the past four months renovating it.

    They plan to restore the theater and turn the front part of the building into a bar and restaurant, said Dom Apolito, vice president and chief of marketing.

    “We found marble floors underneath the carpet at the main entrance,” he said. “We are going to clean it up and make it look brand new.”

    A few weeks ago, workers discovered several old newspapers well preserved inside the walls.

    “We have been working little by little,” he said. “We have the original projection camera, ticket boxes and many other historical pieces.”

    He believes the $3 million project will be done in about two years.

    Earlier this year, Dom’s father, Dominic Apolito, bought Shea’s from Ashtabula County Council on Aging for $20,000, according to the Ashtabula County Auditor’s Office.

    The Apolitos then gave a donation to the Ashtabula Senior Center, he said.

    “We are cleaning the building to ensure that it will be ready for construction,” Dom Apolito said. “In the process, we are finding and recovering historical artifacts and pieces."

    They are hoping to raise $50,000 at a GoFundMe account at for the renovation of the actual movie theater in the back of the building. So far, they have received $400.

    They are paying out of their own pockets to restore the front of theater, where they are going to have the restaurant and bar.

    At one time, Shea’s Theatre, 4634 Main Ave., had thick carpeting, plush seating, wall murals and a water fountain. Built in 1949 in an architectural style called Streamline Moderne, Shea’s Theatre is one of the last of its kind.

    Most recently, it served as the Ashtabula Senior Center.

    Two years ago, the Senior Center moved to a vacant bank building at 4184 Main Ave., donated by Ashtabula businessman Ken Kister.

  • October 14, 2016

    Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY – Restoration of Black Lady Theatre Underway in Crown Heights


    From Behind new glass doors covered in thick construction paper, the Black Lady is getting a serious makeover.

    The building at 750 Nostrand Ave., once known as the Black Lady Theatre, has been closed for years, notable only for an eye-catching mural on its facade of a woman shooting laser beams from her eyes at a besuited man.

    The distinctive painting has now been removed — but temporarily, according to Omar Hardy, who is restoring the theater with his father, Clarence, the one-time partner of the building’s former owner, the late John Phillips.

  • October 5, 2016

    St. Paul, MN – Take a look inside St. Paul’s Palace Theatre overhaul, soon to be a major concert destination


    From the Star Tribune: The Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul looks to be in ruins right now. And that’s a good thing.

    After three years of financial and governmental wrangling, renovations on the 100-year-old former vaudeville and movie house are well underway — 32 years after its marquee went dark over what’s now the 7th Place walking plaza between Wabasha and St. Peter streets.

  • October 2, 2016

    Hot Springs, AR – Maxwell Blade ready to restore Malco Theater


    From Another example of the restoration of Historic Hot Springs is in the pipeline, and this one literally involves magic.

    Magician and entertainer Maxwell Blade has taken control of the Malco Theater on Central Ave. It will mark a return to the site for the illusionist who has been working in the Spa City for more than 20 years.

    “This will soon be a brand new state of the art theater,” said Blade as he toured the now-gutted building, finding dusty cards left behind from his previous stint in the theater a decade ago. “It will have 350 seats and a brand new lobby area. So, we’re looking forward to the future.”

    The Malco site once hosted Vaudeville shows as Hot Springs developed in the late 1800s. As motion pictures arrived, the current theater opened with an art deco design in the 1940s. It faded in recent decades but remained host of the Hot Springs Film Festival until the last few years. That’s when Blade saw a chance to return, and he plans a grand restoration.

    Neon lights will be restored. Architechture saved while new showbiz technologies are added in.

    And it will all be designed around Blade’s long-running show, which he says he will update once the new space is ready. He expects a full house thanks to a growing tourist economy in Hot Springs.

    “Tourists are coming like never before, and in my 20 years here I think the growth is more so than I’ve ever seen,” he said.

    An elaborate magic show will be another piece to the evolution of the city into an adult playground with the racetrack and casino up the street and new hotel developments throughout downtown.

    “People ask me all the time ‘why aren’t you in Vegas?’ Well, I want to be in Hot Springs,” Blade says. “I have my children here. They were raised here. But yet, instead of me being in Vegas, I’m going in some sense bring it to you.”

    The flashy neon signs out front should bring glitz back to Central Ave. The only magical spirit Blade fears could be arousing the ghosts who legend says still haunt the place.

    “I heard a seat creek and then something walked in front of that light like a shadow,” he said of a particularly chilling night in the auditorium. “Scared me to death. I just got out of here. I was like nope. Maybe my imagination, I don’t know it was odd.”

    Blade will host his 4th annual Festival of Magic beginning September 30. The Malco isn’t ready for that, but shows and seminars involving other top magicians will take place in his current location as well as the Hot Springs Convention Center.

  • New York, NY – Revamped Broadway theater may gain national historic recognition


    From Curbed NY: The New York State Board of Historic Preservation has recommended that 22 “properties, resources, and districts” be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. New York City itself doesn’t have much of a presence on this particular list, but one building made the cut: The Hudson Theatre, a Broadway house in Manhattan’s Theater District (surprise!).

    And the place does indeed have quite a history. Constructed in 1902-1903 for Henry B. Harris, a big-name Broadway producer who later died on the Titanic, the Beaux-Arts theater opened with a production of Cousin Kate, starring Ethel Barrymore. (She was Kate.)

    Among the many stars to have graced the Hudson stage: Douglas Fairbanks, William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, and Judith Anderson. In 1954, the theater became home to the first incarnation of The Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen. It was later converted into a movie house, and in 1980, the theater reopened as the short-lived Savoy Rock Club.

    After a few sad decades as a conference space and sometime-comedy venue for the Millennium Broadway Hotel, the space was returned to its theatrical roots. In 2015, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) announced they’d be reopening the Hudson. The new era will begin with a revival of Lanford Wilson’s Burn This, starring none other than Jake Gyllenhaal. Both the production and the revamped theater are set to open in March 2017. It was already designated a New York City landmark in 1987.

    Other recommendations to the registry include Buffalo Public School #24, the first school in the area to offer special education programs; John W. Jones Court, a public housing project in Elmira named for the Underground Railroad activist; and the Moss Street Cemetery in Kingsbury, which has graves dating back to the 1780s.

  • Newport, RI – Behind the Scenes: Newport Opera House Theater Restoration


    From While the Opera House Theater presents Lost Newport tonight at its partner venue, Jane Pickens Theater, the nearby doors of the opera house remain closed as renovations continue in advance of its December 2017 opening. The revitalization of Rhode Island’s oldest surviving theater building began in spring of this year and involves major structural work as well as finely detailed artistry required to restore the interior’s decorative elements. Wonder what it looks like inside? To find out, we stopped by the Opera House for a behind-the-scenes tour. One of the first things we noticed when looking at old pictures of the Opera House was the mansard roof, an architectural element not there today. “The roof was lost in a fire in 1950s,” explained Ivan S. Colon, the Opera Houses’s head of Business Development. “We are adding back the top floor.” In addition to the mansard roof’s restoration, the addition of the 4th level will include a rooftop garden and atrium.

  • September 23, 2016

    Somerset, KY – DSDC announces plan to restore historic theater


    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.”

  • September 19, 2016

    West Seattle, WA – At last the Admiral Theater is set for renovation; City permits in place the landmark will be restored


    From the West Seattle Herald: With all required city ​building permits in hand, upgrades, expansion and renovations of the Historic Admiral Theater in West Seattle will begin in earnest on Monday, ​Sept.​ 19 with completion expected in November.

    Moviegoers will be able to see films at the Admiral during the construction period, according to Jeff Brein, managing partner of Far Away Entertainment, the Bainbridge Island-based group that operates the theater.

    “Our principal goal is to keep the theater open during this process, albeit on a limited basis,” Brein said. “Initially, weekday films will be presented in a single theater, with expanded schedules on weekends. As the project progresses and additional auditoriums are readied we expect the number of movie offerings to increase.”

    Brein and partner Sol Baron have worked with building owner Marc Gartin for several years to plan a history-based renovation of the iconic 1942 theater, for which the Southwest Seattle Historical Society secured city landmark status 27 years ago. The Gartin family purchased and reopened the theater in 1992 after a three-year closure.

    The current two-auditorium footprint will expand to four and will feature stadium seating in two larger auditoriums. Additional enhancements will include new, state-of-the-art digital laser projection systems, a 3D auditorium, Dolby Digital sound systems, new seating with beverage cup holders and upgraded carpeting, concessions area and restrooms.

    “Additionally,” Brein said, “we have been working with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and plan to reveal and eventually restore the original, interior auditorium murals featuring underwater appliqués that have been hidden since the theater was twinned in 1973. We also have been working together on other improvements, including repainting of the lobby and preservation of its 1942 mural of Captain George Vancouver and other artwork. Other less apparent enhancements will include a revised traffic flow pattern for ticket sales and more open space in the lobby, improved theater floor lighting and an upgrade of the theater’s marquee.”

    The Admiral Theater project team includes Swinterton Builders, CDA Architecture and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, as well as the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, which approved the renovation in June. Credit also goes to King County Council member Joe McDermott and King County Executive Dow Constantine, both West Seattle residents, for helping secure a $95,000 “Saving Landmarks” grant from 4Culture last November.

    The Southwest Seattle Historical Society eagerly anticipates the renovation, said Clay Eals, executive director. “We are thrilled that these many improvements will allow the Admiral Theater to thrive well into the future and can occur without harming – and actually exposing and showcasing more of – the building’s historic features,” Eals said.

    “We salute Far Away Entertainment and the Gartin family ownership for their perseverance and heart,” he said.

    “This renovation project and the existence of the theater itself wouldn’t be possible without the grassroots effort that saved it in 1989, and the history of this moviehouse, an art deco masterpiece, is a shining example of how neighbors engaging in the landmark process can add economic vitality to the city while building community pride.”

  • September 16, 2016

    St. Paul, MN – St. Paul’s Palace Theatre renovation budget grows by $1 million


    From The Pioneer Press: Following legal mediation between the city of St. Paul and First Avenue/JAM Productions, the budget for renovation of St. Paul’s Palace Theatre is going up $1 million — again.

    The projected cost of converting the old vaudeville stage into a modern concert hall about twice the size of First Avenue in Minneapolis grew from an original budget of $12 million to $14.6 million last year, requiring a quick cash infusion of $1.7 million grudgingly approved by the St. Paul City Council.

    The new budget will be about $15.6 million.

    “The last budget had contingency (funds) in it,” said St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority Director Jonathan Sage-Martinson. “A couple of things have happened, and we’ve spent that contingency.”

    He added: “Our work will be done in early December. We’re down to the last painting and patching. As we’ve gotten there, we think we’re going to need another $1 million.”

    Among the curve balls: Contractor bids for aspects of the restoration came back higher than expected, and a few unanticipated expenses were added to the design.