April 1, 2008
NORTH TONAWANDA, NY — One of the most unique and extraordinary theatre organs in the world, the Riviera Theatre Mighty Wurlitzer, a style 235 built in 1926, has just been restored after four weeks of work.
Originally installed in 1926 at the debut of the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, New York by the world-famous Wurlizer Organ company which headquarted only blocks away from the theatre, this specific Wurlitzer — equipped with (literally) all the bells and whistles that made it perfect to accompany silent motion pictures — is believed to be the quintessential, archtetypical demonstration organ used by the manufacturer to woo their buyers. The Wurlitzer Company in Tonawanda built about 2,300 organs. Of these, fewer than 30 are complete in their original locations: The Riviera’s Wurlitzer is one of that select group.
December 14, 2007
RIVERSIDE, CA — The Fox Riverside Theatre began it’s $30 million dollar restoration last Wednesday with the demolition of the rear wall to extend the intact stage another 27 feet for future theater productions. Ongoing work includes earthquake-proofing, rebuilding the orchestra pit and lobby, adding restrooms, a bar, cafe area, and backstage dressing rooms.
Robert Wise, the city’s project manager, said the theare will be rehabilitated to its original design but will be enlarged in some areas and have other modifications. Architect Richard McCann, who has restored about 30 historic theatres, including The Wilshire in Los Angeles and the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle was hired to restore the theatre. This will be the first time in decades that much of the original interior artwork of the theatre has been exposed.
December 13, 2007
COLUMBIA, MO — For those interested in the actual mechanics of theatre restoration the Columbia Tribune website Columbia Tribune has an extensive article on the complete restoration of the Missouri Theatre including three excellent video documentaries that take you inside the theatre at is lovingly returned to its original pre-depression rococo style splendor.
The 1200 seat theatre opened October 5, 1928 and continued in operation until the 1980s. After owners, Commonwealth Amusement Corporation of Kansas City, threatened to completely gut the auditorium and replace it with a three screen complex citizens of Columbia rallied to save the theatre. Their efforts were successful and the theatre continued to function as a single screen venue until 1988 when the Missouri Symphony Society purchased it.
Although some work was done to maintain the theatre’s integrity it was showing signs of its age. The heating, electric, plumbing and backstage were primitive by today’s standards. Wallpaper installed in the 1950s was water stained and outdated and the terrazzo floors in the lobby were covered by worn carpeting.
December 11, 2007
WICHITA, KS — The Orpheum Theatre, designed by noted theatre architect John Eberson, debuted its latest restoration efforts over the weekend. The public was invited to see the newly restored vestibule and box office completed at a cost of $700,000. It was the first atmospheric theatre built in the United States when it opened on September 4, 1922.
Originally a vaudeville house the theatre converted to films in the 1930s. It closed in the 1970s and remained vacant for 20 years. A restoration project was created in 1993 after the theatre narrowly escaped a conversion to condominiums and commercial space. So far $3.5 million has been spent on renovations said Mary Eves, president of the Orpheum. A total of $13 million is still needed to complete the project.
The theatre reopened in 2000 and is currently being used for both live entertainment and an ongoing film series.
December 5, 2007
PARIS, TX — In order to save the Grand Theater, citizens are taking a different route than usual by getting a grant.
The City of Paris is seeking a $200,000 environmental Protection Agency grant to be matched with $40,000 for the Grand Theater Restoration project. The dilapidated and abandoned Grand Theater, long a landmark in downtown Paris is being considered to be restored because of its historical value.
The restoration project grant is being sought from the Ark-Tex council of Governments board of directors. The twinned theater is closed but the marquee and colorful vertical sign remains intact.
The theater opened in 1937 and was designed by architect Jake Elder. It originally seated 809 people and had the largest fly-loft west of the Mississippi. It was twinned sometime prior to its closing in 1996 after a new Theater was built in the city. Sometime later the already deteriorating Grand’s property owners abandoned the building. Roof-top openings allowed water to seep in causing water damage and pigeon infestation; peeling paint and crumbling ceiling tiles make the building a health hazard. There is flooding in the basement and a crack along the outside of the north wall.
An article on the intial steps to restore the theater can be found at the Paris News.
December 4, 2007
ELKIN, NC — The long dormant Reeves Theater is looking to restore and reopened after 20 years and much damage.
Elkin is working to bring back its art-deco Reeves Theater, a 1940s movie house with a facade in four shades of blue with orange trim. It once lit Main Street with a large neon sign, but since the mid-1980s, has stood dark. Water damage ruined most of the interior. And though a group of investors bought it in 1998, plans to restore it never materialized.
In 1941, Dr. W.B. Reeves, a local eye doctor, built the 700-seat theater. People walked past a soda shop inside before taking their seats to watch newsreels, Rita Hayworth movies and Donald Duck cartoons. Admission was 33 cents.
An article on the struggle to save and restore this theater can be found on the Winston-Salem Journal website along with 17 photos of the heavily damaged interior.
November 30, 2007
HIGHLAND SPRINGS, VA — The Henrico Theatre built 1938 in Art Deco style, reopened after $5.8 million restoration by Henrico County.
A rebirth is under way in Henrico’s Highland Springs neighborhood. The old Henrico Theatre had been a part of that community for 60 years before it closed more than a decade ago. Now, an effort to bring it back to life is almost complete.
The flashing neon lights on the marquee beckoned the masses who packed the 800-seat theatre for movie night. The popular Art Deco style of the era was just as entertaining.
Over 60 years, the Henrico Theatre changed ownership six times until it closed in 1996. Now drills and hammers fill the auditorium. The county bought the building in 1999 and has been working to renovate and restore it, true to history, ever since.
Read more at NBC 12.
Here’s a photo gallery from the Grand Reopening: Flickr
November 29, 2007
LOMPOC, CA — The 1927 Lompoc Theater (population approx. 40,000) kicks off its official restoration project in January or February with a completion target of 12 to 18 months and a cost of approximately $9.2 million dollars.
The theater shut its doors in the 1980s after a steady decline in attendance that had begun in the 1970s. Luckily the family who owned the theatre held onto the property, renting out second-floor offices. When the Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corp. first considered restoration in 2002, the initial concern was the building’s physical viability. Fortunately Earl Calvert who originallly built the theater put the same care into the building as he did the business. Reinforced poured concrete supports made major seismic retrofitting unnecessary. Unlike some theaters, it had never been remodeled into a multiplex or swap meet.
One question facing preservationists was whether to go with the 1927 original or a 1957 remodel, which at 50 years old is also considered historic. In the end it will be a mix, said Ehrlich, noting that preservation officers were delighted by a mirror at the popcorn stand painted with dancing clowns bearing refreshments.
November 21, 2007
OAKLAND, CA — What began as a minimal renovation to reopen the Fox Oakland that was permanently closed in 1984 has launched into a near full restoration effort that when completed, will cost close to $68 million.
At a sneak peek on Thursday night, in which more than 100 people were treated to an insider’s tour of the restoration, the Fox Theater revealed how its intriguing decor once captivated Oakland Calif. audiences. Developer Phil Tagami said the restoration project of the Fox Theater has already raised $63 million, but needs another $5 million for the finishing touches.
When first opened, the Fox Oakland boasted it was the largest theater on the west coast. Among its many decorative touches are two huge Hindu deity statues, one on either side of the proscenium, sitting cross legged, each holding a bowl in their lap. During the heyday of the Fox Theater, bursts of steam were shot up through bowls in the Hindu deities laps, giving the illusion of smoke rising from the bowls as the house lights dimmed and the curtain opened.
November 5, 2007
SEGUIN, TX — The Seguin Conservation Society poised to begin restoration of the Spanish-Colonial, atmospheric Texas Theatre. Original construction began on The Texas in 1929, and it opened in 1931. W. Scott Dunne was the architect and news articles from the grand opening say the interior was designed by King Studios of Dallas.
We are seeking information on other theaters that were decorated by King Studios. Any leads would be appreciated.