September 29, 2016
From CentralMaine.com: The reddish glow in the evening sky on U.S. Route 201 east of downtown Skowhegan is a signal.
It’s a sign.
It’s the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre, which moved into the future this past summer when it converted to digital projection.
This week, theater owner Don Brown stepped back from the future and into the past with the installation of a replica neon sign that looks just like the original sign did when the drive-in opened in 1954, mounted on a red 35-foot pole.
“They took the old sign that had been lying on the ground and they made a pattern from that and they duplicated it,” Brown said Wednesday as he turned on the sign with its bright red neon arrow pointing to the refurbished ticket booth at the entrance to the drive-in.
Sign Services Inc., of Stetson, did all the work, paid for with just over $8,000 from the Skowhegan facade grant program. The white sign with blue lettering spells out “Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre,” with “theater” spelled the old-fashioned way.
“It was the last piece of the original theater that we had not rehabilitated,” said Brown, 53. “It had been there for so many years and so many people have asked us, ‘Are you every going to do anything with the sign?’ that when the opportunity to apply for the facade grant came up, we did.”
Jeffrey Hewett, the town’s director of economic and community development, said it’s nice having the red glow of the neon arrow illuminating the evening sky along U.S. 201, also called Waterville Road.
Hewett said the sign is real neon with “glass set-asides” that hold the neon and copper wire that keeps it all in place.
“It brings back a lot of memories for me,” Hewett said. “In the daytime it doesn’t really grab you as much; it’s the nighttime and that kind of reddish glow that comes off that gets you. I don’t think that there are very many of the neon signs that are left anymore.”
Brown, who lives in Felton, Delaware, during the winter, bought the drive-in theater in May 2012 from Doug Corson’s Encore Skowhegan Drive-In.
The drive-in has a capacity of 340 to 350 cars, set old-fashioned-style in semicircles with a standing pipe that once held the audio speakers. Sound for the movies now comes over the car’s FM radio at 88.3 on the dial.
There are now five drive-in movie theaters in Maine, including Skowhegan’s, according to the website DriveInMovie.com.
Two years ago, an estimated 357 drive-in movie theaters remained in the United States, a steep decline from the 4,000 or 5,000 that gave drive-in theaters entertainment status in the late 1950s and ’60s. Generations of families have packed station wagons with coolers, lawn chairs and kids in pajamas, and young lovers went out for a night of cinema under the stars.
Brown said he wants to continue that tradition while polishing up some of the nostalgia of the experience along the way.
“We went right through the building when we came here in 2012. Everything has been reproduced to be of the original design. It’s just been modified on occasion here and there for more contemporary standards,” he said.
Everything, including the concession stand, looks “pretty much the same” as it did in the 1950s, Brown said. He said two of the movies that ran this past summer were on the old 35 mm film, but the rest — a new feature every week — were projected using the new digital equipment.
“I think what we’ve done with the drive-in combines the best aspects of the present yet preserves certain vital elements from the past that made the drive-in appealing,” he said.
He said bringing the drive-in into the digital age was necessary for the business to survive; it was either digital or die. Hollywood studios were phasing out 35 mm film and switching production to modern digital. The sign, on the other hand, combines the element of nostalgia with the contemporary projection.
Two years ago, on the 60th anniversary of the opening of the drive-in, Brown was facing a $40,000 investment in new equipment and modifications or he would be forced to close. With donations from the community, including a Stephen King marathon of scary movies and a lot of his own savings, Brown finally took delivery of the new projector.
“It’s neon, and there used to be a neon sign out there,” Randy Gray, Skowhegan’s code enforcement officer, said Wednesday. “So good for him for doing it.”
Brown said the drive-in is closed for the season, but he’ll leave the sign’s light on for a while Friday and Saturday night as a signal that he’ll be back in the spring for another summer of movies under the stars.
“The drive-in is unique because it combines elements of the past, such as the sign, with today’s modern technology, such as the projectors,” he said. “That’s been the constant over the years, over the generations, that the drive-in’s been around. The technology used has always been changing, but the experience has always been the same.”
September 28, 2016
From Oswego County Today: The Oswego County Historical Society is proudly celebrating the 75th anniversary of the historic landmark Oswego Theatre, which opened it doors in January of 1941.
A classic movie night showing the popular film “Casablanca” will be featured on October 13 at 7 p.m. in the Oswego Theatre, 138 W. Second St.
All proceeds from the event will support the Richardson-Bates House Museum in Oswego.
“This is a special milestone for one of our most iconic historic landmarks in Oswego,” said Justin White, president of the OCHS board of trustees. “The unique Oswego Theatre is a place of which many Oswegonians have nostalgic memories.”
Many interesting details have been added to make this a special event in Oswego’s historic cinema.
The evening show will be giving the feel of traveling back in time to the 1940s.
From The Mirror: Geoff Steele has been in the music and theatre business for over 30 years, experiencing all sides of the industry- from a singer himself in Nashville, to a touring technician, to marketing at a record company, to opening multiple theatres in Branson, and marrying a Branson-born entertainer. But there’s something about the Historic Gillioz Theatre that brings Steele, executive director at the Gillioz, particular joy and pride.
“There’s a tremendous amount of history here,” said Steele. “It’s part of what makes Springfield incredible; There’s not a lot of communities in the country that have this type of a venue, and most didn’t have them in their heyday.”
The Gillioz was funded and built in 1926 by Maurice Earnest Gillioz, a local bridge builder, right on historic route 66. Gillioz actually made a 90-year buyout deal with the laundromat and pharmacy that stood where the large entrance is now, just to have a spot literally on the route 66 road (now Park Central St.). At the time, it cost $300,000.
Despite being pre-dated by Springfield’s other historic venues- the Lander’s Theatre and the Shrine Mosque- the Gillioz was the town’s premier entertainment venue for nearly 60 years, serving as a ‘hybrid house,’ hosting vaudeville shows (live production) and popular movie premieres (silent films). It remained like this until vaudeville died out, surviving as a movie house for roughly 50 years.
“What made us premiere was the diversity in the programming, and I also think some of it was because it was home-built,” explained Steele. “Gillioz was a guy from Monet, and that’s not normal. Most of these places… were all owned by big chains… And that’s what I think still maintains a fondness for some of our rural people.”
Some guests that appeared throughout the theater’s history include Ronald and Nancy Reagan, when he was still an actor, for a movie of his that premiered at the Gillioz, and Elvis Presely, who snuck in to see a movie in between his performances at the Shrine Mosque one night in 1955.
The Gillioz was also a source of morale-boosting during the Great Depression and World War II; it used to host community songfests and local singing competitions.
Around 1970, however, the Battlefield mall opened, which caused all of the downtown businesses to close down. There was a movie theatre in the mall, as well as a few other small theatres popping up, making the Gillioz no exception to the declining downtown area.
“People didn’t have to go downtown to see movies anymore, and so it slowly went into disrepair. The theater actually lived longer than a lot of other parts of downtown because people still liked the nostalgia factor… But the Springfield downtown was a ghost town for years.”
After a rough few years, it closed its doors in 1980. However, in the 1990s, the Gillioz began its comeback. Jim Morris, the father of the founder of Bass Pro Shops, along with a few passionate members of the community, started to help raise money to restore the theater, on the condition that it remained in its 1926 condition.
“[Morris] had the financial means to see something done, and he’s old enough to have a strong emotional attachment to what the space was,” explained Steele. “I think he was convinced that it was plausible- that if someone was willing to spare the wrecking ball on it, there was a chance they could do something really special.”
Luckily, because Gillioz built the theatre with bridge material (steel and concrete) that was available to him, it was actually found that the building was so well-constructed that it would cost as much to repair the theatre as it would to tear it down. Morris created a non-profit, called the Springfield Landmarks Preservation Trust, and in the end, their side prevailed. The organization then raised over 10.5 million dollars from over 100 generous private and public donors to complete the project.
And, in 1991, they earned the Gillioz a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. This means that before the building could be bulldozed and destroyed like many similar historic landmarks, Congress would have to be addressed.
“This says ‘this space is of value to the American culture, and the United States Congress acknowledges that, and so we’re going to preserve it,’” said Steele. He continued: “These theatres are incredibly precious… but if we do this right, then this is our Rome in a few hundred years.”
Finally, in 2006, the Gillioz, restored true to its original 1926 design, reopened its doors to an excited and supportive community. Its debut also helped revitalize downtow
“The Gillioz coming back was a significant component to bringing downtown back to vitality,” said Steele.
However, it still wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. According to Steele, the Gillioz went through an identity crisis around 2011 and 2012 because it was very focused on the college crowd, like most businesses at the time. When Steele arrived in October of 2014, he reverted back to the original mission of the ‘hybrid house.’
“When I first got here, I walked around this neighborhood and talked to stores and businesses, and I listened [to the community],” said Steele. The overwhelming response was that everyone loved and remembered the Gillioz, but a significant number of the people who were 40+ were feeling left out, wishing to see shows and performances they were interested in.
“That’s when we really got serious about diversifying,” said Steele. “[Now] we try to offer something for everyone.
Today the Gillioz, with a total of 1,024 seats, hosts a multitude of events and performances, including “Broadway productions, theatre, movies, religious gatherings, arts education, dining, rehearsals, school programs, banquets, receptions, concerts, film festivals, weddings, seminars/conventions, and television broadcasts,” according to its website.
Against all odds the Gillioz not only survived, but came back from the dead, and now it is thriving more than ever. Steele considers this survival, and the survival of Springfield’s other jewels, a monumental success. He chalks it up to the culture of theaters themselves.
“I have a theory that theaters are a place for a community to exercise its conscience… We’re social animals, and we want to have a shared experience,” he explained. “You can watch a movie alone, or you can go share an experience of watching a movie… it’s just something about who we are, and theaters give you that ability to have a shared experience.”
It’s because of this sharing and diversified nature that Steele truly believes in what he does. “I think these places are important. I think the opportunity to bring people together is a pretty great way to make a living,” he said. “After every show, I make a point to watch people leave, because that’s the pay day: seeing people happy. We just created a memory.”
From Vermont Biz: Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has sued a New Hampshire couple for illegally soliciting contributions for a digital projector to “save” the Randall Drive-In located in Bethel. “Crowdfunding can be a legitimate way to raise money for a cause, but it is also subject to abuse. Those who rip off Vermonters through improper use of crowdfunding can expect to be held accountable for their illegal acts,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell.
The Complaint alleges that the Defendants Adam Gerhard and Regina Franz, and a company operated by them, Capture the Dream, LLC, violated Vermont’s Consumer Protection Act when they raised money for the projector primarily through a crowdfunding campaign created on Kickstarter.com. At least 257 people donated more than $22,000, including several who donated upwards of $500 towards the projector. The projector was used at the Randall Drive-In only for the 2014 season, at which point the defendants took it to a New York drive-in operated by them.
According to the Attorney General’s Complaint, the Defendants made misrepresentations and omissions about the future of the Randall Drive-In, including that “rather than have this renaissance season be a Swan Song for the Randall Drive-In, we are asking for assistance” and that “digital cinema now threatens to close down the drive-in for good.”
The Complaint alleges that the Defendants made these statements despite knowing that the digital projector would not play a role at the Randall Drive-In beyond the 2014 season. The Defendants also misrepresented that the cost of the digital projector would be $75,000, and require a down payment of $20,000, when in fact, it cost $36,300 with a down payment of $6,000.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for all persons who were defrauded by the Defendants’ solicitations, civil penalties, an injunction preventing further consumer fraud violations, and costs.
September 21, 2016
From The Tennessean: “We anticipate that area becoming a very lively and engaging commercial corridor and we hope to have announcements over the next few months after we identify and come to terms with potential tenants,” Kyle said.
827 Meridian Partners LLC, the Kyle-led buying entity, bought the properties at 827 and 831 Meridian Street from Robert Solomon. The purchase included just over half an acre on which the 1930-built, 9,352-square-foot former historic theater sits at the northeast corner of Meridian and Wilburn streets plus 0.23 acres on vacant commercial land at 831 Meridian St.
Robbie Jones is a board member of Historic Nashville Inc., which included the Roxy Theater on its 2013 Nashville Nine list of the city’s most endangered historic places.
“As one of the only remaining historic movie theater buildings in Nashville, Historic Nashville is very excited about plans to preserve it,” Jones said. “The Roxy is a beloved neighborhood landmark in East Nashville and definitely one of the historic places that makes our city unique.”
From UPmatters.com: Its been 90 years since the historic Vista Theater opened its doors for the first time.
It closed in 1972 and became a movie theater under the operation of ‘PAAC’.
Today, the vista is used for mainly theatrical shows and sometimes a live music venue.
Andrew ‘Bear’ Tyler, the Executive Director of the Vista Theater said, “Fred Waring, the Dukes of Dixieland, Frank Sinatra Jr, Peter Nero…Lots of legendary acts have come to this place and played here and not many places around here can say that.”
The future is bright for the vista theater. Tyler says the plan is to restore the theater to the beacon of arts and entertainment it once was.
September 20, 2016
From NJ.com: The news about movie theaters in Hunterdon County in 1976 was decidedly better – and more unique – than today.
Back then, Kapow, Inc. of East Orange announced it would be taking over as operators of the Clinton Point Theater in Clinton Township and the Barn Theater in Frenchtown as of Oct. 1, according to the Hunterdon County Democrat archives. The announcement meant the two movie houses would remain open.
The New York Times had reported in 1973 that Brandt had agreed to a six-week ban of X-rated movies at the Clinton Point Theater after some in the community protested. The experiment failed and the adult films continued to be shown.
A bit of interesting trivia about the Barn Theater: Workers digging a well when the building was built in 1939 struck water that still flows to the surface to this day. For some 50 years the excess water poured from a pipe where it could be collected by anyone.
September 19, 2016
From the Mercury News: CinéArts will stay open for another two years after its parent company reached an agreement with Palo Alto Square property owners, city officials announced Thursday.
The theater at 3000 El Camino Real will stay open while Cinemark Theatres and Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. “undertake improvements to the building and assess the long-term future of the theatre,” the city of Palo Alto news release stated.
At the urging of city officials, the property owner and its tenant have continued negotiations in the past couple of months.
News of the theater’s closure surfaced as it neared the end of its lease in August.
Hudson Pacific will make improvements to the building as requested by Cinemark. The company also intends to make landscaping, amenity and other aesthetic improvements to Palo Alto Square.
“This reprieve for the Palo Alto Theatre is the result of efforts by Hudson Pacific and Cinemark Theatres with encouragement from the city,” said City Manager James Keene. “Hudson Pacific and Cinemark are to be congratulated for coming together for the good of our community.”
The city had hoped for a long-term lease extension, Keene said.
“But the theatre will remain open and ultimately the economics of the theatre’s operations will determine whether CinéArts will remain in this location,” Keene added. “To see a longer lease extension in the future, our community will need to actively support the theatre.”
Hudson Pacific senior vice president Drew Gordon said the company appreciates “cooperation and goodwill” by all parties.
“The next two years are a window of opportunity to determine whether the theatre can operate in Palo Alto Square for the long term,” Gordon said.
Tom Owens, executive vice president of real estate for Cinemark, said the theater company applauds the efforts by Hudson Pacific and the city of Palo Alto to enable the theater to continue operations.
“We believe the theatre can stay in Palo Alto with the community’s full support, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve Palo Alto and the surrounding region,” Owens said.
City officials such as councilwomen Karen Holman and Liz Kniss and community members rallied to show support for the theater in recent months, collecting more than 2,500 signatures to petition the theater to stay open.
City officials had said that had CinéArts left, the building’s owner would have to find another theater tenant or request rezoning to allow for an alternate use.
Palo Alto Square was developed through a Planned Community zoning ordinance in 1969, allowing uses such as office space and a hotel that has since been amended.
The closure of CinéArts would have left Palo Alto with the Aquarius Theatre on Emerson Street, which also is a first-run theater that shows some independent films, and the Stanford Theatre, which shows classic movies.
Link to the story: http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/15/palo-alto-theater-to-stay-open-for-next-two-years/
ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.
Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at historictheatres.org
September 16, 2016
From the Wichita Eagle: They were going to tear it down and replace it with a parking lot.
You’ll read that on the timeline of many historic downtown theaters across the United States, including several dozen in Kansas. Thanks to grass-roots efforts to save and preserve the buildings, historic theaters across the state make great road trip destinations, taking you to the cultural core of towns of all sizes, showcasing architecture of a bygone era and providing diverse entertainment, including movies, concerts, comedy shows, plays, ballet, opera, musicals, children’s programming, lectures and conventions.
These theaters were designed and constructed during a time when the building was meant to be part of the show-going experience.
“All of these theaters have a tremendous history, and their beauty takes you back to a different time, a different place,” said Jennifer Allen, past president of Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre and president of the Kansas Historic Theatres Association until she moved to Colorado recently. “It’s a really fun experience to go see a show at a historical theater in any town.”
You can find theaters in all stages of restoration in Kansas. Some are fully restored; for example, Emporia’s Granada Theater or Hutchinson’s Historic Fox Theatre. Some are operating yet continuing restoration efforts, such as Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre or the soon-to-open Burford Theatre in Arkansas City. Others are closed while undergoing restoration, such as the Colonial Fox in Pittsburg, although still offering tours and occasional events.
The approach taken with the 1924 Burford Theatre is a good example of what you can expect when visiting one of the region’s historic theaters. Executive director Ellen Snell said the project involved preserving, restoring and modernizing. For example, they were able to preserve the 92-year-old terrazzo floor in the lobby. There are signs of wear and tear – like the marks from stools used where a soda fountain once stood – but nothing distracting. They restored the orchestra pit and the single stage, which had been removed when the building was converted to a three-screen movie house, and returned the decorative scope of the entire theater to its original Spanish renaissance style. They modernized the bathrooms, concessions areas, audio-visual technology and seating.
Taking a tour, attending an event, shopping at the theater’s gift shop or becoming a patron all support a theater’s renovation efforts and its ongoing operations. Next time you’re in the mood for dinner and a show, check the schedules at these historic theater destinations. Though their calendars are fullest from September through April, they schedule programming year-round and take a something-for-everyone approach.
The Augusta Theatre was built as a movie palace in 1935 and operated by the Bisagno family for 50 years. It was donated to the local arts council in 1989 and has been completely restored to its appearance in 1948, which was the year a full concessions stand was built in the theater’s lobby. The exterior of the two-story art deco building features individual tiles of opaque structural glass and a decorative neon marquee. The colors of interior murals, hand-painted ceiling panels and handmade ornamental plaster designs create an Egyptian appearance.
Volunteers operate the theater, which mostly shows current movies on Saturdays and Sundays. This fall’s schedule also includes children’s theater. Check the schedule at augustahistorictheatre.com.
Burford Theatre (Arkansas City)
The Burford Theatre opened in 1924 as a vaudeville silent-movie house. It was converted to a three-screen movie theater in the mid-1980s and closed in 2004. It was donated to the local arts council, which decided to renovate and restore the space to create the VJ Wilkins Family Center for the Arts at the Burford Theatre. After 12 years of work, including thousands of volunteer hours and $7 million raised through private donations and grants, the Burford is scheduled to reopen this month.
The main auditorium, which seats 350, will be open, but the balcony is not yet finished. While operational, the theater will begin a second restoration phase. Grand opening events are scheduled from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 and include a theater dedication, an open house, a 1920s-themed party and two performances of the “Burford Follies” featuring Music Theatre Wichita and local talent.
Initial programming is scheduled through December and offers movies, dinner theater, a vaudeville night and jazz performances. For more information, visit the VJ Wilkins Family Center for the Arts at the Burford Theatre page on Facebook or call 620-442-5896.
Emporia Granada Theater
The Emporia Granada Theater opened in 1929 with 1,400 seats, showing movies and hosting live performances before closing in 1982. The theater sat empty and deteriorated until demolition threatened in 1994. Local residents rallied to save the theater, and it reopened in 2007, renovated to its original Spanish Colonial Revival style inside and out and now seating 800.
“One of the things we’re really proud of is the painted ceiling,” said Bryan Williams, executive director since 2012. “When you come in, be sure to walk all the way down to the stage and look back. The ceiling alone took 30 days to sand it back and hand paint it using stencils.” The carpet was specially milled to match a swatch of the original carpet, and there is gold leaf paint in the lobby.
Williams said community support has been strong for programming that includes concerts, comedy shows, movies and dinner movies, and it’s not unusual for events to sell out. Upcoming events include country acts Craig Morgan on Sept. 28, the Charlie Daniels Band on Nov. 6 and Sawyer Brown on Dec. 10. Visit emporiagranada.com for a full schedule.
Hutchinson’s Historic Fox Theater
Hutchinson’s art deco Fox Theatre opened as a movie palace in 1931 and closed in 1985. A local preservation group purchased it in 1990 and reopened it in 1999 after spending $4.5 million to restore it to its 1931 appearance. Josh Davies, executive director, said visitors are intrigued with the intricate decorative moldings; the original light fixtures, including six large chandeliers; and the marquee, the first flashing display of neon in Kansas and now one of the few surviving original and functioning marquees in the country.
Programming includes live entertainment by nationally touring performing artists, Hutchinson Symphony Orchestra performances and a weekend film series shown on a 40-foot-wide screen. Fall concerts include Frankie Avalon on Oct. 8, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen on Oct. 28 and jazz artist Karrin Allyson on Nov. 17. Visit hutchinsonfox.com for a full schedule.
C.L. Hoover Opera House (Junction City)
In 1882, a section of the newly constructed public hall in Junction City was built as a 600-seat opera house. A fire destroyed the building in 1898, and it was rebuilt the same year; this time the theater had a larger stage and more seats. It operated until 1982, seeing many renovations and eventually becoming a movie theater. The theater remained closed for 26 years, then reopened as the C.L. Hoover Opera House in 2008 after a $7 million restoration.
The exterior looks the same – distinguished by a Romanesque-style clock tower – while the interior layout changed significantly to become a multi-use facility for the local performing arts community in addition to hosting regional and national acts in a 416-seat theater.
Events this fall include a New York touring musical comedy improv, the premiere of a film based on Kansas history and shot nearby and a “Singin’ with the Big Band” concert featuring Christopher Alan Graves. Find a full schedule at jcoperahouse.org.
McPherson Opera House
When the McPherson Opera House opened in 1888 as a live performance venue, it had no equal between Kansas City and Denver, making it a popular stop for acts crossing the country. It was designed with two balconies and seating for 900. It converted to a movie theater with one balcony in 1929 and closed in 1965. A group formed in 1986 to save the building from demolition.
After $8.5 million in renovations, the building is now a fully restored multi-use facility. The 470-seat auditorium reopened in 2010 with 1913-style renovations, when a redecoration added decorative stenciling throughout and a hand-painted mural above the proscenium arch. There’s also a resale shop on-site that benefits the opera house and an arts center with classes and rotating galleries.
McPherson Opera House events this fall include a cappella, opera, cowboy music, jazz and bluegrass. Visit mcphersonoperahouse.org for more information.
Orpheum Theatre (Wichita)
When the Orpheum Theatre opened as a vaudeville theater in downtown Wichita in 1922, it was the first atmospheric theater in the United States.
“An atmospheric theater was a theater with a painted theme that gave you the feeling you were somewhere else. Ours was under a Mediterranean sky,” said Diana Gordon, the Orpheum’s president and chief development officer.
The theater closed in 1976 and was saved from demolition in the mid-1980s. It officially reopened in 2000, and since then, more than $5 million has been raised and invested in the theater. The auditorium, which seats 1,298, has yet to be fully renovated.
The Orpheum hosts more than 100 events each year, and fall is typically its busiest time. In addition to its monthly classic film series, the theater screens films as part of the Tallgrass Film Festival in October. Other upcoming events include Alton Brown on Oct. 6, Elvis Costello on Oct. 8, Boz Scaggs on Oct. 23 and Lewis Black on Nov. 18. See the complete schedule at wichitaorpheum.com.
Stiefel Theatre (Salina)
The Stiefel Theatre opened in downtown Salina in 1931 as the Fox-Watson Theater, an art deco venue that showed mostly movies until it closed in 1987. It remained dark until a nonprofit restoration group began work in 1997 and reopened it in 2003.
The completely renovated theater seats 1,287 and has one of the busiest schedules among the state’s historic venues. Among the Stiefel’s upcoming shows are ZZ Top on Sept. 21; Martina McBride on Sept. 23; an evening of rock, blues and folk with Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite on Oct. 22; humor writer David Sedaris on Oct. 30; and the Goo Goo Dolls on Nov. 7. A full schedule is available at stiefeltheatre.org.
September 15, 2016
From WBUR.org: When you think of widescreen cinema there’s a good chance “Lawrence of Arabia” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” come to mind. They were shot to wow audiences with a picture so enormous it would literally turn heads. From left to right in a jam-packed movie palace, that is, not toward a tiny personal screen.
And unless you’ve seen them in 70 mm — the most robust of all motion picture film formats, popularized in the late ‘50s and '60s to lure people away from TV — you haven’t seen them at all. So says David Kornfeld, the head projectionist at the Somerville Theatre.
“The 70 mm frame is bigger than your iPhone!” Kornfeld points out, referring to the size of the image on a film print. “You should not miss these.”
Both classics will screen in 70 mm along with 14 other films as part of the Somerville’s 70 mm & Widescreen Festival. It’s a first for the theater, as well as the region, and the showings will take place from Friday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Sept. 25.
Kornfeld is die-hard about film tech history, with a rabid fondness for 70 mm in particular.
“Film stocks, projectors, cameras, lenses, special effects, the history of sound … it goes on and on,” he says. “You will never touch bottom. You can spend a lifetime and still learn something.”
Putting together a festival that celebrates all that widescreen formats can offer has been a dream of his for at least a dozen years. But he didn’t do it alone.
Reviving ‘A Dead Format’
“I’ve worked every theater in Boston. Most don’t exist anymore,” Kornfeld says of a projectionist career that started in 1978 and fizzled out as systems became automated, unions broke down and, in his opinion, quality control disappeared. He says Ian Judge, the Somerville’s director of operations and programmer, pulled him out of retirement in 2004 (about two years after Judge took the reins). They’ve been plotting ways to screen 70 mm ever since.
First they needed projectors. Judge says that Boston Light & Sound helped him track down a pair of Norelco DP-70s from the home of film restorationist Robert Harris about a decade ago. That was the easy part. Tweaking sound capability, including finding and installing processors, was far more complicated. As an example, there are 10 different sound formats for 70 mm alone.
Judge recalls that naysayers told him, “This is pointless, you’ll never find prints to run, it’s a dead format.” Last year, the Somerville ran several 70 mm screenings to troubleshoot glitches and now, Judge says, “We can run virtually every format ever made with rare exceptions.”
While shooting films on 70 mm became less common from the ‘80s onward, there are still many titles that were blown up to 70 mm for a better picture and six-track magnetic sound. “Silverado,” Lawrence Kasdan’s 1985 Western that is showing in this year’s festival, is case in point.