• November 3, 2016

    Lakeview, LA – New movie theater heading to the old home of the Robert E. Lee?


    From The film projector at the old Robert E. Lee Theater went dark on Sept. 9, 1990, with a final showing of the Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts movie “Flatliners.”

    After that, the once-popular Lakeview theater fell into a state of neglect, despite at least one effort to reopen it, and met the wrecking ball in 2009.

    The site has been a vacant lot since, but now a local developer hopes to build a four-screen theater there, bucking a trend in recent decades that saw large chain theaters in the suburbs replace neighborhood theaters.

    Dubbed the Nola Movie House, the family-friendly theater would include four screens in smaller, more intimate auditoriums than those of multiplexes, and include food and drink service. A screen is also planned for the roof.

    Documents filed with the city indicated there would be no more than 190 seats in the entire building.

    Architects have applied for minor zoning variances, including one that would allow a marquee to be placed atop the front of the theater, similar to the Robert E. Lee name perched atop the former building. The exterior design of the new theater closely resembles the old theater, which opened in 1965.

    A recent meeting between the architects and neighbors included questions about whether liquor would be served, if lighting from the marquee would disturb neighbors and if traffic would increase.

    According to records of that meeting, representatives said alcohol would be served but only during movies and the theater would not operate as a bar; lighting would not bleed into the surrounding neighborhood; and they do not expect any impact from additional cars since a large parking lot exists at the shopping center where the theater would be built.

    Ellen Johnson is a local movie buff who cherished the theater so much she bought the bold red letters from the rooftop marquee.

    “This was definitely an iconic theater in our very storied city, and I hated to just see it go away,” she said, adding that the return of a theater to Lakeview would be a welcome addition. “It will be another place for families to go and movie buffs like me. I don’t have to drive across town.”

    Benji Azar, the man behind plans for new theater, has memories of the old Robert E. Lee theater, which led him to plan a replacement.

    “My wife and I grew up going to movies at the Robert E. Lee Theater, and we both have memories of our experiences there,” Azar said in an email.

    He said the space will be designed for those who remember the old theater and those who are used to a more modern movie-going experience.

    “What we’ve put together, at least I hope, is a space that reminds people of what was once there and at the same time, creates something fun and cool enough that people will want to come back to over and over again,” he said.

    The Robert E. Lee was built by theater mogul Joy Houck and considered the “shining new star” in his chain, Jack Stewart, a local preservationist and historian, and Rene Brunet Jr., owner of The Prytania theater, wrote in their book “There’s One in Your Neighborhood: The Lost Movie Theaters of New Orleans.”

    Errol Laborde, a historian and editor of New Orleans Magazine, remembered it as the first big theater in the lakefront area and its unique interior, done in a riverboat motif, and something else that was equally unique for its time.

    “It also had a lot of interesting concessions as I recall,” Laborde said. “I think you could buy alcohol there which was sort of revolutionary for the time.”

    After the theater closed, Brunet made an unsuccessful effort to lease it, and though it only took on a few inches of water during Hurricane Katrina, the owner, M&O Realty, considered the building dated and thought it would cost too much to retrofit, Stewart and Brunet wrote.

    While the Nola Movie House would be a neighborhood theater, it would be a far cry from the neighborhood theaters of days gone by and a something of a rarity. Until recently, The Prytania in Uptown was the only theater left in the city, but it retains an older feel with one screen, a larger auditorium and traditional concessions.

    The model of smaller auditoriums with plush seating and food and drink service first appeared on the local scene when the Theatres at Canal Place opened in 2010, bringing a movie theater to the French Quarter and Central Business District.

    Since then, local theater operator George Solomon opened a similar “movie tavern” in Covington, and The Broad Theater opened in Mid-City at North Broad Street, near Orleans Avenue, opened earlier this year.

    The Broad is another four-screen theater that shows independent films along with more mainstream films from major Hollywood studios.

    “You know, that’s what New Orleans is all about, the old style theaters. We have Canal Place now redone, the Prytania Theater is still in action,” said Brendan Gonzalez, who lives in New Orleans. “I think it’s time for Lakeview to get an old-school boutique theater back up and running.”

  • November 1, 2016

    Lafayette, CA – New life for downtown movie theater?


    From The East Bay Times: A group of residents is hoping to transform a long-closed movie theater into a center for cinema, music and art.

    Cathy and Frederick Abbott and business partner Alex McDonald want to purchase the 75-year-old Park Theater on Golden Gate Way and convert it to a performance and rehearsal space and venue for art house films.

    The acquisition, according to Cathy Abbott, is a last-ditch effort to preserve the theater as a place for cinema and community gatherings. “It seemed like a now or never moment, realizing that once the theater is demolished, there’s no bringing it back,” Abbott wrote in a statement to the City Council.

  • October 30, 2016

    Richmond, IN: Indy architect firm buys Richmond’s Tivoli Theater site


    From The Pal-Item: The historic Tivoli Theater building in downtown Richmond has been purchased by an Indianapolis-based architecture firm that hopes to turn the space into a regional office, Center City Development Corp. announced Thursday.

    R&B Architects closed on the 900 E. Main St. building on Oct. 21, after determining the site would suit its needs for a satellite office space, as well as other potential commercial development projects.

    Immediate plans for the building include a design studio office space and potentially a coffee bistro, R&B principal Brent Mather said.

  • October 27, 2016

    Oregon, IL – New popcorn business could lead to theater re-opening in Oregon


    From The Ogle County Life: Ryan Hopper knows popcorn.

    Hopper, who recently opened Hopper’s Poppers in Oregon, said his family has been in the movie theater and popcorn business for decades. And he brought his successful popcorn formulas from Sycamore to Oregon to give locals a taste.

    And judging by opening day – Sept. 31 – he has another hit on his hands.

    “We had a line out the door waiting for us to open,” he said. “The building inspector was still in here inspecting.”

    That opening weekend – the weekend of Autumn on Parade – Hopper said they went through 150 pounds of popcorn.

    “Our supplier was surprised,” he said. “I was surprised.”

    Hopper has not only opened a new business in Oregon – selling popcorn, candy and other treats – he has purchased the building at 104 N. 4th St., which is next to the closed movie theater that currently houses an appliance repair shop, moved his family to town and is looking at the possibility of renovating and opening the theater. (see sidebar story).

    “I really see Oregon as being one of those up-and-coming towns,” he said “That is one of the reasons why we chose to move to Oregon.”

    Hopper started his business in Sycamore in 2012. His family has owned the Sycamore State Theater since 2000, and he started his business selling popcorn at the theater. From there he started selling at area farmer’s markets and business boomed.

    “It got so popular, I had to upgrade all of my equipment there, to larger equipment,” he said.

    Hopper said the secret to his success is how he makes and keeps his product.

    “We use high quality food,” he said. “We use coconut oil for our oil. I made my own recipe for the popcorn, so it’s not just generic run of the mill popcorn.”

    And once the popcorn is ready, it is held in crispers to keep it fresh. He said it won’t dry out and it won’t get too soft.

    And then there are the flavors. There are nine flavors on hand, but different flavors come in and out of the menu all the time. Hopper said he will always have cheddar, carmel, chocolate and cake popcorn. There is also kettle corn and a wide variety of cheese popcorn.

    The best seller?

    “Carmel is always the best, by far,” he said. “Everyone comes in to try the cake, though. Not everyone has cake popcorn.”

    To keep up on what is available, follow Hopper’s Poppers on Facebook.

  • October 26, 2016

    New York, NY – The haunted history of Broadway’s Palace Theatre


    From Curbed NY: The sightings of spirits, ghosts, and ghouls are a common occurrence in New York City buildings, and one such haunted spot is Times Square’s Palace Theatre. It’s said to be home to a variety of ghosts—both friendly and frightening—many of whom once graced its legendary stage.

    Located at Broadway at West 47th Street, the theater was built in 1913 by the Milwaukee-based architecture firm of Kirchoff & Rose. They were somewhat limited in their design potential, thanks to the fact that the theater was located within a ten-story office building and surrounded by existing buildings on each side. They designed a three-level auditorium with 16 parquet-style boxes arranged along the walls toward the stage, “under a graceful arch forming a stylized sunburst above them on either side.” Designed in the Neo-Classical style, the building featured “moldings of such as fruit festoons and bead-and-reel to outline the panels into which the walls and ceiling were divided.”

  • October 25, 2016

    Bedford, NY – Bedford Playhouse Nears Fundraising Goal To Begin Construction


    From The Daily Voice: The folks trying to turn the Bedford Playhouse, one of northern Westchester’s oldest cultural institutions, into a nonprofit arts cinema and community center, are marking a fundraising milestone.

    Thanks to several recent large donations, the campaign has now raised $4.6 million of its $5.2 million needed to begin construction. Additional fundraising will ensure the Playhouse is operational in 2017.

    In the past six weeks alone, the effort has raked in $800,000. About $600,000 more is needed to begin construction.

    They also announced that a series of videos, touting different aspects of the project, have been, or will be, released on the theater’s website,

    They hope the six short promos, which were created by Jamie Edgar of Hound Dog Media, will rally their “final stretch” effort.

    Each video includes commentary by Bedford Playhouse president John Farr.

    The first two videos were posted earlier this month.

    In 2014, the playhouse was facing extinction after its previous tenant, Bow Tie Cinemas, decided not to renew its lease.

    Now there are plans for three state-of-the-art theaters, including a flex-use space for community events such as guest speakers and concerts, and an all-day café.

    A fundraiser and celebration of the movies and performing arts was held recently at the Harvey School’s Walker Center for the Arts in Katonah.

    The event featured a cocktail reception and show that included performances by Westchester residents Glenn Close and Paul Shaffer, Jeffrey Tambor, Chazz Palminteri, Terre Blair (Marvin Hamlisch’s widow), Marissa McGowan and Robert Klein.

    Bedford resident Chevy Chase had been scheduled to appear by had to bow out because of a professional commitment.

  • October 18, 2016

    Augusta, ME – Augusta developer pitches plan to expand, revitalize Colonial Theater


    From A plan to restore and reopen the neglected but historic Colonial Theater includes adding a 13,000-square-foot, multi-story building next to it, an ambitious timeline for the work, and a schedule of as many as 300 shows a year in the hope that it could bring culture, people and revenue to the city’s downtown.

    Organizers of nonprofit efforts to restore and preserve the vacant theater, which is between Water Street and the Kennebec River, said the region is starved for the performing arts, they already have acts and shows they could bring there, and the theater would bring people to fill the city’s downtown and area restaurants and other businesses.

  • October 14, 2016

    Conway, NH – Conway movie theater named to US historic register


    From A group of storefronts in Conway has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Bolduc Block with Art Deco features was designed to have four shops and a theater on the first floor and offices on the second. The theater entrance has gold-painted wooden frames designed to hold movie advertisements.

    Throughout its history, Bolduc Block’s storefronts were occupied by a variety of businesses, including a pharmacy, grocer, department store, sewing store, telephone business offices and post office.

    The building’s exterior has changed little. Despite a fire in the theater in 2005, the interior still has many features from the 1930s, including light fixtures, cast iron radiators and cushioned brocade fabric wall panels in the lobby.

  • October 11, 2016

    Tupelo, MS – Something strange in your neighborhood: Tupelo’s Lyric Theatre


    From There are some things in this world that go way beyond human understanding – things that cannot be explained – things some people don’t even want to know about. You hear something go bump in the night. You see something out of the corner of your eye. You feel something on the nape of your neck.

    Most unexplained events can be easily dismissed: The wind blew something over or faulty wiring made that bulb flicker, ominously. But, sometimes, you’re in a place with a history behind it. And whether those stories have been passed down over generations or are still actively discussed today, they haunt those areas as much as the ghosts in the stories.

    Over the next four Fridays, the Daily Journal will be spotlighting four separate locations in Northeast Mississippi that share a common bond: ghosts and the legends that surround them.

    The Lyric Theatre

    What is now the home of Tupelo Community Theatre has undergone many changes since its inception in 1912.

    At that time, R. F. Goodlett sought out financial backers to construct a vaudeville theater called The Comus. The structure remained a home for live theater until 1931, when it was purchased by the M.A. Lightman Company chain and turned into a movie theater. It was at that time the facility received its now iconic marquee and art deco appearance. From 1931 to 1984, lots of tales came out of the movie house, like Elvis Presley’s first kiss in the balcony during a Saturday matinee, but it was the 1936 tornado that decimated Tupelo, killing an untold number in its path, that gave credence – and still does – to the greatest story out of the Lyric Theatre.

    “‘Antoine,’” said Tupelo Community Theatre executive director Tom Booth, chuckling. “Where did that name even come from? Nobody knows. I can’t for the life of me tell you where his name came from.”

    “Antoine” is the name given to the Lyric’s local haunt, a presence that many have felt but few can put into words. Some see him as a glowing light, while others hear a childlike giggle in the darkness of the historic structure. TCT inherited the spirit, and his story, when they acquired the theater in the mid-’80s.

    There are two separate stories of Antoine that have followed the theater to this day, and many off-shoots of the main legends.

    One is that Antoine was a caretaker of the theater who worked under the stage, shoveling coal. It’s believed he may have even had an apartment in the facility he looked after.

    The more popular legend is that Antoine was a small child killed during the twister of ’36. Whether he was killed and taken to the theater – which was used as a makeshift hospital and morgue in the aftermath of the tornado – or was taken there to be treated and died later remains a mystery, much like Antoine himself.

    Still, strange things happen daily in the landmark, but Booth usually just chalks that up to it being a “big, old building.” That’s not to say he hasn’t had his own run-ins with Antoine.

  • October 6, 2016

    Birmingham, AL – Alabama Theatre announces 2016 Christmas movie schedule


    From Halloween is still more than three weeks away, but it’s not too early to start making your Christmas plans at the Alabama Theatre.

    Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. today, Oct., 6, for the Alabama’s 2016 Holiday Film Series, and if you want to make sure to get tickets to see some of your favorite Christmas movies, you might want to go ahead and buy your tickets now.

    Last Christmas season, a record 29,281 people attended the Holiday Film Series, and 12 of the 18 screenings were sold out, according to Brant Beene, executive director of Birmingham Landmarks, which owns and operates the Alabama Theatre.

    “These are so popular,” Beene said. “People even plan their holidays around them.”

    Tickets to this year’s movies are $8, with the exception of the two screenings of “The Polar Express.” Those tickets are $12, with proceeds benefiting Kid One Transport.

    Order tickets online at or by phone at 800-745-3000. There is an additional charge for online purchases.

    Here is the 2016 Holiday Film Series schedule:

    Dec. 9, Friday, 7 p.m. — “White Christmas.”

    Dec. 10, Saturday, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — “The Polar Express.”

    Dec. 10, Saturday, 7 p.m. — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

    Dec. 11, Sunday, 2 p.m. — “Miracle on 34th Street.”

    Dec. 11, Sunday, 7 p.m. — “Elf.”

    Dec. 12, Monday, 7 p.m. — “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    Dec. 13, Tuesday, 7 p.m. — “Home Alone.”

    Dec. 14, Wednesday, 7 p.m. — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

    Dec. 15, Thursday, 7 p.m. — “Elf.”

    Dec. 16, Friday, 7 p.m. — “A Christmas Story.”

    Dec. 17, Saturday, 2 p.m. — Christmas Cartoon Matinee: “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

    Dec. 17, Saturday, 7 p.m. — “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    Dec. 18, Sunday, 2 p.m. — “White Christmas.”

    Dec. 18, Sunday, 7 p.m. — “Home Alone.”

    Dec. 19, Monday, 2 p.m. — “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    Dec. 19, Monday, 7 p.m. — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

    Dec. 20, Tuesday, 2 p.m. — “White Christmas.”

    Dec. 20, Tuesday, 7 p.m. — “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

    Dec. 21, Wednesday, 2 p.m. — “A Christmas Story.”

    Dec. 21, Wednesday, 7 p.m. — “Elf.”

    Dec. 22, Thursday, 2 p.m. — Christmas Cartoon Matinee: “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

    Dec. 22, Thursday, 7 p.m. — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

    The Alabama Theatre is at 1817 Third Ave. North in downtown Birmingham.