March 8, 2007
OWOSSO, MI — In researching my article about the Capitol Theatre/Lebowski/Lebowsky Center, I found some vintage photos of the theater’s front facade. One is a 1948 photo of the Capitol Theatre, before it was renovated in 1952. The 1952 marquee fabricated by the Long Sign Company of Detroit had horizontal neon letters spelling out “CAPITOL” mounted on top of each side of the marquee.
Another is a 1986 photo taken shortly after a church took over the theater and was given the “Lebowski” name with the “CAPITOL” neon letters removed. After the Lebowsky family foreclosed on the church and the Owosso Community Players took it over, the Lebowsky spelling was changed.
March 6, 2007
Preservation Texas has included Historic Small Town Theaters on its 2007 Most Endangered List. The Austin-based advocacy group included theaters such as the Palace Theater in Brady, McCulloch County, as part of a 12-site list that seeks to focus attention and resources on disappearing and endangered historical assets. And though Houston is not necessarily a small town, the list placed emphasis on the River Oaks and Alabama Theaters, which are endangered by redevelopment.
“Historic theaters deserve an encore as part of Main Street developments that are revitalizing small towns and it is important that they are protected and restored instead of demolished,” stated a February news release from Preservation Texas.
For more information, go to Preservation Texas.
March 1, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC — With a renewed commitment from the community, the Howard Theater is being proposed to be renovated into an artistic center and home for jazz.
Gordon and scores of others who played hooky to see jazz and Motown greats perform at the Howard shared their memories yesterday at the Carnegie Library, where they were told of plans by a local developer to revive the historic theater, at 7th and T streets NW.
The Howard, built in 1910, was once the nation’s premier venue for black performers, an essential stop on the “chitlin circuit” that included Baltimore’s Royal, Philadelphia’s Uptown, and New York’s Apollo theaters.
For more, go to the Washington Post.
February 27, 2007
OWOSSO, MI — While the Owosso Community Players stage “Beauty and the Beast” at Owosso Middle School, they hope to at least salvage part of the burned out Lebowsky Center as an in-depth joint investigation of the fire by federal, state and local officials takes place after the OCP’s insurance company gave the green light and will hire their own investigator to assist in the effort.
Engineers and building inspectors will determine the theater’s fate, but there is a good possibility that the undamaged front facade will be preserved. More details from theOwosso Argus-Press.
TORONTO, CANADA — Toronto’s 94-year-old Revue Cinema lost its marquee early Sunday morning (Feb. 18) when it collapsed and fell onto the sidewalk.
It is believed that the weight of recent snowfall was the final straw and that the marquee had become rotten at its core. Luckily it fell at 3 AM so no one was injured.
The Revue was most recently part of the Festival Cinema chain. It closed its doors last June 30 after the owners decided to sell the chain. A local group was trying to save the cinema for local theatre and cultural events plus the occasional movie. So this comes as a big blow to them.
February 22, 2007
February 21, 2007
PITTSBURGH, PA — After years of legal battles the former venue for adult films, the Garden Theater, has been sold to the city. Following some cleanup, the Urban Redevelopment Authority will start showing it to developers so it can be the centerpiece of a revived neighborhood.
With 10 years of legal battle now behind them, the Urban Redevelopment Authority expects to take possession of the X-rated Garden Theatre as soon as Wednesday.
URA building manager Marino Marangoni said this morning he expects at least three months of cleaning and clearing out debris will be needed before developers can be shown the space.
Owner George Androtsakis inked a $1.1 million agreement yesterday to turn over the venue that the city first tried to take by eminent domain during Mayor Tom Murphy’s administration.
To read more on this, go to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
February 19, 2007
LOMBARD, IL — Village officials in Lombard have listed the DuPage Theatre as its top priority in a ranking of 41 projects related to the future of the downtown area. Trustee Greg Gron said a new theatre would be a “strong draw” and pointed out the impact that the arts have made in other communities including Chicago, Aurora, Elgin, and Joliet. Gron went on to say, “It’s a big puzzle. It’s going to take a lot of pieces to put together.”
The largest piece of that puzzle would be the construction of a new building with condominiums, retail and a community theatre on the site of the partly-demolished DuPage Theatre.
Other projects include possible additions to/new construction at the Helen Plum Library, expanding the Praga restaurant, and a directory kiosk downtown. Village President William Mueller noted, “We can’t just depend on people from other communities to come in, we have to support our downtown.”
For more details, see the article in the Daily Herald.
February 18, 2007
OWOSSO, MI — On Saturday, February 17, I took pictures of the fire damaged Joseph H. Lebowsky Center to view the extent of the damage myself. The fire began on stage and quickly spread to the theater itself, causing the roofs of the stage and the theater to cave in. The front part of the theater building escaped major damage. The walls of the stage seem intact, but the west wall of the theater facing Park Street shows the reason why the temporary wall was erected.
Park Street was still closed alongside the theater. A web site devoted to Shiawassee County, Michigan history has an updated page about the Capitol Theatre/Lebowsky Center which has an aerial photo showing the extent of the theater’s damage.
It is interesting to note that the Capitol Theatre was renamed to honor the Owosso businessman who built it. His legal surname was “Lebowsky” and he was Jewish. His Yahrzeit (Memorial) plaque is at Temple Beth El in Flint, MI where he was a member. But in Owosso, he spelled his name “Lebowski” apparently to make him seem more Polish than Jewish. If you look at the “Joseph H. Lebowsky Center” letters on the facade, you may notice that the “Y” is a different shade of gold. That’s because it replaced the “I”.