November 23, 2016
From WRTI.org: Since it opened its doors in 1913, the Apollo Theater has survived a series of iterations, closures, renovations, and shifts in direction. Its allure as a venue for jazz began in the 1930s with the debut of Jazz a la Carte, a show with an all-black cast.
Soon after, the famous talent contest Amateur Night took off, with Ella Fitzgerald as an early winner on November 21, 1934. She was just 17.
He sought relief in the shade near a stage door of the theater on 125th Street. Then the owner spotted him.
The man who first opened the door for Apollo historian and tour guide Billy Mitchell was Frank Schiffman. Starting in the ‘30s, Schiffman played a key role in transforming the theater from its first life as an all-white (performers and audience, alike) burlesque house, to the renowned venue for jazz and popular African American performers.
Billy Mitchell leads tours of the Apollo for hundreds of thousands of people who come to get closer to its remarkable past and present. He was recently in Philadelphia to speak at the University of Pennsylvania. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston sat down with him at Penn to learn about his fascinating start, his take on amateur night, and his backstage experiences.
November 21, 2016
From kivitv.com: A key piece of downtown Nampa’s revitalization is still ahead with a new effort to restore the historic Pix Theatre. With the brand new public library right across the street, the foundation’s new executive director says the timing is right.
But, let’s rewind for a moment. Imagine life without tv and radio on its way out. Seeing movies on the big screen was a part of people’s lives.
Plus, there were plenty of perks.
“A bag of popcorn, pop, a movie, it was all for less than a dollar,” said Debbie Lasher-Hardy, executive director for the Pix Anew foundation.
Lasher-Hardy is the Pix Theatre foundation’s new executive director. It’s called Pix Anew. She wants to bring the historic movie house back to life.
The last movie played on the big screen in 1999. Amid an effort to restore the theatre, the roof collapsed in 2003. All funds raised to date were poured into replacing the roof and removing asbestos from the premise.
Looking at it today, you’d never know it was one of three theaters that were frequented in downtown Nampa back in the day.
From abc30.com: Police are looking for the suspects who vandalized the historic Warnors Theatre in downtown Fresno.
Owners arrived Sunday to find broken glass in front of the theatre and box office. The glass is virtually irreplaceable because of its original etching that dates back to the 1920s.
It’s the second time that the booth’s glass has been shattered in the theatre’s history.
“That’s what’s so heartbreaking it’s just no respect or care for other people’s property or of anything that’s of significance or historic value,” Sally Caglia with the theatre said. “To some people, it just doesn’t mean anything, and that just breaks my heart.”
November 18, 2016
A massive fire appears to have caused extensive damage to a Montreal building famous for having housed Canada’s first-ever movie theatre.
Fire crews responded to the blaze at 974 St. Laurent Blvd. on Thursday morning but were forced simply to contain the inferno and prevent it from spreading to other buildings in Montreal’s Chinatown district.
What started out as thick black smoke quickly turned into hot, bright orange flames licking out the windows and eventually breaking through the building’s roof. Shortly before noon, a brick wall crumbled and fell under the intensity of the fire. It was followed by a loud boom from an unknown source.
As fire crews trained their hoses on the blaze, a white smoke filled the skies above downtown Montreal, forceing many passersby to cover their mouths and noses.
The commercial building, known as Edifice Robillard, is a designated heritage site.
“It’s a four-storey commercial building whose fame is well hidden — that of housing the first interior cinematographic projection in Montreal on June 27, 1896,” reads an article published by the City of Montreal about the building’s historical importance.
From The Ephrata Review: Ephrata Main Theater owner Steve Brown understands that movie studios these days would like to release straight-to-home movies and even run movies exclusively in bigger markets.
“I mean with Netflix and all these things, the national trend is down overall for all movie houses,” he said.
And that, coupled with Hollywood’s 64 percent cut on all ticket sales, is the first part of the equation that leaves Steve and his wife Karen Brown at a crossroads for the future of their movie theater business.
He realizes that people are particular how they spend their money and “want blockbusters, good plots and good stories and entertainment.”
But the challenge is more specific to the Ephrata Main survival, one of the last remaining small-town, two-screen, theater gems “that are disappearing one after another.”
The Main had been averaging around 30,000 customers annually when the Browns financed a $125,000 digital conversion three years ago that included two projectors and software.
Ticket sales last year dipped to about 22,000 and revenue, from $8 admission tickets, has fallen short of the cost of financing the digital conversion which has three years left to pay off.
“The film companies got the savings when we converted from film to digital but we’re the one who got the added expense,” Karen Brown said.
Maintenance on the new digital equipment is cost prohibitive compared to film as the Browns recently replaced a pair of projector bulbs at a cost of $2,500 each.
Brown said he hoped to come to an understanding with the local community if it’s interested in maintaining the Main.
“I was very, very adamant three years ago coming to the community saying ‘I know how to do this, I can do this, but you’ve got to keep coming,” he said.
The Browns presented a $130,000 loan plan to his bank and accountants based on 30,000 annual tickets sales and a $2 price hike from $6 to $8.
“If ticket sales had stayed the same, we would not be having this conversation,” said Steve Brown. “The problem is admissions were down from 30,000 to 22,000 last year and this year is not over but they’re down again this year.”
The Browns in the past have used revenues from its other business, Lily’s Restaurant, to offset the Main losses. But Lily’s, which was established 19 years ago, can no longer cover those costs,” he said.
That leaves only one “very quick solution” to keep the Main open alive, and that is to get the admission up to 30,000 a year,” Steve Brown said. “To get there, customers can’t see just The Hunger Games and Star Wars, you can’t just see two movies per year. It doesn’t work.”
The Browns say Ephrata Borough and Downtown Ephrata Inc. have been very supportive and sincerely want the Main to continue in operation. The building, which houses both Lily’s and the theater, is leased to the Browns by Windstream.
Borough Councilwoman Susan Rowe, the Council Liaison to the DEI Board, said hope may be on the way and that some new initiatives may be available soon.
Meanwhile, the borough cannot use taxpayers funds to support a business, she said.
“That does not mean the volunteers that sit on council are not supportive of the businesses in the borough, including the Ephrata Main Theater,” Rowe said. “The borough had initiated a restricted Economic Development Fund a few years ago with a clear plan for seed money for the fund and methodology to keep the fund balance healthy. The borough council recently hired a consultant…to assist the three main non-profit groups.”
One other possible solution for the Main would be to sell on-screen business commercials which they offer for an annual fee of $2,500.
“If we were to sell 10 ads per year it would pay the (lease) on the projectors” Karen Brown said.
So far, Windstream is the only local business to step up to purchase an ad.
The Browns, who began operating the theater in 2010, remain committed to bringing first-run movies to the theater. They’ve also offered live theater, music, concerts and special events are performed on stage.
Concessions at the Main offer reasonable prices, such as a kids snack pack with popcorn, soda and candy for $6. Popcorn was $4 and up, nachos were also $4. A big soft pretzel was $3. There were all the usual sodas, along with French sodas with fresh fruit flavors.
But what is truly unique about the Main is a “grownups” menu offering a glass of wine, including a selection of chardonnay, pinot grigio, rose and claret. There are also cocktails, like frozen Fifty Shades of Grey Goose, strawberry Margarita and frozen Manhattan.
Steve, who is chef and manager at Lily’s on Main, selects the wines and comes up with cocktail ideas. The theater has also been a staple for Ephrata High School grads who attend the schools after prom there.
The ambiance of the Main harkens back to 1938, when the Main Theater opened at 124 E. Main St. It was owned and operated by the Stiefel Brothers Roxy Theater Circuit. By the 1980s, the glorious Theater was a fading star, showing second-run movies. Worn and dilapidated, it closed in May 1990.
But there was hope. The Theater building was purchased by the local Denver and Ephrata Telephone Company. Engineers determined that renovating the theater would not be possible. A new theater was included in plans for the new Brossman Business Complex. Many of architectural and design features were preserved. In November 1993, the Main Twin Theater reopened. One Theater was called the Grand with a stage for live presentations, while the other is the Roxy, both named after former Ephrata theaters.
Steve admitted he hears a common complaint that customers want wider seats and cup holders.
“These seats have the original monogrammed gold-leaf seat frames,” he said. “If I alter those and start drilling into the wood, people are going to get mad at me.”
The theater also maintains its red and gold theme, giving the feeling of the gilded age of movies with a modern vibe. The neon wall lights in the original Theater were restored and are used in the two new theaters.
The Browns say they want to continue the tradition established over the years. But that may require some thinking outside the box.
“We’ve open up for free on Black Friday when Santa comes to town with (movies) ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the ‘Grinch’,” Brown said. Maybe it’s time we maybe want to pass the hat or something.”
November 16, 2016
It starts with an email.
Would you find out what happened to the time capsule buried near the box office of the old Terrace Theatre at Friendly Center?
The theater, torn down to pave the way for a Macaroni Grill in 2002, long had been a favorite haunt of his, Mike Evans says. A 10-minute walk from home, he went there often as a child. He saw “2001: A Space Odyssey” three times there.
The theater opened on Christmas Day 1966 with Walt Disney’s “Follow Me Boys,” according to a Greensboro Daily News article that year. Earlier that month, community members buried the time capsule, which would be opened in 50 years.
“It’s just something that I have thought about on occasion,” says Evans, who was 7 when the theater opened. “I realized that this was the year — 50 years.”
So our quest begins.
We start with Brad Rogers, general manager at the Friendly Center.
Do you know whatever happened to the time capsule?
It’s not here, Rogers tells us. The owners took it with them to their new theater when the Terrace was razed.
“It was a big deal in the community when it happened,” Rogers says.
He recommends calling the former Terrace owners.
So we do. Nina Bennett, daughter-in-law to the late local indie movie theater icon Dr. Hugh Hammond “Ham” Bennett Jr., remembers the time capsule well.
They got calls about it all the time, she says.
The Bennett family owned the Terrace for the last 13 years it operated. The six-screen cinema closed in April 2000, losing a battle with age and competition — Consolidated Theatre’s 16-screen The Grand opened at Friendly Center in March that year.
When the Terrace was torn down to make room for the Macaroni Grill, the family took the time capsule to their new theater on Battleground Avenue, Bennett says. The family operated a series of theaters through their company, Janus Theaters.
“When we left Friendly, Friendly said they were getting calls about the time capsule,” Nina Bennett recalls. “They said come and get it. We went over there and dug it up.”
It ended up at the Bennetts’ new theater, the Carousel Luxury Cinemas, which opened in 1999.
They didn’t bury it again, Bennett says. Best she recalls, it was still in the theater somewhere.
However, the Bennetts sold the Carousel in 2014.
We follow the trail again, this time to developer Marty Kotis, who bought the Carousel and rebranded it RED Cinemas as part of his “restaurant entertainment district.”
The idea of that history just lying around intrigues Kotis, who sets out to search the theater.
In a projection room they find the time capsule and plaque — the one Evans stared at every time he stood in line to get his ticket at the Terrace.
“It’s been sitting back here for about 16 years,” says Jake Murphy, director of theater operations for RED Cinemas. “It’s still buried in a sense.”
Kotis says they’ll open the time capsule in a special ceremony on the planned date. In the meantime, it will be placed in a display case in the theater’s lobby.
“People love the nostalgia stuff,” he says.
So what’s in the time capsule? We know some of the items from news reports at the time. But we’re not saying for a very good reason — a free movie and meal are on the line.
RED Cinemas wants folks to guess what history got buried 50 years ago. You get to submit five answers. A right answer wins a free movie ticket. Get the most right and it’s dinner and a movie — on the house. (Kotis’ company owns the restaurant next door, the Traveled Farmer, which is expected to open the second week of November.)
The theater also plans to collect items for a new time capsule to be buried somewhere on the RED Cinemas property on Dec. 7. Suggest something they like and you can add to the treasures some future Greensboro residents will unearth in 50 years. (Murphy’s thinking he’ll offer an iPad. “So someone is going to say, ‘That’s how they used to communicate with each other?’”) Send suggestions to RED Cinemas on Facebook.
But first comes the opening of the 1966 time capsule.
Bennett believes children may have been invited to place items inside. She thinks water might have gotten into it before they unearthed the capsule.
Who knows what it will contain after five decades.
Evans wants to be first in line.
“I was hoping that it was there because I want to be there when it’s opened,” he says. “I was 7, so I was hoping I’d still be alive.”
November 15, 2016
From The Kilgore News Herald: The Crim Theater that stands on South Kilgore Street has been part of Kilgore since 1939 but its history stretches back to 1920.
The current Crim Theater officially opened on June 21, 1939. Movie theaters in Kilgore, though, have been traced back to 1911.
At its earliest, the Crim was the Cozy Theater, built by Frank Osborn. Liggett Crim purchased the theater in 1920 and installed a player piano he played. When the theater moved in 1923, Crim renamed the theater the Dixie and installed a device called the “Dixiephone,” which he made with Hamp Mercer to show “talking” pictures.
“My Man,” starring Fanny Brice, was the first movie to use the Dixiephone with “The Jazz Singer” following along shortly after.
The name was officially changed to the Crim Theater when C.O. Murphee purchased the Dixie. Fire destroyed that theater in 1931.
Crim purchased the Rex theater building the following year, renaming it the Crim Theater and brought Kilgore a first-run movie house. In 1937 the now combined East Texas Theaters, Inc. and L.N. Crim Theaters, Inc. announced plans to build a new Crim Theater. Construction began in fall 1938 and the doors opened the following summer.
“Built as the ‘flagship’ of Crim’s theaters, it was to be the finest theater in the East Texas area,” the historical narrative states. “It was designed in the streamlined art deco style popular at that time and was called a ‘modern-classic building.’”
According to the book “Kilgore: A Boom for the Ages,” former Kilgore Mayor Roy H. Laird said, “[The] new edifice is a tribute to the future of Kilgore as a metropolis.”
The theater, which cost $150,000 to build, seated a little fewer than 1,000 people and was designed with the audiences in mind.
“The builders ‘spared no detail in which could possibly contribute to the pleasure and comfort of our audiences,’” the narrative states, quoting the theater manager John Knox Lamb.
The seats and carpeting reflected the interior color scheme of the theater and the projection machine – the “Super Simplex” – was just as advanced as the seats.
Although the neon letters on the Crim Theater marquee are lit together, the letters flashed one at a time and then together when the theater was in operation.
November 14, 2016
From The Daily Breeze: An effort to find an outside professional operator to book and manage San Pedro’s historic Warner Grand Theatre is falling flat so far.
But the city isn’t giving up.
“We’re a little disappointed, but we’re not giving up at all,” said Branimir Kvartuc, communications director for Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino.
A 70-page request for proposals was issued in September and sought responses by Oct. 26. None came in.
Kvartuc said the high costs of maintaining and running the theater pose a hurdle to any companies that might otherwise be interested.
Over time, the city estimates improvements needed at the theater will cost $3.5 million. The city allocates $200,000 a year to run and maintain the theater currently.
While there is “a lot of interest” in the theater, he said the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ bid request will be retooled and reissued over the next few months.
The goal is to book more sold-out concerts and other performances that will generate an economic ripple effect through downtown San Pedro.
The events calendar ideally would include a mix of music concerts and other live performances while setting aside reserved bookings for community use such as the Grand Vision Foundation, Golden State Pops Orchestra, San Pedro City Ballet, Scalawag Productions, Encore Entertainers and locally produced film festivals and other events that have relied on the theater over the years.
In addition to expenses, challenges in taking over the theater include the lack of any dedicated parking.
The 1931 theater at 478 W. Sixth St., was built at a cost of $500,000 by Warner Bros. during Hollywood’s golden age but eventually fell on hard times and nearly went the way of the wrecking ball.
The city stepped in to purchase it in 1996 for $1.2 million.
With about 1,500 seats, it’s a midsize venue that also poses challenges as it cannot handle the largest of attractions.
But Buscaino and others believe that, in the right hands, it could become a catalyst for the downtown stores, restaurants and bars, pointing to sold-out musical acts booked recently for the theater by producers Live Nation and Golden Voice.
Those events wound up bringing a flood of new customers into the area’s night spots and restaurants once they let out.
November 11, 2016
From The Williams Record: This month, Images Cinema celebrates its 100-year anniversary.
Before it was a theater, Images was one of the College’s fraternity houses. A century ago, in November 1916, Hiram C. Walden repurposed the house as a movie theater. Designed to screen only “high class” fare with live musical accompaniment, the Walden Theatre — a 530-seat affair spanning two commercial spaces — emerged. “Walden” is still etched above the marquee. Since then, the theater has donned several other monikers in succession: the Taconic Theater, the Nickelodeon and College Cinema. Since 1977, however, the quaint spot at 50 Spring Street has been known as Images Cinema.
Images is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the Northeast and the site of an ever-evolving movie-going experience. The building initially screened popular silent films, which featured icons such as Billie Burke, Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. By 1920, the advent of talkies saw the movie industry skyrocket. Images premiered its first talkie in the 1930s. Romantic detectives were at the heart of 1940s features, while the 1950s saw the dominance of Westerns and pop culture became the prevalent theme in the 1970s.
Today, the staff at Images Cinema opts for films that run the gamut, from independent to foreign to classic. Images was perhaps best described by Executive Director Doug Jones in its 100th Anniversary Party press release as “a year-round non-profit, member-supported community film house that presents a wide range of films that impact filmmaking and our culture … Images continuously seeks to entertain, educate and engage the community with quality programming while maintaining its dedication to independent film and media.”
But adapting to present-day culture has not always been easy. Janet Curran, the managing director of Images, explained some challenges that the theater has faced.
“It’s rare and special for a single-screen cinema, especially one in such a small community, to have continually stayed in business for 100 years,” Curran said. “The movie distribution system is designed for a multi-screen structure, so we are a single-screen playing in a multiplex world. It’s a real challenge to get new movies in a timely fashion at terms that are reasonable for us without having to show the movie for three weeks. In a small community, two weeks is usually the upper limit, given [that] we have a limited population from which to draw an audience.”
Curran highlighted the difficulty of competing with large movie theaters that cater to in-demand box office releases. Unlike these multiplexes, Images largely features independent films. Because they are not financed by Hollywood studios, independent films can enjoy greater freedom of expression and of ideas.
Another challenge for Images is ubiquitous access to media, whether on television or online. The theater’s incredible adaptability in the digital age can largely be attributed to community involvement as well as support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The late 1980s saw a period of stagnation for Images, which resulted in downsizing. The original theater was cut in half to create additional retail space, and the Red Herring now occupies the space where the other half of the theater once was. In 1989, actor Christopher Reeve, a Williamstown local, led a campaign to support the theater. Images still houses plaques that commemorate that effort.
Afterward, then-manager of Images Don Fisher purchased the cinema and ran it until the late 1990s when sales experienced another downtick. In 1998, Williamstown community members Ellen Bernstein, Larry Weber, Matt Harris, Julius Rosenwald and Professor of English Shawn Rosenheim determined that the cinema was no longer viable as a for-profit business and raised funds to purchase Images Cinema and turn it into a nonprofit.
Under the new management, Images cemented its place as a community film house dedicated to film as an art form as well as a source of entertainment. Director Alexandra Kalmanofsky and Managing Director Angela Cardinali took initiative by showing art house films, hosting conversations around films, bringing in filmmakers, building educational programs, hosting special film events, developing a membership program and engaging community volunteers as well as the College community.
The 2000s brought another wave of management changes, with each staff member working hard to preserve Images while meeting 21st-century demands. In 2008, Images restored its Spring Street entrance — since the late ’80s, the entrance had been located off the alley. In 2012, Images switched over from 35mm film projection to digital cinema projection, which Curran called, “the biggest industry-wide change since the dawn of the talkies.” Equipment upgrades were also made possible by community-wide support for a capital campaign.
Thus far, Images has celebrated its centennial year with 100 Years of Images, a year-long film series spanning the decades to honor a century at Images. Highlights of Images Cinema’s centennial will include its 100th Anniversary Party on Nov. 11 and its Nov. 30 screening of Safety Last, in honor of the first Images film shown on Nov. 30, 1916.
November 10, 2016
From uppermichigansource.com: The Braumart Theater has been in Iron Mountain since the 1920s and, for decades, the historic fixture was the heart of the city’s downtown area.
Billed as the “finest amusement house north of Milwaukee” at its opening in 1925, many names have been splashed across the Braumart’s marquee. But the one that has stood the test of time and remains today is the name of the theater itself, derived from a combination of the names of two men, pivotal for its inception.
“When they named The Braumart, the ‘B-R-A-U’ portion of the name was from August C. Brauns, and the ’M-A-R-T' was part of the first name of Martin Thomas. So, Brau-Mart,” historian for the Menominee Historical Foundation Bill Cummings said."
With a vision of bringing the most modern theaters for local entertainment to the area, in 1924 manager of the newly-formed Colonial Theatre Company Martin Thomas, and owner August Brauns announced plans for the new theater, estimated to cost over $200,000.
At its grand opening in April of 1925, the Braumart became an instant hit. Patrons on that day, more than 90 years ago, were turned away as the 1,000-seat theater filled for the first performances. For years to come, the Braumart would evoke memories and bring a community together.