July 9, 2002
EL PASO, TX — El Paso’s local NBC affiliate, KTSM-TV Channel 9, is conducting an online poll to gauge community support of the city’s proposed $13 million infusion to the $26 million restoration of the historic Plaza Theater. The results of the poll will be broadcast tonight on their evening news and can help continue the growing momentum to restore this beloved, but closed, “Cinema Treasure”.
The gorgeous atmospheric Plaza opened in 1930 and was narrowly saved from demolition in 1987. It was previously selected as part of the “Save America’s Treasures” program and is in the midst of a large fundraising campaign to restore and reopen the 2000-seat theater.
Along with the city funding, the El Paso Community Foundation is proposing to assist El Paso in the following ways: commiting to raising $12 million for the project; donating the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ which once graced the theater (it was restored in 1998); and donating an adjacent building (Centre Annex Building) to be integrated into the operations of the Plaza Theatre. This building would contain a restaurant facility, event ballroom/children’s theater and a roof-top patio garden for community events.
(Thanks to Roman Herrington/EPCF!)
The Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts is begining the first of eight fundraising events this week to raise at least $4 million by October 5th when its option to buy the historic movie palace would expire. Estimates for the theater’s restorations range between $18 – 30 million.
According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “The group will also host the first public tours of the structure in more than two decades later this summer as part of the fund-raising drive.”
(Thanks to Michael Beyer and the UTCA.)
VENTNOR, NJ — The Philadelphia Inquirer recently featured the reopened Ventnor Twin Theater and profiled its success in bringing in patrons to this beachside community. Ventnor sits adjacent to an area once filled with movie palaces, Atlantic City.
Once teeming with theaters along its boardwalk, and with several prominent movie houses in the outlying towns, the Atlantic City area has but three movie theaters left with the Ventnor Twin the only one with historical significance.
The Art Deco theater opened in 1938 and was later converted into a twin in the 1960s. It closed several years ago, but was recently reopened by a man who works maintaining movie theaters.
(Thanks to George Quirk for the update!)
July 3, 2002
NORFOLK, VA — Local real estate developer Bobby Wright has paid $600,000 for the long-shuttered Granby Theater in hopes of reopening the old movie house. According to the Virginian-Pilot, the 1,000 seat theater has been closed since 1987 and is still in relatively good shape.
Possible uses for the Granby include a dinner theater a la the Commodore Theatre in nearby Portsmouth. To that end, Wright is negotiating with Commodore owner Fred Schoenfeld to help out on the movie side of the business. Wright is also eyeing dancing, first-run and classic films, and hosting smaller concerts than Norfolk’s Norva Theater.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the original Granby Theater opened in 1915 in another spot down the street. The current incarnation opened in 1923 and became part of the Fabian Theaters chain in 1967 and renamed the Lee Theater.
As residents moved away from downtown and into the suburbs, the Lee survived on a steady diet of adult films. In 1976, the theater was purchased again and renamed the Granby Mall Cinema showing family movies. When one of the owners died in 1987, the theater doors were shut for good … until now.
July 2, 2002
TACOMA, WA — The Tacoma Mall Twin Theatre is closing this month after almost 35 years of delighting area audiences, according to a report in the News-Tribune/yellowBrix.
The former single-screen cinema opened in 1968 at a cost of $1 million and was the first hard-top built in 40 years when it opened. The News-Tribune wrote at the time that the Tacoma was ‘Grauman’s, the Cathay Circle, Hollywood Boulevard and London Airport all wrapped into one and brought up to date.’
In 1974, it was split into a duplex and renamed the Tacoma Mall Twins creating a 700-seat and a 400-seat theater out of the large 1200-seat auditorium. Over the years, the construction of multiplexes and megaplexes damaged the vitality of the theater.
With Loews Cineplex abandoning the theater later this month, the Tacoma Mall is now in negotiations with several chains regarding the construction of a new restaurant in its place.
Another 60s movie palace appears lost forever…
HOUSTON, TX — The Delman Theater was demolished last month along with an adjacent strip of retail space, according to the Houston Business Journal. The theater was not a locally or nationally registered landmark, but it had been on the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance’s “Endangered Buildings” list.
After years as a movie house, the Delman Theater was converted for live performances, but finally closed in the mid-1990s. Tivoli Realty, which owned the building, believes the property will be worth more now without the decaying theater which had been damaged by two previous fires.
July 1, 2002
TUSCALOOSA, AL — Gail Skidmore, who helped turn a crumbling Bama Theatre in the 1970s into a popular arts center and community anchor, died on Friday at the age of 65.
According to the Tuscaloosa News, when Skidmore took over as the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa, “the [theater’s] roof was leaking, the boiler was blowing, and the seats and walls were peeling, [but] Skidmore looked up and saw blue skies.”
Following its restoration and renovation into a live theater venue, the Bama was home to the Tuscaloosa Symphony, Theatre Tuscaloosa, and Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre shows, amongst other events and performers. Skidmore retired in 1998 with much of the theater’s continued success attributed to her hard work.
One year after she departed, Theatre Tuscaloosa built its own home in 1999 and the Bama returned to its roots showing film. Its Silver Screen Series continues today showing independent, foreign, and classic movies.