Theaters

  • August 16, 2016

    Middlebury, VT – Town Hall Theater preserves historic character of building while enlarging stage door

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    From the Addison Independent: MIDDLEBURY — There was only one problem with the original 1884 loading dock door at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. It was too small to actually load anything into the theater.

    “The original door gave us a 4’ by 6’ opening, far too small for the kinds of set pieces we use in productions today,” said THT executive director Douglas Anderson. “The old door was historic and lovely, but it seriously limited the kinds of productions and events we could host here at THT.”

  • August 15, 2016

    Carrizozo, NM – Lighting up the Lyric

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    From the Ruidoso News: In 2006, Dr. David Kammer submitted a multiple property listing titled “Movie Theaters in New Mexico built from 1905 to 1960” to the National Park Service for a National Register of Historic Places consideration.

    It was the first step in the nomination process and an important acknowledgement by The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division of its support of the New Mexico Main Street Program’s quest to identify the state’s historic movie houses. While not specifically named in the nomination, (letters were sent to owners and, in this case, there may have been no reply) Carrizozo’s Lyric Theater, formerly the Crystal Theater, is a prime example of the type and use of buildings, both existing and new, that became social centers in large and small towns alike.

    The nomination remains timely even 10 years out, since at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the marquee of the Lyric will be lit after decades of being dark.

    Despite its remote location, Carrizozo was uniquely positioned for a movie theater due to the rail road that brought in influences from afar. The rural community was not alone: New Mexico saw an explosion in opera houses across the state. Just two years after the opening of United States’ first movie theater in Buffalo, New York in 1896, the movie “Indian School Day” was made in New Mexico and the Grant Opera House opened in Albuquerque.

  • August 11, 2016

    Boothbay Harbor, ME – Rent dispute threatens future of Harbor Theatre

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    From the Boothbay Register: A steep increase in rent will likely draw the curtain on the Harbor Theatre for good, according to longtime owner and operator Jason Sheckley. Under the current lease agreement with Hermon-based Ellis Commercial Developers, the theater has been allowed to pay below market rent in order to keep the movies running year round. According to both parties, after negotiations stalled this summer the Ellis group has decided to charge the full market rate for the space beginning in the fall of 2017.

    “To be sustainable, the theater has always required outside subsidy,” Sheckley said. “Below market rent, support from the “Friends” organization, sale of memberships and advertising has provided that support. With the rent increasing dramatically, the current arrangement just will not work going forward.”

    The rent hike — described as prohibitive by Sheckley — would further squeeze the small margins the theater operates on and force Sheckley to increase prices for concessions and movie tickets.

    “We would be looking at $14 or more for an adult admission,” said Sheckley. “It’s a huge increase.”

    After its launch in 2002, Bank of Maine — the former owner of the Meadow Mall where Harbor Theatre is located — wanted the theater run as a year-round concern.

    “We accepted the market rate for rent at that time but soon discovered it was too high for us to make it,” said Sheckley. “The theater can’t be open more than 10 hours a week because of the low winter population.”

    The current lease ends on Sept. 30, 2017 and Sheckley has pegged Sept. 4, 2017 as the last day of operation barring a major development. It’s not the first time the theater has faced imminent peril; in 2013, the one-screen cinema was forced to convert from 35mm film to an all digital format. A fundraising campaign led to over 140 donations from the community and the theater was spared.

    According to Ellis Development Group owner Tom Ellis, the current agreement is far below market value and the company is simply exercising its right as landlord.

    “Any rent that was offered to him was at or below market rate,” said Ellis. “I have an obligation to my center and bank to at least get equitable rates. Again we weren’t even at market rate with his.”

    As far as a subsidy, Ellis said it should have been negotiated into the original lease from the Bank of Maine.

    “We certainly can’t take a hit like that or subsidize a lease. We wouldn’t be in business long,” said Ellis. “Movie theaters in strip centers in small markets, that’s a very tough situation. You don’t see that very often.”

  • New Orleans, LA – Prytania Theater rolls on into second century

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    From WWLTV.com: It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday morning and a movie more than 50 years old, “The Sound of Music,” fills the theater. Just hours later, it’s a much different scene as the audience for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” fills the seats.

    That perhaps best describes the Prytania Theater: iconic, eclectic and enduring.

    “People feel comfortable here,” said Robert Brunet. “And in this crazy world we live in today, comfort is a pretty important thing.”

    Robert Brunet and his family know a little about the movie business. Led by the family patriarch, Rene, who will soon be 95 years old, the Brunets have been running theaters for 75 years, the last 20-plus at the Prytania, which celebrated 100 years of showing films in 2015.

    That’s a lot of big numbers for a theater that’s only ever had a single screen.

    “When you step through these doors, it’s like a time machine,” Robert Brunet said. “You go back in history.”

    And for many, there’s no other way to watch.

    “I love the big screen and everything,” said Virginia Carreca laughed. “They come right to your face.”

    The Prytania Theater still has a 35mm camera for film. They can use it, but they don’t anymore. The majestic lobby is from an era long gone, but technologically speaking, The Prytania was one of the first to go 3D, digital and now 4K.

    People embrace nostalgia, but it doesn’t feed the family. This 300 seat theater is a small business run by Robert and his family and sometimes it’s feast or famine.

    “It’s got a life of its own, we’re not a chain.” Brunet said. “You know, if I have to eat popcorn and hot dogs for dinner I’ll do it.”

    It hasn’t been an easy life for this non-descript looking building on Prytania Street. Two major fires, hurricanes, the advent of 20 theater megaplexes and Netflix have put the theater on life support more than once, but here it is: A classic survivor.

    Brunet says the owner of the building has put the theater in a trust for future generations.

    “I don’t see the Prytania or the Brunet family leaving this business,” he said. “The 200th anniversary, this will still be a single screen movie theater.”

    And that makes the Prytania and the Brunets Naturally N'Awlins.

  • San Pedro, CA – San Pedro’s Warner Grand seeking a bigger spotlight with private operator

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    From the Daily Breeze: Both good news and bad news could await if San Pedro’s historic Warner Grand Theatre goes big time with a professional operator now being sought by the city of Los Angeles, which owns the venue.

    City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s motion to hand the operation over to someone who could attract “A-list talent” and produce sold-out shows moved forward Friday, setting the stage for what could be big changes for the 1930s movie palace at 478 W. Sixth St.

    Uncertainty remains over how an outside operator might impact the theater’s future, especially in how it serves the immediate community.

    The good

    The theater is in serious need of improvements that the city says will cost $3.5 million, though some believe they will cost even more. A private operator would be expected to provide those upgrades in exchange for a deal with the city to run the theater.

    Among other things, the venue needs alterations to make it ADA accessible. Fire safety measures also are needed, said Fred Allen, vice president of the Grand Vision Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the theater and has been instrumental in raising money for much-needed upgrades to the theater’s seating and heating system over the years.

    The city’s $200,000-a-year allocation to run and maintain the Warner Grand is “pocket change in the theater world,” Allen said.

    A well-connected operator — both Nederlander and SMG have been mentioned as possible companies that might be interested — would “professionalize” the theater both by bringing in high-profile acts and providing a cash infusion for needed physical improvements.

    “To really make that place hum, you’re going to have to spend several million dollars and have a dedicated staff of three or four employees with stage hands,” he said.

    Buscaino’s motion, approved by the council during its meeting in Van Nuys, was born when concert producers Live Nation and Golden Voice booked top musical acts at the Warner Grand in 2015.

    The theater was packed — and so were downtown shops and restaurants.

    The Warner Grand, Buscaino believes, could be a catalyst for the emerging downtown and waterfront districts that are targeted for revitalization. But it needs an operator, he said, that can market it well so it lives up to its potential.

    POSSIBLE DOWNSIDES

    There are concerns, however, that handing over day-to-day management and operation of the theater will raise prices, black out prime calendar dates and threaten access for the community-based programs that have thrived in the hometown theater.

    Youth theater companies such as Encore and Scalliwag, The Golden State Pops Orchestra and the San Pedro Ballet rely on the theater for their productions. The LA Harbor International Film Festival and the San Pedro International Film Festival, along with others, also have become Warner Grand mainstays through the years.

    “The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a m“The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a misconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

    ASSURANCES FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS

    Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc said many of the local groups that now use the theater will be included in the bidding documents, set to tentatively go out Sept. 7 with a selection expected by late this year, possibly as early as Thanksgiving. The new operator will be tasked with working with those groups to ensure community access as part of creating a comprehensive booking calendar, he said. A community advisory group also will be appointed to work with the management as well, Kvartuc added.

    A professional operator also could be expected to bring in union labor, Allen said, something that could have ripple effects on grass-roots groups and theater patrons as booking and ticket prices are raised.

    Kvartuc said nonprofit rates will be established as part of the theater operation.

    “If you look around at city-owned theaters, almost all of them are managed by a nonprofit organization that has some relationship to the community,” Allen said, adding that it also would call for a more robust commitment from the city for capital improvements, staff and maintenance expenses.

    In his motion, Buscaino praised Grand Vision for raising more than $1 million for theater improvements over the years, in addition to creating programming and assisting with booking events.

    Because of its history, the Warner Grand is considered one of downtown San Pedro’s gems.

    Harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age, the Warner Brothers theater, which cost $500,000 to build and opened in 1931, almost didn’t survive when it fell on hard times. The city stepped in to purchase it in 1996 for $1.2 million.

    “I have to say it is quite heartbreaking to feel like our work on caring and loving the building may have to stop if a big corporation takes over,” Liz Schindler Johnson, executive director of the Grand Vision Foundation, said in a written statement Friday. “No matter what, we must ensure that the building’s historic integrity be preserved and that any changes be properly vetted by the community and historic preservation professionals.”isconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

  • Ansonia, CT – Photographer hopes to spur rebirth of former Ansonia Opera House

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    From the New Haven Register: A photographer with an eye toward keeping historic Valley locations alive through his lens will have his latest work published this fall.

    Emery Roth II, though not a Valley resident, took photos inside the former Ansonia Opera House downtown, which have been selected for publication in “Seeing in Sixes,” an art photography book due out this fall from Lenswork Publishing.

    Roth’s set of six images, titled “The Dressmaker’s Daughters,” will be featured.

    “I’m proud and honored,” Roth said.

  • August 4, 2016

    New York, NY – NYC’s Most Incredible Old Movie Theaters

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    From Paper Magazine: Before cineplexes—and before you could easily access old movies at home—going to see a movie was a completely special adventure. You had to leave the house, often entering some eccentrically glorious theater that added, in its grandiosity (or sometimes squalor), to the cinematic quality of the experience. Here are some of those lost treasures du NYC cinema:

  • August 2, 2016

    South Bend, IN – Ghost hunters take over State

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    From the South Bend Tribune:
    Skeptic, believer or somewhere in between — on Saturday, everyone got something out of public ghost hunts at The State theater.

    For the believers in the paranormal, it was an opportunity to try to communicate with the past. For the skeptics, it was a unique tour-by-flashlight of one of South Bend’s historical treasures. For the State itself, it was a chance to raise money for repair work to return it to it’s former glory.

    Theater manager Jackie Oberlin said she’s experienced unexplained activity throughout the historic structure, which opened in 1921 as the Blackstone Theatre Vaudeville House. It became the State in 1931 and closed in 1977. It opened later as a nightclub, and was foreclosed in 2005. In recent years, efforts have been made to restore the crumbling plaster and other issues the aging structure faces.

    “You can be in here and feel cold spots, hear noises or catch something out of the corner of your eye,” she said Saturday evening, standing in the theater’s main room. “I hope that people can get a better feel of the State, and, if people have that openness to connect, maybe experience something from the past.”

    BSR Paranormal founder Jennifer Jacobs orchestrated the event, marking her second time exploring the theater for paranormal activity. The first time she came with her Fort Wayne-based team was February. On that trip she experienced cold spots, felt touches, saw electromagnetic field readers light up and even caught voices on a recorder, she said.

    She didn’t expect to have a roomful of believers on the several public tours Saturday, but hoped that people who came out were interested in the property for one reason or another, whether that be paranormal or just to see the theater and play a part in its restoration. She said she does encounter skeptics from time to time.

  • August 1, 2016

    Colorado City, TX – Colorado City movie theater flickering back to life

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    From the Abilene Reporter-News: There’s three things every teen wants. Big towns or small, they all want a place to eat, a street to cruise and a movie to watch.

    But most Big Country towns don’t have a movie theater. In Colorado City, they did have one for a time, but like Rule’s Tower Drive-In, it’s become a victim of progress.

    “I guess within the last five years they’ve been talking about us converting to digital because they were going to stop making film,” said Marcus Monroe. He and his wife, Beatrice, own the Palace Theater, which is attached to the Baker Hotel downtown.

    As movie cameras have gone digital, so too have movie studios when it comes to the distribution of finished movies on physical motion picture film.

    “We’ve gotten to that point where it’s rare that we can get a film,” Marcus said. “We open whenever we can get one, but it’s not that consistent or easy to get a film.”

    The couple bought the Palace in 2007, reopening it after nearly two decades. Both are from Colorado City and recalled being in middle school when the theater closed.

    “Oh, I was upset, I remember that feeling,” Beatrice said. “I was disappointed, we thought, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

    Marcus felt the same way, but even in eighth grade he had an idea of what to do about it.

    “When it shut down, everyone was upset and I told everybody I was going to reopen it when got older,” he said, a smile on his face. “And I did.”

    The closest movie theaters are in Big Spring or Snyder. One-way, that’s a 40- or 25-mile drive, respectively.

    “The reason that I support this is because I remember when my little sister was in high school,” Beatrice said. “Her group of friends went to Snyder to watch a movie, and one of them had an accident. She passed away; it was awful and it shook the whole town.”

    That wintertime tragedy brought home to her the need to have a cinema in Colorado City, but it wasn’t the only reason.

  • Traverse City, MI – Traverse City’s State Theatre Turns 100

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    From MyNorth.com: One of our favorite Northern Michigan small town movie theaters is celebrating its centennial! Traverse City’s State Theatre turns 100 this summer, making it an even 100 years of providing unparalleled Northern Michigan events, film, and fun.

    Imagine paying 15¢ for a movie ticket. When the Lyric Theatre opened on July 4, 1916, with the silent film The Iron Strain, that’s all adult tickets cost. Since then, the theater has survived two fires, several renovations, numerous owners, and a name change to the State Theatre in 1949.

    With constant passion to honor the art of filmmaking over the years, and state-of-the-art picture and sound quality, it’s little surprise the Motion Picture Association of America named the historic State Theatre the No. 1 movie theater in the world in 2013.

    More than just “going to the movies,” here at the State, every film is a special event. This year, we celebrate the centennial of the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City. Happy 100th birthday, State Theatre! May we request an encore for another 100?!