November 18, 2016
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.
November 7, 2016
From The Billings Gazette: In its early days, boxing matches would precede film showings at the Roman Theater in Red Lodge, said manager Mike Booth.
But for most of the theater’s long history, it’s just been movies. The Roman was built in 1917 and has been seating audiences since. A short list of managers have overseen the building over the years, and it’s changing the guard once again.
“For a lot of us who grew up here, there’s all those memories of the theater,” said Booth, who took over as manager in October.
The aged Broadway Avenue building contains 202 seats, which are rarely filled. Booth said an average of 15 to 25 people show up each night. The balconies that flank the center gallery no longer hold a crowd of people. They’re used for storage.
Building owners Jeff Anderson and Betsy Scanlin put in a new screen and invested in a digital projector in 2012 — anything to keep Red Lodge’s only theater going.
“We’re very lucky if we break even,” Anderson said.
From DansPapers.com: Ward & Glynee’s Patchogue Theatre opened on Main Street in May 1923. For the next three decades, Patchogue was a major source of employment in the textile, tourism, shipbuilding, and fishing industries. In fact, the village was called “The Queen of the South Shore” during this time.
The theater attracted celebrities, first-run feature films, Broadway productions, vaudeville, and even burlesque. Later, in the 1970s and ’80s, Patchogue Theatre operated as a triplex movie theater. According to board member Chris Capobianco, “everyone has a story from those times.” But the triplex was closed in the mid-80s, and the theater lay empty for 10 years. Capobianco believes that 1997 was a key year, not just for the theater, but for the village’s restoration as a whole. The BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant had just opened, and thanks to the help of some local business people, it was announced that the Patchogue Theatre would be saved from the wrecking ball. The then-owners wanted to sell the venue so that it might be demolished to build an office building.
A lot has happened since the theater reopened in 1998. Last season, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts achieved a record annual attendance of over 150,000. Capobianco remembers the first show after the theater was restored to its original grandeur—Gateway Playhouse presented The Nutcracker on Ice from Russia. The performing arts center closed once again this year, but only from January to March for interior renovations. “The $1.5 million renovations to the interior have greatly improved the ‘Patchogue Theatre Experience’ for our patrons,” says Bernie Fabig, Public Relations & Marketing Manager. “Our new seats are not only wider and more comfortable, but the Village had seating experts come in to make sure that the sight-lines were improved, so that you are never sitting directly behind someone.”
The marquee at the Calvin Theater was removed this weekend by the owners of the building.
The city of Washington contacted the property owner’s, Douglas and Gregory Strothkamp, in early October about property maintenance code violations at the old theater on 311 Elm St.
In a letter to the Strothkamps, the city outlined numerous problems with the building.
The letter said the property was in violation of Sections 106 and 107 of the city’s property maintenance code and the owners have 30 days to address the problems. The letter is dated Oct. 4, 2016.
City Administrator Jim Briggs said the letter did not call for the marquee’s removal, but did address several issues with the sign.
Briggs said a resident complained about the condition of the marquee and pointed out potential safety hazards.
“We got a complaint that it was in horrible shape,” Briggs said. “He said he thought it could cause dangerous harm.”
November 3, 2016
From WWLTV.com: 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.”