The latest movie theater news and updates

  • December 27, 2016

    Hudson Falls, NY – The Strand Theatre comes to life with movie showing

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    From The Post-Star: In 1938, Cornell Hall won a brand-new Plymouth at the Strand Theatre on Main Street. And on Friday night, his grandson, John Hall Jr., was back at the historic venue for a holiday event that breathed life into the long-dormant movie house.

    “In the 1990s I did the plumbing and heating,” said Hall, referring to work he completed for the town when the theater housed town offices and the town courtroom. “My father, Jack Hall, was always here as a kid.”

    Along with Hall, about 40 people came to a holiday screening of Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” on Friday night.

    “Tonight is its very first presentation in over 50 years,” said Jonathan Newell, executive director of the Hudson River Music Hall and the committee to renovate the Strand.

    Unsure of the exact date the last film was shown in the theater, Newell said they found a copy of a 1961 Post-Star article that was talking about demolishing the movie house.

    Debbie Pollack of Hartford made a point of coming to see the film. “I wanted to come because it’s the first movie shown here in over 50 years,” she said earlier in the day. “And I watch the film every year, it never fails. It’s a fantastic film.”

    The film, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, premiered on Dec. 20, 70 years ago. The famed holiday classic was released at a time the Strand Theatre was in business, although it’s not known if the film was actually shown in the theater.

    First opened in the 1920s, it was initially a vaudeville house and later started showing films.

    On Friday night, those arriving early for the event got to see the original animated film “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” while popcorn popped in a traditional kettle. And just after 6:30 p.m., Newell, who was wearing an original Strand Theatre usher’s cap, welcomed moviegoers.

    The Strand Theatre, purchased by the Hudson River Music Hall from the town of Kingsbury in October, received a $100,000 pledge from the Sandy Hill Foundation. And according to Newell, there has been a huge volunteer effort to restore it to its former glory.

    “We have retired contractors who come here every day like they are coming to work,” Newell said.

    Volunteer Mary Ellen Barlow tells the story of the day they discovered the original lobby ceiling.

    “The day we closed, Jonathan climbed up a ladder and pulled back a tile and the first thing he saw was that first section,” said Barlow, pointing to the richly ornate plaster flowers and swirling patterns of the historic structure.

    “I love the building and what it stands for,” said Michelle Bennett, who came to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Hall.

    But just hours before Friday’s showing, volunteers and the renovation committee wondered if they would actually be able to show the film in the lobby section of the theater. “We got our CO (certificate of occupancy) at 3 p.m. today,” Newell said, adding that they scrambled to get the temporary theater set for the night’s unveiling.

    Starting in January, Newell said they plan on offering a senior film series and an art film series.

    “Two Wednesdays a month we will be showing a film for seniors and they can come in and see it on the big screen,” he said.

    Additionally, there are plans for an open mic night, concerts and more films while they continue construction on other parts of the building, Newell said.

    Behind the lobby, where Friday night’s film was shown, are the performance stage and previous seating, now under a concrete cap. Newell said originally the seats were settled in sand and once they remove the concrete cap, they will do something with the sand, perhaps a beach party.

    “Maybe we will sell buckets of sand from the Strand,” he said.

  • Pittsburgh, PA – 8 Impressive Facts about Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center

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    From Pittsburgh Magazine: On Feb. 27, 1928, the Stanley Theater — later renamed the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts — opened in Downtown Pittsburgh. The massive movie house was dubbed “Pittsburgh’s Palace of Amusement,” where guests could stay all day for 65 cents (reduced to a quarter for those arriving before noon). After decades as a mixed-use performance space and a stretch as the city’s most storied venue for rock concerts, the facility reopened in 1987, painstakingly brought back to its original grandeur; the restoration of the theater was the first major project of the then-new Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

  • Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY – Remembering 18th Avenue’s Walker Theater

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    From the Bensonhurst Bean: We learned yesterday that longtime retail branches Mandee’s and Annie Sez will be vacating their shops at 6401 18th Avenue at the end of January. As many of you know or remember, and as many of you have likely inferred based on the building’s large awning, long before 6401 18th Avenue hosted either women’s clothing chain the building was home to a theater called. It was called The Walker.

    According to the website Cinema Treasures, The Walker Theater opened in the January of 1926 and was turned into a multiscreen when it was taken over by United Artist’s Theatres in 1986 before closing in 1988 after 62 years.

    Some may recall the Walker’s Wurlitzer, one of the last theater organs remaining in the city at the time of the Walker’s closure. The theater was immediately converted to retail following the end of its life as a moviehouse, the New York Times reported at the time.

    The theater was named for former New York City Mayor James J. Walker.

  • Riverview, FL – Venerable Ruskin Drive-In uses family focus to survive new indoor competition

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    From the Tampa Bay Times: There’s a brand new Publix across the street, a McDonald’s next door and two movie theaters about 15 minutes north in Riverview.

    While the area around it bustles with development, the Ruskin Family Drive-In on Highway 41 has remained a constant in south Hillsborough County since it opened in 1952.

    Owner Karen Freiwald said the new movie theaters — Goodrich Quality Theaters and Xscape Riverview 14 — aren’t hurting her business in the least.

    “Our customers come from Bradenton, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Venice,” Freiwald said. “If they’re going to drive by all those other theaters, they’re not going to stop for those.”

    No, her biggest concern isn’t competition. Her customers are loyal. They like to sit outside in an atmosphere so family focused that her husband has been known to stop the movie if he catches someone sneaking a beer.

    Rowdiness of any kind is forbidden. And at a time when tickets to an indoor theater with popcorn and drinks can set a family of four back $100, Freiwald works to keep prices low. For $24.99, one family of four ordered a large coke, two 12-inch pizzas, and two nachos. Movie tickets run $6 each for adults. Cash only.

    “If you spent $40 here at the snack bar you wouldn’t even be able to eat it all,” Freiwald said. “Customers appreciate you looking out for their best interest and they come back for more.”

    The biggest issue facing the Ruskin Family Drive-In is supply: The lineup of kids movies available has been running thin for the last several years.

    “They don’t even make G-rated movies any more,” Freiwald said. “Everything is PG or PG-13.”

    Her customers just don’t turn out when the movies are too violent, too complicated or sexual and that hurts business.

    “Some people don’t even have kids, they just like the kids movies,” Freiwald said. “Customers will tell me they want to see more action movies but when I play them no one shows up.”

    This year, the hottest kids movie of the holiday season is Sing, an animated, musical film starring a koala. But that’s about it. The second showing will be Almost Christmas, a live-action PG-13 movie about a family struggling to get along during the holidays.

    A couple of years ago, Freiwald and all other theater operators had to come up with about $100,000 to upgrade to new digital projectors. She was able to make up the difference, but many drive-in operators weren’t. The Ruskin theater is now one of only about seven drive-ins in the state, Freiwald said. But the business is still going strong.

    With space for 220 vehicles, there’s no more room to expand on the property. During peak season, like over the summer or during spring break, she has to turn people away because the lot fills up.

    The Internet has made it easier for people to find the theater. And as it grows into more of a novelty, Freiwald said, she has seen an increase in European tourists seeking the old-time American experience.

    But it’s the locals who have kept the business alive so long.

    “I’ve been coming here my whole life,” said Chris Jordan, 47, of Ruskin, who had a front-row spot last week to see the new Jack Reacher movie with his 17 year-old son, 14-year-old daughter and his wife. “It’s kind of like you step back in time.”

  • Russell, KS – Keeping the dream alive at historic theater

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    From The Hays Daily News: Like a scene out of the 1950s, bikes and scooters leaned against the front of the Dream Theater in Russell, 629 N. Main, as children raced inside with friends to spend their afternoon eating popcorn and enjoying a picture show earlier this month.

    With the holidays in mind, the Russell Knights of Columbus Council No. 3034 was sponsoring a free Christmas movie that afternoon — “The Polar Express.”

    The theater originally opened in 1923 as Main Street Theater. In 1947, the theater burned down and was reopened in 1949 as Dream Theater. It was owned by the same family, the Danielsons, from prior to the fire to approximately 1982 or ’83.

    After that, the theater was sold to a chain in Missouri, and changed hands a few more times.

    The Russell Arts Council, which is a non-profit, 501©(3), took ownership of the theater in 2000.

    “It was reopened in 1949 after the fire, pretty much as you see it today,” said Steve Wells, president of the theater board and former board member of the Russell Arts Council for many years.

    The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2006.

    “It is operated totally by volunteers, 100 percent,” Wells said. “The only people that get paid are those that do the cleaning.”

    The volunteers include eight board members who commit to working — two members each Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night — as well as community volunteers and civic organizations.

    Revenue comes mainly from the box office and concession sales.

    “You don’t make a lot of money on ticket sales,” Wells said. “Mainly from concessions and pre-show advertising. But we’re not trying to make money; we’re just trying to cover our costs.”

    The theater does take donations and has received memorials in the past.

    Recently, the Russell County Area Community Foundation provided funds to put in closed-captioning equipment and new handrails. It also helped pay for a portion of the new carpet.

    The new carpet that was installed in November is an exact recreation of the original 1949 carpet.

    “We went to Myers Furniture down the street and looked at some new options, and they just weren’t right for this art deco building,” Wells said.

    They sent a sample of the original carpet from the basement to a mill in Dalton, Ga., and they recreated the original style and color.

    All of the woodwork, light fixtures and ironwork are original. Even the original box office is used to sell tickets.

    Since 2000, other improvements include all new seats — 254 of them — including five luxury seats, new carpet, handrails, renovations to the marquee, new sound cloth on the walls of the theater and the theater upgraded to digital projection and 3D capabilities.

    “In fact, we went digital before Hays, Salina and Great Bend,” Wells said.

    They also built a stage so the theater could be used for other community events. The Russell Arts Council recently hosted a “Russell’s Got Talent” community talent show Dec. 1 at the theater.

    A non-denominational church, Olive Branch Chapel, is using the theater Wednesday nights and Sundays until they raise the funds to build their own worship space.

    The space even has been rented out for weddings.

    Scott and Jamie Schneider were married at the theater in May 2003.

    “There were a couple reasons we chose the theater,” Scott Schneider said. “We thought it would be a unique location, and we used the screen to play a slideshow of our children.”

    Schneider said the concession stand was open during the wedding, and guests were eating popcorn and slurping sodas as the Schneiders said their vows.

    A new movie usually comes in once a week that plays from Friday through Monday night, with additional special showings on some Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

    Wells said they look at what is showing well nationally when deciding which movies to get, and they also invite people to suggest movies through their website.

    Mondays are Senior Night, and seniors get a discounted admission price, while every Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. from Thanksgiving to the end of the year features a free children’s movie courtesy of About You Realty, Russell. One Sunday a month features a classic film.

    “I’ve always grown up knowing the theater, as has Traci (Wieger), the other co-owner,” said Kendra Trueblood, About You Realty. “It’s just a passion of the community to continue the theater and those efforts so the kids can enjoy it. People just really love it.”

    In fact, the motto of the theater is “Keep the Dream Alive.”

    “It’s very well-supported,” Wells said. “I think that has to do with our prices, but also community pride. We couldn’t do all the upgrades we’ve done without community support.”

    Wells stated the theater also belongs to the Kansas Historical Theater Association, which allows them to attend different venues every quarter to learn from and share information with other historic theaters.

    Dream Theater is not only well-supported by the local community, but it draws crowds from other towns as well.

    “Before Hays and Great Bend went digital, we were getting those people,” Wells said. “And we still do get those people just because no one can touch our concession prices.”

    Two large drinks and a large popcorn is only $8.

    Ticket prices are $6 for adults and $4 for children. It is only a dollar more for a 3D movie, where many theaters charge $3 more.

    For more information about Dream Theater and upcoming movies, find it on Facebook or visit dreamtheater.org.

    On Dec. 4, as families snuggled up in the historic theater enjoying “The Polar Express,” the magic of Christmas and the cinema came to life.

    The characters in the movie watched Santa’s sleigh, pulled by his reindeer, fly off into the starry sky to deliver presents to the children of the world.

    One of the children, her eyes full of wonder, whispered, “It’s everything I ever dreamed of.”

  • December 22, 2016

    Bloomington, MN – Mall of America to close movie theater this year

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    From KARE11.com: The Mall of America will close its movie theaters next week to make room for a new “entertainment experience,” according to mall officials.

    The 14-screen theater has been a fixture of the mall, which has owned the space for the last eight years, occupying a large portion of the fourth floor. Previous to the mall’s ownership, it was a General Cinema theater.

    Here’s the full statement released by the Mall of America on Thursday: Over the past 24 years Mall of America has continually transformed, evolved and refreshed itself. After a successful eight-year run, Theatres at Mall of America will close at the end of day on December 28, 2016 to make way for a new, first-to-market entertainment venue which will open in late 2017. All current theatre employees remain a valuable part of our team and have been offered positions within Mall of America. More information on the new venue will be released in early January. The Theatres at MOA also confirmed the news earlier this week, replying to fans on Twitter asking why the theater wasn’t showing the new “Star Wars: Rogue One.”

  • Sag Harbor, NY – UPDATE: In Sag Harbor, Spirit Trumps Fire As Recovery Gets Underway

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    From the East End Beacon: Now is the winter of Sag Harbor’s discontent made glorious by the spirit of its people.

    Amid the chunks of fire debris still swirling in puddles throughout this bayside village this weekend, there were signs, already, that the community was feeling stronger for having pulled together through last Friday’s devastating fire.

    Shoppers packed Main Street Sunday, bags brimming with Christmas gifts in hand, pausing briefly to gaze at the remains of the Sag Harbor Cinema, demolished over the weekend after its front wall began sagging toward the street, hugging each other tenderly and making plans for holiday celebrations.

    The iconic Sag Harbor Cinema sign, which the community had banded together to recreate about a decade ago, was delicately removed as the façade was demolished by a track excavator from Keith Grimes, Inc. Friday night. It has been stored for safekeeping by Twin Forks Moving & Storage.

  • Monon, IN – Renovations aimed at bringing Monon Theatre back to its original glory

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    From WLFI.com: A historical movie theater is being restored back to its original beauty.

    Standing for nearly eight decades, the Monon Theatre has served as a hub for local entertainment in the town. The theater was built in 1938, after both of the town’s movie theaters burned down.

    After closing its doors more than 10 years ago, the building has since started deteriorating. With hopes of restoring it back to its old glory, the Monon Civic Preservation Society purchased the building in 2013.

    “We are very excited, and enthusiastic and appreciative of all the support that we’ve had from former residents and locals and businesses,” preservation secretary Julie Gutwein said.

    The group has since raised more than $100,000 through fundraising, which helps pay for much needed upgrades and improvements.

    Gutwein said she hopes to see the theater bustling with business once again.

    “We have a lot going on in the community but there’s not an entertainment center – nothing for the young people,” said Gutwein.

    Recently, the Tippecanoe Arts Federation presented the group with a $42,500 grant to pay for a new exterior marquee, which will be placed at the theater’s entrance.

    Preservation president Dave Stimmel said he’s excited to see a piece of the town’s history slowly being brought back to life.

    “We hope to be having events here, centered around the theater,” said Stimmel. “We think we can get some live entertainment in since we’ve got a venue to do that with.”

    Stimmel said overall, the project will cost around $1.5 million.

    As far as a timeline, Stimmel said, “We’d hope in a couple more years, we should be able to be having an open house and open the doors. We’re hoping.”

    Stimmel said the marquee is currently being built in Delphi.

    If all goes as planned, the sign should be up by next spring.

  • Leawood, KS – Regulators: AMC Can Buy Smaller Movie-Theater Chain Carmike

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    From ABC News: Federal regulators gave conditional approval Tuesday to movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.’s $1.2 billion buyout of smaller rival Carmike Cinemas Inc., making AMC the biggest U.S. movie theater operator.

    The U.S. Department of Justice said its approval hinges on Leawood, Kansas-based AMC selling theaters in 15 local markets in nine states where it competes with Carmike.

    AMC also has to divest most of its holdings in National CineMedia, a cinema advertising company, and transfer 24 theaters to a rival theater ad company, Screenvision LLC.

    The Justice Department said the deal, which requires court approval, would lead to higher prices for moviegoers without such conditions.

    AMC, which was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2012, called Tuesday’s action “the final regulatory hurdle” in its push for Carmike, adding in a statement that it expects to complete the transaction “expeditiously.” It did not elaborate.

    “Needless to say, we are in a good mood in Leawood, Kansas,” Adam Aron, AMC’s chief executive and president, said during a conference call Tuesday with reporters and analysts. “Today is a glorious day and another great day for AMC.”

    Aron said 15 to 20 theaters would be sold off, most all of them from the Carmike network.

    AMC, already the world’s biggest theater operator, operated roughly 388 theaters with a total of 5,295 screens in 33 states and the District of Columbia as of the end of September. Its U.S. box office revenues were about $1.9 billion last year.

    Carmike, based in Columbus, Georgia, has 271 theaters with a combined 2,917 screens in 41 states. Carmike’s 2015 U.S. box office revenues were roughly $490 million.

    The local markets where AMC must sell off theaters are in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    The deal includes $585 million in cash and $250 million in AMC’s Class A common stock. AMC is also assuming about $367 million in debt in the deal.

    AMC shares rose 25 cents to $33.45 on Tuesday. Shares of Carmike closed at $33.40, up 15 cents.

  • Atlanta, GA – Atlanta’s Fox Theatre to be subject of Georgia Public Broadcasting documentary

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    From the Atlanta Business Journal: The Fox Theatre is as entrenched in Atlanta history as The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and “Gone with the Wind.”

    And on Dec. 25 at 7 p.m., the venue will be the subject of a documentary airing on Georgia Public Broadcasting in celebration of the 87th anniversary of the Fox’s 1929 sold-out Christmas Day opening for the premier of Disney’s first cartoon starring Mickey Mouse, “Steamboat Willie.”