The latest movie theater news and updates
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.”
From The Exponent Telegram:
The Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center’s capital campaign will begin its public phase in early 2017 to continue raising money for the $15 million multi-use facility for North Central West Virginia.
Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe said a recent economic study shows that the renovation and restoration project for the former theater will have a $32 million impact over the first five years of its operation.
It is slated for a soft opening in the spring of 2018. The formal opening is planned in the fall with a national headliner, according to Kathleen DuBois, planning and capital campaign consultant, who has been working with the project team since Nov. 2015.
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.
From wtov9.com: Work continues on the Grand Theater’s original pipe organ.
Every saturday, volunteers meet in Steubenville to restore the music maker.
The “Wurlitzer” dates back to 1924 when it was used to provide a soundtrack for silent films.
“We really want to bring it back to celebrate what Steubenville was and the pipe organ is one of the coolest things that we’ll have back here,” Scott Dressel with the Grand Theater Restoration Project said. “It’ll make a lot of noise when it’s ready.”
The project is expected to be finished between Christmas and May 2017.
As a fundraiser, individuals and businesses can sponsor a pipe.
From The Macomb Daily: A benefit concert involving WDVD-FM (96.3) is the first show on the schedule for the historic Emerald Theater in downtown Mount Clemens, venue and radio station officials said Monday.
Blaine’s Not So Silent Night featuring morning radio personality Blaine Fowler and other musicians will be held Dec. 15 with proceeds benefiting Children’s Miracle Network and Beaumont Children’s.
“This will be our first show here since we took over the property,” said theater owner John Hanna.
Hanna, owner of Royal Oak-based Hanna Development & Management, is in the process of renovating the interior and exterior of the 95-year-old theater.
Crews have been working to install a new floor and new bar on the inside, and a new marquee on the front of the Walnut Street venue that will have an emerald as a focal point. The work is nearing completion, he said.
“The heavy lifting is done,” Hanna said. “We’re remodeling the former Rock Room and are trying to address a ton of details. Things are looking good.”
The new marquee will be erected sometime in the week after Thanksgiving. Crews are working to prepare the front of the building for the sign. For the first new show in the theater since it was purchased earlier this year and renovated will be a benefit and hosted by contemporary hits radio station WDVD-FM (963.) and will feature several bands including the Blaine Fowler Experience.
“We are very excited to celebrate the season at the newly re-opened Emerald Theater with ‘Blaine’s Not So Silent Night’ starring Blue October, Wrabel and the BFE,” WDVD program director Robby Bridges said in an email.
Although Hanna’s focus now is on finishing the restoration, he is looking at a possible New Year’s Eve event at the Emerald, but no details have been released. More events are expected to be announced in early 2017.
Hanna Development purchased the theater as a “distressed property” from Revere Capital, LLC, which obtained it when the previous owners, Wally Mona and Marc Beginin, filed for bankruptcy last year.
The theater was designed by C. Howard Crane, the acclaimed theater architect who designed Detroit’s Fox Theatre and Orchestra Hall along with New York City’s Radio Music Hall. It opened in 1921 as a grand movie palace and vaudeville performance venue.
Over the decades, it morphed into other uses.
Hanna’s family-owned development company runs several properties in Oakland County but his prime pieces are in Royal Oak, including The Fifth, an 18-story residential complex, the Royal Oak Music Theater, Goodnite Gracie martini bar and D’Amato’s Italian Restaurant.
His long-term vision for the county seat in Macomb County begins with the Emerald. He recently purchased the Denver Building on Macomb Place and is considering a number of other properties. He also has purchased the former Johnny G’s restaurant, with plans to make it a Mexican restaurant called El Rey.
“There is a ton of potential in downtown Mount Clemens,” Hanna said. “I’d like to help make it more of a walkable downtown, I think that’s where its strength would be at.”
Despite Hanna’s low-key, under-the-radar approach, his actions have already made an impact on the city, according to Michelle Weiss of the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority.
“He’s doing an amazing job on the Emerald, it’s taken on a whole different look from the old theater,” Weiss said. “We believe in our city and we believe John will unlock the greatness. I think we are in for a major improvement thanks to him.”
Tickets for Blaine’s Not So Silent Nite are $9.63. For more information on the event, visit 963wdvd.com
November 14, 2016
From The Wall Street Journal: The sleepy movie-theater industry rarely is a player in big-ticket deals. But after working for months to get skeptical investors on board, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. appears poised to win shareholder approval for an acquisition that would make it the largest exhibitor in the world.
AMC, which currently is the second-biggest theater chain in the U.S., plans to pay $1.2 billion to acquire Carmike Cinemas Inc., a tie-up that Carmike shareholders are expected to vote on Tuesday. The initial deal, announced in March, was met with investor backlash and forced a delay of the vote.
Meanwhile, AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron is pursuing a second acquisition that would expand the company to Europe. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
From WPSDlocal6.com: Community members are sharing a meal Sunday to help save an area landmark.
Dozens of people turned out in downtown Metropolis for the annual Save the Massac Theatre Luncheon, helping breathe new life in to the old theater.
Inside Happy Hearts in downtown Metropolis, community members and city leaders are packed together for an afternoon meal. Denese Peebles, an organizer with the Save the Massac Theatre group, has been helping to raise money through small events like this one for eight years, working toward saving and restoring the Massac Threatre.
“Bake sales, pork burger lunches, luncheons, everything. But we got the money together,” Peebles said. Sunday’s luncheon may seem small but for every brownie and cupcake sold, it’s helped to raise thousands of dollars to save the Massac Theatre over the years.
“The theater is just kind of an icon, I can remember going to shows when I was in high school and I just think it would be a wonderful thing to save. We need a good theater in town,” said Janet Foster, a Metropolis native. She and her family are here not just to get a meal but to give back to her hometown community.
The theater sits old and broken now but after years of fundraising, the group has saved it from demolition, replaced the roof and piece by piece are bringing it back to its former glory.
“I mean, the miracle of the movies, when I was a kid it took you someplace else and now we’ll be able to bring that back to our small town,” Peebles said. She says they’re currently raising money to lay new brick inside. But in a few years, they’ll be ready to reopen the theater’s doors to the community for good.
After opening in 1938, the Massac Theatre closed its doors in 1978, according to members of the Save the Massac Theatre group. Their goal is to restore the theater an reopen it for use by the high school as well as an operational movie theater in the next five years. Its restoration is being paid for through community donations and grant funding.
The next event to benefit the theater will be held Dec. 8 at the Community Center in Metropolis. Organizers say it will be a ham dinner cooked by the Metropolis Mayor.
For more information on the theater, visit them on the website here http://www.savethemassac.com/ on the Facebook page here. https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheMassacTheatre/
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.
From Our Time Press: In the pioneering spirit of barn-raising, The Black Lady Theatre at 750 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn is being renovated. Leading the extensive rehabilitation are Clarence, Jr. 2X and Omar Hardy, the father and son team who dedicate themselves to realizing the wishes of the deceased Supreme Court Judge John L. Phillips.
The theater encompasses much of the 5,325-sq.-ft. lot. The 500-seat theater space is located in the basement where carpenters have recently installed a new wooden stage. The balcony and lobby are on the first floor and the conference area is on the second floor. Omar Hardy explained, “The plan is to build two additional floors. The roof will hold a garden and an event space”.
This project comes together through a friends-helping-friends construction process. Mark “The Builder” Douglas is the construction manager. Douglas is a licensed and insured electrical contractor who secures the subcontractors. Douglas explains, “The objective is to uplift our people to be self-sufficient. Professionalism, being on time and qualified are essential”. Douglas brought on Sheldon Douglas, who is a carpenter, and CSGN Contracting’s Johnny E. Robayo, a glass and façade contractor. It is Robayo’s installation of the glass front that achieves the visual impact of the rebirth of “The Black Lady”.
Given the low level of financing, the team has relied heavily on volunteer labor. For example, Omar’s younger brothers, Devon and Isaiah Howard, do “soup to nuts…from site preparation to finishing”.
The marketing firm Open House New York promoted the grand reopening weekend of October 15-16, 2016 free of charge. Standing in front of the gleaming glass doors that reveal many murals in the lobby, Mark Douglas estimates the work will be completed by December 2016. To mark this milestone, the Hardys and Douglas are in preliminary discussions with the producer of “Oz Comes to Brooklyn”. Douglas gives the last Sunday in December as the tentative performance date.
“I was born for this task and my father always wanted to do business with his family,” muses Omar Hardy. He believes getting to this point where the public can see the theater is coming back to life is due to “remaining on our square and staying true to the mission”.
The complete development team includes Clarence, Jr. 2X Hardy, Omar Hardy, Administrator Christie Williams, Construction Manager Mark Douglas and Byron Wilson. Wilson does not state his title. Rather, Wilson explains his plan to “establish renewable energy technologies that take the premises off the grid”. Wilson estimates the cost amounting to $10,000.
Further, Wilson intends to use smart building procedures. He plans to set up solar canopies and an aquaponic greenhouse that grows food. Wilson asserts, “This will be a farm-to-table operation where we sell to local bodegas. The aquaponic greenhouse uses the waste of tilapia fish. The fish itself will not be sold for consumption”.
Between April and October 2016, the team has accomplished clearing the theater of rubbish. “We’ve filled 20 containers with trash. We financed the carting company’s services through fundraisers. One hundred bags of rubbish were picked up by the NYC Sanitation Department,” explains Hardy.
This reporter had a sit-down interview with Omar Hardy on October 27, 2016. In preparation of the meeting, records within the NYC Finance Department, Buildings Department and the Environmental Protection Department on the premises were reviewed.
Q: Has your organization contacted Brooklyn Community District Office No. 8 to request to make a presentation before the community or to just leave event notices at community board meetings?
Hardy: Information drop-offs would be done through Zulika Bumpus (another team member). I’m not sure whether the event notice was left at the district office or at a general meeting. I recognize that I should present to the community what is happening at The Black Lady Theatre.
Note: Zulika Bumpus was contacted by telephone and e-mail on October 27, 2016 to inquire about outreach to local high schools, houses of worship and Brooklyn Community District Office No. 8. Bumpus explained on the telephone that she was leaving for an event and has not answered the e-mail.
Q: Have you contacted any local houses of worship to notify them about the rehabilitation occurring at the theater?
Hardy: We haven’t had contact with the local houses of worship. As far as having them know about the rehab, No. We’ve reached out to individuals, organizations and anyone who I believe should know. I’ve been thinking in terms of after the construction is completed and the place is ready for rental.
In all, the Q-and-A session was driven by 13 questions. It was revealed the development team’s community outreach was limited due to the decision to postpone community outreach until after the construction is complete. They have not communicated with Crown Heights North Association (CHNA). This organization has a successful track record of historic landmark district designation. Given the artistic and historic value of this theater, developing a strategic alliance with CHNA would be prudent. From April 2016 to October 2016, the work consisted of site preparation, painting, glass front installation and floor tiling. Hardy could not say which floor would be 75% complete by December 31, 2016.
The types of trades that have been on-site at any given time include security (provided by a private company and internal surveillance), electricians, carpenters and a plumber.
A New York City research agency uncovered two critical conditions: 750 Nostrand Avenue, Block 1240, Lot 38 was part of an assignment of a tax lien, document date April 30, 2016, where Party 1 is Bank of New York Mellon and Party 2 Bank of New York Mellon. A Tax Lien Sale Certificate was entered into record on August 10, 2016. Mr. Hardy acknowledges, “The tax issue needs to be handled. It is part of the reason for his focus on completing key rehabilitation areas”.
“Opening the doors to the community is critical [because] it permits us offering programs to the community that generates revenue” may be a guiding mantra that Omar Hardy keeps in the forefront of his mind. In view of this direct action, it behooves this committed team to direct its legal counsel to respond to the property vesting action.