The latest movie theater news and updates

  • November 3, 2016

    Lakeview, LA – New movie theater heading to the old home of the Robert E. Lee?


    From 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.”

  • November 1, 2016

    New York, NY – Harlem’s protracted Victoria Theater redevelopment may move forward


    From Curbed NY: The long-stalled Victoria Theater redevelopment project in Harlem may finally be making some progress, the New York Post reports. Their reporter spotted a notice relating to “earthwork” at the site, which was posted there last month.

    The plan has undergone so many changes since it was announced over a decade, so it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually going on at the site right now. While this latest notice hasn’t yet appeared on the city’s Department of Buildings website, the most recent iteration of the plans call for a 26-story tower at the site with 200 rentals, half of which will be affordable, and a Renaissance by Marriott hotel.

    Plans call for the historic theater to be restored and incorporated into the tower. The most recent version of the plans were filed by developer Lam Group in October 2014, and demolition work at the site got underway in the summer of 2015. The progress since then however has been excruciatingly slow.

    This latest notice may be a sign of things moving forward, but no word yet on when the Aufgang Architects-designed building will actually be completed.

    Designed in 1917 by noted architect Thomas W. Lamb, the theater opened as the Loew’s Victoria Theater and could seat nearly 2,400 people. In the late 1980s the large auditorium was converted into multiple theaters, and it wasn’t until 2005 that redevelopment proposals were submitted for the site.

  • Irwin, PA – Irwin’s Lamp Theatre plans to buy digital projector to screen newer movies


    From The renovated Lamp Theatre in Irwin is showing movies again — classic flicks for now via an old film projector — but operators hope to entertain audiences with recent releases once a new digital movie projector is purchased.

    The theater’s operators hope to have the new projector by the Christmas holiday season, said John Gdula, president of the Lamp Theatre board of directors. The organization is making the financial arrangements to buy a projector for about $38,000, he said.

    A digital projector is needed to show first-run movies “primarily because the movie studios are stopping production of movies on film,” said Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group.

    Corcoran said the studios have moved to digital production as a way of reducing costs.

    “It’s much less expensive for them to distribute the movies on hard drives — about $60 — than on film, which costs about $1,200 per movie,” Corcoran said.

    The quality of the digital picture is the same as film but does not develop flaws with age, Corcoran said.

    With a digital projector, the Lamp Theatre would be able to screen new movies. Whether the movies would be first-run or available after making a run at the multiplex cinemas in the region likely would be determined by the rules governing distribution rights of the movie, Gdula said.

    The revenue generated by ticket sales and the profit from concessions should cover the cost of the digital projector, Gdula said.

    The Lamp’s operators will have to consider when to show movies as an increasingly busy production schedule includes live entertainment and the showing of older, classic movies.

    “It’s a nice problem to have,” Gdula said.

    The efforts to restore the Lamp Theatre over the past several years have been recognized by the Westmoreland County Historical Society, which recently gave the Lamp board an Arthur St. Clair Historical Preservation Award “for bringing a property back to life,” Gdula said.

  • Lafayette, CA – New life for downtown movie theater?


    From The East Bay Times: A group of residents is hoping to transform a long-closed movie theater into a center for cinema, music and art.

    Cathy and Frederick Abbott and business partner Alex McDonald want to purchase the 75-year-old Park Theater on Golden Gate Way and convert it to a performance and rehearsal space and venue for art house films.

    The acquisition, according to Cathy Abbott, is a last-ditch effort to preserve the theater as a place for cinema and community gatherings. “It seemed like a now or never moment, realizing that once the theater is demolished, there’s no bringing it back,” Abbott wrote in a statement to the City Council.

  • Grand Junction, CO – New movie theater opening in Grand Junction


    From KKCO TV-11: Renovations are underway at a closed movie theater in Grand Junction.

    The movie theater company Picture Show is moving into the former Carmike Cinemas and opening a new budget friendly movie theater.

    “I think it’s really exciting, it gives more of a variety of places we can go,” said Lux Miller, a Grand Valley movie lover.

    “It’s great to have other options, and something that will hopefully make these a little more competitive on the other side,” said Grand Junction resident Jeff Green.

    Picture Show bought the 23-year-old building, and the owners are working hard on upgrades.

    “I think that Carmike needed to improve,” said the new owner, Jeff Stedman.

    It’s the inside where picture show is adding all new equipment and upgrades like reclining seats, hoping to make the movie viewing experience more comfortable.

    “We took a facility that was not being used, and would have been closed otherwise and invested $2 million in the community,” said Stedman. “We’re going to employ 25-30 people and we’re going to have value pricing for our customers.”

  • October 30, 2016

    Highland, IN – State providing $50,000 to restore Highland’s Town Theatre


    The state of Indiana is kicking in $50,000 to help pay for restoration of the historic Town Theatre in Highland.

    The lieutenant governor’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs and Office of Tourism Development announced Thursday they are providing the money as part of a matching grant program that promotes quality of place improvements across the state.

    “The intent of this fund is to reward creativity and resourcefulness,” said Mark Newman, state tourism director. “The impact to quality of life and ultimately tourism will be great.”

  • Richmond, IN: Indy architect firm buys Richmond’s Tivoli Theater site


    From The Pal-Item: The historic Tivoli Theater building in downtown Richmond has been purchased by an Indianapolis-based architecture firm that hopes to turn the space into a regional office, Center City Development Corp. announced Thursday.

    R&B Architects closed on the 900 E. Main St. building on Oct. 21, after determining the site would suit its needs for a satellite office space, as well as other potential commercial development projects.

    Immediate plans for the building include a design studio office space and potentially a coffee bistro, R&B principal Brent Mather said.

  • Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY – A Eulogy for the Pavilion, the Worst Movie Theater Ever


    From Screen Crush: My friends, thank you all for coming here today to say goodbye. The Pavilion is gone.

    The theater will be transformed into an arthouse by the owners of Williamsburg’s outstanding Nitehawk Cinema. Today was supposed to be its last day; as of lunchtime yesterday, the theater was still selling tickets for screenings on its website. Then, suddenly, all the screenings vanished. A moving truck showed up outside the theater. The building’s metal shutters were brought down. And just like that the Worst Theater Ever was no more. We never even got to say goodbye. (Or to tell them to correct the spelling of “MIDLLE SCHOOL.” [On both sides of the marquee.])

    It was an anticlimactic end for a movie theater, but a fitting one in this case, for this was the Pavilion, a theater that somehow turned gross and persistent incompetence into a functioning business model for well over a decade. Alexander Pope famously wrote “to err is human, to forgive divine.” If that is true, then the Pavilion was the most human movie theater that ever existed, and its customer base was borderline godly.

    A lot of you only knew the Pavilion after its health started failing. You should have seen it when it was younger. It was beautiful. It was born in 1996, the child of an old movie house, the Sanders, that lived and died on the same corner as the Pavilion, at 14th Street and Prospect Park West. In its youth, the Pavilion was a local favorite. Back then, no one in Park Slope had a bad thing to say about it.

    Things took a turn after the Pavilion’s radical surgery in the mid-2000s. It was diagnosed with a terminal disease of not enough screens, so its three auditoriums were split into nine of varying size. Looking back now, that was the beginning of the end. The Pavilion soldiered on, but it was never the same again. Ownership changed and the new people in charge took less and less interest in the Pavilion’s upkeep. By the late 2000s the place was a shell of its former self. The people who loved it will tell you it was hard to watch.

    There’s another old expression, this one not by Alexander Pope, that warns never to speak ill of the dead. And so it would be inappropriate of me to list some of the Pavilion’s many, many, many flaws, issues, and problems here. It would be wrong, for example, to go to the theater’s Yelp page, where it had the lowest rating of any theater in New York City, and pull excerpts from the hundreds (literally hundreds) of one-star reviews.

    I choose to focus on the good times and not the bad, like the occasion where a customer was told their debit card was declined, while the clerk repeatedly charged them for snacks they never received.

    That’s an honest mistake; it could happen to anyone. The same goes for the screens that were dirty, ripped, or broken, sometimes for years. A lot of movie theaters have screens that are cracked “as if someone punched it.”

    The Pavilion got forgetful later in life. This is just what happens when you get older. I sometimes forget where I left my keys. The Pavilion forgot when it was showing movies. Or it would advertise showings that didn’t exist, or blame the screw-ups on ticketing websites like Fandango.

    At the end it got so bad, the Pavilion even thought it had an IMAX screen. The poor thing was delusional.

    Those of you with seniors in their lives know how rough those last days can get. The Pavilion lived so long, its body literally began to fall apart.

    Temperature was always an issue. In the summer, it was too hot.

    In the winter, it was too cold.

    Or sometimes the heat worked, and no one bothered to turn it on.

    The customers weren’t the only ones who froze; the movies froze too. (I personally witnessed this happen during a screening of The Other Guys.)

    And when the popcorn machine worked, the water fountain didn’t.

    There were other water troubles. When it rained outside, it rained inside.

    At least we hoped that was rain:

    Of course, you probably heard the complaints about bed bugs. Rumors and supposed sightings of the critters plagued the Pavilion all through its later years. To be honest, I always thought these were overblown; a lot of hearsay with little evidence.

    There were definitely rats though.

    It’s not all the Pavilion’s fault. Sometimes the customers were just absurdly demanding!

    Just because you saw a rat (okay, two rats) you want your money back? You already watched 20 minutes of the movie! That’s almost a third! People can be such freeloaders.

    At the very end, the Pavilion even lost control of its bowels. It was just ugly.

    Euthanasia is illegal in this country. But I tell you this, my friends: Seeing what became of our Pavilion, I wished it wasn’t. Someone needed to put this poor suffering creature out of its misery.

    The Pavilion was finally put out of its misery yesterday. It will no longer have to endure customers and their ridiculous complaints about the lack of air conditioning or heat or toilet stall doors. It won’t have to hear people demand their money back just because their seat was broken, or the floor was sticky, or there were absolutely no lights on in the auditorium before the movie began, forcing them to fumble in the dark with their iPhone flashlights, or the film projector was so caked in dust it looked like it hadn’t been serviced since Thomas Edison was alive. It won’t have to call the cops on a diabetic who tried to bring fruit in to the theater. Fruit! Can you believe it? What a world.

    Yesterday, I wrote a consumer guide to good movie theater projection; what every theater should do to give their customers their money’s worth. It was 1500 words long, and included excerpts from a lengthy interview with an expert on theatrical presentation. If I wanted to save time, I could have just written “Look at the Pavilion, then do the opposite.” Back in 2012, I called it “the worst theater ever.” Some people thought I was being hyperbolic; surely, somewhere, they must be a worse movie theater than the Pavilion.

    There wasn’t. If there is a hell, the Pavilion is now serving customers there. They won’t even have to get the air conditioner serviced.

    Full story, with patron reviews: Remembering the Worst Movie Theater Ever |

  • October 27, 2016

    Oneonta, NY – Oneonta Theatre plans farewell bash, seeks new owner


    From The Daily Star: A Halloween bash at the Oneonta Theatre on Friday will be the venue’s last event, at least for now, the owner said Wednesday.

    Thomas Cormier, who has owned the Chestnut St. property for seven years, said, despite his best efforts, he cannot afford to keep the historic building open.

    Living 45 minutes away from the venue and juggling a full-time job and a family, there’s not enough time and energy left over for all of the work that goes into operating and maintaining the theater on the side, booking shows and preparing for events, he said. And it’s expensive.

    “Temperatures are dropping,” said Cormier, of Burlington Flats, “and, once you turn the heat on in this building, you just can’t sell enough tickets or beer to keep up.”

    The 27,000-square-foot building is for sale for $925,000, but that price is flexible, Cormier said, and he’s encouraging area arts groups and nonprofits to contact him with ideas. The property is not listed with a real estate agency.

    “Nothing is off the table right now. I’m open to anything, a long-term lease or, if the right group came to me, split and donate. Any way this beautiful old venue can stay a part of this community,” Cormier said. “I’ve tried keeping it open so I could find a group to come in and take over. But it’s been a long time and I haven’t found that. This is my passion, I just can’t do it by myself anymore.”

    As the seller, Cormier has been approached by several interested groups. People “mean well, but nobody can really step up and take the reins,” he said.

    “I had an offer a year-and-a-half ago, but I turned it down,” Cormier said. “I didn’t want to see the building knocked down. My main concern is to find a future for it.”

    Phone messages left for the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre, a group formed in 2008 to preserve the historic site, were not returned by Wednesday night; Cormier said the group is defunct.


    Cormier said the theater will go out the same way it came in under his management: with good, local entertainment.

    Electro-rock group Jimkata, a nationally touring band whose members are from Oneonta, is headlining the show, which will kick off at 7 p.m. and run until midnight. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

    The band’s frontman, Evan Friedell, 30, told The Daily Star on Tuesday that he grew up visiting the venue with his mother, a makeup designer and actress. Friedell met bandmates Aaron Gorsch and Packy Lunn in middle school in Oneonta, he said.

    “I have vivid memories of walking around while she was working on shows and other things there, going backstage and that kind of thing,” Friedell said. “The first time we came back to play there, it was kind of a trip. That was an early indicator for us that, if we could get this kind of a reaction in Oneonta, I think we could do this everywhere. And now we have fans across the U.S. who come to our shows and know all the words and are wearing our T-shirts.”

    Friedell said he had no idea the theater was set to close, but it doesn’t surprise him.

    “It’s a big venue in a small town,” he said. “It was built for another time, and trying to put 700 people in seats now is tough. It definitely reflects what’s going on nationally. We see clubs come and go all the time, some places that we really like. The whole industry is struggling with this. …We’ve played probably between six and 10 shows there. Oneonta is our hometown, ultimately, so it always feels pretty good — like coming home.”


    Cormier bought the building in July 2009, and a year later, he opened it for business. He was shopping for commercial property in Oneonta, and saw potential in the complex, he said.

    After-purchase improvements included removing mold, fixing water problems, upgrading plumbing and electrical systems and bringing the building up to code, he said.

    “A lot of treasure, blood, sweat and tears went into this,” Cormier said. “It still needs more restoration, but it’s safe now. It has all the proper fire safety.”

    According to Otsego County Real Property Service, the property’s assessed value is $375,000.

    The Oneonta Theatre was built in 1897 and hosted vaudeville acts, movies and other performances. The walls are decorated with curtain murals. The property is listed on the state and national registers of historic places.

    For years, the theater screened first-run movies on a regular schedule, was the stage for Orpheus Theatre shows and more recently has presented musicians, holiday movies and film series. Decades ago, graduation ceremonies were held inside the cavernous venue.

    The theater has presented hundreds of concerts and other performances, according to Cormier. Some of his favorite memories have been of Steve Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker, Blue Öyster Cult, Kansas, Little Feat, and The Radiators, he said.

    The old building has seen “tons of icons,” Cormier said.

    “Blue Öyster Cult in 2011 was a fantastic show. It did well all-around,” he said. “My personal favorite was Little Feat. And we’ve had many, many memorable plays, as well. ‘Always … Patsy Cline’ and ‘Frankenstein.’ Even just some of the local talent that’s gotten up there on the stages. … I’ve met thousands and thousands of people and watched them walk out of the place smiling. That has been very gratifying.”

  • Lewisville, TX – New Drive-In Movie Theater Opens in Lewisville Friday


    From If recent trends in new theater openings in North Texas can tell us anything, it may be that people really enjoy eating and drinking while watching a movie, simplifying the classic “dinner and a movie” combination. We’ve also seen the rise of zero tolerance policies for cell phones, extra-cinematic programming, and the promise of “luxury” seating as theater attendance continues to decline.

    A more traditional experience hasn’t completely lost its sway with moviegoers, however. It’s too early to call it a comeback, but a new drive-in theater opening Friday in Lewisville could qualify as at least a tentative revival of a throwback American night out.

    It’s the third such venture from Coyote Drive-In Theaters and Canteen, which opened its first outpost in Fort Worth in 2013 and expanded to Leeds, Alabama earlier this year. (The two Coyotes join the Galaxy Drive-In in Ennis and the Brazos in Granbury on North Texas’ lineup of drive-in theaters.)

    The theater, at 1901 Midway Rd. off the 121 Tollway, will have five screens digitally projecting double features of first-run movies seven nights a week, according to a press release. Most of the screens — there are plans for a sixth — stand about 55 feet tall and 75 feet wide. The complex can fit about 1,500 cars.

    There are, of course, plenty of modern amenities added to this nostalgia trip. Audiences in the drive-in heyday of the ’50s never knew the unique, late capitalism joys of “Pepsi Spire 5.0 drink systems,” for example. Per the press release from Coyote:

    In the center of the grounds stands a Canteen – a restaurant and bar pavilion with indoor and outdoor covered seating for 300 guests, fitted with ten high-definition big-screen TVs – perfect for football, baseball and soccer game days.

    Within the Canteen area, patrons can enjoy hand-crafted pizza, burgers, wings and tenders from the full-service kitchen in one hand and the traditional concessions like giant pretzels, churros, popcorn, candy in the other. Coyote Drive-In comes complete with a Beer & Wine bar, featuring many craft beer favorites and frozen wineritas. Coyote also prepares Sno-Cones and Cotton Candy on site and has a Merchandise Shop. And to top it off, the theater is one of the first in Texas to carry Pepsi Spire 5.0 drink systems, a state-of-the-art refreshment dispenser with over one hundred Pepsi flavor combinations to choose from.

    Some people will try to tell you America used to be greater than it is now, but in what other era could you choose from 100 Pepsi flavor combinations?

    Tickets to the Coyote Drive-In are $7 for adults, $5 for kids between the ages of 5 and 11, and free for children younger than 4. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and showtimes begin just after sunset.