The latest movie theater news and updates

  • January 31, 2017

    Barberton, OH – Barberton’s once-abandoned West Theater reopens on its 70th birthday

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    From Ohio.com: Mark Anderson wanted the abandoned West Theater building for the space beneath it, behind it and on both sides of it. Since purchasing the building from the bank for $58,000 cash in 2012, that’s exactly the space he put to use. Storage rental units in the 8,000-square-foot basement. U-Haul trucks in the parking lot. Retail tenants on bookend storefronts. The 1947 theater whose screen last flickered in 2008? Well, that dark and cavernous space that Anderson would visit with a flashlight turned into a hobby. Since the rest of the property was paying the bills, Anderson was in no hurry. A bout of boredom would send the skilled handyman to the theater every once in a while to swap a few torn seat cushion fabrics here or fix some plumbing there. He found new curtains to hang on the stage, rigged a conference room projector from the ceiling, even found some parts to build a tankless water heater for warming the old theater’s bones. Then late last year, when he figured the theater was ready for a little action, a friend of a friend introduced him to another Mark. Mark Budnick, who had spent most of his adult life managing movie theaters, eagerly accepted the challenge of trying to turn a local nostalgic treasure into a productive business. Budnick said he remembers when he drove by the West after it had been sold, thinking: “Here we go again. Another old theater gutted.” He had no idea it had always been the buyer’s intent to someday get the old screen flickering again and that he would become part of the process. Helping to restore an old movie house “has always been a dream,” said Budnick, now the newly opened West’s manager and creative director. To be sure, the theater is not the epitome of luxury. The original 1947 seats have three different styles of red fabric coverings, the floor is gray concrete except for carpeted aisles, and the old water-damaged screen was replaced with a smaller but affordable alternative. Anderson said his shoestring budget was the result of failing to inspire any local banks or foundations to invest in his project, so he had to do what he could using his own skills and his credit cards. Canadian credit cards at that, said the Toronto native who followed his American wife to Barberton in 1984 and stayed. “Yeah, Canadian money helped do this,” he laughed as he looked around the empty theater. Anderson and Budnick are hoping nostalgia will bring curious locals in for a peek, and the diverse entertainment schedule will keep them coming back. “I’m not from here but I’m told people have a lot of memories of this place,” Anderson said. The past couple of weekends, the West has shown a Charlie Chaplin film festival and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  • Menlo Park, CA – Menlo Park woman scrambles to shield cinema from developers

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    From The San Francisco Chronicle: Twice on Saturdays and twice on Sundays, Judy Adams walks from her Menlo Park home to the Guild Theatre on El Camino Real and back. She’s there when customers go into the old-time picture show and she’s there when they come out, but she doesn’t stay for the movie.

    Adams’ job, self-appointed and singularly motivated, is to get signatures for a petition to save the Guild, a single-screen cinema opened in 1926. It’s a heroic gesture considering that there is no indication the Guild is closing. But Landmark Theatres, which operates the Guild, is on a month-to-month lease, and the building may be for sale.

    Adams knows how this story ends, so she is taking “preemptive action,” she says, while standing in the cold of a January day last week before the 5 p.m. screening of “Manchester by the Sea.”

    “The goal is to get the city, Landmark Theatres and the owner talking about a way to keep a neighborhood theater and get it upgraded while keeping the charm of a small art house,” Adams says.

    If the Guild goes, so goes a long tradition of stand-alone movie theaters along the El Camino, the main commercial strip that connects all of the commuter towns that rose up alongside the tracks of the Southern Pacific line.

  • Gowanda, NY – Lt. Gov. Hochul brings grant news to Hollywood Theater

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    From the Observer: Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul recited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in Gowanda’s Historic Hollywood Theater. However, the normal address ended with a surprising twist.

    Hochul added that the Hollywood Theater will receive $324,000 to be applied toward the seating, lighting, carpentry and other items. The news was a part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative.

    A total of 75 projects were awarded in all of New York, with three within the local area.

    “We’re just ecstatic about it,” Hollywood Theater Board President Mark Burr said after hearing the news.

    The additional funds bring the restoration within around $650,000.

  • Indian Lake, NY – Cementing a historic milestone at the Indian Lake Community Theater

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    From The Sun: It was a little more than 10 years ago that nearly seven decades of community memories, experiences and life events were shuttered-up inside what had been the Indian Lake Theater. The movie house closed its doors in late-2006 and threatened to become a memory itself. The theater, where so many members of and visitors to the Indian Lake Community had special memories, was at risk of ceasing to exist. These were memories that marked milestone events in the lives of those who frequented the theater. Memories of having their first job at the theater, holding hands with a loved-one for the first time, sharing a first kiss, enjoying entertainment with friends and family or just spending a quiet time in the darkened room on a rainy afternoon or evening being transported by a film to a special place or becoming a part of an exciting story. Surely, the shutters were on — but the memories were working overtime. The memories were beginning to motivate a new chapter in the theater’s history. Slightly more than two years later on March 6, 2009, a local community organization purchased the 250-seat venue, capping off a 12-week, round-the-clock effort that saw nearly 500 people help to raise $160,000.
    The downtown movie house, for most small towns across America is a rapidly fading memory. But in Indian Lake, a historic theater began a new life nearly 10 years ago in a town with a population of 1,400 — all thanks to the efforts and determination of the surrounding community. The shutters came off and a non-profit, multipurpose community center was formed into a space for new and classic films, live community theater, concerts and special events for the community. Continuous refinement of space and capability has most recently been joined by digital technology, allowing The Indian Lake Community Theater to show the latest films coming out of Hollywood as well as the imaginations and efforts of independent filmmakers from around the world. It has been nearly 10 years since the new chapter in the theater’s life has been started by a determined and committed community, but, as Theater Director Sue Montgomery-Corey put it: “Progress always comes with a price.”
    Montgomery-Corey said even a standard film costs $250 to acquire for showing and an additional $40 for each trailer.
    More popular films cost more to acquire, and with companies like Disney that take a large, flat percentage of the gross for the showing of their films, the theater can have a hole to climb out of that can be as deep as 40 percent of gross revenue.
    All this represents a challenge for the theater given the low admission price of only $5.
    “For each showing, we need to have 80 paying customers in order to just cover the hard cost of the showing,” said Montgomery-Corey. Concessions help, and children deliver some good concession revenue. But films for adult viewers just don’t seem to deliver the concession sales that are so often touted by other theaters.
    “Perhaps we need to survey our adult customers to see if there is something else they would like to see us offering in the way of refreshments.” “If nothing else, the operational cost situation should make the community realize that it cannot start taking this fantastic community resource for granted,” Montgomery-Corey said. Operations, she said, are about as grassroots as it gets. Montgomery-Corey said she enjoyed seeing how the theater’s following is expanding, with crowds coming as far as Olmstedville. And while the venue’s Facebook page has drawn likes as far away as India and Pakistan, just liking the theatre doesn’t keep the doors open, the director points out. Surely the theater’s history and inspiring story of small community determination have a lot to do with its widespread popularity even beyond the community at large. But its programming has a lot to do with the venue’s ongoing popularity. Current films like “Manchester by the Sea”, “La La Land”, “Queen of Katwe”, “Dr. Strange” — all running in the coming weeks — are certainly a huge drive to the Indian Lake Theater’s popularity.
    Events such as the “Loren and Mark” March 10 reach-out musical performance at Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek (sponsors are still needed) and the April 28 Patsy Cline Tribute to take place in the theater are just some of the great live performances planned this spring.
    But the real driving force is the community at large. So as the Indian Lake Community Theater approaches it’s new chapter’s 10th anniversary, Montgomery-Corey suggests that the community celebrate the fact that it belongs to them.
    “Do it by taking in a few great movies. Attend a live performance. Bring a few friends and visitors. Enjoy some popcorn, a chocolate bar, a cup of coffee. Celebrate the great admission price, and if you can, don’t go past the contribution jar at the end of the counter without contributing, or the donation page on the website without giving a little ‘thank you’ to help keep the theater healthy, the admission price low and the memories coming.”

  • New York, NY – The Urban Lens: Inside the Village East Cinema, one of NY’s last surviving ‘Yiddish Rialto’ theaters

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    From 6sqft.com: 6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, award-winning photographers James and Karla Murray return with a look inside the spectacular Village East Cinema. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at tipsRegency Bruin Theatresqft.com.

    Moviegoers at the Village East Cinema located on 181 Second Avenue may be surprised to learn that they are visiting a recently restored New York City designated landmark. The Village East Cinema has a fascinating history as one of the last surviving “Yiddish Rialto” theaters along Second Avenue in the East Village. Today, the cinema is known for premiering many independent films and an eclectic mix of art and commercial releases. The theater’s most significant visual aspect, however, is its main auditorium’s ornate and colorful ceiling, which is regarded as having one of the most remarkable works of plaster craftsmanship displays in New York City.

  • January 25, 2017

    Jonesborough, TN – Jonesborough using tourism grant to help rebuild historic Jackson Theatre

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    From WCYB.com: Jonesborough won a $50,000 state grant to help boost tourism, and Tennessee’s oldest town is using the money to help restore a historic downtown theatre to its former glory.

    Built in the early 1900’s the Jackson Theatre has been a huge part of the town for more than a century. The tourism grant is going to help renovate and refurbish this iconic building, and the hope is that the theater will bring more people into the town and help boost the economy.

    “We’re bringing back a touch history so future generations can go back and say this is what is was and this is what it is again,” said Shawn Hale.

    It’s been used as a silent movie theatre, an office space, and even a furniture store. Now the building will be transformed into a 300 seat theatre.

    The town started working on it last year and it could cost up to $2 million to repair, and that’s why the tourism department said this grant is so important.

    “We’ll be able to incorporate more plays, or musicals, more musical acts, more performances,” said Cameo Waters, Jonesborough Tourism Director. “It’s just so great to be able to expand and bring activities into Jonesborough.”

    It’s also a big opportunity for the Repertory Theatre Company which will be using The Jackson. Actor and theatre company member, Shawn Hale, said they’re working out of a theatre space now that’s too small, they even had to put the men’s dressing rooms in the attic.

    “We’ve done wondrous things here but to have space that’s going to be available to us,” said Hale. “That we have the dressing rooms, we have a dance studio, we have a working space so we can build our sets and our props.”

    The actors said they can’t wait for The Jackson Theatre’s opening night.

    Right now the town is working on the structure and framework of the building. It’s a long road ahead, but they say this money is going make a big difference to help bring this historic theatre back to life.

  • Auburn, NY – Auburn Schine Theater owners refine mission as project remains stagnant

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    From Auburnpub.com: After a stagnant 2016, the Cayuga County Arts Council has taken steps early in 2017 to reinvigorate its long-running restoration of the Auburn Schine Theater.

    The seven-member council board completed a work session Jan. 7 with former Auburn Mayor Melina Carnicelli, according to a recent news release. The board emerged from the three-hour session, held at Beardsley Architects & Engineers in Auburn, with new mission and vision statements. The former declares the council’s commitment to restoring the 1938 art deco theater “by engaging community partners”; the latter describes the council as “a sustainable downtown business located in the historic Schines Theatre that promotes, educates and supports the expression of talent.”

    The council, the release continues, will reach out to community members this year to fill various committee positions. In a Friday phone interview, council Vice Chair Dia Carabajal said the areas in which it could most use that community assistance are fundraising and communications, as well as the council’s already existing building committee. That committee’s chair of almost two years, Tim Kerstetter, left the council at the end of his term in December because he could no longer make the time commitment the project requires, he said Friday.

  • West Bend, WI – Competing plans surface for West Bend Theatre

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    From the Journal-Sentinal: Two competing plans have surfaced that would reuse the historic, but long vacant, West Bend Theatre in that community’s downtown.

    Historic West Bend Theatre, a nonprofit group, is talking to city officials and others about its plans to renovate the building, 125 N. Main St.

    That group would convert the former cinema into a venue for such events as concerts, dance recitals and weddings.

  • Leawood, KS – Wanda Expands Global Theater Reach as AMC Pays $929 Million for Nordic Cinema

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    From Variety.com: AMC, the U.S. theater chain controlled by China’s Dalian Wanda group, is to pay $929 million for Nordic Cinema Group. The company is the largest cinema operator in seven countries in the Nordic and Baltic regions.

    The deal follows AMC’s acquisition last year of Odeon-UCI, the largest cinema operator in Western Europe. AMC said that the two European chains will be operated together.

    AMC is buying Nordic in a transaction from private equity firm Bridgepoint and Swedish media group Bonnier Holding. The transaction is to be an all-cash affair worth $929 million (SEK8.25 billion), and the deal is subject to approval from the European Union.

    Nordic has 68 theaters in 50 large and medium cities, comprising 463 screens and 68,000 seats. The company also holds substantial minority stakes in another 50 theaters with 201 screens.

    Acquiring the group is part of Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin’s stated goal of owning 20% of the world’s movie screens. He believes that will give his company significant negotiating power in discussions with the world’s leading film distributors, most notably the six Hollywood majors. Prior to the Nordic deal, Wanda controlled some 12% of global screens through AMC and its separately listed Wanda Cinema line, which has cinemas in China and also owns Australia’s No. 2 operator, Hoyts group.

    AMC also recently agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice on the terms of its proposed takeover of the North American Carmike chain; the deal was closed before Christmas.

    “For the third time in the past 12 months, we believe we have discovered a substantial acquisition that gives AMC yet another opportunity to further expand and diversify our geographic reach and more firmly establish AMC as the undisputed leader in movie exhibition worldwide,” AMC CEO and President Adam Aron said in a statement of the Nordic Group acquisition.

    “It has been our observation that Nordic is extremely well-run with a modern up-to-date theater circuit that in our opinion offers tremendous value potential for AMC over the foreseeable future. We are also excited by the growth potential of Nordic as it moves forward with 10 theaters already in development or redevelopment. We have been impressed with Nordic’s talented leadership team, and further believe that their added expertise will be invaluable to us in helping to drive AMC’s progress across Europe.”

    AMC said that it will achieve additional economies of scale and save about $5 million in costs per year.

    Reactions to the acquisition from local players have been for the most part muted.

    Thor Sigurjonsson, general manager of Scanbox, one of Scandinavia’s top distribution outfits whose slate of releases include “Lion,” “Gold” and “Molly’s Game,” said the AMC pickup was “not a huge surprise.”

    “It’s a natural consolidation of the business, and we welcome a true cinema player to the market. We’ve had great relations with Nordic Cinema Group and hope to continue to do so moving forward,” said Sigurjonsson, whose company, Scanbox, operates in Finland, Denmark and Sweden as well as Norway via Norse Filmdisturjbution.

    Michael Porseryd, CEO of SF Studios, another Scandinavian heavyweight operating across the Nordics, said his company “has had a long and successful partnership with Nordic Cinema Group and their very professional team and hopes SF Studios’s close relationship with Nordic Cinema Group will continue in the future.” SF Studios’s slate include “Borg/McEnroe” with Shia LaBeouf.

  • Dallas, TX – Visit an Online Graveyard of Old Dallas Movie Theaters

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    From dmagazine.com: The website Cinema Treasures, an overwhelmingly large and detailed database of more than 47,000 movie theaters, has plenty of entries devoted to active theaters, from single-screen art houses to shopping mall multiplexes.

    But it’s the obituaries on the site that prove the most compelling. The community on Cinema Treasures is just as thorough in cataloging the stories of past movie theaters, closed or demolished by the whims of market forces and real estate development—not to mention television, the internet, and Netflix.

    Most of the entries include a brief history of the theater, photos, and often comments from people reminiscing on nights spent at the movies: piling friends into a car on a hot summer evening to see the double feature B-flicks at the Gemini Drive-In just north of Forest Lane off of Central, or seeing the 1961 romantic comedy Gidget Goes Hawaiian on a field trip to the Wynnewood Theater in Oak Cliff.

    I got sucked in browsing through the listings for closed Dallas theaters, burning away a significant chunk of a day I should have spent working on something else, and not regretting it at all. Cinema Treasures has details on 127 closed Dallas theaters, and 145 overall. (It it is missing an entry for the Forest Theater near Fair Park, if anyone feels equipped to write an update.)

    Each theater entry is fascinating, and if you go down the same internet wormhole that I did, keep a lookout for comments from “dallasmovietheaters,” who writes paragraphs and paragraphs on the history of many of these old theaters.

    There are great photos of the Washington Theatre, the ostentatious movie palace opened on Elm Street downtown in 1912. The Queen Theater, later known as the Leo, soon followed, along with the Hippodrome—later renamed The Strand and torn down for parking spaces in 1960 Elm Street—and the other establishments that transformed Elm into the city’s historic theater row. The Majestic, which has had its ups and downs, is the only one of those early theaters still standing.