The latest movie theater news and updates

  • September 8, 2016

    Iuka, MS – State’s only drive-in looks to upgrade

    Image

    From the Daily Corinthian: For Mississippi’s only remaining drive-in movie theater, the show must go on.

    Even after most major film production companies halted the making of 35 mm film used by the Iuka Drive-In last December, manager Earl Curtis had the find a way to keep this drive-in open.

    “Thankfully a couple of companies continued to release some of the bigger titles on 35 mm film,” said Curtis, who has leased to drive-in from Bubba Jourdan for the last 30 years. “I think we’ve only shown like five movies all summer.”

    The historical landmark on West Quitman Street has been a fixture in Iuka since around 1957. Normally open from April-October, Curtis decided the drive-in could only support June-August or September this year.

    “Labor Day might be our last weekend,” he recently told the Daily Corinthian.

    “Suicide Squad” and “Central Intelligence” have been showing as a double feature at the drive-in for more than a month.

    “I know our customers have got tired of the same couple of movies being shown this year, but we’ve been trying the best we can,” he said. “It’s better to be open and show the same thing, then to be closed for good.”
Earlier this year, Curtis launched a Gofundme online account to try to raise the $50,000 needed to update the drive-in’s old 35 mm projector to a new digital projector.

    A month ago he found an even better deal.

    “TriState Theater Supply has a used digital projector for $10,000 and our plans are to get that one. Hopefully, we can have it upgraded by next year and back to showing first-run movies,” said an excited Curtis.

    With less than $8,000 to go, Curtis said they can’t do it without the community’s continued support and donations.

    “People have been pretty good to us,” he said. “So with everyone’s support, I don’t think there’ll be a problem to get to the $10,000 we need.”

    (Online donations can be made at gofundme.com/keepiukagoing. For more information, visit facebook.com/iuka.drivein.)

    Read more: Daily Corinthian – State s only drive in looks to upgrade

  • Chicago, IL – Davis Theater Could Be Ready By November: Look At The Progress So Far

    Image

    From DNA Info: It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated movie premieres of the year — the return of the Davis Theater.

    The cinema, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., has been closed since January for a multimillion-dollar makeover.

    The opening date is now looking like November, according to owner Tom Fencl, who’s aiming to have the Davis up and running in time for the holiday season.

    Ben Munro, operating partner at the Davis and its new companion restaurant/bar Carbon Arc, provided a recent behind-the-scenes tour.

    Stadium seating is taking shape in the Davis' two front theaters (labeled Theater One and Theater Three) and meticulous restoration work is progressing on the main theater (aka, Theater Two), which is being returned to its Art Deco glory.

  • September 7, 2016

    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY – Park Slope’s historic Pavilion theater will be reborn as hip cinema

    Image

    From Curbed NY: Some good news for Park Slope residents: The Pavilion, the neighborhood’s last remaining movie house, will be preserved and transformed into a Nitehawk multiplex theater with seven screens, 650 seats, two bar areas, and in-theater dining, reports the New York Times.

    The theater has a long history of changing hands—and names, for that matter. It debuted in 1928 as the Sanders, but that iteration shuttered in 1978. The theater reopened in 1996 as the Pavilion, eventually expanding to nine screens in the early 2000s. Over time, the theater lost its appeal as its upkeep exhibited less than ideal characteristics—bedbugs, crummy seats, and the like.

    In 2011, Nitehawk cinema founder Matthew Viragh began discussing the possibility of converting the Pavilion with Hidrock Properties, who owns the site, but determined that the timing just wasn’t right. Hidrock later decided to convert the theater into a six-story condo building with a three or four-screen theater, an option that proved unfavorable with the community. That plan has since fallen through, with Nitehawk poised to take over the space. This will be the second theater under the theater company’s umbrella (in addition to its original Williamsburg outpost), and will be dubbed Nitehawk Prospect Park.

    Steven J. Hidary, whose family owns Hidrock, told the Times, “we had to decide, do we build condos or do we save Brooklyn? So we saved Brooklyn.” There are currently no plans to bring condos of any sort to the site.

    “This is a victory for community activism and partnership,” said City Council member Brad Lander, a longtime advocate for the cinema’s preservation. “When we heard about plans to eliminate the theater, we spoke up loud and clear. Together with neighbors, we pushed to save the theater, and make sure any renovation/development respected the historic character of the neighborhood.”

    The $10 million renovation project is slated to begin around the end of October and wrap up around early fall 2017.

  • Danvers, MA – Hollywood Hits closed for good

    Image

    From the Salem News: Due to a number variables, the credits have rolled on the independent movie theater Hollywood Hits, which closed Monday night.

    “We regret to inform you that we have closed,” the theater said on its website. “We thank all of our customers for their patronage over the past 17 years.”

    Since 1999, the small, independent cinema at 7 Hutchinson Drive showed movies on the North Shore as a low-price alternative to seeing films in large multiplexes.

    It was a place to catch both first-run movies and movies that appealed to the art crowd. Its concessions were also less expensive than those at the chains.

    Reached by phone Tuesday, owner and Beverly resident Scott Przybycien confirmed the announcement.

    “That is true,” he said. “We closed the doors last night.”

    Przybycien said he was “heavy-hearted” having to close up the cinema building for the last time.

    The theater, visible from Route 128 north, had been a corporate chain until 1999, when Loews left the location for a space in the Liberty Tree Mall, Przybycien said.

    In 1999, Hollywood Hits started off as a discount theater, but changes in the industry saw it become an art house that also showed first-run films.

    In recent years, Hollywood Hits was able to run the same mainstream blockbusters as the AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall 20, and Przybycien said his theater was doing well with this product.

    In May, “X-Men: Apocalypse” was the first movie that 20th Century Fox dropped clearances to allow both the chain theaters and the independents to run the same films at the same time, Przybycien said. That was good news.

    But a number of factors conspired to keep Hollywood Hits from showing the hits well into the future.

  • Nashville, TN – Utah investor buys redeveloped historic former Melrose theater

    Image

    From The Tennessean: An affiliate of a Utah-based real estate investment company is the new owner of the apartments and retail space at the redeveloped historic former Melrose theater in Berry Hill.

    Salt Lake City-based Cottonwood Residential paid an undisclosed price for the seven-acre property at 2600 Franklin Pike.

    The purchase included the 220-unit The Melrose apartments and more than 26,000 square feet of fully leased retail and restaurant space with Sinema, The Sutler Saloon, Fenwick’s 300 and beauty salon Lunatic Fringe as tenants.

    “It was an exciting project for the Parkes and the Fulchers to be able to redevelop this iconic property and restart the development of the Melrose area,” said Joe L. Parkes Jr., president of Franklin-based Parkes Development Group.

    Along with Ed and Mary Fulcher of Nashville-based Fulcher Investment Properties, Parkes redeveloped the former 1940s-era movie theater and bowling alley space into the mixed-use development that Cottonwood Residential just bought.

    Parkes said proceeds from the sale will help to fund the construction he and the Fulchers along with co-investor Cottonwood Residential have underway on a second phase of The Melrose development that’s expected to include 139 apartment units and 8,500 square feet of retail space.

    That 1.2-acre site at the southeast corner of Franklin Pike and Kirkwood Avenue includes the former Regions Bank branch at 2610 Franklin Pike and former fabric store location at 2608 Franklin Pike. Regions Bank will move back into a portion of that new mixed-use building.

    The sale of the first phase of The Melrose development comes shortly after The Sutler’s owner, restaurateur Austin Ray’s A. Ray Hospitality, took over the lease for the basement space at the historic former theater where Melrose Billiards has been the longtime tenant. Melrose Billiards will close at the end of this month with Ray planning a similar concept to replace that pool hall dive bar, which has been a fixture in Berry Hill’s Melrose area for more than 70 years.

    In the Nashville area, Cottonwood Residential’s portfolio of owned and/or managed apartment complexes 1070 Main in Hendersonville and Cason Estates in Murfreesboro.

    Among other Nashville area projects, Parkes was co-developer along with Oldacre McDonald of the Nashville West shopping center in West Nashville.

  • September 6, 2016

    Minneapolis, MN – Theater Latté Da buys historic Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis

    Image

    From the Star Tribune: Theater Latté Da has purchased the historic Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis. The company moved its administrative offices into the building in September 2014 and had been producing shows in the 245-seat auditorium since 2015. The terms were not announced.

    “We will continue to deepen our relationship with northeast Minneapolis,” said artistic director Peter Rothstein. “The Ritz is a fantastic building and we’re thrilled to be part of its next chapter.”

    The company, which specializes in reinterpreting musical classics and creating new musical theater, had entered into an exclusive negotiating arrangement last March with the Ritz Foundation, which owned the building at 345 13th Av. NE. Rothstein said the deal was finalized Monday.

    Latté Da has grown from an itinerant troupe that staged cabarets in small venues to one of the prominent midsize companies in the Twin Cities. Rothstein was named the Star Tribune’s Artist of the Year in 2015. The company’s annual budget was $1.3 million in fiscal 2015, according to tax filings.

    After producing shows for several years in the now-defunct Loring Playhouse, the company had been without a permanent performance space since 2006. The Ritz purchase means that for the first time in the company’s 18-year history, Latté Da will have administration, rehearsal and performance spaces in the same building.

  • Frenchtown Twp., MI – Drive-in theater proposed for Frenchtown Township

    Image

    From Monroe News: Nights eating popcorn with your date or family members and watching movies under the stars could be returning to the area with a proposal to reopen the former Denniston Drive-in theater in Frenchtown Township.

    Two public hearings are set for Sept. 6 before the township planning commission to hear requests for a special use permit and zoning ordinance text amendments for a drive-in movie theater at 6495 N. Monroe St., site of the former Denniston theater. The commission will hold the hearings during its 7 p.m. meeting.

    The first hearing is on changes to repeal sections of the zoning ordinance regarding pool fences and conditions for planned unit developments. The second hearing is for special permission to open a drive-in theater in a C-3 Highway Commercial zoning district. The property is located just north of Rick’s Sports and Schall Automotive.

    Written comments about the proposal will be accepted up until the hearings and can be submitted to Joseph Lehmann, township building official.

    The Denniston outdoor theater has been closed for years and the indoor facility that once housed two movie auditoriums also sits idle, said Supervisor Jim McDevitt. The rear portion of the site where the drive-in once operated is overrun with brush and trees.

    Mr. McDevitt said the township would be open to having a drive-in again if the commission sees fit to allow it.

    “We welcome this to the area,” he said Tuesday. “I haven’t seen any plans yet, but I did meet with the individual once. I remember going there as a kid… it brings back a lot of memories.”

    He said the developer from the Downriver Area originally proposed the concept in Brownstown Township, but the proposal “didn’t fit into the area he wanted,” the supervisor said.

    He said preliminary plans revealed to him showed the movie screen would project easterly toward N. Monroe St. and there would be no speakers to place in vehicles. Instead, the sound from the movie would come through FM stereo or car radio.

    He noted some folks from Monroe still drive about 30 miles to the Sundance Kid Drive-In at 4500 Navarre Ave. (Route 2) in Oregon, Ohio, to see movies during the summer. The nostalgic, 50s-style drive-in is located across from Pearson Park and is open only on weekends. It is owned by Great Eastern Theatres, which also runs the Maumee (Ohio) Indoor Theatre and Paramount Cinema in Fremont, Ohio.

    “I’ve talked to some people who like going there and hey, it’s kind of a new concept for the area,” Mr. McDevitt said. “It’s a good concept for here as well.”

    He said the developer has an offer to buy the site contingent upon the zoning requests getting backing from the commission.

    The first Denniston Drive-In opened for business in 1955, showing popular movies such as a Marilyn Monroe feature, according to clippings from the Monroe News’ archives.

  • Rockland County, NY – Rockland’s drive-in theater signs evoke past

    Image

    From the Journal-News: Their last picture shows were nearly 30 years ago, but signs of Rockland’s rich drive-in-movie past live on.

    Two iconic signs – for The Route 303 Theatre in Orangeburg and the Rockland Drive-in Theatre on Route 59 in Monsey — advertise theaters that are long gone. The 303 drive-in closed in 1988; Rockland, a year earlier.

    Their surviving signs are more than landmarks, they’re a reminder of a time when everyone liked Ike and Rockland was more rural, less suburban: More “Music Man,” less “The Secret Life of Pets.”

    There are still signs of life where Rocklanders spent summer nights looking at flickering images from the comfort of their wood-paneled station wagons, kids in their pajamas crowding the back seats and plunking quarters on the concession-stand counter for something sweet.

    •In Orangeburg, the Route 303 Theatre sign was recently refurbished, its bright red arrow restored to its former glory, advertising Organic Recycling’s nursery. •In Monsey, the Rockland Drive-in sign and its massive screen survive, as does perennial talk of plans to develop the 23-acre site. A decade ago, there was talk of putting up a Wal-Mart there. Now there’s a plan for a 600-unit housing development spread over more than three-dozen buildings. •In Blauvelt, on the site of the long-gone Nyack Drive-in, Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill has announced plans to build a $37-million factory, world headquarters and distribution center. It will occupy a spot on Route 303 where a driving range replaced the 9-hole golf course that was part of the Nyack Drive-in. The drive-in’s screen only came down in recent years, when FedEx moved its massive plant onto the site.

  • Greensburg, PA – Greensburg’s Palace Theatre marks 90th anniversary

    Image

    From TribLive: Terry Reese remembers setting off a burglar alarm as he stepped into the empty Palace Theatre in 1990.

    “It wasn’t an auspicious beginning,” he recalls, laughing. Reese was on the board of the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center, which had just bought the former vaudeville and movie house.

    A lot has changed since then. The Garden and Civic Center became the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, and Reese is chairman of its board. And on Friday, the Palace celebrated its 90th birthday.

    Twelve local lawmakers and officials spoke at the theater to mark the occasion.

    “The Palace Theatre is a beautiful cultural treasure in Westmoreland County that is absolutely worth celebrating,” said Erin Molchany, director of Gov. Tom Wolf’s southwestern regional office and a former state representative. “In a world of technology, texting and Twitter, the Palace Theatre serves as a reminder that art and music bring us together in a deep and valuable way.”

    The theater opened in 1926 as the Manos Theatre. Its name was changed in 1977.

    The cultural trust recently completed a $750,000 renovation to fix cracking plaster, replace the awning, restore the box offices and update the electrical work and plumbing.

    Among its finest architectural and artistic features are the beautifully restored murals of fairy tales painted by acclaimed Chicago artist Louis Grell; a Vermont marble staircase that leads to the theater’s second floor, which boasts golden Grecian marble; classic black-and-white checkerboard floors; and Spanish inlaid tiles.

    “I love this place. It brings so much into this community,” said state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield.

    The theater received a congressional citation, a citation from the state House of Representatives, proclamations from the city and county and a plaque from the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

    “If Greensburg is the cultural hub of Westmoreland County, which I think it is, then I think it’s fair to say that this is the key spoke in that hub,” county Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

    Commission Chairwoman Gina Cerilli recalled her connection to the theater from growing up in Greensburg.

    “Growing up, coming to the Palace or being on the stage felt like Broadway to me,” she said.

    A recent study by Mullin and Lonergan Associates of Pittsburgh shows the Palace boosts the Greensburg economy by about $9 million annually.

    “The economic impact that the Palace and the cultural trust have is measurable. Those (numbers) are significant, but what is immeasurable is the impact it has on our memories,” said Chad Amond, president of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce.

    The Palace will keep renovating and expanding its reach as it approaches its centennial, Westmoreland Cultural Trust President Mike Langer said.

    “We think that we will have the opportunity to continue to grow, both in the number of shows and the quality of shows,” he said.

    In terms of physical improvements, the trust wants to rehabilitate the apartments on the upper floors that once housed performers at the theater, Langer said. These would be rented out to permanent tenants. The trust wants to create a community room in the theater, though that is likely a few years away, he said.

    On that first day in 1990, the Palace’s new owners faced an uphill battle, Reese recalls.

    “The theater was totally decrepit,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a lot to do still, but the old girl’s in pretty good shape.”

  • September 3, 2016

    Derby, CT – Inside an Abandoned Connecticut Opera House With a Jail Beneath its Stage

    Image

    From Atlas Obscura: Discovering an abandoned, beautifully preserved opera house from the 19th century is thrilling enough. But imagine finding an old opera house that, for some mysterious reason, has abandoned prison cells hidden underneath the stage.

    One such curious and beguiling building can be found in Connecticut. It completed its last production in 1945 and has been closed ever since.

    Derby is officially the smallest city in Connecticut (at least, according to its own town leaders, who took that superlative as the town motto). Quaint, pleasant and friendly, and covering an area of just over five square miles of New Haven County, Derby has a current population of just over 12,000. The first mystery is why the smallest city in the state even had an opera house in the first place.

    The answer is the the Industrial Revolution. Found at the intersection of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers, Derby was ideally situated for the new water powered gristmills that saw companies flock to the area, manufacturing everything from hoop skirts and corsets to brass items and pianos.

    As Derby became more prosperous in the latter half of the 19th century, it did was many other self-respecting boom towns did in the U.S.; it built itself a grand, ornate opera house. Civic pride was tied to this kind of patronage. In Iowa alone, over 1,500 opera houses were built following the Civil War, almost all of which today, have been closed down and repurposed, torn down, or lost to fire.

    And with so many opera houses being built, competition between neighboring cities was fierce, with local rivalries demanding that their new opera house had more gilt, crushed velvet and chandeliers. One such rivalry centered around this part of Connecticut. Just a few miles north of Derby is the town of Ansonia. Flush with money from its prospering copper industry, Ansonia, then a borough of Derby, built an opera house in 1870, despite having a population of just over 3,000. Not to be outdone, the officials of Derby (population also just over 3,000) sought to build one of their own. In a classic case of one upmanship, Derby hired the prestigious architect Henry Edwards Ficken, one of the creators of Manhattan’s illustrious Carnegie Hall, and the architect of Coney Island’s steel pier and the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

    Ficken designed the building in the Baroque Italianate style, complete with striking terra cotta exteriors and a stained glass cupola towering over the small town’s square. The building is so striking it was the first building in all of Connecticut to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.

    Walking into the abandoned opera house today, the interior is a striking as the Florentine exterior is beautiful. A ground floor and two sweeping balconies, decorated with intricate wrought iron work, slope down to the old orchestra pit, with the 60-foot stage framed by a grand proscenium archway. The interior has remained surprisingly pristine in the cool dry air, just covered in a layer of dust that has gathered since the local fire marshall closed the doors for good in 1945. The opera house was named for local piano manufacturer, Charles Sterling. Evening entertainment in the Victorian home usually involved a home upright piano, and those found in parlors throughout America more often that not were made by Sterling in Derby. The Sterling Opera House opened its opulent doors in 1889, marking the occasion with a presumably less than cheery performance of James A. Herne’s play Drifting Apart, a temperance driven melodrama about the evils of drink.

    That the first production in the opera house wasn’t actually an opera was not unusual. Indeed, in the countless of opera houses that sprang up all over the U.S., operas were generally rare. The entertainment offered was more commonly popular theatre, old time variety shows, vaudeville shows and public lectures, acts that traveled the country by the new prospering railroads that themselves fueled the boom towns.

    The Sterling Opera House proved a roaring success, hosting performers of like Harry Houdini, Lionel Barrymore, John Phillips Sousa, and Amelia Earhart who gave a lecture there at the invitation of the local Woman’s Club in 1936. When pioneering director D.W.Griffith premiered his groundbreaking (and horrifyingly racist) film The Birth of a Nation, it was shown at the Sterling, much to the delight of Derby and presumably to the chagrin of Ansonia. (The rivalry between Derby and Ansonia was so intense that a petition was circulated in Ansonia to vote to become a separate town, a status it was granted the year Sterling Opera opened.)