The latest movie theater news and updates

  • November 14, 2016

    Metropolis, IL – Lunch raising money to save and restore historic theater


    From 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 on the Facebook page here.

  • San Pedro, CA – No takeover nibbles for San Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre


    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.

  • Brooklyn, NY – The Black Lady Theatre’s Restoration


    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.

  • November 11, 2016

    Athens, TX – Texan Theater renovation continues


    From The Athens Review: A clean-up, preliminary to construction at the Texan Theater location is underway this week.

    Athens Community Development Manager Thanasis “Nasi” Kombos said the current work is clean-up.

    “They’re doing some clean-up inside the theater,” Kombos said. “They’ll be wrapping up around the middle part of next week.”

    It will be after the first of the year before any construction begins on the project.

    “The architect is working right now on the construction documents, which are anticipated to be completed at the end of January,” Kombos said. “Assuming that funding is secured for the project, at that point, I would anticipate that we will be moving with construction.”

    David Chase of ArchiTexas told the Athens City Council in October construction of the project should last another nine months, making completion of the theater about a year away.

    The remaining structure of the theater, built in the 1940s, will be part of a new venue. But once patrons walk past the restored Texan sign, the venue will be quite different from the movie theater where a couple of generations of Athens area residents went for entertainment.

    The original Texan Theater had a sloping floor. The new venue will have a flat floor to make it more for multi-purpose use. The type of roof chosen was an enclosed overlapping structure. A mezzanine section will be located above the restrooms. Once imagined as an outdoor venue, it will now be enclosed and air conditioned.

    The south side of the building, where the neon Texan sign was located, will still be the main entry, but access will be possible from the back. The back masonry wall will be taken down, and replaced by a glass wall. A roll-up door will be located at the back.

  • Williamstown, MA – Images Cinema celebrates 100 years of film excellence


    From The Williams Record: This month, Images Cinema celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

    Before it was a theater, Images was one of the College’s fraternity houses. A century ago, in November 1916, Hiram C. Walden repurposed the house as a movie theater. Designed to screen only “high class” fare with live musical accompaniment, the Walden Theatre — a 530-seat affair spanning two commercial spaces — emerged. “Walden” is still etched above the marquee. Since then, the theater has donned several other monikers in succession: the Taconic Theater, the Nickelodeon and College Cinema. Since 1977, however, the quaint spot at 50 Spring Street has been known as Images Cinema.

    Images is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the Northeast and the site of an ever-evolving movie-going experience. The building initially screened popular silent films, which featured icons such as Billie Burke, Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. By 1920, the advent of talkies saw the movie industry skyrocket. Images premiered its first talkie in the 1930s. Romantic detectives were at the heart of 1940s features, while the 1950s saw the dominance of Westerns and pop culture became the prevalent theme in the 1970s.

    Today, the staff at Images Cinema opts for films that run the gamut, from independent to foreign to classic. Images was perhaps best described by Executive Director Doug Jones in its 100th Anniversary Party press release as “a year-round non-profit, member-supported community film house that presents a wide range of films that impact filmmaking and our culture … Images continuously seeks to entertain, educate and engage the community with quality programming while maintaining its dedication to independent film and media.”

    But adapting to present-day culture has not always been easy. Janet Curran, the managing director of Images, explained some challenges that the theater has faced.

    “It’s rare and special for a single-screen cinema, especially one in such a small community, to have continually stayed in business for 100 years,” Curran said. “The movie distribution system is designed for a multi-screen structure, so we are a single-screen playing in a multiplex world. It’s a real challenge to get new movies in a timely fashion at terms that are reasonable for us without having to show the movie for three weeks. In a small community, two weeks is usually the upper limit, given [that] we have a limited population from which to draw an audience.”

    Curran highlighted the difficulty of competing with large movie theaters that cater to in-demand box office releases. Unlike these multiplexes, Images largely features independent films. Because they are not financed by Hollywood studios, independent films can enjoy greater freedom of expression and of ideas.

    Another challenge for Images is ubiquitous access to media, whether on television or online. The theater’s incredible adaptability in the digital age can largely be attributed to community involvement as well as support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The late 1980s saw a period of stagnation for Images, which resulted in downsizing. The original theater was cut in half to create additional retail space, and the Red Herring now occupies the space where the other half of the theater once was. In 1989, actor Christopher Reeve, a Williamstown local, led a campaign to support the theater. Images still houses plaques that commemorate that effort.

    Afterward, then-manager of Images Don Fisher purchased the cinema and ran it until the late 1990s when sales experienced another downtick. In 1998, Williamstown community members Ellen Bernstein, Larry Weber, Matt Harris, Julius Rosenwald and Professor of English Shawn Rosenheim determined that the cinema was no longer viable as a for-profit business and raised funds to purchase Images Cinema and turn it into a nonprofit.

    Under the new management, Images cemented its place as a community film house dedicated to film as an art form as well as a source of entertainment. Director Alexandra Kalmanofsky and Managing Director Angela Cardinali took initiative by showing art house films, hosting conversations around films, bringing in filmmakers, building educational programs, hosting special film events, developing a membership program and engaging community volunteers as well as the College community.

    The 2000s brought another wave of management changes, with each staff member working hard to preserve Images while meeting 21st-century demands. In 2008, Images restored its Spring Street entrance — since the late ’80s, the entrance had been located off the alley. In 2012, Images switched over from 35mm film projection to digital cinema projection, which Curran called, “the biggest industry-wide change since the dawn of the talkies.” Equipment upgrades were also made possible by community-wide support for a capital campaign.

    Thus far, Images has celebrated its centennial year with 100 Years of Images, a year-long film series spanning the decades to honor a century at Images. Highlights of Images Cinema’s centennial will include its 100th Anniversary Party on Nov. 11 and its Nov. 30 screening of Safety Last, in honor of the first Images film shown on Nov. 30, 1916.

  • November 10, 2016

    Iron Mountain, MI – Historic Braumart Theater: the heart of a city


    From The Braumart Theater has been in Iron Mountain since the 1920s and, for decades, the historic fixture was the heart of the city’s downtown area.

    Billed as the “finest amusement house north of Milwaukee” at its opening in 1925, many names have been splashed across the Braumart’s marquee. But the one that has stood the test of time and remains today is the name of the theater itself, derived from a combination of the names of two men, pivotal for its inception.

    “When they named The Braumart, the ‘B-R-A-U’ portion of the name was from August C. Brauns, and the ’M-A-R-T' was part of the first name of Martin Thomas. So, Brau-Mart,” historian for the Menominee Historical Foundation Bill Cummings said."

    With a vision of bringing the most modern theaters for local entertainment to the area, in 1924 manager of the newly-formed Colonial Theatre Company Martin Thomas, and owner August Brauns announced plans for the new theater, estimated to cost over $200,000.

    At its grand opening in April of 1925, the Braumart became an instant hit. Patrons on that day, more than 90 years ago, were turned away as the 1,000-seat theater filled for the first performances. For years to come, the Braumart would evoke memories and bring a community together.

  • November 8, 2016

    Allentown, PA – Civic Theatre of Allentown kicking off $5.5 million capital campaign with celebrity support


    From The Morning Call: Civic Theatre of Allentown is launching the first major capital campaign in its history in hopes of raising $5.5 million to help restore the historic 19th Street Theatre.

    The announcement was made Friday afternoon in a news release announcing the campaign will kick off with “The Next Act … Setting the Stage for the Future,” a Nov. 15 invitation-only event at which actress Christine Taylor, an Allentown Central Catholic graduate and former Civic student, will speak. Taylor is the campaign’s honorary celebrity chairwoman.

    Also on the celebrity committee are film and stage actors with area ties and connections to Civic Theatre, including Dane DeHaan, Daniel Roebuck, Kelly Bishop and Anna Wood; Tony Award-winning director and actor Joe Mantello; Tony-nominated costume designer Michael McDonald; Tony-winning playwright and screenwriter Terrence McNally; and comedian/actor Tim Heidecker.

  • Kingston, NY – UPAC operator seeks Broadway theater angel


    From The Daily Freeman: The owners of the Ulster Performing Arts Center are looking for a private investor to raise nearly $1.4 million for improvements at the Broadway Theater.

    Chris Silva, executive director of Bardavon 1869 Opera House Inc., which operates UPAC, said the non-profit theater wants a for-profit investor to funnel $1,393,000 into its coffers. In exchange, he said, the investor would become 99 percent owner and would be able to access state and federal historic tax credits for at least five years as part of a federal program.

    The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program “encourages private sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings,” according to the U.S. Department of Interior’s website.

    Under its proposal, Bardavon would continue to operate the theater and make decisions on personnel and artistic matters, Silva said. Theater would remain tax exempt, he said.

  • November 7, 2016

    Red Lodge, MT – Under new management, historic Red Lodge theater anchored on Broadway


    From The Billings Gazette: In its early days, boxing matches would precede film showings at the Roman Theater in Red Lodge, said manager Mike Booth.

    But for most of the theater’s long history, it’s just been movies. The Roman was built in 1917 and has been seating audiences since. A short list of managers have overseen the building over the years, and it’s changing the guard once again.

    “For a lot of us who grew up here, there’s all those memories of the theater,” said Booth, who took over as manager in October.

    The aged Broadway Avenue building contains 202 seats, which are rarely filled. Booth said an average of 15 to 25 people show up each night. The balconies that flank the center gallery no longer hold a crowd of people. They’re used for storage.

    Building owners Jeff Anderson and Betsy Scanlin put in a new screen and invested in a digital projector in 2012 — anything to keep Red Lodge’s only theater going.

    “We’re very lucky if we break even,” Anderson said.

  • Patchogue, NY – Patchogue Theatre: Past, Present and Future


    From Ward & Glynee’s Patchogue Theatre opened on Main Street in May 1923. For the next three decades, Patchogue was a major source of employment in the textile, tourism, shipbuilding, and fishing industries. In fact, the village was called “The Queen of the South Shore” during this time.

    The theater attracted celebrities, first-run feature films, Broadway productions, vaudeville, and even burlesque. Later, in the 1970s and ’80s, Patchogue Theatre operated as a triplex movie theater. According to board member Chris Capobianco, “everyone has a story from those times.” But the triplex was closed in the mid-80s, and the theater lay empty for 10 years. Capobianco believes that 1997 was a key year, not just for the theater, but for the village’s restoration as a whole. The BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant had just opened, and thanks to the help of some local business people, it was announced that the Patchogue Theatre would be saved from the wrecking ball. The then-owners wanted to sell the venue so that it might be demolished to build an office building.

    A lot has happened since the theater reopened in 1998. Last season, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts achieved a record annual attendance of over 150,000. Capobianco remembers the first show after the theater was restored to its original grandeur—Gateway Playhouse presented The Nutcracker on Ice from Russia. The performing arts center closed once again this year, but only from January to March for interior renovations. “The $1.5 million renovations to the interior have greatly improved the ‘Patchogue Theatre Experience’ for our patrons,” says Bernie Fabig, Public Relations & Marketing Manager. “Our new seats are not only wider and more comfortable, but the Village had seating experts come in to make sure that the sight-lines were improved, so that you are never sitting directly behind someone.”