The latest movie theater news and updates

  • August 15, 2016

    Cleveland, OH – Historic La Salle Theatre in Collinwood ready for a $4.1M makeover

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    From Cleveland.com: Depending on how you count it, the historic La Salle Theatre on East 185th Street in Collinwood is embarking on its second, third or fourth life.

    Built in 1927 as movie palace, it languished in the 1990s before becoming a vintage auto showroom and then going vacant for about a decade until now.

    The nonprofit Northeast Shores Development Corp., which helped rescue the building from foreclosure and possible demolition in 2009, is scheduled to launch a $4.1 million renovation Tuesday that will turn the structure into an arts, media, and community center by next May.

    The theater, which could seat 800 for performances or 450 for weddings, dinners and other catered events, will be used as a performing arts rehearsal or recording space, an exhibit hall, a stage for high school theater and arts programs, and as a meeting space for businesses and community organizations.

  • Edinburgh, TX – Attorney Working to Restore Edinburg Theater

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    From KRGV.com: An Edinburg attorney is working to restore a movie theater built in 1941. Felipe Garcia said the Citrus Theater has historical significance and brings back memories for him and lots of people in the city.

    “It was pretty much the only building of its type in the city of Edinburg that was air-conditioned besides the courthouse and things like that,” he added.

    The theater, which showed all first-run movies, is across the parking lot from the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Garcia bought it 20 years ago.

    “I’ve tried to maintain it from the standpoint of keeping everything intact that was in there. The chairs, the old projectors are still there,” he said.

    The Citrus Theater was the dream of an Edinburg doctor and his wife. In 1939, in an alleged jealous rage, the doctor shot and killed his wife. He then used the insurance money to build the theater.

    The theater has two balconies and a total of 800 seats. Movie patrons left their marks. There are scuff marks where people put up their feet against the wall near the front row. Garcia pointed out a spot with “circular grease stains, where guys that were there with their dates would rest their heads back there.”

    Citrus murals decorate the theater’s entrance. “During one of the renovation projects, they painted it over, but we managed to restore it,” Garcia explained.

    As for the doctor who built the theater, he included his office inside of it. His exam rooms are still there, and he built a side entrance for himself and his patients.

    Garcia invites anyone interested in learning more to visit the Citrus Theater Edinburg TX group on Facebook. That’s where he shares photos about the theater and its history.

  • Carrizozo, NM – Lighting up the Lyric

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    From the Ruidoso News: In 2006, Dr. David Kammer submitted a multiple property listing titled “Movie Theaters in New Mexico built from 1905 to 1960” to the National Park Service for a National Register of Historic Places consideration.

    It was the first step in the nomination process and an important acknowledgement by The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division of its support of the New Mexico Main Street Program’s quest to identify the state’s historic movie houses. While not specifically named in the nomination, (letters were sent to owners and, in this case, there may have been no reply) Carrizozo’s Lyric Theater, formerly the Crystal Theater, is a prime example of the type and use of buildings, both existing and new, that became social centers in large and small towns alike.

    The nomination remains timely even 10 years out, since at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the marquee of the Lyric will be lit after decades of being dark.

    Despite its remote location, Carrizozo was uniquely positioned for a movie theater due to the rail road that brought in influences from afar. The rural community was not alone: New Mexico saw an explosion in opera houses across the state. Just two years after the opening of United States’ first movie theater in Buffalo, New York in 1896, the movie “Indian School Day” was made in New Mexico and the Grant Opera House opened in Albuquerque.

  • August 12, 2016

    Hollywood, CA – Hollywood Foreign Press Association Funds Half-Million-Dollar Restoration and Upgrades to the Egyptian Theatre

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    From BroadwayWorld.com: The American Cinematheque announced today that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has awarded a $500,000 grant to fund maintenance and essential technical upgrades to the historic 1922 Egyptian Theatre, a designated historic cultural monument situated on iconic Hollywood Boulevard. News of this grant comes less than a week after the HFPA announced at their annual Grants Banquet a completely separate donation of $350,000 to help make the theatre capable of screening 35mm nitrate film prints, a grant that was made through The Film Foundation which is coordinating the project.

    The Egyptian Theatre has the distinction of being the site of the first-ever Hollywood movie premiere under the supervision of master showman Sid Grauman, who premiered some of the greatest hits of the silent era at the Egyptian, and is the only historic theater on Hollywood Boulevard that has continually operated as a cinema to this day. The American Cinematheque purchased the Egyptian Theatre from the city of Los Angeles for $1 in the mid-1990s, with the stipulation that Hollywood’s most historically significant movie palace, undergo a complete restoration, renovation and adaptive re-use remodel.

    “The American Cinematheque is extremely appreciative of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s support of this historic landmark,” said American Cinematheque Chairman Rick Nicita. “It has become a beloved icon of modern movie-goers in the nearly two decades our organization has owned and operated the theater. We are dedicated to preserving this important landmark of Hollywood history where we continue to show movies on the big screen as they were meant to be seen.”

    The Egyptian Theatre also serves as the host of the HFPA’s annuAl Golden Globe Foreign Language Film Symposium.

    “The Egyptian Theatre is a very special place to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – each year it welcomes our Golden Globe Foreign Language Film Symposium and celebrated foreign filmmakers,” said HFPA President Lorenzo Soria. “We want to make sure The Egyptian Theatre brings charm, culture and education to Hollywood for years to come, and continues to be a home away from home for our foreign filmmakers.”

    The scope of the HFPA-funded renovation includes repair from water damage to the main roof and the portico ceiling and walls on the building’s exterior. Inside, water damage to various areas of the ceiling and side walls will be structurally repaired and then restored by historic restoration specialists.

    The theater’s 1998 carpet will be replaced by a custom-designed carpet that brings elements from the showpiece of the theater – the ornate ceiling adorned with a scarab and other Egyptian icons – down to the floor. Other interior renovations include replacement of the concession stand and lighting, and recovering of the theater’s seats.

    Exterior renovations will include the repair of the twelve palm tree planters and the installation of a new lighting system to uplight the trees as well as the columns that flank the entrance. The historic murals of Egyptian deities on the walls will be repaired and repainted. Terrazzo will replace the existing outdoor carpeting to enhance the grand entrance to the building.

    On the technical front, the ten-year-old digital projector will be upgraded to a 4K projector, and the sound system and projection booth electrical infrastructure will be revised.

    Sid Grauman (1879 – 1950) was a master showman in the early days of film exhibition and a founder of the Egyptian Theatre (owned and operated by the American Cinematheque since 1998), where the first Hollywood “premiere” (Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks) was held in 1922. He went on to be part of the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as well. He was a pioneer in the theatrical exhibition of movies and a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, from which he received an honorary Academy Award for his work. His legacy is carried on today through the big screen movie viewing experience provided by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre.

  • August 11, 2016

    St. Paul, MN – Century-Old Former Movie Theater in St. Paul Finds New Life

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    From KSTP.com: A century-old piece of St. Paul history is being saved from the wrecking ball.

    Local actor Ryan North and his wife brought the former Garden Theater at 929 West 7th Street in St. Paul. The building was built in 1916 and closed as a theater in 1960.

    North plans to turn the building into a 150-seat performance venue for theater, music, film and weddings. It will be called the North Garden Theater.

    “It feels great to be able to honor that history and bring part of it back to life,” North said.

    A few weeks ago, the city of St. Paul voted to to move the North Garden Theater forward and next month, North hopes to get a liquor license.

    A few neighbors have brought up concerns over parking and noise at night, but North says most support the project. North plans to start construction in October and be open early next year.

  • Boothbay Harbor, ME – Rent dispute threatens future of Harbor Theatre

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    From the Boothbay Register: A steep increase in rent will likely draw the curtain on the Harbor Theatre for good, according to longtime owner and operator Jason Sheckley. Under the current lease agreement with Hermon-based Ellis Commercial Developers, the theater has been allowed to pay below market rent in order to keep the movies running year round. According to both parties, after negotiations stalled this summer the Ellis group has decided to charge the full market rate for the space beginning in the fall of 2017.

    “To be sustainable, the theater has always required outside subsidy,” Sheckley said. “Below market rent, support from the “Friends” organization, sale of memberships and advertising has provided that support. With the rent increasing dramatically, the current arrangement just will not work going forward.”

    The rent hike — described as prohibitive by Sheckley — would further squeeze the small margins the theater operates on and force Sheckley to increase prices for concessions and movie tickets.

    “We would be looking at $14 or more for an adult admission,” said Sheckley. “It’s a huge increase.”

    After its launch in 2002, Bank of Maine — the former owner of the Meadow Mall where Harbor Theatre is located — wanted the theater run as a year-round concern.

    “We accepted the market rate for rent at that time but soon discovered it was too high for us to make it,” said Sheckley. “The theater can’t be open more than 10 hours a week because of the low winter population.”

    The current lease ends on Sept. 30, 2017 and Sheckley has pegged Sept. 4, 2017 as the last day of operation barring a major development. It’s not the first time the theater has faced imminent peril; in 2013, the one-screen cinema was forced to convert from 35mm film to an all digital format. A fundraising campaign led to over 140 donations from the community and the theater was spared.

    According to Ellis Development Group owner Tom Ellis, the current agreement is far below market value and the company is simply exercising its right as landlord.

    “Any rent that was offered to him was at or below market rate,” said Ellis. “I have an obligation to my center and bank to at least get equitable rates. Again we weren’t even at market rate with his.”

    As far as a subsidy, Ellis said it should have been negotiated into the original lease from the Bank of Maine.

    “We certainly can’t take a hit like that or subsidize a lease. We wouldn’t be in business long,” said Ellis. “Movie theaters in strip centers in small markets, that’s a very tough situation. You don’t see that very often.”

  • New Orleans, LA – Prytania Theater rolls on into second century

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    From WWLTV.com: It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday morning and a movie more than 50 years old, “The Sound of Music,” fills the theater. Just hours later, it’s a much different scene as the audience for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” fills the seats.

    That perhaps best describes the Prytania Theater: iconic, eclectic and enduring.

    “People feel comfortable here,” said Robert Brunet. “And in this crazy world we live in today, comfort is a pretty important thing.”

    Robert Brunet and his family know a little about the movie business. Led by the family patriarch, Rene, who will soon be 95 years old, the Brunets have been running theaters for 75 years, the last 20-plus at the Prytania, which celebrated 100 years of showing films in 2015.

    That’s a lot of big numbers for a theater that’s only ever had a single screen.

    “When you step through these doors, it’s like a time machine,” Robert Brunet said. “You go back in history.”

    And for many, there’s no other way to watch.

    “I love the big screen and everything,” said Virginia Carreca laughed. “They come right to your face.”

    The Prytania Theater still has a 35mm camera for film. They can use it, but they don’t anymore. The majestic lobby is from an era long gone, but technologically speaking, The Prytania was one of the first to go 3D, digital and now 4K.

    People embrace nostalgia, but it doesn’t feed the family. This 300 seat theater is a small business run by Robert and his family and sometimes it’s feast or famine.

    “It’s got a life of its own, we’re not a chain.” Brunet said. “You know, if I have to eat popcorn and hot dogs for dinner I’ll do it.”

    It hasn’t been an easy life for this non-descript looking building on Prytania Street. Two major fires, hurricanes, the advent of 20 theater megaplexes and Netflix have put the theater on life support more than once, but here it is: A classic survivor.

    Brunet says the owner of the building has put the theater in a trust for future generations.

    “I don’t see the Prytania or the Brunet family leaving this business,” he said. “The 200th anniversary, this will still be a single screen movie theater.”

    And that makes the Prytania and the Brunets Naturally N'Awlins.

  • Laconia, NH – Fundraising continues for Colonial Theater

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    From The Citizen: The Colonial Theater fundraising efforts and planning are well underway, and recently $30,000 was donated toward the Colonial Theater capital campaign, which has a $2 million goal to raise by the end of the year.

    This donation was by Hali Dearborn and her family, and Belknap EDC Executive Director Justin Slattery said these types of efforts are what will bring them to their goal. He did not provide a dollar amount of where fundraising stood at this time, Slattery was confident that they would reach the goal and said right now “things are on schedule.”

    “Fundraising is going very well,” said Slattery. “We are making great progress.”

  • San Pedro, CA – San Pedro’s Warner Grand seeking a bigger spotlight with private operator

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    From the Daily Breeze: Both good news and bad news could await if San Pedro’s historic Warner Grand Theatre goes big time with a professional operator now being sought by the city of Los Angeles, which owns the venue.

    City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s motion to hand the operation over to someone who could attract “A-list talent” and produce sold-out shows moved forward Friday, setting the stage for what could be big changes for the 1930s movie palace at 478 W. Sixth St.

    Uncertainty remains over how an outside operator might impact the theater’s future, especially in how it serves the immediate community.

    The good

    The theater is in serious need of improvements that the city says will cost $3.5 million, though some believe they will cost even more. A private operator would be expected to provide those upgrades in exchange for a deal with the city to run the theater.

    Among other things, the venue needs alterations to make it ADA accessible. Fire safety measures also are needed, said Fred Allen, vice president of the Grand Vision Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the theater and has been instrumental in raising money for much-needed upgrades to the theater’s seating and heating system over the years.

    The city’s $200,000-a-year allocation to run and maintain the Warner Grand is “pocket change in the theater world,” Allen said.

    A well-connected operator — both Nederlander and SMG have been mentioned as possible companies that might be interested — would “professionalize” the theater both by bringing in high-profile acts and providing a cash infusion for needed physical improvements.

    “To really make that place hum, you’re going to have to spend several million dollars and have a dedicated staff of three or four employees with stage hands,” he said.

    Buscaino’s motion, approved by the council during its meeting in Van Nuys, was born when concert producers Live Nation and Golden Voice booked top musical acts at the Warner Grand in 2015.

    The theater was packed — and so were downtown shops and restaurants.

    The Warner Grand, Buscaino believes, could be a catalyst for the emerging downtown and waterfront districts that are targeted for revitalization. But it needs an operator, he said, that can market it well so it lives up to its potential.

    POSSIBLE DOWNSIDES

    There are concerns, however, that handing over day-to-day management and operation of the theater will raise prices, black out prime calendar dates and threaten access for the community-based programs that have thrived in the hometown theater.

    Youth theater companies such as Encore and Scalliwag, The Golden State Pops Orchestra and the San Pedro Ballet rely on the theater for their productions. The LA Harbor International Film Festival and the San Pedro International Film Festival, along with others, also have become Warner Grand mainstays through the years.

    “The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a m“The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a misconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

    ASSURANCES FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS

    Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc said many of the local groups that now use the theater will be included in the bidding documents, set to tentatively go out Sept. 7 with a selection expected by late this year, possibly as early as Thanksgiving. The new operator will be tasked with working with those groups to ensure community access as part of creating a comprehensive booking calendar, he said. A community advisory group also will be appointed to work with the management as well, Kvartuc added.

    A professional operator also could be expected to bring in union labor, Allen said, something that could have ripple effects on grass-roots groups and theater patrons as booking and ticket prices are raised.

    Kvartuc said nonprofit rates will be established as part of the theater operation.

    “If you look around at city-owned theaters, almost all of them are managed by a nonprofit organization that has some relationship to the community,” Allen said, adding that it also would call for a more robust commitment from the city for capital improvements, staff and maintenance expenses.

    In his motion, Buscaino praised Grand Vision for raising more than $1 million for theater improvements over the years, in addition to creating programming and assisting with booking events.

    Because of its history, the Warner Grand is considered one of downtown San Pedro’s gems.

    Harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age, the Warner Brothers theater, which cost $500,000 to build and opened in 1931, almost didn’t survive when it fell on hard times. The city stepped in to purchase it in 1996 for $1.2 million.

    “I have to say it is quite heartbreaking to feel like our work on caring and loving the building may have to stop if a big corporation takes over,” Liz Schindler Johnson, executive director of the Grand Vision Foundation, said in a written statement Friday. “No matter what, we must ensure that the building’s historic integrity be preserved and that any changes be properly vetted by the community and historic preservation professionals.”isconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

  • Ansonia, CT – Photographer hopes to spur rebirth of former Ansonia Opera House

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    From the New Haven Register: A photographer with an eye toward keeping historic Valley locations alive through his lens will have his latest work published this fall.

    Emery Roth II, though not a Valley resident, took photos inside the former Ansonia Opera House downtown, which have been selected for publication in “Seeing in Sixes,” an art photography book due out this fall from Lenswork Publishing.

    Roth’s set of six images, titled “The Dressmaker’s Daughters,” will be featured.

    “I’m proud and honored,” Roth said.