The latest movie theater news and updates

  • December 12, 2016

    Logan, UT – The Utah Theatre – an alternative to the usual movie experience

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    From the Utah Statesman: The Utah Theatre, Logan’s newest — but third oldest next to the Ellen Eccles and the Caine Lyric — theater is unique for many reasons.

    For starters, it houses a mighty Wurlitzer organ, one of the few in the state. It also has one of the only full-fly systems in the valley. But the Utah Theater doesn’t plan on being just another stage (it’s next door to the Caine Lyric Theater and only a block away from the Eccles), it plans on being an alternative movie theater as well.

    “We try to show a little cartoon before the show starts like they would have in the olden days,” said Jared Rounds, the theater manager.

    Rounds said what the Utah Theatre offers is an experience out of the ordinary, per request of Michael Ballam, director and founder of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater company, who funded the project.

    “We’ll never show first run movies,” Rounds said. “They want to keep this more of a different kind of experience. Michael said he doesn’t want to compete with the other theaters, he wants to do something different here.”

    Managing Director of UFOMT Gary Griffin said he understands the appeal of at-home movie services like Netflix and Hulu, but they don’t compare to what the Theatre offers.

    “You can see the difference in watching a movie like ‘White Christmas’ on a 36 inch screen or a 36 foot screen,” he said. “Most movies were made to shown on the huge screens.”

    Some movies lend themselves to smaller screens, he said, but when you get into spectacles like “Gone With the Wind” and “The Ten Commandments” viewers just can’t get the same feel at home that they could on a giant screen in a theater.

    “And the fact that you’re in a theater with a bunch of people sharing an experience together, I don’t know, there’s just sort of a different feel than just sitting at home alone watching a movie on a TV screen,” he said.

    Griffin said he plans on not just showing classic movies year round, but also continuing the little festivals, especially around holidays like Halloween and Christmas. He also has plans for a John Wayne festival in January, and said they’ll eventually get to all the classic stars.

    “We’ll probably show a different movie every week,” he said. “We’ll get to all the greats eventually. Jimmy Stewart, Bogey and Bacall, we’ll do all sorts of stuff.”

    Rounds said the theater won’t only be showing black and white classics however, but also films that are classics to the younger generation.

    “I think we want to show more stuff that’s not super classical, for the college kids, and maybe do an ‘Indiana Jones’ marathon or a ‘Back to the Future’ one,” he said.

    He said hopefully doing this kinds of things will also make the audience want to come more often both to movies and plays. The Theatre is unique because it aims to give a full classic movie experience.

    “We do show movie trailers of what’s upcoming so we try to give the full classic movie experience as opposed to just sitting at home and turning on Netflix,” he said.

    The theater will also have a discounted price on Wednesdays, $5 per ticket, to help bring in the younger crowd. Griffin also wanted to do a “Star Wars” festival as well, but he has been successful in getting the rights for films from almost every studio, except Disney.

    “That’s a tough nut to crack,” Griffin said. “Disney won’t license any of their movies because they keep bringing them back themselves.”

    Last month, the theater ran the “Hitchcock Film Festival” exclusively showing “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “The Birds” and other Hitchcock classics. But the suspense and macabre gave way Dec 1 with the theater’s new series of holiday films for the Christmas season like “Elf,” “White Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol.”

    Griffin said the theater is the only one in Utah that doubles as a live stage and a movie theater, due to the adjustable curtains on the side walls, which change the acoustics depending on what kind of show is being performed. The theater opened this last summer, housing shows from the UFOMT’s season. It started with Peter Pan and “had people flying across the stage and everything,” Rounds said. This upcoming summer it will house “Seussical The Musical” and “Rex” as part of the 2017 UFOMT season.

    The remodeling of the old building began in 2008. Ballam put two and two together after receiving a Wurlitzer organ as a donation and also noticing the dilapidated state of the theater building, which is just around the corner from the Eccles theater where UFOMT holds its season. With $11.5 Million in donations over an eight year period, the space was bought and renovation began. The Wurlitzer itself has 16 foot long pipes that extend beneath the building floor, where they are protected from an underground canal by concrete.

    “The organ pipes are literally sitting in the canal,” Rounds said. “When they were putting in the organ pipes downstairs they ran into the canal so they had to find a way to divert the water.”

    The building features a Florentine art deco style interior done by italian painter Nino DeRobertis. It also has a large crest of Orpheus, the Greek God of music, who is also the muse of the building.

    Griffin also said they have plans to show a silent film once a month utilizing the Wurlitzer. The Wurlitzer will be put to use this Friday for a showing of a Laurel & Hardy silent film and a live show, the “Farley Family Mighty Wurlitzer Extravaganza.”

  • Bellingham, WA – Saving Historic Movie Palaces Like Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre

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    From whatcomtalk.com: E ach generation has the responsibility to balance embracing the new while preserving the old. But how do we decide what is worthy of saving, restoring and renovating, and what is to be replaced? The historic movie palaces built around the world between the 1910s and the 1940s are an important example of this dilemma. Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre (MBT), opened on April 29, 1927, is a stunning example of how history can be preserved while serving the demands of modern, continuously changing society. But it is also the only survivor of five movie palaces built in Whatcom County.

    Over the years, MBT has evolved into the civic historic home to a premiere Pacific Northwest cultural tourism destination that also sustains the regional community through its arts education programs and substantial economic impact. Around the world, citizens and municipalities continue to work hard to save the remaining historic movie palaces born of that time.

    The Historic Movie Palace

    Around 1900, silent motion pictures became a small part of the live entertainment offered in vaudeville theatres. Bellingham enjoyed an ideal location on the well-worn Pacific Coast vaudeville circuit. Small storefront theaters and Nickelodeons developed across the country in the 1900s and 1910s, catering affordably to the lower and middle-classes. But there were real concerns over the physical safety of the Nickelodeon theaters as they were often cramped with little ventilation and the nitrate film stock used at the time was extremely flammable. The upper-class was used to more refined viewing typical of the opera. But as more sophisticated, complex and longer films featuring prominent stage actors were developed, the upper-class wanted to attend the movies and that desire paved the way for the opulent movie palace.

  • Wilmington, NC – Iconic downtown Wilmington structure faces demolition

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    From foxwilmington.com: An iconic piece of downtown Wilmington may soon be gone. Thursday evening, the Historic Preservation Committee will consider a proposal to tear down the Bailey Theatre façade.

    The Bailey Theatre officially opened in December of 1940. At the time it was built, it was the largest theatre in the city and the only one that was air-conditioned. However, with the rapid changes in the community and the suburbanization of movie theatres, the Bailey Theatre was demolished in the 1980’s leaving only the façade and the marquee. The marquee was removed about 20 years ago when it was deemed to unsafe.

    What remains of the façade now has deteriorated very significantly. The city started a case against the property owner for failure to maintain the façade. The owner hired a structural engineer to look at what is remaining and they concluded that it is not feasible to save the façade. According to Wilmington Downtown Inc. President and CEO, Ed Wolverton, a significant amount of work would have to be done to save the structure.

    “Because of the way the materials are constructed, you would almost have to demolish the façade to save the façade,” Wolverton said.

    At the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) public hearing on Thursday evening, they will hear an appeal from the current property owner that says that he wishes to remove the building. By law, the HPC can then put a 365-day-stay on the property. In that time, the city, Wilmington Downtown Inc., and the HPC may come up with a way to incorporate the façade into a new project instead of demolishing it. However the HPC may tell the property owner that he has the right to remove the property right away.

    Many options have been proposed with what to do with the structure and the space. Among some of those options is retail space, an office building or a park. Historic Wilmington Foundation Executive Director George Edwards says he would love to see the structure incorporated into a park or a courtyard.

    “Although we would love to see it incorporated into a project, we don’t want to see it tacked onto the front of a building like an ornament,” Edwards said. “That’s not a preservation strategy.”

    The Bailey Theatre item will be addressed at the public hearing on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 2nd floor, Thalian Hall, 102 North Third Street.

  • December 8, 2016

    New York, NY – Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema: Why New York Cinephiles Could Lose a ‘Crown Jewel’

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    From IndieWire.com: The clock may be ticking for New York City’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema. The building that houses the arthouse theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been up for sale for more than a year, and while no buyer has materialized yet, some feel it’s only a matter of time before real estate developers turn the beloved cinema into a high rise apartment building.

    Though a number of media outlets have reported that the Sunshine’s lease will be up for renegotiation at the end of 2018, the existential threat facing the theater has less to do with its lease than the possibility that a new buyer will demolish the building and replace it with a towering apartment complex. Built in 1898, the property has a reported price tag of more than $35 million.

    Ted Mundorff, president and CEO of Landmark Theaters, told IndieWire that turning the theater into a high rise is easier said than done. “It would take years for anyone who’s going to pay the kind of money they’re looking for to demolish [the building] and construct something,” he said. “At this point I don’t see any imminent danger of us leaving the property.”

    Though Mundorff said Landmark “loves” the Sunshine, calling it one of the “best properties in Manhattan,” he acknowledged that the company has expressed concern over the theater’s sustainability before. In 2012, the local Community Board denied Landmark a liquor license for the Sunshine that representatives of the company said was critical to keep the theater open in the long term, given its steep annual rent of around $200,000. Landmark was planning to invest $1 million to renovate its theaters and provide dine-in food and beverage table service, a move that would have brought in crucial new revenue, but local residents feared that the addition of alcoholic beverages would have a negative impact on the theater, and the plans were scrapped.

  • Sidney, OH – Theatre’s marquee comes down

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    From the Sidney Daily News: A desire to help with the restoration of the Historic Sidney Theatre has led four friends to donate funds to help bring brilliance back to the theatre’s marquee.

    Jan and Murray Elsass and Tom and Sandy Shoemaker, all of Sidney, will be able to look at the new marquee and know its bright shining lights are the result of their donation.

    The marquee is being removed by Wagner Electric Sign Co., Elyria, for renovation. The process will take six to eight months.

    “We were neighbors over the years,” said Sandy Shoemaker. “They’ve (the Elsasses) been big supporters of events in Sidney and so have we.

    “The history (of the theatre) is important,” she said.

    “We believe in this community,” said Jan Elsass. “I said I wanted ‘to see this done in our lifetime.’”

    Tom Shoemaker was originally approached by Tom Milligan about helping restore the marquee. He said he and his wife would be interested in taking on half of the costs to restore and reconstruct it.

    Sometime later, Jan Elsass asked Sarah Barr, executive director, what she and her husband could do to help with the theatre project. Once Jan found out the Shoemakers were interested in the marquee, she and her husband jumped on board to help with the project.

    “This is what our community is all about,” said Barr. “Everybody loves the theatre and they all have a piece of it through their donations.”

    Wagner Electric Sign Co. employees began taking down the marquee and its signage Tuesday.

    According to Larry Ester, production manager for Wagner Electric Sign Co., their goal is make a replication of the current marquee. The new marquee will have the same face and appearance as the one that has been on the theatre. The sign was placed on the theatre in the 1930s and the tower was added in the 1950s.

    “We’ll have a crane here and a trailer to take the pieces back to our shop,” said Ester. “We’ll be running a trailer back and forth to Elyria with the pieces. It’ll take us Tuesday and Wednesday to take it down.

    “The ceiling is very large,” he said. “It’s integrated together with bolts. We’ll be bringing it down in sections.”

    Once the pieces are all in Elyria, drawings will be made of the sign and ceiling. Measurements of each item will be recorded. They’ll look at how it was built and then use present day engineering standards to bring it up to today’s codes.

    The drawing of the project will be completed by Darryl Wagner, vice president of the company.

    “He will put on paper something for us to follow,” said Ester. “We’ll submit it to an engineer to make sure everything is up to standards. Once the drawing is acceptable, then we’ll begin to rebuild it.”

    A rod will be threaded through the final project so the sign and marquee can’t move up and down.

    “It should last you another 100 years,” said Ester. “The manufacture and design process will make things last.”

    Ester said the company has been restoring and recreating theater signs since the 1980’s. The Sidney Historic Theatre’s project is the 50th one the company has worked on. Some of their projects include the Valentine Theatre in Toledo, the Fort Wayne, Ind., Embassy, the Princeton Theatre in Princeton, Indiana, and the Palace Theatre in Marion.

    “It will be a new sign,” said Ester. “It will look just the same as it does now. We may be able to use part of the old sign in the new one.”

    Colors for the sign and what type of light bulbs will be used are yet to be determined. Barr said they are working with DP&L to make sure the marquee is as energy efficient as possible.

    Once the sign is complete, he said, it will take about a week to reinstall it at the theatre.

    Work on the marquee is the latest project for the Raise the Roof for the Arts Committee. The infrastructure of the building is complete. The roof has been repaired. Masonry and downspouts have been installed. There’s a new heating and air conditioning system in the building.

    The stage rigging system has been installed, which will enable full stage performances to be held. There’s new electrical service in the building.

    Work also completed includes updating the outer lobby area, exterior painting and renovating the east store front into an office.

    Barr said the group is working on plans for the inner lobby and concession area renovation, updating the restrooms, the auditorium, stage lighting and sound and finishing the interior.

  • Urbana, OH – Urbana theatre to host movie for Christmas, theater renovation

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    From the Dayton Daily News: The historic Gloria Theatre in downtown Urbana will host the movie, “Home Alone” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11. The $5 per person admission will benefit ongoing renovation of the Gloria. Doors will open about 30 minutes before each show.

    The film is the second in a series of Christmas movies to be shown at the venue, 75 years after Urbana industrialist and philanthropist Warren Grimes opened the theater for its first movie presentation on Christmas Day 1941.

    The movie will be the first to be shown with the theater’s newly installed state-of-the-art 4K digital projection system, upgraded surround sound and new 38-by-16-foot screen. The new screen is about two and a half times larger than the theater’s previous screen.

  • December 7, 2016

    Houston, TX – Star Cinema Grill Acquires Houston-Area Movie Theater

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    From Business Wire: Star Cinema Grill announced today that it is opening a new location in Vintage Park, at the site formerly operated by Alamo Drafthouse, making it their fourth Houston area theater. With this acquisition, Star Cinema Grill will be adding premium amenities including luxury recliners, push button service, and an updated modern décor. Sunday marked the last day of operations as Alamo Drafthouse, and the theater will re-open as Star Cinema Grill by Friday, December 9th. Star Cinema Grill will honor all tickets sold for the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

  • Sandpoint, ID – Panida Theater recognized as key building

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    From the Daily Bee: The Panida Theater was recently recognized nationwide by the Society of Architectural Historians as an architecturally significant building in Idaho.

    “We have a wonderful historic building, and it’s exciting to have professionals in the field of architectural history recognize that,” said Nancy Renk, board chair for the Panida. “And it’s being recognized nationwide, not just statewide — this is quite an honor.”

    The SAH Archipedia is an online encyclopedia where the editors are putting together a list of the top 100 classic structures for each state. So far, 63 buildings have been listed in Idaho and the Panida is one of four theaters listed in the state. The other theaters listed are in Boise, Rupert and Moscow. The website currently contains the history, photographs and maps of more than 17,000 structures and places in the United States.

    Three other Bonner County buildings are listed on the website as well. The Cedar Street Bridge, which originated as a crude footbridge in 1893, is listed, as well as the old Sandpoint Federal Building, now First American Title, which was constructed in the late 1920s. Priest River’s Beardmore Block, developed in 1922, is also listed as an architecturally significant building on the SAH website.

    According to a statement released by the Panida this week, Edward A. Miller, a well-respected Portland architect, designed the Panida Theater for owner F.C. Weskil in 1927 as a vaudeville theater and motion picture house. The Spanish Colonial Revival style, popular in Hollywood, was unusual for North Idaho. When the Panida opened in November 1927, people marveled at the lavish interior and special features such as the “cry room,” a small room with large glass window that allowed parents to watch a movie without having their fussy children bother others in the theater.

    Renk said Panida board members and staff are discussing ways to celebrate the Panida’s 90th anniversary throughout the 2017 year, such as events and possibly some Panida trivia. She said suggestions are welcome and anyone with photos or stories of the theater are encouraged to share.

    “I think there are a lot of people out there who have stories,” Renk said. “There are people who grew up with the Panida and they may have some wonderful stories to tell.”

    Anyone with memories or ideas to share can email the Panida at .

  • Loveland, CO – Exploring history of the Rialto Theater

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    From the Reporter-Herald: The Great Depression of the 1930s cost William C. Vorreiter his personal fortune and with it, the Rialto Theater. It was sold to Joseph Goodstein then to Gibraltar Enterprises.

    Gibraltar did the theater’s first renovation in 1935-36 and changed the seating on the main floor to 700 upholstered chairs, added chandeliers and also an evaporative cooler.

    Gibraltar Enterprises brought one of its best managers to Loveland, Ted Thompson. Ted and his wife Mabel arrived in 1935 and kept the Rialto open through clever promotions.

    Loveland’s boarded-up storefronts were plastered with colorful movie posters. Whenever the “Thin Man” film series came to town, the Thompson’s painted downtown fire hydrants white with black lettering that spelled “reserved for Asta,” the dog in the series.

    In 1941, Gibraltar Enterprises redecorated the Rialto with new carpeting and an art deco look covering the old murals.

    The remodeling backfired, however. The farm boys arrived in their overalls for a western and they quit coming because the theater was just too fancy.

    Thompson responded by bringing in bales of hay into the lobby and having the usherettes in gingham dresses. The male employees wore blue jeans, and business picked up.

    The Thompsons stayed with the traditional format for theaters of that era with a newsreel first followed by cartoons and coming attractions. Finally, the feature was shown. Fridays and Saturdays were reserved for westerns.

    Ted and Mabel Thompson retired from the theater business in 1947 to open the Dude Corral Restaurant on the south side of Lake Loveland, and they are also responsible for starting the Valentine card re-mailing program that continues today.

    The Rialto’s business fell as the larger multiplex theaters made inroads.

    In October 1977, the Rialto featured “Star Wars,” and it ran for six weeks. This was the longest engagement in the theater’s history, but this was the Rialto’s last regularly scheduled movie prior to the building’s conversion into a shopping mall.

  • December 5, 2016

    Bridgeport, CT – Next stage for city’s theaters

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    From the Connecticut Post: How difficult is it to revive the long-shuttered movie houses — the Poli Palace and Majestic Theater — and vacant Savoy Hotel on the edge of downtown?

    Consider: The once grand buildings at Main and Congress streets languished when Tom Gill, who returned this summer to his old job of running the city’s economic development office, originally occupied that position. The year was 1976.

    “There was no interest in them at all,” Gill recalled recently. “There were moves to tear them down. I’m glad that never happened.”

    Gill now has a second chance to help bring new life to the theaters. After being approached over the last four months by a handful of investors interested in the city-owned sites, Gill and his staff are preparing to issue a formal solicitation.

    “We are getting a Request for Proposals together which we hope will draw in more interest,” Gill said. He expected it will be released by early 2017 at the latest.

    He said the city will be looking for mixed uses — a hotel, housing, retail — for the buildings and the revival of at least one of the theaters, probably for some type of live performing arts.

    “I don’t think anybody believes it could go back to two theaters,” Gill added.

    The intent would be to preserve the historic facades and as much of the ornate interiors as possible.

    Opened in 1922, the Palace has 3,200 seats, the Majestic 2,200 seats. They provided live, then movie entertainment for decades before going dark in the early 1970s.

    The theaters were among Mayor Joe Ganim’s campaign stops when he waged his successful comeback campaign last year. Like Gill, whom he re-hired, Ganim is not new to City Hall. He ran Bridgeport from 1991 to 2003.

    “There are a lot of players in Bridgeport, and we want to expose this to people doing business here and let them see how it adds a benefit to their investment,” Ganim said.

    Gill did not reveal the identities of those that have been eyeing the theaters, but said they are new entities who are not now doing business in town.

    Gill attributed the renewed interest in the buildings to the progress in the nearby Downtown North neighborhood, where developers are in different stages of rehabbing other historic buildings into apartments and stores.

    A major challenge for the investor or investors who take on the Palace and Majestic is how to make even one rehabilitated theater profitable considering there is plenty of competition in the immediate area.

    The 1,400-seat Klein Memorial Auditorium hosts musical events; the cozy Downtown Cabaret Theater offers musical performances, tribute bands and children’s productions; the closed Playhouse on the Green is supposed to reopen as a comedy club; a new luxury movie theater has been proposed for the East End neighborhood; and the Webster Bank Arena is the spot for big name concerts.

    Then there is the Bijou Theatre on Fairfield Avenue. Like the Palace and Majestic, the Bijou, which opened in 1909, originally offered live shows and movies. It was re-opened in 2011, but its future has been unclear.

    The nonprofit running the Bijou closed it in early August citing financial pressures. But property owner Phil Kuchma has said he has found a new tenant.

    Bridgeport native Maura O’Donnell was the Bijou’s general manager for the past three years. Asked if there was room for another revived theater, O’Donnell said, “I don’t know. I’d like to think yes. I’d like to think there’s no such thing as too many arts projects.”

    O’Donnell recalled being a patron at the Majestic in the 1960s.

    “They were beautiful (theaters),” she said. “I’d love to see them restored, but I think it would cost a fortune.”

    Gill said developers could take advantage of state and federal incentives set aside for historic properties.

    O’Donnell said, “The problem I saw at the Bijou is it takes a while to find your niche.” The calendar included live theater and music, as well as some film showings.

    And while there is a market for showing classic films on the big screen, O’Donnell did not think that alone could sustain a reopened Palace or Majestic.

    “For survival, in my opinion, you’d have to work that in with something else,” she said. “Movie theaters in general are hurting.”

    Robert Halstead, a preservationist and former City Councilman, suggested the city and developers think about renovating the non-performance spaces in the Palace/Majestic/Savoy complex.

    Halstead said there is not currently room for yet another theater downtown. But, he said, with new housing being built and other redevelopment moving forward, that will change.

    “As the tide rises, so do all the ships in the harbor,” Halstead said. “I’m optimistic. I think downtown’s going to come back and be a vibrant arts community. And as the tide rises, so do all the ships in the harbor.”