The latest movie theater news and updates

  • January 5, 2017

    Canby, MN – With hundreds pitching in, western Minnesota residents bring the Canby Theatre back to life

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    From the Star-Tribune: It’s a plotline straight out of a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland flick from the 1930s: “Hey, kids! Let’s fix up the old barn and put on a show!”

    And that’s what they did, hundreds of people in and around this western Minnesota city of 1,800. They came from Dawson and Minneota, from Marshall and Porter. They pitched in and brought back to life the Canby Theatre, opened in 1939 as a grand movie palace and closed in 2012 as a tired mess. Electricians and plumbers donated their skills. The mayor hung drywall and acoustical tile.

    Across the area, even over the nearby border with South Dakota, cities and civic groups raised money through bake sales, burger fries, music shows and cruise nights. They sold calendars and $200 sponsorships for the theater’s 210 seats. They put jars on store counters and dropped in their spare change. Local businesses donated money and bought ads.

    Out here in the heart of the Minnesota prairie, the people raised $300,000 from their own pockets to buy the theater and renovate it for the 21st century with digital projectors and reclining seats — and, more important, to send the world a signal that their town is still going strong.

  • January 4, 2017

    New book on the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, published by Theatre Historical Society of America.

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    On September 7, 1929 the Loew’s Kings Theatre in Brooklyn opened its doors to the public for the first time. Less than 50 years later they were shut, seemingly for good. Designed by the Rapp & Rapp architecture firm in the French Baroque style, the Kings is not only an architecturally important piece of Brooklyn history, but from community standpoint as well. Many Brooklynites had their first date at the theater, or walked across the stage during their high school graduation. Now, after almost 40 years of darkness, the curtain is beginning to rise.

    When it reopened in 2015, the Kings became the largest indoor theater in Brooklyn and the third largest in New York City. It is a place for the community to gather once again, hosting everything from Broadway shows to concerts. Take a trip through the history of the Kings via photographs and artifacts spanning the theater’s heyday through its renovation. Watch the theater return to its original splendor and learn for yourself why it’s called Brooklyn’s “Wonder Theater.”

    This new book by Matt Lambros contains never before seen historic and modern photographs of the Kings, as well as a complete history of the theater. There are a limited supply available online at Amazon.

  • Houston, TX – In the Age of Streaming, How Houston’s Cinemas Keep You Going to the Movies

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    From the Houston Press: In July 1999, the River Oaks Theatre had the honor of exclusively hosting The Blair Witch Project for two weeks. Lines snaked around the building for an endless stream of sold-out shows. People began trying to sneak their friends in through the exit. With too many people and not enough seats, a minor riot ensued.

    Then-general manager Rob Arcos and the rest of the staff ended up barricaded in the office while the cops escorted people out. Artisan Entertainment eventually sent the various Landmark Theatres staff T-shirts saying “I survived The Blair Witch Project,” as thanks for handling the two weeks of insanity.

    Ah, those heady days when going to the movies was still a must-do experience. Nowadays, confronted with streaming entertainment and digital piracy, Houston theaters are finding new best strategies as they try to hold onto their share of the market and remain relevant.

    For instance, he really isn’t a ghoul, but when Robert Saucedo of Alamo Drafthouse finds out a celebrity actor has died, he springs into action, operating on the premise that when someone you love dies, you go to that person’s funeral. When an actor you love dies, you go to the movies.

  • Pomona, CA – That’s a wrap: When Pomona used to have movie theaters

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    From the Daily Bulletin: The olden days of moviegoing in Pomona is an occasional topic here. My column last fall on the Sunkist Theater, the most obscure of the four major theaters in town, had as its genesis a reader query about the city’s classic movie houses.

    Don Russell, a retired general manager of this fine publication, had emailed to say he’d find it interesting “to read about the other walk-in theaters that once were in the city of Pomona and what happened to them.”

    In my attempt to oblige him, my research turned up the startling fact that Howard Hughes had built and operated the Sunkist, an association that had been brief and long-forgotten.

    So the Sunkist became the story. But as I still have all my notes on the other theaters, let me round up those stories for you now before we get caught up in the mad whirl of 2017. Posterity demands it.

    The facts are gleaned from Progress-Bulletin files, the website Cinema Treasures, the Facebook group Growing Up in Pomona in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s and, last but not least, the Pomona Public Library.

    • In the silent era, when theaters were fairly easily set up, Pomona had several, among them La Pictoria (478 W. Second St.), the American (470 W. Second St.), the Lyric (366 W. Second St.) and the Fraternal Aid Opera House (Gordon and Third), all of which appear to have closed by the mid-1920s; none of the buildings is still standing.

    • The Belvedere (255 S. Garey Ave.) opened in 1911. Howard Hughes’ Hughes-Franklin Co. bought the theater in 1931, early in the sound era. The company announced a major remodeling that would include a name change to the Mirror and an exterior that would be covered in “thousands of little mirrors.” Neither occurred. (Imagine having the job of gluing them onto the building.) Still named the Belvedere, the theater burned down Nov. 20, 1933.

    • The California/United Artists (235 W. Third St.) opened in 1923 as the California with Buster Keaton’s still-delightful comedy “Our Hospitality.” The theater, at 1,212 seats, later became the Fox California and, in 1949, the United Artists Theater, closing in 1972. In the 1980s it became the Pomona Valley Auditorium, which hosted rock concerts, some of them promoted by a young Paul Tollett, who now puts on the Coachella festival. The former theater these days is a Spanish church.

    • The Fox Pomona (301 S. Garey Ave.) opened in 1931 with Laurel and Hardy’s “Laughing Gravy.” The city’s grandest theater with 1,751 seats, it often hosted sneak previews of movies, for which stars and studio heads would be in attendance, the better to gauge the reaction of a typical audience so that changes could be made before release. The Fox closed as a first-run movie house in 1976. It showed Spanish-language movies until the late 1980s, was used as a church and later for rave concerts. In 2009, the Fox reopened as a concert venue after a $10 million renovation. The theater has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981.

  • Anchorage, AK – Anchorage’s 4th Avenue Theatre gets its demolition permit, but owners say they won’t raze it

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    From ADN.com: A demolition permit was issued for the historic downtown 4th Avenue Theatre last month after Anchorage’s building board ruled that city officials, citing historic preservation questions, erred in delaying the permit.

    In a 2-1 vote at a December hearing, the Board of Building Regulation Examiners and Appeals agreed last month with the theater’s owners, Peach Investments LLC, which said the city didn’t have grounds to deny the permit.

    Described by the theater’s owners as needed for routine maintenance, the demolition permit immediately became tangled up in a city effort to preserve historic buildings.

    City officials argued that Peach was never actually denied a permit, but that both parties agreed on Oct. 17 to research whether the building carried a conservation easement that would block any future owner from tearing it down. City attorneys later said it appeared the $300,000 the city paid for a conservation easement in 1985 was eliminated by a 1991 foreclosure — a point raised in the written appeal by Peach Investments to say the permit should have been issued.

    Kristine Bunnell, the city’s historic building officer, said she never believed Peach Investments intended to demolish the building. But she said that all historic properties listed on official registers have now been flagged in the city’s permit management computer system so a consultation would be triggered whenever an owner applied to demolish or change it.

    In the meantime, the Anchorage Assembly is weighing whether to adopt a “demolition delay” ordinance that would provide for a community dialogue before a historic building is torn down. The ordinance was fast-tracked in response to Peach Investments seeking the demolition permit for the theater.

  • Winnsboro, LA – Winnsboro’s Historic Princess Theatre Restoration

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    From myarklamiss.com: Winnsboro’s historic Princess Theatre is in need of some repairs that are estimated to cost over half a million dollars.

    The theatre has been closed to the public since Septmeber due to safety concerns.

    City officials say the theater was built in 1907, and after 100 years of entertainment and memories, the low sloping roof is too dangerous for community use.

    The building already saw some repairs in October, on it’s air units and back rafters.

    Now, the ceiling is sagging and the wood is about to give.

    But the community is not willing to see their princess fall apart.

    “It’s missed tremendously, and we are hoping and praying that we can come up with the funds to repair this building,” says Mayor Jackie Johnson.

    “I can remember this building being here all my life. Coming here to picture shows when I was a kid, teenager, watching different shows here. It’s just memories,” says city superintendent, Phillip Robinson.

    Attached are some photos of productions throughout years past.

    The city council met earlier in December, deciding on the $520,000 estimate for the repairs, and hoping to get the ball rolling on roof reconstruction.

    Officials say once the funds are in place, the restoration should only take about 2 months.

  • January 2, 2017

    Hailey, ID – Bruce Willis, Demi Moore donate Idaho theater to troupe

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    From The Roanoke Times:
    Actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have donated the Liberty Theatre in downtown Hailey to a local theater company.

    The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/2ir425O ) that the formalized gift gives the Company of Fools a secure, permanent space where the theatrical company has performed since 1996.

  • Paintsville, KY – Showing at the SIPP: Paintsville hosting movies again in ‘historic’ theater to energize downtown

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    From The Daily Independent: An 85-year-old movie theater dripping with nostalgia was revived by an eastern Kentucky city determined to invigorate a once-hopping downtown.

    The Paintsville Main Street Association bought the old SIPP Theatre in 2010, four years after it played what most believed was likely its final film. At that time, the brick building had slipped into poor condition and become a ghost of its former self, showing mostly second-run movies as management struggled to compete with a five-screen cinema in the nearby plaza.

    But 10 years after its last screening, the “Historic” SIPP is hosting movies again. In October, a line of hundreds of moviegoers wrapped around the block for a weekend showing of 1985’s “The Goonies.”

    After receiving the bag of popcorn and can of soda pop included in the $5 ticket price, the crowd waltzed into the elegant, one-screen theater that used to capture many childhood imaginations.

    In November, the SIPP fittingly hosted another 1985 classic, “Back to the Future.” In December, “It’s a Wonderful Life” returned to the SIPP screen for the first time in 70 years.

    First-year Paintsville Tourism executive director Jeremiah Parsons said community response to the resurgence of the SIPP has been overwhelmingly positive.

    “We’ve had people stop in there every day that it’s open,” he said. “Sometimes they just stick their head in. They say, ‘I used to be in here all the time,’ or ‘I got my first kiss up in the balcony.’ People have happy childhood memories of that place, that’s for sure.”

    The city has invested significant money and time into renovating the SIPP to attract former patrons who now have children of their own.

    In the past year, the city removed the façade installed in the 1960s, replaced windows and stripped paneling back down to the original brick. A classic three-sided marquee was added above a new wooden ticket booth.

    Parsons said the facelift was vital for the downtown area.

    “Any time you want to revitalize downtown, you have to have something that makes people want to come in,” he said. “We have our local downtown businesses where they’ll come and shop, but there’s no entertainment. Now they can have dinner and watch a movie before going home, all at a very affordable price, and all very local.”

    Further renovations to the interior are scheduled for the winter months. The city will install a new floor and paint most of the theater. New, taller seats with head rests will replace the old, stationary seats. Once renovations are complete, the SIPP will resume showing one movie per month, Parsons said, in addition to plays and concerts.

    The Main Street Players, a local theater group, began performing in the SIPP in 2012. The Johnson Central High School drama club also calls the SIPP home. An entertainment series, U.S. 23 Country Music Songwriters Night, will continue to alternate between the theater and the Country Music Highway Museum in Paintsville.

    The classic theater has hosted hundreds of concerts and movies and been rejuvenated multiple times over its rich history by groups like the SIPP Theatre Foundation and now the city.

    Local residents hope the newest efforts will turn the classic theater into the anchor for a lively downtown once again.

  • December 30, 2016

    Pueblo, CO – Pueblo theater leaders weigh in on future of arts

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain: The windows are darkened, the box office is closed and the marquee is still advertising a production from Dec. 8, 9 and 10. The curtain has officially fallen on the Damon Runyon Theater Company, prompting sadness from local performing arts advocates and questions about the fate of its historic headquarters.

  • Babylon, NY – Team gets $150G grant to rebuild historic Babylon Village theater

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    From Newsday: The father-son duo behind the plans to reopen a historic theater in Babylon Village has been awarded a $150,000 grant from New York State in support of the project. The funding will help Mark and Dylan Perlman of Seaford realize their dream of reopening the 94-year-old cinema on Main Street as a year-round professional theater for plays, musicals and other performance arts.

    The state grant “allows for some significant project changes to the facility that, in our opinion, will very much enhance the experience for the patrons,” said Mark Perlman, a 63-year-old psychologist. The Perlmans are working to acquire all of the necessary permits to begin construction. They hope to open the venue under the name Argyle Theater at Babylon Village in fall 2017. Village Mayor Ralph Scordino welcomed the news of the grant.