The latest movie theater news and updates

  • August 26, 2016

    Philadelphia, PA – Watch drones race inside the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House

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    From Curbed Philadelphia: About a month ago, a group called the Philly Quad Squad went inside the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House to race drones for a segment on CSN Philly’s 700 Level Show. True, the 2:45-minute video is more about the drone racing than the opera house, but it still allows viewers to sneak a unique peek through the space.

    Take a very fast tour of the theater yourself:http://philly.curbed.com/2016/8/22/12582820/drone-video-philadelphia-metropolitan-opera-house

    Developer Eric Blumenfeld, who owns a stake in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, has plans to turn it into a major music venue after a $35 million renovation.

  • Lafayette, CA – New Owners Ready to Resurrect Park Theater

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    From Lamorinda Weekly: A trio of partners are excited to bring new life to the historic Park Theater in Lafayette, which has been closed for more than a decade. Armed with a business plan and a sense of urgency after learning that a developer was interested in the property, local residents Cathy and Fred Abbott, along with partner Alex McDonald, recently signed papers to purchase the theater property that comes with a small, narrow rectangular parking area in the rear. Cathy Abbot said she “figured it was now or never.” If all goes according to plan, escrow should close in early 2017. Shortly afterward, with the help of additional investors, the group hopes to begin an estimated $6 million of renovations. Their plan is for adaptive re-use of the 64-year-old building to feature movies, performances, and music by partnering with a variety of local entities for everything from comedy shows, educational lectures, independent films and more. The partners envision a beautiful structure that celebrates the art deco streamline moderne style, possibly including a living wall of plants on an upstairs rooftop deck and bar that would serve beer on tap and locally sourced wine. Grassroots efforts in the past to reopen the beloved landmark were never able to make a go of it, due to a variety of factors: the difficulty in making enough money to support the business with one screen in the age of the multiplex, significant structural issues, non-handicap accessible bathrooms, and of course parking constraints that don’t meet the current city code. Many residents had high hopes when rumors of Fenton’s Creamery taking over swirled in 2011, but they never materialized. The trio are well aware of the significant amount of investment it will take to allow the building to be open for business after a walk-through with a structural engineer. “Alex, Fred and I want to create something that is kid- and senior-friendly, a place where everyone feels welcome,” Cathy Abbott said. “We think it would be great to have a Battle of the Bands for the local high schools, a place for nonprofit benefits and private rentals,” said the Acalanes High School graduate, who went on to get an MBA from UC Berkeley. “We believe we have figured out a plan that will allow the theater to be a successful and sustainable business that adapts to the times and provides a magic mix of entertainment options for people in the local area.” Fred Abbott is an international law professor, specializing in trade, public health and intellectual property; he’s also a fan of science fiction and film noir. Originally from Scotland, Happy Valley resident McDonald is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who says he is committed to showing movies again at the theater. They acknowledge that a number of things will need to come together to get this project off the ground: finding the right architect that could restore the theater and make it more functional, working with the city about parking, and especially finding investors to breathe new life into the vintage gem. Noting that the city recently purchased a nearby parking lot, and with plans for alternative transportation, Cathy Abbott hopes for a compromise on parking, especially since a renovated business would bring vitality and additional tax revenue to the city. Built in 1941 and opening its doors with a screening of an Abbott and Costello film, the popular theater entertained generations of Lamorindans. Fast forward to 1987 and the Park Theater was taken over by Allen Michaan’s Renaissance Rialto Films. But over time, it wasn’t profitable, so it closed for good after more than 60 years in business in September 2005 with “Cinema Paradiso” and “Amelie.” Stanley Middle School student Joel Braunstein made a six-minute documentary film on the history of the theater, including information from the city’s point of view. To check it out on YouTube, go to www.YouTube.com and type in “The Park Theater Movie” in the search box.

  • Las Vegas, NV – State, Huntridge Theater Owner Settling Suit Over Historic Venue

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    From Nevada Public Radio: The state of Nevada and the owner of the Huntridge Theater are settling a lawsuit that complicated efforts to restore the east Charleston Boulevard landmark.

    In 2014, the state of Nevada sued Huntridge owner Eli Mizrachi, contending he failed to protect the building, a condition that came with his purchase of the state-designated historic site.

    The proposed settlement halves $750,000 sought by the state and gives Mizrachi the opportunity to avoid any payment if he makes improvements to the building and makes it a usable building where events are held several times a year.

    The deal also extends for 12 years restrictions on what he can do with the property.

    The state Commission on Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation votes on the matter this week.

    Heidi Swank is a Nevada assemblywoman and the CEO of the Nevada Preservation Foundation. She told KNPR’s State of Nevada that she thinks it’s a good compromise.

    “I think that’s really the big thing that the community and the state wants to see is to not have this important building to our community just sitting there empty in disrepair not functioning,” she said, “This I think it provides both a carrot and a stick to get us where we want to be with that building.”

    The Huntridge opened in 1944 as a glittering example of streamline modern architecture at the eastern outskirts of a town of 15,000.

  • Jackson, WY – Old theater now an empty shell

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    From the Jackson Hole News and Guide: The oldest theater building in the town of Jackson is now an empty shell as an ambitious renovation project brings the old structure up to current fire codes.

    But what will happen next in the old Teton Theatre is a mystery to all but those involved in the deal. Robert Gill of the Gill Family Trust, which owns the building, won’t spill the beans.

    “I don’t have any information for you as far as what it’s going to look like,” Gill said Tuesday.

    Unveiling a new use and design is up to the future tenant, he said. His job is to get the building ready for use.

    Passers-by on North Cache have noted a flurry of demolition work inside the building, phase one of the building’s restoration.

    Town records hold permits and reports with notes about some details, but no plans are on file for reconstruction of the basement, first and improved second floor.

    Closed for years

    Right now there isn’t much floor per se — just dirt, rocks and a pile of debris visible when exterior plywood is removed. Construction crews go about their work inside as pedestrians mill past outside.

    Gill said the walls were torn down to the bare rock, which was shot-coated with a layer of concrete to make a solid building even stronger. When the roof trusses were exposed they were also found to be solid. Gill said the town had suspected the trusses were some form of “cowboy” engineering — but they were in fact legitimately manufactured trusses.

    The theater opened in 1941. It was built by Bruce Porter, who also constructed and ran Jackson Drug just up the street. Porter had started showing movies in the space above his store in 1922.

    The building was an early landmark, with its stone exterior and location just off Town Square. The premiere of the classic and locally shot movie “Spencer’s Mountain” was shown there, with an after-party at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

    In the 1980s the theater got a renovation that included a snack bar and new seats. In the old days people would buy snacks at the corner drug store before going to the movie house.

    Its marquee is still attached, but serves now as a political endorsement sign.

    The theater closed Sept. 30, 2012, after a Sunday showing of the movie “End of Watch.”

    Speculation about its future has been rife — and fruitless.

    A liquor license was transferred to the 120 N. Cache St. address in 2012, but no restaurant opened there.

    A tobacco shop located for decades in the building lost its lease in June and relocated just blocks away to the north.

    After four years work could finally begin on the building’s second life.

    “A lot of the problem is it’s difficult to do things in town because of the cost,” Gill said.

    While permits can be pricey, “That’s nothing compared to the housing fee.”

    And while he said there are fond memories of the place as a single-screen movie theater, times have changed.

    “It had really run its course a long time ago,” he said.

    Traffic delays

    Gill seemed disappointed in his dealings with officials.

    “I was hoping the town would be a little more helpful,” Gill said.

    The project will have a few impacts, but mostly during off hours.

    Roadway early birds may find some detours between Labor Day and Memorial Day as large structural members such as columns and beams are delivered.

    A report by Josh Kilpatrick of Nelson Engineering, on file with the town, estimates it may take as many as 14 separate days to get that work done, “and will necessitate temporary three-hour closures of North Cache Street.”

    The report states that a three-day advance notice will be given for 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. closures of the road between Deloney and Gill.

    “New construction will commence after Labor Day and following the demolition phase,” the report read.

    A window installation on the street side of the building will necessitate a covered walkway for pedestrian protection as rocks are removed from the facade.

    Another traffic and parking disruption will take place as infrastructure for a new water and fire suppression system are installed beneath the pavement between Sept. 20 and Oct. 15.

    Some parking spaces on the west side of the street will become a travel lane during part of that work.

  • August 24, 2016

    Waynesboro, VA – History: The Cavalier was Waynesboro’s ‘Other’ Theater

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    From the News Leader: Between 1920 and 1929 Waynesboro movie-goers enjoyed three movie theaters all within a mile of each other. But the youngest, the Cavalier, was considered the bad boy of the three.

    The city’s first was the Star Theater, located at 544 West Main Street, in a building that still stands. A former Presbyterian Church, the structure was bought and converted into a theater in 1922 by Col. Max Patterson and Carl C. Loth, film impresarios who were eager to capitalize on the booming 1920s movie business. The small, spartan Star played silent films with piano accompaniment probably provided by Wenonah School music teacher Frank Vanderherschen. In 1925 the Loths started constructing the Wayne Theatre just down the hill, and the Star closed when the Wayne opened in 1926.

    While not an extravagant “movie palace” like those built in larger cities, such as the Byrd and Lowes Theatres in Richmond, the Wayne was still considered “lavish,” and a distinct improvement over the Star. A pipe organ – also played by Vanderherschen – provided accompaniment to the silent films until talkies arrived in the late 1920s. In 1929 the Wayne installed an “RCA high fidelity” sound system, and the first commercial sound film, “The Jazz Singer,” was a sensation, with lines reportedly stretching up the hill.

    Buoyed by their enormous success with the Wayne, Patterson and the Loths incorporated, then built another theater at the other end of town at 307 West Main Street to better serve eastside and Basic City. They held a contest to name the new cinema, which was won by Eva Yount for her suggestion the “Cavalier Theatre.”

    While the Wayne was designed and operated as a luxurious first-run movie house, the Cavalier was more of a rowdy adult recreational destination, with films and live shows that reflected its earthy atmosphere and blue-collar demographic. With a capacity of about 900, the interior walls were painted cinderblock, a luncheonette served up fast food until after midnight to cater to shift workers at nearby Stehli and DuPont, and a bowling alley (with cigar smoking encouraged) operated in the basement. Since there were no automatic setters, local boys earned pocket money in that hot, smoky basement setting pins after every roll.

    Historian Curtis Bowman in 1967 described the distinct aroma upon entering the Cavalier (also nicknamed “the flea bag” and “the scratch”) – “a mixture of disinfectant, perspiration, cigar smoke and cooking food … the proximity of rest rooms to the entryway did not help.”

    After the 1941 flood ruined the Cavalier’s basement bowling alley, the Loth Corporation – consisting of President Max Patterson; F. R. Loth, vice president and manager of the Wayne; J. Ellison Loth, secretary and manager of the Cavalier; and Col. C. C. Loth, treasurer and manager of the bowling lanes and the luncheonette – built the Cavalier Lanes on Federal Street. On February 23, 1952, that building was completely destroyed in a five-alarm blaze. The Cavalier Theatre frequently featured live shows by traveling movie stars and performers, especially cowboys. Actor Billy Barty, film’s first “little person,” appeared in 1938. The following year, Roy Roger’s singing group the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in person, and happily posed for pictures with star-struck locals. The Three Stooges stopped by in the early 1940s. Johnny Mack Brown brought his horse on stage to do tricks.

    Throughout the 1950s the Cavalier maintained its “PG-13” reputation as an eastside hangout, showing more provocative grade-B horror, western and juvenile delinquency films. The former basement bowling alley was sometimes used at this time as a shooting range.

    As a result, many Waynesboro parents refused to allow their children to attend the more risqué movies shown there – so of course, many teens dropped off at the more reputable Wayne would sneak three blocks to the Cavalier.

    In 1964 the Loth Corporation sold the theaters to the B&K Virginia Corporation, then in April, 1966, Davidson Theaters in Washington D.C. acquired the Wayne Theatre on a long-term lease but passed on the Cavalier, which was forced to close. The building was purchased and torn down by Advance Auto.

    Despite being gone for 50 years, the lowly Cavalier still had the distinction of being the last movie theater built within the city limits of Waynesboro until Zeus Theaters opened in 2010.

  • August 22, 2016

    Allegan, MI – Historic Regent projector gets rebuilt for display at theater

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    From the Allegan Co. News: A piece of history is returning to Allegan’s iconic Regent Theatre.

    The theater’s film projector for at least 70 years is being rebuilt for display by Lake Allegan resident Michael Huth.

    For more than two years, Huth has disassembled every piece, cleaning, repainting and rechroming and then reassembling the subassemblies.

    “Plans are to put it in the lobby for all to see the history of film,” he said. “It’s a magnificent piece of machinery you might see at Henry Ford Museum but it will be right here in Allegan.”

    The projector became obsolete after the Regent, along with movie houses across the country, were forced into digital conversion in order to receive first-run movies. The last movie the old projector played using 35 mm film rolls was “Hunger Games.” It was also the first movie played on the new digital projector Dec. 4, 2013.

    To get the old, 6-foot-tall film projector removed from the projection booth, it was disassembled in five or six sections. That’s when Huth noticed it was about to be lost forever.

    “I didn’t want someone to heave it in a dumpster so I volunteered to restore it,” he said.

    Like the community members before him who restored the theater itself back to its original glory, Huth said he has a fondness for the Regent, it’s architectural art deco style, and that it’s locally owned.

    Living in the area for the past 20 years, he’d like to find out more from old-er-timers about the projector—when it was installed and when it was modified to Dolby. He wants to list that information along with names of projectionists on a plaque for display.

    “There were originally two projectors used, and feature films came on five to six reels,” Huth said. “After playing Reel 1, the projectionist would switch to Reel 2 on the other projector and, if he was really good, the audience wouldn’t notice.”

    At some point in time, the second projector became obsolete when splicing began to be used. Using a platter 6 feet in diameter, the film was spliced together into one roll and then the splices were broken up to rewind the film back up into smaller rolls.

    “I’d also like to know the time of conversion for that,” he said.

    Huth scavenged some of the parts from the second projector to make one that was operable. The lamp housing will be lit underneath with LED lights to show the engraved glass and how it would look while it was running.

    Today, movies arrive on a hard drive that plugs into the projector’s processor.

    Huth has an engineering background working 33 years in machine design making printing presses at Rockwell in Chicago before retiring.

    “I didn’t know there was a Rockwell in Allegan until I moved here,” he said.

    He continues to split his time between Allegan and Chicago where he is involved in set design and playwriting for live theater. In Allegan he owns Whisper Ridge bed and breakfast. It includes a refurbished 1893 wooden caboose on Lake Allegan.

    Another volunteer in the project is West Michigan Painting, a body shop on Ida Street.

    They’re doing all the painting,” Huth said. “I turn stuff into them, they paint it and turn it around.”

    Huth has even called Henry Ford Museum to get tips on how to clean nameplates and maker decals without stripping them with solvents.

    “I think people who aren’t interested in mechanics will stop in their tracks to look at it,” he said. “It’s all bright and shiny with a black gloss and has been rechromed.”

    The project is about three-quarters complete.

    “I am hoping for completion by the end of the year,” he said.

  • August 19, 2016

    Jamaica, NYC, NY – Exclusive: This year’s Open House New York will include the Metropolitan Opera House and ornate Loew’s “Wonder Theatre”

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    From Time Out New York: If you’ve always dreamed of being on stage at the Met, here’s your chance to come pretty close.

    The Metropolitan Opera House is one of this year’s brand-new additions to the Open House New York, the weekend-long festival where more than 250 fascinating sites across New York open their doors to the public. The incredibly popular two-day event offers glimpses into spaces that are usually off limits to the public, from sky-high rooftop gardens to palatial apartments. This year’s OHNY will be held on October 15 and 16. In addition to the opera house, curious New Yorkers will be able to explore Pier 17, a redevelopment project in The Seaport District, Westbeth, the largest artist community in the United States, the state-of-the-art WABC-TV studio, the construction site for The New York Wheel on Staten Island and the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People, the first of five Loew’s “Wonder Theatres” (Loew’s Valencia) built in the New York area. All sites are new to the festival this year.

    On top of those additions, the National Park Service will be partnering with the festival to celebrate its centennial anniversary. A dozen NPS sites will be open for ranger-guided tours, historical re-enactments and general exploration. That will include tours of Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, the General Grant National Memorial, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial and a sunrise tour of Ellis Island before it opens to the public.

    The festival will also once again be partnering with Curbed this year to provide a look into intriguing residences around the city. You’ll be able check out recently renovated apartments in the historic skyscraper 70 Pine as well as spaces in The Charles and Clifton Residence.

    Many OHNY favorites will be returning this year as well including the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Google, Masonic Hall, City Hall, Jefferson Market Library, Jeffrey Hook’s Lighthouse, the New York State Pavilion and the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

    The full list of sites for this year’s festival will be revealed on Wednesday, October 5. You can pick up a free event guide with all of the Open Access sites in the October 5 issue of Time Out New York. Most sites can be visited for free, but some require Advance Registration with a $5 fee per person. You’ll be able to register for those sites on October 6.

  • Charleston, IL – Willstock music festival to raise money for (Will Rogers) theater’s restoration, rehabilitation efforts

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    From The Daily Eastern News: In its heyday, the Will Roger’s Theater was a local hot spot for Big Bands and movies.

    Now, the theater, located in the heart of Charleston, awaits restoration.

    The “Willstock” music festival, set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kiwanis Park, aims to benefit these rehabilitation efforts.

    Funds raised from the festival will go to this project.

    Though admission is free, donations will be accepted throughout the day and evening.

    According to the festival’s website, organizers have raised over $30,000 of their $100,000 goal.

    Earl Halbe, the president of the project board, said the community is committed to the project.

    Halbe said the board’s vision for the theater once it is restored is to not only host independent film festivals and performances but to also offer a stage for Eastern and Charleston High School students.

    “Will Rogers [will be] an economic anchor,” Halbe said. “[Once opened] it and the other storefronts on the block will make several jobs available, and it’s great for Charleston.”

    Halbe said though the damage looks bad on the outside, the original art deco lights and features on the walls in the theater are still there as well as the original orchestra pit.

    It is the only theater in the area that has an orchestra pit, Halbe added.

    “People think it’s falling apart on the inside, but it’s in fair condition,” Halbe said.

    The theater first opened in 1938 and the adjoining commercial block, containing four storefronts, were completed several years later.

    However, the theater and four storefronts were sold in 2010, and the new owners did not finish the task of re-opening it, Halbe said.

    “What we want to do is involve the entire Charleston community,” Halbe said. “We hope to, within reason, to make it exactly the way it was.”

    According to a press release, The Will Rogers Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and was designated a Landmark Property by the city of Charleston in 2011.

    It was also placed on the list of the ten most threatened historic sites in 2011.

    “Of course it will take some years to be accomplished but we can get it started,” Halbe said.

    The festival will host several performances including headliner Charlotte Martin, a Charleston native and Eastern alumna, who has recorded several major label and independent record albums, according to Willstock’s Facebook page

  • Jackson, MI – Installation process begins for 1,000 new seats in historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson

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    From Mlive.com: While it may eventually be moved from where it’s positioned now, employees worked on installing the first new seat at the historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson on Thursday.

    The other 999 seats will be installed before the end of the fall, said Michigan Theatre Executive Director Steve Tucker. They replace 1,559 red velour seats that were installed around 1951.

  • August 18, 2016

    Joliet, IL – VenuWorks plans quick start at Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet

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    From The Herald-News: VenuWorks plans to take the management reins Sept. 1 at the Rialto Square Theatre – and begin looking for shows even sooner – after being selected Wednesday as the firm to run the theater.

    The Rialto board voted 6-0 to hire VenuWorks to manage the theater.

    The one possible dissenting vote – Mary Beth Gannon – was taken from the Rialto in an ambulance just before the meeting started while repeatedly coughing violently for several minutes. A friend said Gannon was having an asthma attack.

    The vote on Wednesday does not immediately give VenuWorks the job.

    The Rialto still must negotiate a contract with the Iowa-based venue management company.

    But both sides expressed confidence they would get that done so VenuWorks could begin work Sept. 1.

    “We’ve developed a good relationship with them,” said VenuWorks Chief Financial Officer John Siehl. “We want to make this work.”

    Siehl said the company’s booking office will start looking for acts at the Rialto immediately.

    “Probably tomorrow we’ll start making calls and letting people know that this is part of our roster,” he said.

    VenuWorks manages 37 theaters, sports facilities, conference centers and outdoor venues.

    The Rialto board rejected requests from a few people who asked that the selection of a manager be slowed down for a month. The call for delay came amid a push to give the management contract to Ron Onesti, who runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

    Onesti Entertainment was one of five companies reviewed by a Rialto committee that recommended VenuWorks and Pinnacle Venue Services as the two finalists for the job.

    Gannon last week helped initiate an online petition drive urging Onesti for the job, and Onesti appeared at a City Council meeting on Monday with supporters suggesting the city intervene in the selection process.

    Pinnacle in making its final presentation on Monday announced that Onesti had become part of its team and would be involved in the Rialto if the firm got the job.

    The Onesti movement took another turn Wednesday when Onesti sent a letter addressed to city officials and the Rialto board calling all five management proposals “worthless” because the firms did not know enough about the theater. Onesti also urged a delay.

    Pinnacle Managing Partner Doug Higgons, when asked before the Wednesday meeting, said he was not aware of the Onesti letter.

    Adding Onesti to the team may not have helped Pinnacle.