The latest movie theater news and updates

  • September 14, 2016

    Albany, GA – Businessman Lane Rosen wants shot at renovating Albany Theatre


    From the Albany Herald: Lane Rosen’s not pointing a finger at anyone but himself. He knows he should have followed up on his “informal proposal.”

    But when engineers called him recently seeking information about the historic downtown Albany Theatre,under the mistaken assumption that Rosen owns the building, the downtown businessman decided to speak up.

    “Look, I want to make it clear that I’m not blaming anyone in this but myself,” Rosen, who unsuccessfully challenged Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard for her seat during the most recent municipal election, said Friday. “I sent out an informal proposal indicating my interest in rehabbing the Albany, but I didn’t really follow up. And I had a few informal discussions with (city commissioner) Roger Marietta and shared my ideas with some of the folks in Planning.

    “But I didn’t go through proper channels. So I’m not pointing any fingers. But I honestly thought that by letting people know my interest in that historic building, someone would have at least reached out to see if I was serious. I really thought I’d get a call. But the only call I’ve gotten is from engineers who are apparently in the process of readying the building for demolition.”

    And the D-word is not one of Rosen’s favorites.

    “I have a love for history, and I have a love for old buildings,” the developer/entertainment manager said. “And I have a five-generations business tie to this community. I don’t know if the driving factor in my desire to try and save that building is familial — my great-great-grandfather built it — or if it’s historic. I guess a little of both.

  • September 13, 2016

    Troy, NY – American Theater renovation planned for downtown Troy


    From The Times Union: An ambitious $3 million project to restore the closed American Theater as a first-run movie showcase has won city support for an application for $1 million in state funds.

    Bonacio Construction, Bow Tie Cinemas and the city are working together on a plan for modernizing the historic brick theater at 285-289 River St.

    The theater project is seen as a catalyst for attracting more people to downtown Troy.

    Bow Tie has been successful opening movie theaters in downtown Schenectady and Saratoga Springs, and bringing people from throughout the Capital Region to those cities.

    “They’re confident it will do very well as a first-run theater. It’s a great reuse of that site,” said Steven Strichman, the city’s commissioner of planning and community development.

    The city is touting the project for a $1 million Restore NY Communities Initiative grant. The City Council voted 9-0 at its September meeting to support the application.

    Bringing back the 6,800-square-foot theater has been under consideration for several years; Bow Tie and Bonacio officials discussed it back in 2013. The American Theater has a seating capacity of 450.

    The movie theater for many years operated as the Cinema Art Theater showing adult films. The city closed it on March 2, 2006, with police alleging some patrons engaged in sexual acts. The city also removed the marquee on April 13, 2006. In 2012, the city paid Jan DeGroot, the building’s owner, $30,000 to settle his lawsuit about the marquee’s removal.

    “We’ve looked at a lot of different possibilities,” Larry Novik, director of business development for Bonacio, said about the building’s future. “Restoring the original use reflects the character of the building.

    Bonacio invested $5.9 million to transform the neighboring Dauchey Building at 275-283 River St. from office use into apartments.

    The return of a first-run theater is expected to stimulate business downtown.

    “It will bring business in. It would be great. It will bring social engagement and social interaction,” said Marla Ortega, chef-owner of the Illium Cafe at 9 Broadway on Monument Square, a short walk from the theater.

    Ortega said the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene would benefit from a theater bringing new customers downtown.

    “They need another renaissance benefiting downtown,” said Ortega, who compared the movie theater to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, which attracts patrons to restaurants before and after a show.

    The city will hold a public hearing on the application for the $1 million grant at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the Planning Department Conference Room in City Hall, 433 River St.

    The movie theater project will depend on securing the state grants and other funding, Novik and Strichman said.

  • Stamford, TX – Stamford’s Grand Theater flickering back to life


    From the Abilene Reporter-News: All this action ultimately ruffled a few downy feathers.

    “We found a little baby pigeon, I guess the momma ran off because of the situation here,” said Toni Welch, hefting a towel with a small dinosaur-looking creature nestled inside.

    Rain was falling off and on Saturday morning on the square. It kept the dust down as a crew of volunteers used heavy equipment and shovels to gut the rotted wood behind the marquee of the Grand Theater.

    “The theater has been closed for about five years,” said Jessica Decker. She runs a public relations firm called Oreana Communications, her father Gary is chairman of a committee that is restoring the 80 year-old movie house.

    “A lot of people were really sad to see it close,” she said, adding that the theater, like many others in rural communities, faced a major expense in switching to a digital projection system if it wanted to continue.

    The Grand saw an earlier renovation in the mid 1990s. In 2002 I did a photo column on the theater, it was owned by Pam and David Scott from Graham at that time.

    “There were a lot of changes and updates that needed to be made, and they just couldn’t do that,” Jessica said. “So the Economic Development Corporation of Stamford acquired the building with the intention of hopefully selling or reopening it.”

    Jessica’s father recalled going to the Grand when he was growing up.

    “I went to it as a kid when we lived up north of here in Munday,” Gary said. “It’s such a historic part of downtown, we want to replace it just like it was.”

    Other than the wood behind the marquee, the rest of the theater seems to be in pretty good shape. Jessica said the plan is to replace the carpeting, seats, and fix the neon. But aside from the accumulated dust, there’s a sense that the theater could show a movie tomorrow if only the popcorn machine worked.

    David Mims, a retired school administrator, came to watch the men work after hearing something was finally happening with the Grand.

    “Oh man the popcorn, we just loved the popcorn,” he recalled, his eyes bright with that memory. “I would have never imagined they would bring this back.”

    Often when a business closes in a small town, that’s the end of it. The empty frame might sit there, a phantom-like reminder of a time when life sparked brighter within the community.

    “I’ve seen a lot of these just close and nobody does anything,” Mims said. “I just figured this was gone; it was going to be abandoned and we would see it torn up like the old theater over at Lueders.”

    He smiled and didn’t appear to mind the approaching rain. He talked of the significance that a simple movie theater holds for young people, and how sharing its communal experience with family and friends enriches one’s life. In this age of on-demand video, that experience is an endangered one.

    “There are so many things that our young people are not aware of, because we haven’t taken the time to share those things,” he said. “It just amazes me that there are some people still willing to put some effort into keeping things.”

    Back in 2002, the projection booth still had a few fire extinguishing grenades lying around in the back. They were purely sentimental, the agent within had likely long ago lost its ability to put out a blaze.

    Until the 1950s, Cellulose Nitrate was used as the base for film. Highly combustible, it could ignite with the heat of a cigarette, according to the National Media Museum, or spontaneously catch fire at temperatures as low as 120 F.

    The grenades were pear-shaped glass bottles, wrapped with two protective wires. If a fire broke out, the projectionist would throw the device at the base of the flame to immediately knock it down.

    The high temperatures generated by movie projector light bulbs made operating them a dangerous job back in the day. But there were perks — behind the projector at the Grand a modern toilet resided within its own doorless nook. But of those grenades, there was no trace.

    Jessica said it’s going to take about $75,000 to fully fund the project, and they are about a third to their goal. If all goes well, the Grand should reopen in March 2017. The only question after that is what’s the first movie they will show?

    “I want to see "McLintock!”, is what I want to see,“ Gary said. "I’m a big John Wayne fan, but we’ll see if my vote goes.”

    But if there is one thing that he is thankful for, it’s how the town feels about seeing its theater once more return to life.

    “My dad used to have a fried-pie business,” Gary said. “He told me years ago when I first moved to Stamford, he said the coolest thing about Stamford has always been the people.”

    He looked around the square, saw Mims across the street, and noticed passing drivers as they slowed down to eyeball what was happening.

    “Things don’t work in a small town unless you’ve got a lot of support behind you, and we are blessed with lots of community support behind this project. Stamford is a good place with good people,” he said.

    “It’s the people that make a town, not the buildings.”

  • Palm Springs, CA – Palm Springs explores a restoration of the Plaza Theatre


    From the Desert Sun: The closed Plaza Theater in downtown Palm Springs could be on its way to a full restoration, setting the stage for live performances, film screenings, lectures and other entertainment uses.

    That’s the recommendation headed to the City Council from a subcommittee set up to explore how to move forward with establishing a new life for the historic city-owned theater.

    “I think it’s an amazing venue. I think we’re truly fortunate to have it. And at the same time I recognize, how do we deal with it?” said City Councilman J.R. Roberts at the subcommittee meeting in mid August.

  • September 12, 2016

    The rich history and fantastic theaters of Graven & Mayger, a forgotten architecture duo


    From At the intersection of 13th Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s South Loop there stands an art deco building with strong vertical pillars and textbook, streamlined organic ornamentation. No plaque marks the building, and the city’s online database identifies it only as an office building from the 1920s by Graven, A.S.

    It’s the only reference to the work of this particular firm in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, a 10-year effort to catalog important buildings. In a city overflowing with iconic, turn-of-the-century skyscrapers and high-rises, it doesn’t draw much attention. But it’s far from the firm’s only work, in the city or elsewhere. A 24-story office building still stands at 100 N. LaSalle Street, festooned with the same ornamentation as its cousin in the South Loop. Another stands nearby at 232 S. Wabash, noted in the survey but unattributed. They’re relics of a firm that had a brief, shining run designing palatial buildings across the country in the early 20th century.

    Anker Sverre Graven was the principal of an eponymous architectural firm when it was located at 100 N. LaSalle. He had originally founded a firm with his longtime partner, Arthur Guy Mayger, in 1926, and the pair went on to design a string of fantastic theaters across the United States.

    For the most part, their work stands forgotten. If not for the interest of a former colleague, a little luck, and the recent discovery of the firm’s forgotten archives, much of Graven and Mayger’s architectural work might have gone unnoticed, or unrecorded, just more building from the early 20th century by unknown architects that have been lost to time.

  • Northampton, MA – An unexpected find: Academy of Music restores historic scenic curtain


    From the Daily Hampshire Gazette: Time was when all kinds of places had them: theaters, town halls, grange halls, opera houses, or any place else you might stage some kind of artistic performance.

    Scenic backdrop curtains.

    It turns out Northampton’s Academy of Music had one, too, but it had pretty much vanished from view years ago until Academy staff members discovered it two years ago when the building was being restored.

    Now that 103-year-old curtain — evidently the largest known to exist on the East Coast — has been given a makeover by a Vermont conservation group that specializes in refurbishing these historic backdrops. On Tuesday, the Academy will unveil the curtain to the public during an open house from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m.

    “It’s the largest [scenic curtain] we’ve ever worked with,” said Christine Hadsel, director of Curtains Without Borders, a conservation group from Burlington, Vermont. “It’s an impressive work.”

    Hadsel, who with members of her team spent several days in August working on the curtain, said the Northampton backdrop measures 42 by 28 feet. Most of the curtains the group conserves are in the range of 18 by 10 feet, she noted.

    Debra J’Anthony, director of the Academy of Music, said the curtain was designed in 1913 by Maurice Tuttle, a New York painter who created scenic backdrops throughout the United States and Canada. It was first displayed for the public in October 1913 as the main drop curtain for a performance by a theatrical group, the Northampton Players.

    J’Anthony says she believes the painted scene was inspired by Paradise Pond on the Smith College campus in Northampton and by a tower that was part of a local factory and business, Maynard’s Hoe Shop, which was destroyed by fire a few years later. On the curtain, the tower stands alone and is surrounded by trees and framed against a blue sky. The lush scene could pass for a painting from the Romantic Era, with the tower representing an old medieval or Roman ruin.

    A stylized graphic, with abstract motifs that may have been painted on with stencils, lines the painting on three sides.

    Tuttle’s design, Academy staff say, was painted over one side of what had been the theater’s original main proscenium curtain, a blue-and-white striped canvas decorated in floral stencils and hand-painted pinstripes. That curtain dated from the building’s opening in 1891.

    At some point — it’s not clear exactly when — the curtain was taken out of use and stapled to the back of the Academy’s cut-velvet main drape curtain, which dates from 1917, J’Anthony said.

    After Tuttle’s work was discovered, J’Anthony got in touch with Curtains Without Borders; staff from the group made three visits to the Academy to assess its condition and develop a plan to conserve it. A deep clean In mid-August, several members from the group returned to the Academy to start that effort. First job: scrub a century’s worth of dirt and stains from the huge curtain.

    To do that, it was removed from its risers and laid out flat on dozens of rented tables mounted on the Academy’s stage. Staff from Curtains Without Borders, on their hands and knees, rubbed the curtain — made from a cotton muslin, Hadsel said— with specialized dry sponges.

    Curtains from those days, she added, “would absorb a lot of dirt. People used to smoke in theaters, dirt would fall from the ceiling, and it would accumulate.”

    The conservators also planned to clean the backside of the curtain. Additional conservation work included vacuuming, repainting faded sections of the curtain, repairing tears and holes, and trimming ragged edges with iron-on patches.

    “It’s the biggest curtain we’ve ever worked on,” Hadsel said. “It’s quite a job.”

    Her group, started in 1996 as a project of the Vermont Museum & Gallery Alliance, has since surveyed and worked on hundreds of old painted curtains and backdrops in New England and in other parts of the United States. They’ve conserved one at the Majestic Theatre in West Springfield and are scheduled to work on one in Orange.

    “These kinds of backdrops were very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, especially in New England,” Hadsel said. “Just about any place that could host a performance had one. Sometimes they’d have a whole set of them.”

    While many of these backdrops featured pastoral scenes, some offered street scenes or interior views of houses; others would contain advertisements, usually for local businesses that supported that arts. Many of these “advertising” curtains are in grange halls, Hadsel notes, as granges used the revenue to pay for the artistic work and upkeep, while town hall curtains were paid for by donations or public money.

    “They’re really great examples of American folk art,” she said.

    She’s cataloged many of the curtains her team has worked on in a new book, “Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England.” The colorful backdrops detailed in the book recall the era before TV, radio and the internet, when live theater was the main form of community entertainment.

    J’Anthony says the Academy is thrilled to have its painted curtain — a missing piece of the city’s history — back in place. In addition to Tuesday’s free unveiling, it will be available for viewing during future history tours, special events and selected performances at the theater, she said.

  • Missoula, MT – Stockman Bank gets permission to demolish old Cine 3 movie theater


    From The Missoulian:
    A vacant movie theater in Missoula that has become a magnet for crime soon will be torn down to make way for a new bank.

    The Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s Board of Directors has approved a request from Stockman Bank to proceed with demolishing the old Cine 3 movie theater building at 3601 Brooks.

    The bank intends to construct a new two-story bank building and one other commercial or office building at the site. It’s expected to be complete within two years because the ongoing construction of a massive new six-story Stockman Bank building downtown is occupying the company’s resources.

    However, the current movie theater building – which has been vacant for 10 years – has apparently become an immediate problem for both the owners and the Missoula Police Department because it has been frequented recently by people engaging in illegal activity.

    “The owner is regularly cleaning up used syringes and empty alcoholic beverage containers, and the rear of the building has become a dumping ground for abandoned vehicles,” said MRA executive director Ellen Buchanan in a memo. “Neighboring businesses are increasingly expressing concern about vandalism and criminal activity.”

    She added that Missoula Police Chief Mike Brady has requested increased patrols around the building, but there continue to be issues. Brady has also asked that the MRA help expedite the removal of the building and the cleanup of the lot.

    The bank asked to proceed with demolishing the building without prejudicing any future requests they may make for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) assistance, because the site is in an Urban Renewal District.

    Randy Rupert, the regional director of business development for CTA Architects, is working for Stockman Bank on the building. He said that the bank is ready to demolish the current building within four or five weeks.

    “Two weeks ago we got broken into again,” he said. “It’s been blighted long enough for the city of Missoula. People know the building’s empty and they find ways in. It’s probably the only deserted property around there.”

    The bank plans to recycle as much of the materials from the deconstruction as it can.

    The Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board also approved a request from the Missoula Housing Authority to proceed without prejudice on moving forward with prepping the site at 110 N. California St. for a new six-unit affordable housing complex. The MHA has been awarded a $700,000 state grant for the project, but they need to get going in order to not jeopardize the funding. Each unit will be one-bedroom.

    The board also approved a $79,720 TIF request from the North Missoula Community Development Corp. to deconstruct the existing house at 503 E. Front St. to build seven affordable housing units. The NMCDC will own the land, and sell two-bedroom units for around $130,000, and four-bedroom units for around $150,000, well below market value. However, the resale value of each unit is capped so that they remain affordable for future buyers while still rewarding homeowners for the equity they’ve put in as good caretakers.

    “It’s really exciting for us to get some permanent affordable homeownership downtown, which is an extremely rare commodity,” said Jerry Petasek of the NMCDC.

    Finally, the board approved a TIF request of $22,216 from the owners of the 16-unit apartment building at 534 E. Front St., on the corner of Madison Street, for sidewalk improvements. The owners are renovating the entire building, and the taxpayer money will go to fund right-of-way improvements.

  • Hanford, CA – Beloved ceiling stars shine again at Hanford Fox after restoration


    From The Fresno Bee: The Hanford Fox Theatre, one of the jewels of the central San Joaquin Valley, is shining brighter than ever following a two-year restoration that cost nearly $4 million.

    The rehab took place under the watchful eye of Dan Humason, a believer in historic preservation and owner of the building that he says “owns me.”

    With the theater open again, the stage that hosted BB King, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, the Smothers Brothers, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Brooks and Dunn is ready for live performances.

    The Fox opened as a movie palace and vaudeville stage in 1929 and grew into a Hanford institution where big-name entertainers perform and local organizations hold private events.

    Next door to the Fox is Lush wine bar owned by Lindsey Oliveira, who grew up in Hanford and fondly remembers watching movies and shows there.

    Her business has benefited from Hanford Fox foot traffic, she said.

  • Boston, MA – Emerson considers reopening Colonial Theatre


    From The Boston Globe: Nearly a year after closing the Colonial Theatre, Emerson College is considering proposals from a handful of outside groups to reopen the storied playhouse — a move that would broaden the city’s cultural offerings and could help arts organizations navigating a rapidly changing entertainment landscape.

    The college, which endured widespread criticism last fall when the Globe disclosed Emerson’s possible plan to convert the Colonial into a flexible dining hall and performance space, has declined to identify the groups or characterize their proposals. But the Globe has identified several organizations that submitted bids. They include a consortium of arts groups operating locally, as well as at least one national theater management company.

    The local consortium — which includes Celebrity Series of Boston, Broadway in Boston, Boston Lyric Opera, and Live Nation — has put in a proposal to provide programming. In addition, Boston Lyric Opera submitted its own independent programming bid.

    Pennsylvania-based SMG, an international venue management, marketing, and development firm, has also entered a plan for the theater, which has been dark since “The Book of Mormon” closed in October.

    “We’re looking at the proposals internally,” said Carole McFall, director of media relations at Emerson. “We’re hoping to make a decision this fall.”

    Don Law, president of Live Nation New England, said the consortium would bring touring Broadway shows, musical acts, opera, and more to the theater.

  • Beverly, MA – Beverly couple buys Larcom Theatre


    From the Salem News: The sale of the Larcom Theatre became official on Friday when a husband and wife from Beverly purchased the landmark venue for $645,000.

    The new owners, Donald and Lisa Crowell, plan to continue the theater as a performing arts center, said former owner David Bull.

    The Larcom had been on the market since March, with an original asking price of $699,900. It had been owned since 1984 by a group of performers from the former Le Grand David Magic Company, which also owned the Cabot Theatre before selling that building in 2014.

    “I know I share the sentiment that we are absolutely delighted that both the Cabot and the Larcom are continuing on as they were intended as performing arts venues,” said Bull, who played Le Grand David in long-running shows at both sites.

    Donald Crowell declined to comment on the sale. Bull described the Crowells as a young couple who moved to Beverly last year.

    The Larcom and Cabot are vaudeville-era theaters located less than a half-mile from each other in downtown Beverly. The Larcom, at 13 Wallis St., was built in 1912, eight years before the Cabot.