The latest movie theater news and updates
August 7, 2002
DAYTON, OH — Dayton’s oldest movie house, the former Alhambra Theater, will be torn down by the St. Mary Neighborhood Development Corp. which purchased the theater two years ago in an attempt to resurrect the building, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News.
Attempts to save the old Alhambra, which opened in 1912, were hampered by its lingering reputation as an adult theater named the Cinema X. This later incarnation of the Alhambra became the scourge of the mayor in 1999 when patrons were discovered having sex inside, and it had also been the focus of protests back in 1977.
With the non-profit development group now declaring that all options have been exhausted, Dayton’s oldest movie house will soon meet the wrecking ball. New housing is slated to replace it unless, of course, an eleventh hour miracle takes place.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Committee To Save The Sameric suffered a setback yesterday when the city’s Board of Licenses and Inspections Review ruled that it could not overturn the permit granted earlier to the Goldenberg Group to demolish the Art Deco movie palace.
According to the preservation group’s website, “Unfortunately, the L & I Review Board declined to revoke the demolition permit and refused to hear testimony from witnesses regarding the demolition permit. The Board stated they were limited to hearing about issues such as physical harm to adjoining properties and believed they could not consider the public interest of keeping Philadelphia’s last movie palace.”
The committee is still working with the Goldenberg Group in an attempt to save the theater. The owners insist the permit was acquired only as a last resort and are actively looking for a tenant. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the group now intends to take the case to Common Pleas Court.”
CHICAGO, IL — Michael Beyer, from the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts> , sent in this update:
For the first time in more than two decades, Chicago’s historic Uptown Theatre will open its doors to a limited number of the general public interested in glimpsing the grandeur of what was once one of the most famous movie palaces in the country, and learning more about current efforts to restore the landmark theatre.
David Bahlman, President of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, and Mark Zipperer, Chief Executive Officer of the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts, a not-for-profit group dedicated to purchasing and restoring the Uptown to its former artistic, architectural and cultural prominence, will host public tours of the theatre at noon, Tuesday, August 13, and 6 p.m., Wednesday, August 14.
Each tour will be limited to a maximum of 30 people and reservations are being accepted by phone only, on a first-come, first-served basis, at (773) 381-6312. Cost is a tax-deductible donation of $15 per person to the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts. The Uptown Theatre is located at 4814-4816 N. Broadway, near the corner of Broadway and Lawrence Avenues, in the center of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.
August’s public tours are part of a major Uptown Theatre and Center for The Arts fundraising campaign targeted at generating the Additional $4 million needed to finalize purchase of the theatre by a quickly-approaching late-September deadline. An additional $20 to $30 million will be needed to fully restore the majestic showplace to its original grandeur.
AUSTIN, TX — The Paramount Theatre will be hosting a one-night-only performance of “The Thief of Bagdad” with live accompaniement by the 1001 Nights Orchestra on Saturday, August 24th. Tickets are $12 – $21 and can be purchased through the Paramount Theatre Box Office, by phone throught Star Tickets at 469-SHOW, or through the Star Tickets website.
According to the theater’s press release, “With a tightly scripted score written to the entire 180 minutes of the film, The 1001 Nights Orchestra’s live musical accompaniment to The Thief of Bagdad has generated a great deal of interest from past sold-out performances… This world-class Middle Eastern ensemble has also received many distinguished reviews including a Best of Austin Award from the Austin Chronicle for its live production of the original score.”
(Thanks to Emily Binetti of the Austin Theatre Alliance.)
August 6, 2002
HAYS, KS — Falling profits from the Fox Theater have forced Dickinson Theaters to close one of its oldest and most historic movie houses. According to the Hays Daily News, the theater is scheduled to close later this month after more than five decades of service.
Revenue has been falling ever since the old four screen multiplex at The Mall was expanded into an eight-screen theater. In fairness to the old Fox, though, Dickinson has routinely allocated better product to the eight screen theater which hasn’t helped the Fox’s situation.
Fortunately, Dickinson is trying to work with the city of Hays to come up with an alternative use for the aging movie house. The theater is still in pristine condition, and was recently renovated in 2000 with the installation of new seats and digital sound.
The Fox Theater opened in 1950 with a large screen, seating for over 1,000 patrons, and a balcony. The theater also contained numerous murals, which are now covered up by the addition of a second theater where the balcony was previously located.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — We’ve just received this message from Jay Schwartz at The Secret Cinema about a rally today in support of the Sameric:
This coming Tuesday, August 6, will be the most important day yet for a show of support for the Sameric/Boyd Theater.
The Sameric, of course, is the beautiful, intact, 2350-seat art deco movie palace, which is threatened with demolition by its present owner, The Goldenberg Group.
Despite news stories you may have read about the owner wanting to preserve it, or about Mayor Street wanting to see it stand, neither party has made any commitment to saving the building, Philadelphia'a LAST surviving movie palace from the golden age. Indeed, The Goldenberg Group has only committed firmly to “keeping all of their options open.”
On Tuesday at noon, there will be a rally in front of the city building at 1515 Arch Street. This is expected to be a large gathering, and the larger, the better, in order to ensure media coverage and to make City Hall know that people really care about this issue.
The rally preceded a hearing scheduled at 1:15 pm inside the building, filed by a concerned citizen to reverse the demolition permit that The Goldenberg Group presently holds (and can legally use at any time). This hearing is open to the public, and similarly, we need as many people inside as possible to show the judge that the theater is worth saving (and that votes are at stake if it is not).
If you care at all about this very important piece of Philadelphia’s
entertainment history, please attend one or both of Tuesday’s events. If you work in Center City, bring your lunch to the rally. If you are able at all to stay afterwards at the hearing, that will make a huge difference.
Even if you can’t attend either event on Tuesday, you can help by SPREADING THIS MESSAGE WIDELY, via email or any other way you can think of.
Also, be sure to sign the online petition form at www.SaveTheSameric.org. The petitions will be brought to the hearing.
Opened in 1928 as the Boyd, the Sameric was recently named to Preservation Pennsylvania’s “At Risk 2002” list of the state’s 10 most endangered historic properties.
(Thanks to Gregg Anderson for the announcement.)
August 5, 2002
HOLLYWOOD, CA — Here’s an event not to be missed:
The world famous Cinerama Dome, located at the recently (re)constructed Arclight Cinemas complex, will be showing the film that started off the Cinerama craze in the 1950s, “This Is Cinerama”, in its glorious, original 3-strip format.
The newly refurbished and reconstructed print will bow on October 4, 2002 at the recently reopened Cinerama Dome on its gargantuan Cinerama screen. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased directly through the Arclight Cinemas website.
According to Arclight, the film is “the first to be refurbished – so a new generation of moviegoers can experience the thrill of this ‘pre-Imax’, ‘pre-virtual reality’ visual and sound format. Essentially a travelog, the film takes the viewer around the world and through ‘America the Beautiful…the heart of a continent, as seen through new eyes…a scenic tour de force of light, color, and sound…an America of breath-taking beauty and splendor that only Cinerama can picture and bring to you’.”
In other Cinerama Dome news, the geodesic theater will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of David Lean’s masterpiece, “Lawrence of Arabia”, with screenings of the epic film in 70MM. (Having seen this film at the ‘Dome’ a few years ago in 70MM, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. – RM) The film opens here on September 20th.
(Thanks to Cinema Treasures friend and Cinerama guru Larry Karstens!)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Regal Entertainment Group is looking to sell its leases at three prominent movie houses, the 1984-era Galaxy, and two vintage houses, the UA Alexandria and the UA Metro.
Michael McCormac, who is handling the transactions, is quoted as saying that the “‘contracts are going back and forth,’ and if completed, the movie houses ‘probably would remain theaters for a period of time, then they would be 'bye-bye’.‘ … The Metro would probably be retail, and the Alexandria could be a combination (of retail and non-retail).’”
According to the Chronicle, Regal “owns the lease at the Metro, the lease at the Galaxy and the Alexandria’s lease and property”. All three theaters have been on the market for the past year with deals for the Metro and Alexandria nearing completion.
The shakeout is impacting other area theaters as they attempt to secure their future in a shaky exhibition market. Landmark “will temporarily close the Lumiere later this year for renovation, the Roxie is trying to build a second screen, and Century Theatres recently opened a high-end CineArts movie house in Palo Alto, where it took over a longtime Landmark space.”
In other area news, the Park Theatre in Menlo Park is also slated to be closed and possibly torn down.
(Thanks to Gary Meyer for this update.)
BOSTON, MA — Hope is fading on Boston’s historic Modern Theatre as its owners, who are being accused of letting the old movie house fall into disrepair, have applied for a permit to demolish the 1912-era movie house.
According to the Boston Globe, the Modern, which is near two other shuttered movie palaces, the Paramount and Keith’s Opera House on Boston’s long-neglected Washington Street, may be beyond repair inside as extensive water damage has decimated the interior. Its facade, too, has begun crumbling.
Preservationists are now fighting the demolition request and hope to save at least the facade. With the help of the Landmarks Commission and the Boston Preservation Alliance, supporters also hope to bring some form of entertainment back to the building.
The Modern was constructed in 1912 inside a a fomer warehouse and retail building. The theater’s name was changed to the Mayflower in 1949 and its policy switched to adult films in the 1970s. It closed in the early 80s and has been used most recently as storage for pushcarts.
(Thanks to Dennis Huber for the sad update.)
August 2, 2002
We’ve just passed the 2,500 theater mark!
Thanks to all of your contributions, we’ve added over 1,500 “Cinema Treasures” in the last six months alone. Our current database now includes over 2,500 theaters and almost 1,250 photos.
Thanks again and we’re already looking ahead to 3,000!
August 1, 2002
MERCED, CA — The Merced City Council has approved the city’s purchase of the Merced Theatre from United Artists for $700,000 — half of the amount the theater chain had asked for. According to the Merced Sun-Star, the purchase price also includes retail space and the apartments above the historic theater.
The city of Merced will manage the property, while the Merced Theatre Foundation, which has spent the last three years convincing the city to buy the shuttered movie house, will sign a long term contract to operate the theater.
The group plans raise between $2.5 million and $3 million to restored the Spanish-style theater and is looking for donations which can be sent to: Merced Theatre Foundation, P.O. Box 2510, Merced, CA 95344.
(Thanks to Ron Pierce for the update!)