The latest movie theater news and updates
August 13, 2002
WINNIPEG, MB, CANADA — Burton Cummings, the lead singer of the rock group Guess Who, has become the benefactor of the struggling Walker Theatre, according to Chartattack.com. Cummings will begin donating a portion of the proceeds of his concerts at the Walker in order to pay down the theater’s $1.8 million debt and fund future renovations.
In exchange for his aid, the theater will be renamed the Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts after the singer who attended the former movie house as a child. The board hopes Cummings' name will help bring in additional grants and donations.
The 2000-seat Walker opened in 1907 and was named for its owner, Corliss Powers Walker, who brought in live theater, vaudeville, concerts, and silent films. The theater switched to a movies-only format in 1945 and remained in operation until 1990. In 1991, it reopened as a performing arts center and is an official Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site.
HUGHSON, CA — The Hughson City Council has voted to approve plans for a new redevelopment agency which has already cited the resurrection of the historic Del Ray Theater as part of its plan to revamp the ciyt’s downtown area.
According to the Modesto Bee, the Del Ray has been closed for almost 40 years, but could be restored and reopened as a venue for either live theater or classic films, or as a community center.
CHICAGO, IL — The Water Tower Theatres at Water Tower Place will reopen this Friday under the Village Theatres banner, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business. The three-screen theater has been closed since last year. The move follows on the heels of Village’s recent takeover of the historic Biograph.
August 12, 2002
CHICAGO, IL — The Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts continues to make headlines in its drive to resurrect the Uptown Theatre. A recent Chicago Free Press article details the ongoing fundraising campaign and the organization’s efforts to reopen the grand movie palace.
(Thanks to Bryan Krefft and Michael Beyer!)
SALEM, OR — The restoration of the historic Elsinore Theatre is scheduled to be completed in September, according to an article that appears today in the Statesman-Journal. The 76-year-old theater’s elegantly painted windows are one of the centerpiece’s of the meticulous restoration.
MEMPHIS, TN — Fourteen old movie theater seats which were once (most likely) used to seat Elvis Preseley in his favorite movie theater, the Memphian Theatre, are being auctioned on eBay. According to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, an additional seat has also been saved by the Playhouse on the Square, the new name and function of the old Memphian. The auction will last through Saturday, August 17th.
These 15 were most likely used by “The King” because during his many visits to the theater, he didn’t want patrons to turn around and stare at him during a movie. Consequently, he always sat in the very first row. The seats were long ago removed and have been in storage since 1985.
For more information, visit eBay or call (901) 725-0776.
August 9, 2002
Jeff Mills, the Producer/Director of the forthcoming documentary about the Interstate Theatres circuit, “Before the Curtain Rises”, is looking for anyone with archival material, anecdotal stories, and any other information on the long history of the Texas-based exhibitor.
He writes, “With the recent movement by the El Paso Community Foundation to put a great deal of money into the restoration of the Plaza in El Paso, we have ramped up our efforts to record their efforts and complete the film.”
The production team is currently looking for physical artifacts such as lobby cards, ticket books, copies of The Interstate newsletter, etc., as well as any photos, postcards, film or video, printed material, audio recordings, historical information, and/or oral histories to share. They are also looking for leads on specific theaters which would be of importance either extinct or extant.
Visit their website to watch the documentary’s trailer, as well as access numerous photos, virtual tours, interviews, and much more…
You can also contact Jeff Mills by phone at 713-661-6677.
August 8, 2002
BETHPAGE, NY — Cablevision has just announced that it will sell its Clearview Cinemas chain in an effort to boost profits. According to a report on CBSNewYork.com, the move will save the struggling company $70 million per year.
There is no official word yet on what will happen to the individual theaters in the circuit or information about any possible suitors. However, it is also possible that the theaters may be sold off, or leases may be broken, on a case-by-case basis, especially given the demand for New York area real estate.
Clearview Cinemas currently operates the legendary Ziegfeld Theatre, the Beekman, the Metro, the old Warner Quad, and many more in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey with a number of old movie houses in its stable.
We’ll keep you posted …
LINDENHURST, NY — The Lindenhurst Theatre, the last remaining single screen theater on the south shore of Long Island, may become the next victim of Walgreen’s takeover and destruction of old movie houses. According to the Suffolk Life Newspapers, the drug store chain may be eyeing the shuttered theater as its next target.
Battle lines are already being formed between preservation groups and the retailer in preparation for a fight that has been waged (and mostly lost) around the country. In one recent instance, though, the San Francisco Planning Commission rejected Walgreen’s plans to convert the old Cinema 21.
Other theaters were not so lucky as the George Burns Theater in Livonia, Michigan, the RKO Kingsway in Brooklyn, New York, and the Strand Theater in Key West, Florida, all have been taken over by the chain.
The late Deco Lindenhurst Theatre opened on December 25, 1948 under the Prudential Theatre Circuit and closed July 18, 2002. The theater has 625 seats on the main floor and 140 in the loge. According to the Suffolk Life, the theater’s ticket box and neon refreshment sign have already been removed in preparation for … ?
(Thanks to Orlando Lopes for the update.)
Two raffles are currently being held to save historic movie houses in Pasadena, California and in Douglas, Arizona:
Raffle #1: A new 2002 Corvette Z06 is being raffled off for $75 per ticket to raise money for the restoration of the Grand Theater in Douglas, Arizona. The Grand opened in 1919, is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, and is raising money to repair the theater after a devastating roof collapase and subsequent water damage.
Raffle #2: Our good friend Gina Zamparelli is fighting the good fight against the owners of the Raymond Theatre who are trying to gut the Raymond in order to erect housing, retail, and parking space.
Friends of the Raymond Theatre is curently raising money to pay for the legal fees to save the historic movie house. Raffle tickets are only $1 each and the organization needs your help! To order tickets online, go to www.paypal.com and send payment to along with your full name, address and phone number.
Alternately, you can send payment to:
Friends of the Raymond Theatre
P.O. Box 91189
Pasadena, CA 91109-1189
Ticket prices are as follows:
$1 for 1 ticket
$5 for 6 tickets
$10 for 12 tickets
$20 for 25 tickets
$50 for 60 tickets
$100 for 125 tickets
$200 to $500 + donation – One raffle ticket for every dollar you donate!
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.”