The latest movie theater news and updates
July 10, 2002
CHICAGO, IL — The Esquire Theatre is slated to be sold next month to a real estate developer, according to the Chicago Tribune, and its future as a movie house is now anything but certain. The 1938 Art Moderne movie house is currently operated as a six-screen multiplex by Loews Cineplex.
The sale to Mark Hunt for $13.5 million is scheduled to be completed in advance of a new 21-screen AMC megaplex opening nearby. The imminent doom of the remaining smaller movie houses in the area has already claimed the once popular McClurg Court and is now threatening the Esquire after almost 65 years of exhibition.
There is still a chance that the Esquire could remain in operation and perhaps become the anchor for a larger retail and entertainment complex. Alternately, the theater may be torn down and converted for any number of uses including a hotel, office and residential space, or for retail use.
We’ll keep you posted …
(Thanks to Michael Garay and Bryan Krefft for the news.)
July 9, 2002
EL PASO, TX — El Paso’s local NBC affiliate, KTSM-TV Channel 9, is conducting an online poll to gauge community support of the city’s proposed $13 million infusion to the $26 million restoration of the historic Plaza Theater. The results of the poll will be broadcast tonight on their evening news and can help continue the growing momentum to restore this beloved, but closed, “Cinema Treasure”.
The gorgeous atmospheric Plaza opened in 1930 and was narrowly saved from demolition in 1987. It was previously selected as part of the “Save America’s Treasures” program and is in the midst of a large fundraising campaign to restore and reopen the 2000-seat theater.
Along with the city funding, the El Paso Community Foundation is proposing to assist El Paso in the following ways: commiting to raising $12 million for the project; donating the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ which once graced the theater (it was restored in 1998); and donating an adjacent building (Centre Annex Building) to be integrated into the operations of the Plaza Theatre. This building would contain a restaurant facility, event ballroom/children’s theater and a roof-top patio garden for community events.
(Thanks to Roman Herrington/EPCF!)
The Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts is begining the first of eight fundraising events this week to raise at least $4 million by October 5th when its option to buy the historic movie palace would expire. Estimates for the theater’s restorations range between $18 – 30 million.
According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “The group will also host the first public tours of the structure in more than two decades later this summer as part of the fund-raising drive.”
(Thanks to Michael Beyer and the UTCA.)
VENTNOR, NJ — The Philadelphia Inquirer recently featured the reopened Ventnor Twin Theater and profiled its success in bringing in patrons to this beachside community. Ventnor sits adjacent to an area once filled with movie palaces, Atlantic City.
Once teeming with theaters along its boardwalk, and with several prominent movie houses in the outlying towns, the Atlantic City area has but three movie theaters left with the Ventnor Twin the only one with historical significance.
The Art Deco theater opened in 1938 and was later converted into a twin in the 1960s. It closed several years ago, but was recently reopened by a man who works maintaining movie theaters.
(Thanks to George Quirk for the update!)
July 8, 2002
SANTA MONICA, CA — We’ve just received this report in from local resident Jody Hummer regarding the historic Aero Theater located on Santa Monica’s fashionable Montana Avenue:
There’s a sign that says ‘Save the Aero’ on the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. The owner says Robert Redford [who grew up attending the Aero as a kid] and Sundance, who were reported to be interested in saving the theater for independent film, have “pulled out.” We don’t know the details yet.
I stopped by yesterday and Chris, the operator, said the Aero is hanging on by a thread and may have to leave next month. If you are in the LA area, go see a film here soon or send letters of support to:
The Aero Theater
1328 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Built by the Donald Douglas Company in 1939, the Aero Theater was originally opened as a continuous 24-hour movie theater for aircraft workers who operated in shifts around the clock. It later became a beloved neighborhood theater and has anchored the now posh Montana Avenue section of Santa Monica.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The historic Castro Theatre is holding its annual Silent Film Festival next Saturday and Sunday featuring live piano and organ accompaniement on the theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer. Tickets are $10 and $12 and can be purchased at the theater, by phone at (415) 478-2277, or online at Tickets.com.
The Castro opened in 1921 and continues to be a massively popular art and repertory movie house. It was renovated in 2001.
LARNED, KS —
The old State Theatre reopened last Friday showing “Spider-Man” in its second-run with a theater full of volunteers running the show. According to the Lawrence Journal World/AP, the State had been closed for two years before being purchased by a non-profit organization for $90,000.
The theater was recently renovated and its famous neon marquee is still being repaired with plans to reinstall it in the near future. The State is the only theater in this small town of 4,200 residents and originally opened in the late 1940s.
NEW YORK, NY —
The world famous Apollo Theater will be closed from January to August 2003 for a massive renovation project that will not only return a little luster to the aging vaudeville house, but will enable its supporters and directors to begin a multi-year project aimed at converting the famous theater into “a major cultural and performing arts center.”
According to the Journal News/AP, plans for the Apollo call for a $250 million renovation and expansion effort that will house the original theater, the nearby Victoria Theater, a restaurant, a multiplex, a recording studio, and retail space. The project is aimed at continuing and expanding Harlem’s recent revitalization.
July 3, 2002
We’ve just added a new batch of vintage and modern theater photos thanks to Owen Smith, the Minnesota Historical Society, Bryan Krefft, and Ron Pierce. Highlights include the Paramount in Baton Rouge, LA, the Timothy Pflueger-designed Alameda in Alameda, CA, and the “nautical exterior” of the Port in Corona Del Mar, CA.
Cinema Treasures will be closed Thursday and Friday for the American Independence Day holiday. We’ll return Monday, July 8th and we look forward to seeing you then!
NORFOLK, VA — Local real estate developer Bobby Wright has paid $600,000 for the long-shuttered Granby Theater in hopes of reopening the old movie house. According to the Virginian-Pilot, the 1,000 seat theater has been closed since 1987 and is still in relatively good shape.
Possible uses for the Granby include a dinner theater a la the Commodore Theatre in nearby Portsmouth. To that end, Wright is negotiating with Commodore owner Fred Schoenfeld to help out on the movie side of the business. Wright is also eyeing dancing, first-run and classic films, and hosting smaller concerts than Norfolk’s Norva Theater.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the original Granby Theater opened in 1915 in another spot down the street. The current incarnation opened in 1923 and became part of the Fabian Theaters chain in 1967 and renamed the Lee Theater.
As residents moved away from downtown and into the suburbs, the Lee survived on a steady diet of adult films. In 1976, the theater was purchased again and renamed the Granby Mall Cinema showing family movies. When one of the owners died in 1987, the theater doors were shut for good … until now.
July 2, 2002
We’ve added a great new collection of international movie houses from England, Greece, Singapore, Scotland, and Australia. Our deepest appreciation to Ian Grundy for our rapidly growing UK cinema section and special thanks to Augustine Heng and Andrew Mason.
Highlights of today’s photos include the outdoor Cine Manto in Mykonos Town, Greece, the giant proscenium arch of the Empire in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, and the colorful exterior of the Bedok 1 & 2 in Singapore.