The latest movie theater news and updates

  • August 11, 2016

    New Orleans, LA – Prytania Theater rolls on into second century

    Image

    From WWLTV.com: It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday morning and a movie more than 50 years old, “The Sound of Music,” fills the theater. Just hours later, it’s a much different scene as the audience for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” fills the seats.

    That perhaps best describes the Prytania Theater: iconic, eclectic and enduring.

    “People feel comfortable here,” said Robert Brunet. “And in this crazy world we live in today, comfort is a pretty important thing.”

    Robert Brunet and his family know a little about the movie business. Led by the family patriarch, Rene, who will soon be 95 years old, the Brunets have been running theaters for 75 years, the last 20-plus at the Prytania, which celebrated 100 years of showing films in 2015.

    That’s a lot of big numbers for a theater that’s only ever had a single screen.

    “When you step through these doors, it’s like a time machine,” Robert Brunet said. “You go back in history.”

    And for many, there’s no other way to watch.

    “I love the big screen and everything,” said Virginia Carreca laughed. “They come right to your face.”

    The Prytania Theater still has a 35mm camera for film. They can use it, but they don’t anymore. The majestic lobby is from an era long gone, but technologically speaking, The Prytania was one of the first to go 3D, digital and now 4K.

    People embrace nostalgia, but it doesn’t feed the family. This 300 seat theater is a small business run by Robert and his family and sometimes it’s feast or famine.

    “It’s got a life of its own, we’re not a chain.” Brunet said. “You know, if I have to eat popcorn and hot dogs for dinner I’ll do it.”

    It hasn’t been an easy life for this non-descript looking building on Prytania Street. Two major fires, hurricanes, the advent of 20 theater megaplexes and Netflix have put the theater on life support more than once, but here it is: A classic survivor.

    Brunet says the owner of the building has put the theater in a trust for future generations.

    “I don’t see the Prytania or the Brunet family leaving this business,” he said. “The 200th anniversary, this will still be a single screen movie theater.”

    And that makes the Prytania and the Brunets Naturally N'Awlins.

  • Laconia, NH – Fundraising continues for Colonial Theater

    Image

    From The Citizen: The Colonial Theater fundraising efforts and planning are well underway, and recently $30,000 was donated toward the Colonial Theater capital campaign, which has a $2 million goal to raise by the end of the year.

    This donation was by Hali Dearborn and her family, and Belknap EDC Executive Director Justin Slattery said these types of efforts are what will bring them to their goal. He did not provide a dollar amount of where fundraising stood at this time, Slattery was confident that they would reach the goal and said right now “things are on schedule.”

    “Fundraising is going very well,” said Slattery. “We are making great progress.”

  • San Pedro, CA – San Pedro’s Warner Grand seeking a bigger spotlight with private operator

    Image

    From the Daily Breeze: Both good news and bad news could await if San Pedro’s historic Warner Grand Theatre goes big time with a professional operator now being sought by the city of Los Angeles, which owns the venue.

    City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s motion to hand the operation over to someone who could attract “A-list talent” and produce sold-out shows moved forward Friday, setting the stage for what could be big changes for the 1930s movie palace at 478 W. Sixth St.

    Uncertainty remains over how an outside operator might impact the theater’s future, especially in how it serves the immediate community.

    The good

    The theater is in serious need of improvements that the city says will cost $3.5 million, though some believe they will cost even more. A private operator would be expected to provide those upgrades in exchange for a deal with the city to run the theater.

    Among other things, the venue needs alterations to make it ADA accessible. Fire safety measures also are needed, said Fred Allen, vice president of the Grand Vision Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the theater and has been instrumental in raising money for much-needed upgrades to the theater’s seating and heating system over the years.

    The city’s $200,000-a-year allocation to run and maintain the Warner Grand is “pocket change in the theater world,” Allen said.

    A well-connected operator — both Nederlander and SMG have been mentioned as possible companies that might be interested — would “professionalize” the theater both by bringing in high-profile acts and providing a cash infusion for needed physical improvements.

    “To really make that place hum, you’re going to have to spend several million dollars and have a dedicated staff of three or four employees with stage hands,” he said.

    Buscaino’s motion, approved by the council during its meeting in Van Nuys, was born when concert producers Live Nation and Golden Voice booked top musical acts at the Warner Grand in 2015.

    The theater was packed — and so were downtown shops and restaurants.

    The Warner Grand, Buscaino believes, could be a catalyst for the emerging downtown and waterfront districts that are targeted for revitalization. But it needs an operator, he said, that can market it well so it lives up to its potential.

    POSSIBLE DOWNSIDES

    There are concerns, however, that handing over day-to-day management and operation of the theater will raise prices, black out prime calendar dates and threaten access for the community-based programs that have thrived in the hometown theater.

    Youth theater companies such as Encore and Scalliwag, The Golden State Pops Orchestra and the San Pedro Ballet rely on the theater for their productions. The LA Harbor International Film Festival and the San Pedro International Film Festival, along with others, also have become Warner Grand mainstays through the years.

    “The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a m“The Warner Grand Theatre is the ‘main attraction’ in historic downtown San Pedro that brings out many large crowds who also support local businesses,” wrote Stephanie Mardesich, director and Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The 1,500-seat theater, she said, “is too large for small events and too small for large events. … It is a misconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

    ASSURANCES FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS

    Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc said many of the local groups that now use the theater will be included in the bidding documents, set to tentatively go out Sept. 7 with a selection expected by late this year, possibly as early as Thanksgiving. The new operator will be tasked with working with those groups to ensure community access as part of creating a comprehensive booking calendar, he said. A community advisory group also will be appointed to work with the management as well, Kvartuc added.

    A professional operator also could be expected to bring in union labor, Allen said, something that could have ripple effects on grass-roots groups and theater patrons as booking and ticket prices are raised.

    Kvartuc said nonprofit rates will be established as part of the theater operation.

    “If you look around at city-owned theaters, almost all of them are managed by a nonprofit organization that has some relationship to the community,” Allen said, adding that it also would call for a more robust commitment from the city for capital improvements, staff and maintenance expenses.

    In his motion, Buscaino praised Grand Vision for raising more than $1 million for theater improvements over the years, in addition to creating programming and assisting with booking events.

    Because of its history, the Warner Grand is considered one of downtown San Pedro’s gems.

    Harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age, the Warner Brothers theater, which cost $500,000 to build and opened in 1931, almost didn’t survive when it fell on hard times. The city stepped in to purchase it in 1996 for $1.2 million.

    “I have to say it is quite heartbreaking to feel like our work on caring and loving the building may have to stop if a big corporation takes over,” Liz Schindler Johnson, executive director of the Grand Vision Foundation, said in a written statement Friday. “No matter what, we must ensure that the building’s historic integrity be preserved and that any changes be properly vetted by the community and historic preservation professionals.”isconception to think that there can be the sort of programming that such stages (as the Greek Theatre or Los Angeles Music Center) command.”

  • Ansonia, CT – Photographer hopes to spur rebirth of former Ansonia Opera House

    Image

    From the New Haven Register: A photographer with an eye toward keeping historic Valley locations alive through his lens will have his latest work published this fall.

    Emery Roth II, though not a Valley resident, took photos inside the former Ansonia Opera House downtown, which have been selected for publication in “Seeing in Sixes,” an art photography book due out this fall from Lenswork Publishing.

    Roth’s set of six images, titled “The Dressmaker’s Daughters,” will be featured.

    “I’m proud and honored,” Roth said.

  • August 8, 2016

    Asbury Park, NJ – Lost theaters of Asbury Park: The return of the Savoy

    Image

    From the Asbury Park Press: An Asbury Park treasure is coming back.

    The Savoy Theatre on Mattison Avenue is in the process of being renovated by its owner, Sackman Enterprises. The Savoy, purchased by Sackman in 2014 for $2.47 million, was built in 1911 as a stage for live entertainment. When it reopens for business, it will be the oldest operating theater in New Jersey.

    “It was built before there was any sound and lighting systems, so the acoustics are made for not having a sound system,” said Morgan Sackman. “It has a well-built balcony, and it’s a place where there’s not a bad seat in the house.”

  • Stoughton, MA – http://patch.com/massachusetts/stoughton/state-theater-renovation-funds-restored

    Image

    From the Stoughton Patch: After a veto from Gov. Charlie Baker, funds for the State Theater have been restored.

    State Senator Bryan Joyce recently announced that the state legislature has overridden the governor’s veto, restoring $50,000 in restoration funds for the State Theater. The building has stood in Stoughton Center for 86 years and opened in 1927 as a venue for movies and travelling vaudeville-style performers.

    The funds will go to updates and repairs needed to restore the building.

  • Medford, OR – Historic Holly Theatre on track to begin construction in 2017

    Image

    From the Mail Tribune: Although the Holly Theatre will spend its 86th birthday with floors uncarpeted and air unconditioned, organizers have high hopes for the historic building in the year ahead.

    Randy McKay, executive director for Jefferson Live!, which manages the building, said the planning stages are nearly complete for the theater’s restoration project to get underway in earnest. After months of effort and recent meetings with sound, lighting and theatrical rigging companies, McKay spent last week finalizing various design plans for the building on Sixth Street in downtown Medford, with the intention of turning estimated costs into actual ones. Preliminary fundraising figures, which McKay said will be updated Monday, show a total of $2,963,750 raised from approximately 1,700 donors, achieving more than two-thirds of a $4.3 million goal.

    When construction begins, monthly tours of the historic theater’s four floors — peppered with drawings, historic photographs and renderings — will come to an end.

    “If anybody wants an opportunity to take a tour, they’d better hurry,” McKay said.

    McKay plans to announce 2017 construction dates for the interior of the theater, pending continued fundraising success. The construction efforts would begin in the fall, however, with formal requests to bid on the various pieces of the project.

    “I am pretty certain we’ll announcing something in the fall,” McKay said.

    McKay, who has been involved with two California theater restorations prior to the Holly, says the momentum built from volunteers and the community will carry the theater to its completion.

    “Once a project is this far along, it’s a foregone conclusion,” McKay said.

  • August 5, 2016

    Robbinsdale, MN – Robbinsdale to consider fate of Terrace Theater

    Image

    From MPR News: The Robbinsdale City Council will consider the future of the historic Terrace Theater at its meeting Monday night.

    The venue has been closed since the late ‘90s. But when it was built in 1951, it was considered one of the most luxurious theaters in the country. It catered to movie-goers not only from around the metro, but from all over the country and abroad.

    Robbinsdale is now considering demolishing the building to make way for a new grocery store and other development. MPR’s Cathy Wurzer spoke with David Leonhardt, who chairs a local group that’s come together to fight that vision.

  • Baltimore, MD – Can we rescue Baltimore’s Mayfair Theatre?

    Image

    From The Baltimore Sun: fter decades of inaction, Baltimore’s Mayfair Theatre faces imminent demise. According to engineering reports commissioned by the Baltimore Housing Authority, all but the first 35 feet of the 1903 landmark — the façade and lobby — must fall to the wrecker’s ball because of public safety concerns. However, I cannot help but be skeptical. A blank slate may make it easier for redevelopment, but at what cost to the city? The Mayfair’s cultural and historical significance will be swept away in the rubble, along with the potential for an iconic addition to the city’s Bromo Arts District.

    The Mayfair is essentially three structures: the lobby, the auditorium and the fly tower. The Baltimore Development Corporation says that the roof over the lobby is the only portion of cover that’s intact, but upon inspection, the fly tower roof also appears whole, suggesting that this section of the structure may be stable and therefore salvageable. What were the engineers' findings on the west side fly tower? And what would be required to stabilize the north and south walls of the structure in lieu of demolishing them? The engineering reports and related correspondence should be shared with the public. Otherwise, it is difficult to be certain whether public safety or developer convenience is the deciding factor.

    Left intact, the Mayfair Theatre bears witness to Baltimore’s cultural shifts and creative adaptation through much of the 20th century. The site began life as a public bath house (vestiges still remain in the basement). As pastimes changed, the Mayfair evolved — as an ice skating rink, then a playhouse, a Vaudeville venue and finally a movie theater before closing its doors in 1980.

    The entire vicinity was once a vibrant center for arts and culture. The Stanley Theatre used to sit just north of the Mayfair; now a parking lot, the Stanley had been the largest theater in Baltimore. The Hotel Kernan around the corner (now the Congress Hotel) also began life as a Turkish bath house, and over the years featured a German beer hall and vaudeville theater presenting acts like Charlie Chaplin and Will Rogers. Into the 1980s, the basement’s Marble Bar hosted punk and new wave bands like REM and Iggy Pop, in addition to many talented local musicians.

    In 1993, Mayor Kurt Schmoke laid out a compelling vision for the Howard Street corridor as a magnet for artists and arts events. He understood the importance of building on the heritage and history of the area. In 2012, this vision was reinforced with the creation of the Bromo Arts District, which extends along Howard Street from Lombard to Read.

    Despite this broader vision, the BDC’s West Side Strategic Plan sought to “redevelop the Congress Hotel and the Mayfair Theatre to create desirable residential development.” But the last thing an old theater’s architecture lends itself to is apartments. RFP after RFP for mixed use residential retail developments were issued for the Mayfair. These were bound to fail, and they did time and again. In the meantime, neither the city nor BDC ever took action to stabilize this historic treasure. Instead, they awaited some potential developer to fix the roof. So this beautiful treasure sat exposed to the elements for nearly 20 years — demolition by neglect.

  • August 4, 2016

    Worcester, MA – A rare look inside Worcester’s abandoned Paris Cinema

    Image

    From MassLive: A tour through the present-day Paris Cinema makes one thing clear: If the theater is to be revitalized, there is a lot of work to be done.

    The Grid apartment complex, which owns the Paris Cinema, would like to demolish the dilapidated Worcester cinema and replace it with a beer garden, which would put on live shows and outdoor movie screenings.

    According to a Joe Donovan, vice president of MG2, the company that owns The Grid, said demolishing the building might only cost $500,000. A look at the inside of the old theater Monday shows the property to be in an intense state of decay, which Donovan said would cost upwards of $20 million to restore.

    “This is just my opinion here, but it seems to me with what we’re doing with The Brew and the significant capital investment we’ve put into the building, I don’t really see the Paris Cinema as a good representation of Worcester today, or Worcester tomorrow.” said Frank Peace, who is opening five restaurants in The Grid.

    The Paris Cinema was originally named the Capitol Theater, which opened in 1925. It closed down in 1966 for renovations and became the Paris Cinema in 1967, with the first showing being Bonnie and Clyde. By 1980 however, the cinema had become an adult movie theater, and it was closed down in 2006 by authorities following allegations of sex acts taking place in the building.

    There is another vote coming up in mid-August to determine the future of the Paris Cinema, where Grid representatives will argue that returning the theater to its former glory would be fiscally infeasible.