The latest movie theater news and updates

  • November 23, 2016

    Tacoma, WA – Broadway Center to kick off $6.5M campaign to restore Tacoma’s theaters

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    From the News Tribune: Comfy seats that help the acoustics. New plaster and paint. An outdoor performance plaza. Seismic safety. Symphony and band concerts in Tacoma’s Armory.

    Those are some of the additions the Broadway Center is planning as part of the 2018-19 restoration of the 1918 Pantages Theater.

    But first it must raise the final $6.5 million of a $24.5 million budget to pay for it. That campaign will kick off Monday in the Pantages lobby with a presentation, design previews and a sample of the new seats.

    “We are setting up the Pantages to serve the South Sound community for the next 100 years,” said Sara Kendall, campaign chairwoman and board member for the Broadway Center, which manages the city-owned Pantages, Rialto and Theater on the Square.

    “We want to keep it as a citizens’ asset, but we need to involve the whole community (in fundraising).”

    Of the total budget, $15 million has been secured, with $8 million from the city of Tacoma and $7 million from tax credits. Another $3 million from the state is to be confirmed.

    Kendall and Broadway Center Executive Director David Fischer say they hope most of the remaining $6.5 million will be raised before construction starts on the historic theater in May 2018.

    Any gaps are expected to be filled from money raised through 2019 from donors rewarded with their names noted on their seats.

    The Pantages and the adjacent Theater on the Square are to reopen in October 2019, Fischer said.

    Exterior work on the building — costing $2 million and completed over the summer — included cleaning, new windows, terra cotta repair and a paint job, including the bright red blade sign.

    Other elements of the restoration already announced include:

    ▪ Seismic refitting in a new design by the Tacoma design-engineering firm AHBL that lowers costs to $8.3 million.

    ▪ New seats for both theaters that will enhance acoustics, as well as a seat redesign in the Pantages with a center aisle and narrower rows that adds 140 seats to the 1,160 capacity, plus redesign of box seating.

    ▪ Restoration of plaster and paintwork.

    ▪ New light fittings for the house.

    ▪ A 14-foot, two-story extension to the building in the loading zone between the Pantages box office and stage door, allowing for quicker and cheaper set loading.

    ▪ ADA-friendly drop-off zone.

    ▪ Custom-built acoustic shell for the Pantages stage, with costs possibly shared by the Symphony Tacoma.

    ▪ An improved lobby for the Theater on the Square, including a door leading to the park area (which eventually might be redesigned), more restrooms and a permanent exhibit on civic leadership in Tacoma.

    New to the restoration plans is $1.1 million for outfitting the Armory for performances during the Pantages’ closure.

    Originally dropped as too expensive, work on the historic brick building at 715 S. 11th St. will include modifying its steep loading ramp, plus additions inside to improve the boomy acoustics. These could range from baffles to drapes to spray-on acoustic foam, said Fischer, who doesn’t know the details.

    The fund will pay for portable equipment such as seating, risers and lights that can be used in other venues.

    It also will offset financial losses for the two resident arts organizations that might use the venue — Symphony Tacoma and the Tacoma Concert Band — and the Broadway Center itself.

    The Armory is owned by developer Fred Roberson, but its street-level drill floor is managed by the Broadway Center, and Roberson has promised to donate the building to the nonprofit center in his will.

    In addition, he has installed more restrooms on the drill floor level and is working to renovate the northern end into dressing rooms and a green room by 2018.

    Yet, as Fischer acknowledges, the building wasn’t built for instrumental acoustics.

    “It’s pretty bad right now,” said Robert Musser, director of the Tacoma Concert Band, who held a trial rehearsal there in October. “The acoustics are really poor for any large ensemble: too bright, too loud, too harsh and hard to hear lines.

    “I’m sure there’s a way to make it acceptable, with enough money.”

    Other arts organizations will use the Rialto or the Theater on the Square, or — as the Tacoma City Ballet is doing – venues outside Tacoma.

    Also new to the plans is an outdoor plaza on the grassy slope between the Pantages lobby and the street.

    Graded at lobby level and including benches and a small stage, the area will be able to be covered, allowing for outdoor busking and performances. An electronic reader board on the street side will replace the light bulb marquee.

    Acoustic amplification initially included in the plans has been dropped due to costs and because it would impinge on historic plasterwork in the Pantages.

    About $2 million will go toward the fundraising campaign and other costs.

    Finally, $2.3 million initially intended for an endowment fund has been allocated to 10 years of future programming by the Broadway Center, which is a separate producing entity as well as a contracted theater manager.

    The programming will include in-house productions, education and community showcases, Fischer said, and free tickets or events. There also will be an annual leadership program in collaboration with the University of Washington Tacoma and the Washington State History Museum.

    “The Pantages is a treasure, but I’m particularly interested in the programming fund,” said state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, one of the many elected officials headlining the campaign. “The arts in Tacoma are so important for the growth of the city … and the Broadway Center has done a lot to engage really diverse communities.

    “I’m very supportive of keeping that going so that the arts are important for every person in our community, not just some.”

    Fischer sees the campaign as a continuation of the Broadway Center’s history of bringing government and community together for the arts.

    “It was the Broadway Center who started the first private-public partnership (for city development) in 1979, with the saving of the Pantages,” he said. “We’re proud of that.”

    For Kendall, the value of the $24.5 million restoration lies in a place for Tacoma to gather.

    “The theaters represent the heartbeat of the community, a place where we come to have our minds opened and share experiences,” she said. “This becomes a place for bringing the community together.”

    Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article115935283.html#storylink=cpy

  • New York, NY – “Mr. Apollo” Has All the Stories About the Historic Theater in Harlem

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    From WRTI.org: Since it opened its doors in 1913, the Apollo Theater has survived a series of iterations, closures, renovations, and shifts in direction. Its allure as a venue for jazz began in the 1930s with the debut of Jazz a la Carte, a show with an all-black cast.

    Soon after, the famous talent contest Amateur Night took off, with Ella Fitzgerald as an early winner on November 21, 1934. She was just 17.

    He sought relief in the shade near a stage door of the theater on 125th Street. Then the owner spotted him.

    The man who first opened the door for Apollo historian and tour guide Billy Mitchell was Frank Schiffman. Starting in the ‘30s, Schiffman played a key role in transforming the theater from its first life as an all-white (performers and audience, alike) burlesque house, to the renowned venue for jazz and popular African American performers.

    Billy Mitchell leads tours of the Apollo for hundreds of thousands of people who come to get closer to its remarkable past and present. He was recently in Philadelphia to speak at the University of Pennsylvania. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston sat down with him at Penn to learn about his fascinating start, his take on amateur night, and his backstage experiences.

  • Sault Ste. Marie, MI – Sault Ste. Marie theater to be renovated in $7M project (Soo Theater)

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    From the News-Review: A theater in Sault Ste. Marie is preparing to be restored to its 1930s glory through a $7 million capital campaign.

    The Soo Theatre Project is receiving support from the Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Development Authority, which pledged their resources and connections Wednesday to help complete the project in conjunction with the Sault’s 350th anniversary in 2018, the Evening News of Sault Ste. Marie (http://bit.ly/2fS4VTK ) reported.

    The authority’s director, Justin Knepper, said the project is getting closer to launching a capital campaign. Through grant matching and money raised from a summer concert series, there’s $70,000 in an account that can be used only for repairing the theater’s failing roof.

    “People are excited and there’s people talking about it,” said Knepper. “With our movie theater being gone, the Soo Theatre has been playing movies. There’s a lot more people going in there saying, ‘What the heck? Why isn’t this thing fixed?’”

    An architectural rendering in 2014 estimated it would cost nearly $7 million to restore the theatre to its original Spanish castle theme. A further estimate indicated the exterior and roof would be $650,000.

    “We pretty much have the entire detailed package ready to go in terms of starting a fundraiser process from a scientific standpoint,” said Knepper.

    He said 2018 could be the year the Soo Theatre restoration is made possible.

    “Maybe construction starts or we hit our goal with the fundraiser,” said Knepper.

  • November 21, 2016

    Milwaukee, WI – Marcus Theatres® to Acquire All 14 Wehrenberg Theatres Locations in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, with 197 Screens

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    From Business Wire: Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE:MCS), today announced it has signed an agreement to acquire the assets of Wehrenberg Theatres®, based in St. Louis, Missouri. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

    Wehrenberg Theatres is the oldest family-owned and operated theatre circuit in the United States, with 197 screens at 14 locations in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. Upon completion of the transaction, Marcus Theatres will increase its number of screens by 29%, operating 885 screens at 68 locations in eight states.

    The transaction is targeted to be completed in December 2016, subject to customary closing conditions, consents and approvals.

    “Acquisitions are an important component of our growth strategy and we are pleased to add the Wehrenberg Theatres locations to our circuit. The acquisition demonstrates our continued confidence in our theatre business. It will expand our presence in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota and extends our footprint into Missouri,” said Gregory S. Marcus, president and chief executive officer of The Marcus Corporation. “We anticipate a smooth integration of Wehrenberg Theatres into our circuit and expect the acquisition will be accretive to both earnings and cash flow.”

    Rolando B. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres, said, “Wehrenberg Theatres is highly respected in the industry, having served generations of moviegoers in four states with its premium service and strong family values. We will retain the Wehrenberg name on the acquired theatres. In addition, we look forward to working with the company’s associates to continue the tradition of excellence built by the Wehrenberg family. Once the transaction is completed, we plan to enhance the moviegoing experience at select theatres with features and amenities including our DreamLoungerSM recliner seating, premium large-format screens and signature food and beverage concepts.”

    The late Ronald P. Krueger inherited Wehrenberg Theatres in 1963 at the age of 22. Ron and his wife, Midge, operated the chain for many years and were very active in the St. Louis community. They strongly supported charities such as Will Rogers Foundation, Variety – The Children’s Charity of St. Louis, The Salvation Army, Shriners Hospital for Children and many others.

    “We are pleased Marcus Theatres will carry on the dedication to our customers and communities that has been a hallmark of Wehrenberg Theatres since 1906. Our two companies share the same philosophy – providing customers with the best entertainment experience possible. We were fortunate to find another family-led circuit which also understands the extra commitment it takes to serve our neighborhoods,” said William E. (Bill) Menke, president of Wehrenberg Theatres.

    The 14 Wehrenberg Theatres locations include nine in the Greater St. Louis area; one each in Cape Girardeau and Lake Ozark, Missouri; one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; one in Rochester, Minnesota; and one in Bloomington, Illinois. In conjunction with the acquisition, Marcus Theatres will acquire the underlying real estate for six of the theatre locations, as well as Ronnie’s Plaza, an 84,000 square foot retail center located at 5320 S. Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis.

  • Nampa, ID – New effort aims to restore historic Pix Theatre in Nampa

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    From kivitv.com: A key piece of downtown Nampa’s revitalization is still ahead with a new effort to restore the historic Pix Theatre. With the brand new public library right across the street, the foundation’s new executive director says the timing is right.

    But, let’s rewind for a moment. Imagine life without tv and radio on its way out. Seeing movies on the big screen was a part of people’s lives.

    Plus, there were plenty of perks.

    “A bag of popcorn, pop, a movie, it was all for less than a dollar,” said Debbie Lasher-Hardy, executive director for the Pix Anew foundation.

    Lasher-Hardy is the Pix Theatre foundation’s new executive director. It’s called Pix Anew. She wants to bring the historic movie house back to life.

    The last movie played on the big screen in 1999. Amid an effort to restore the theatre, the roof collapsed in 2003. All funds raised to date were poured into replacing the roof and removing asbestos from the premise.

    Looking at it today, you’d never know it was one of three theaters that were frequented in downtown Nampa back in the day.

  • Bells, TN – Historic Bells Theatre one step closer to encore presentation

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    From wbbjtv.com: The sound of applause will sound ring out again at the historic downtown Bells Theatre. “It’s been closed for 20 years, but the wallpaper, the lights, the seating, the velvet curtains — it’s all right there,” said Mildred Brimm, who says she grew up in the theatre.

    Brimm’s grandfather had a store beside the theatre. Now there’s an effort to make Bells Theatre the main attraction again, and it all started over a conversation at lunch.

    “We started looking at different places in our cities that maybe we’d forgotten but could be a great tourist attraction or something hidden, we need to bring attention to,” Charlie Moore with the Crockett County Chamber of Commerce said.

    That same day, they got the key and unlocked the door to the theatre and saw the work that needed to be done, but Brimm said it brought back so many memories.

    “When I walked in, it looked just like it did when I was a child growing up in this town. I could almost smell the popcorn,” Brimm said.

    Friday morning, state officials presented a round of grants to the city to make these efforts possible. A $380,000 grant from Tennessee Parks and Recreation, a clean energies grant for $350,000, and a $50,000 check from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Department of Rural Development.

    “The mayor referred to us as some bulldogs, and he’s right,” Sarah Conley with Crockett County’s Arts Council said. “We got a hold of this project and we’re not going to let it go until it is completed.”

    “They’re determined to do it, and I think they will,” Bells Mayor Joe Williams said.

    There is no word yet on when the $1.2 million project will reopen for its second act.

    “We’ve got to do it now. If we don’t, small-town America and the feeling of growing up in a small town is going to be lost,” Brimm said.

    The project still needs $185,000. If you would like to donate, visit the Facebook Page for the project, Save the Bells Theatre.

  • Fresno, CA – Suspects vandalize historic Warnors Theatre in Downtown Fresno

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    From abc30.com: Police are looking for the suspects who vandalized the historic Warnors Theatre in downtown Fresno.

    Owners arrived Sunday to find broken glass in front of the theatre and box office. The glass is virtually irreplaceable because of its original etching that dates back to the 1920s.

    It’s the second time that the booth’s glass has been shattered in the theatre’s history.

    “That’s what’s so heartbreaking it’s just no respect or care for other people’s property or of anything that’s of significance or historic value,” Sally Caglia with the theatre said. “To some people, it just doesn’t mean anything, and that just breaks my heart.”

  • Riverview, FL – Xscape Theater opens in Riverview

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    From the Tampa Bay Times: The new Xscape Riverview 14 screened its first film Wednesday night and fully-opened to moviegoers this weekend.

    The theater, located at 6135 Valleydale Drive just off of Progress Village Boulevard, officially opened on Friday, staging a ribbon cutting with the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

    The movieplex features floor-to-ceiling, 60-foot wide screens similar to IMAX.

    The auditoriums are equipped with Dolby Atmos, a 360-degree immersive surround sound system that can project noise from behind the viewer and emit bass frequencies that you feel in your seat.

    Viewing movies in these two auditoriums will only cost $1 extra.

    Xscape will be mostly a first-run cinema, focusing on major studio films rather than art-house or independent movies.

    But in an unusual move, it plans to have a curfew of 9 p.m. for under 17’s, so that grownups can see movies without the chatter of children and excited kicks on the back of their seats.

    In a sign of how fast it is growing, Xscape is not the only cinema set to open in Riverview this year.

    Goodrich Quality Theaters has constructed a 14-screen multiplex on Gibsonton Drive that is scheduled to open by Christmas, said Martin Betz, Goodrich chief operating officer.

    It too has recliner seats. Its IMAX equivalent is called Giant Digital Experience and features an 80-foot wide screen.

    By late January, the cinema will be complimented by a gastro-pub and restaurant.

    Xscape vice president of operations Scott Bagwell said he expects that his competitor will draw customers from the southern part of Riverview.

    Xscape patrons will likely come from north of the Alafia River and even from Brandon, now that there is an alternative to the traffic and crowds of the nearest multiplex in Regency Square, he said.

  • November 18, 2016

    Chicago, IL – AMC will operate Navy Pier’s upgraded IMAX movie theater

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    From The Chicago Business Journal: AMC, now America’s largest movie theater chain, is making a stand at Chicago’s Navy Pier, Illinois’s most-visited tourist attraction.

    Navy Pier and AMC announced on Tuesday that the Pier’s IMAX (NYSE: IMAX) movie theater is reopening for the holiday season under the management of AMC.

    The theater had been closed since August of this year for upgrades to the IMAX projection system, and will close again in early 2017 for several months for the installation of IMAX’s immersive 12-channel sound system, a renovated concessions area and new rocker seating.

    The new sound system coming next will year will include 12 discrete channels of sound to improve the sound system’s ability to position sounds around the theater and provide an immersive sound experience for the audience. The theater already is equipped with IMAX’s state-of-the-art laser projection system.

    Noted Mark Welton, president IMAX Theatres: “Our longtime partners at AMC share our commitment to providing moviegoers a truly unique and cutting-edge experience, and we’re excited to take that even further with the launch of our new laser system at Navy Pier.”

  • Montreal, Quebec – Site of Canada’s first movie theatre goes up in flames in Montreal

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    From TheStar.com:
    A massive fire appears to have caused extensive damage to a Montreal building famous for having housed Canada’s first-ever movie theatre.

    Fire crews responded to the blaze at 974 St. Laurent Blvd. on Thursday morning but were forced simply to contain the inferno and prevent it from spreading to other buildings in Montreal’s Chinatown district.

    What started out as thick black smoke quickly turned into hot, bright orange flames licking out the windows and eventually breaking through the building’s roof. Shortly before noon, a brick wall crumbled and fell under the intensity of the fire. It was followed by a loud boom from an unknown source.

    As fire crews trained their hoses on the blaze, a white smoke filled the skies above downtown Montreal, forceing many passersby to cover their mouths and noses.

    The commercial building, known as Edifice Robillard, is a designated heritage site.

    “It’s a four-storey commercial building whose fame is well hidden — that of housing the first interior cinematographic projection in Montreal on June 27, 1896,” reads an article published by the City of Montreal about the building’s historical importance.