Showing 276 - 300 of 1,005 comments found
To the right (north) of the word on the roofline: CINEMA was originally the word in red neon script: “Westlane.” Of course, this was removed when Marcus bought the place to join its cinemas across the street, the SOUTHTOWN, which was by a different architect and therefore of an entirely different design.
Since the CINEMA WESTLANE was a template design, all the other such designs used the same rooftop sign “CINEMA” in the same large block white fluorescent-backed black letter blocks, with provision for a different neon name sign to the right of it. The others known were: the CINEMA BIG TOWN, Mesquite Texas; the CINEMA NORTHLAND, Jennings MO; and the CINEMA SOUTH COUNTY, St. Louis MO., all razed.
Here is the link to West Allis THSA member Joe Zollner’s photos of the SOUTHTOWN 5&6, the former CINEMA WESTLANE:
Showing the JERSEY may be both good and bad, depending upon how visionary the man is. If he sees the beautiful remainders of a movie palace and likes that form, he will be encouraged. If he sees only the many patches and all the work to come, he may see only even far greater expenses in the KINGS. All of this depends upon just what he really intends to do with the structure and land. Often times, prospective buyers will claim to be preservationists only to really be developers with ulterior motives. Of course, bruce1 is only doing someone a favor, and has no control over what such a person really may do. Let us hope the prospective owner has both noble intentions AND deep deep pockets!
There is only one antique photo of the interior that I know of, and it shows only the rear half of the auditorium. There is also one vintage photo of the facade. When I find a Web site with the proper terms to upload them to, I will scan my two xeroxes of the photos and you will be able to view them there. I will post the link when I select a free service that has some longevity of displayed images.
The CINEMA WESTLANE opened as a single screen circa 1970, on what was, and is, a principal highway on the western edge of Milwaukee county, and it is also a designed US highway and now is six lanes divided. Taking advantage of the adjacent shopping district, a subsidiary of the General Drive-In Corp. of Boston built a duplicate of a template cinema design by architect Maurice D. Sornick of Massepequa Park, NY, under local architect' supervision. This design is pictured in “Marquee” magazine of Second Quarter, 2004, on page 18, of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America (www.historictheatres.org). A two story high, glass walled lobby contained the most distinctive feature of the modernistic design: a lobby mezzanine screened off from the lobby by means of a new, white plastic grillework called “Sculpta-Grille.” The forty foot wide by ten foot high expanse lent a distinctive elegance to the channeled steel ceiling, huge white orb lights and synthetic wood veneers, but no such distinction was in the shelf-balcony auditorium. This was one of at least four such designs; others were in Texas and Missouri, all razed.
Many years later, the Marcus chain acquired it and renamed it the SOUTHTOWN 5&6 to link it to the SOUTHTOWN (then 1 through 4) directly across the street. No traces of any of these theatres remain, though a local member of THSA, Joe Zollner, did take demolition photos of the SOUTHTOWN 5&6 and when I find the link to them, I will post it here.
The RITZ was the sole movie house for the village of North Milwaukee until the village was annexed by Milwaukee. It struggled for years and stopped showing films on a regular basis in 1986 when Marcus theatres abandoned it. In its issue of Oct. 16, 1995, the “Milwaukee Journal” ran this article excerpted here, with a color photo of the auditorium:
“THEATRE SEEKS AN AUDIENCE; Film May Be Salvation For Movie House.
A movie that has succeeded despite the odds may be the salvation of a Milwaukee movie theatre that is struggling agains the odds to succeed.
The movie is "Sankofa,” an award-winning and critically acclaimed flilm playing this week at the Villa Theatre, 3610 W. Villard Ave.
The Villa is one of but a handful of Black-owned movie houses in the country. For more than seven years, its owners — Tanya and Herman Lewis — have tried to keep alive their dream of building the Villa into a cultural resource for the city’s African-American community.
Not without struggle. The Lewises have tried offering second-run movies at budget prices. They’ve tried offering first-run movies at regular prices. They’ve tried to turn the theater into a community center, opening its facilities to theater groups and educational programs. Nothing has caught on.
“The Villa has never, ever, made enough money to pay for itself,” Tanya Lewis said. “We have always had to subsidize it.”
When the theatre opened in 1926, it was called the Ritz. Through the years, its various owners have employed all kinds of tactics to fill the 680 seats. One of the strangest efforts came in the early 1950s, when the theatre implemented something it called “Dignity Nights.” On designated evenings, candy eaters, popcorn munchers and peanut shell snappers were corralled into a special section, protecting the aurally sensitive from the oral cacophony….
The theater had been closed for three years when in 1988, Tanya Lewis drove by and saw “For Sale” on the marquee. She went home and convinced her skeptical husand that they should buy the place. “We thought we were getting a deal of a lifetime,” she said. “A movie theatre for $50,000.” “It took us nine months to get it going. The building was just a shell. It needed everything. It had a projector, but no sound system. Just the platter and rewind table worked.”
The Lewises spent $120,000 on repairs, including $30,000 from the city. Lewis admitted that she and her husband knew little about running a movie house. “We didn’t even know how to pop popcorn,” she said. They learned. Everybody in the Lewis family learned….
In March, the Lewises decided the Villa just wasn’t working out. They closed the theatre and put it up for sale. If their decision had been reduced to a headline, it would have said ‘Villa a big mistake, Tanya, Herman agree.“ ….”
The photo shows the original single ceiling dome remains with its cove lights, but those lights were apparently too expensive and now only side wall up-lights serve. The murals between the pilasters are covered in plain red draperies and the Palladian-arched organ screens are the only ‘Mediterranean’ touch remaining to justify the name ‘Villa’, though the pipe organ disappeared long ago. Uplights hidden in their balconnets remind one of what it must have been like so many years ago. The theater has not appeared in the movie listings for a long time, and the status of it in this decaying area is unknown.
The STATE was a modest single story affair with a small lobby and 4-aisle auditorium on one level. The specifications of the small organ are unknown, but the space for any chambers was very small. There was never a stagehouse, so only a platform served below the screen upon the back wall, but a modest proscenium arch held a single line of draperies. It was typical box beams and pilasters decor with the wall panels being from seat back level to ceiling of panels of a damask fabric. The building had been reseated at least once. Behind the mansard roof over the projection room over the lobby, the remainder of the buiding is of cinder block construction. A scandal about a local athlete and a stripper there, ruined its faint image in the 1980s. One can only hope that this decaying neighborhood will see some enhancement if this movie house which was never a movie palace, is revived.
The CINEMA WESTLANE was originally a single screen designed originally by Sornick, of Massapequa Park, NY, as a template cinema for General Drive-In Corp. of Boston. At least 3 others of its design were built in Texas and Missouri, all razed. Yes, the CINEMA WESTLANE was across the street from the SOUTHTOWN, and later did become the SOUTHTOWN 5&6 under the Marcus ownership. The SOUTHTOWN did retain as its only auditorium decor, the 10-foot-tall silhouette fabric-covered panels of the letter ’S' back-lit by neon tubing right up to demolition. The plate glass lobby wall revealed the stone planters of dusty artificial plastic plants, some of which remained up to closing. Posters in frames were the only other real decor of this formerly lavish suburban (of Milwaukee) showhouse. With the extension of the strip mall now covering the site, there is nothing remaining of this cinema. Likewise, the ‘extension’ of it across the street is gone, with only a restaurant now occupying part of the site. The city of West Allis no longer has any theatrs.
Actually the original SOUTHGATE was a block south of the current SOUTHGATE-10, and scars in the same parking lot show where the older one stood. It was a shame that the older single screen was demolished, since it did show the attempts at decor when it was built about 1960. It had a little class with its plate glass walled lobby showing the wood panelled areas, whereas the 1994 multiplex has much smaller auditoriums but less character, though a larger lobby. The new version’s facade has a nice Art Deco look, but that is all that distinguishes it. Incidentally, the vintage shopping center is gone; some big box stores replaced it, but for a fragment retained on the south end. In 1950 it may have been the “south gate” of the city, but ensuing years found the suburbs moving ever farther south and west, so the old sign in the 27th St. boulevard “Welcome to Milwaukee” faded away and was never replaced as the actual city limits are now much farther south. The nearby POINT LOOMIS movie house of circa 1965, which became the POINT CINEMAS, was demolished a few years ago, but was part of the inducement for Marcus to build the second SOUTHGATE in competition.
Does anyone have any memories of the REGENT? A vintage view of it along with some other theatres is at: http://www.widenonline.com/moviepalaces.htm
Perhaps others have personal memories of this showhouse which they will share here. I did not grow up near it, but in the southern suburb of Greenfield, so am hoping that someone knows more.
These small cinemas are part of a shopping mall carved out of a 1920s automobile dealership’s indoor showrooms and garage. The massive concrete colums remain to support the two floors and lower level. It has never been a very thriving place with about 15 stores (often vacant) in addition to the cinemas which were intended as competition to the ORIENTAL movie palace a block away. There is no decor to speak of, and the lobby/concession stand is miniscule. It has never had a parking area, so relies on street parking and the walking distance of the area densley populated by students at the nearby U. of Wis. at Milw.
It should be noted that this building is in the city of West Allis, not Milwaukee, and still stands and while the theatre has been gutted from the building one can go into the 73rd St. side entrance and up stairs to where there is a men’s room in which one finds some of the original balcony steps. The blueprints are still at their city hall and also at the Wis. Architectural Archive downtown in the Central Library in Milwaukee. It was a single balcony design and is filed under: “Greenfield Ave. Theatre.” The 2nd West Allis Post Office was also designed into the building to the rear of the movie palace, and remained until the current WPA one with murals in the lobby was built four blocks westward in 1930. The CAPITOL had a Kilgen pipe organ of unknown specifications at one time. The only style discernable from the prints is a vague Beaux-Arts; it was a modest design; only one dim photo is known to exist of it, and it shows the main facade on the main street of this company town suburb of Milwaukee and the vertical sign rising above the then island box office, so long ago removed. No trace of the theatre remains aside from the odd balcony steps at some points. The dark brown brick was trimmed with limestone, but many years ago white aggragate marble chip panels covered the front windows of the office building.
About 5 years ago, this buiding changed hands from the electrical contractor office/warehouse it had been for years, and became a clothing store catering to this now heavily Hispanic neighborhood. The large enameled steel panels that had covered the facade were removed and in the process exposed the scars of the removed balconnets and bricked-up oculus that had adorned the blind second story main facade on 16th Street. Other panels now again cover the bruised brown brick work. The interior had apparently been a standard box beams and pilasters decor of the Photoplay Parlor era. The site never had parking of its own, but relied on the bus line that has always served that street which is at the end of a viaduct which had connected it to the downtown area across the wide Menomonee river valley to the north.
Thanks, Tim R., for providing these links which I had not seen. If you would like to be placed on my local list of those to receive occasional bulletins regarding local theatres developments, merely click on my name in blue below to be taken to my Profile page, and there click on CONTACT INFO and send me an E-mail with the word “theatre” somewhere in the Subject line.
To “UKuser”: You don’t give any contact information in your post or on your Profile page, so this will have to do.
The LOS ANGELES is one of the most lavish theatres remaining in the country and is even well documented in one of the ANNUALS of the Theatre Historical Society of America (www.historictheatres.org) and you would find it a very fine location.
However, you mention it in regard to the “paranormal” and if your quest is sincere and not merely a location for Halloween time special effects, then you are starting on a dangerous quest that could sooner or later cause you and yours injury! I have commented at length on this elsewhere here (can’t find the link) and elsewhere, so won’t repeat here, but do contact me via private Email if you want the gory details, by clicking on my name below in blue and noting the Contact data on my Profile Page to which you will be taken. I can likely save you horrors that you have no accurate knowledge of, and will dearly wish you had never encountered.
If you merely seek to do a real magazine piece on American movie palaces, then do contact the L.A. as well as the Society listed above, and they will be willing and able to assist you greatly. Best Wishes. Jim Rankin, member THSA since 1976
I am happy to report that the fellows at the site: Cinema Tour have added some 40 current color photos of the interior of the wonderful TAMPA. They are at: http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=6760 Here is my comment there on this wonderful addition:
Indeed, you shouldn’t miss the Tampa Theatre tour; Scott is to be praised for the fine photos of this “Anadalusian Bon-bon” as the late Ben M. Hall forever christened it in his landmark book: “The Best Remaining Seats” in 1961. For those who forgot their geography, Andalusia is a district in Spain, and for those not a terrible ‘sweet tooth’ as I am, ‘Bon-bons’ are little balls of soft, sweet somethings coated in chocolate or another flavor of glaze, hard to find now, but a favorite of the 19th century! The term means “good, good” in French.
That photo of the double-headed drinking fountain is especially good, in that it records what may be a one-of-a-kind, with the two water heads apparently voiding down into an ornate bowl.
That photo linked by ‘lostmemory’ is post 1976 “restoration” but pre-2000 addition of a single story extension on the right to the east, off of the carriage lobby which had been the old ticket lobby on this the front facade, but since ‘89 the box office and ticket lobby is to the west, off of the rotunda of the Milwaukee Center office building. This Carriage Lobby is still used but as overflow from the original lobby. It has had a crystal chandelier added by new owner Mike Cudahy, but I believe the original ceramic tile floor remains. The ornate wrought iron railing atop the canopy with its gilded portions now wraps around the east side of the building atop the new addition. Pity that the photo crops out the gilded lyre and urns atop the right roofline above the gilded letters of PABST THEATER which date from 1895.
Robert Bank: since you give no contact information either here or on your Profile Page, I cannot contact you. I imagine that I got that remark about condos from Joe DuciBella’s NewsFlash quote, but since I no longer have that quote/bulletin, I can’t swear to it. Possibly it was from something I had read elsewhere. You might try to contact Joe via his E-mail:
That photo mentioned above was taken prior to the purchase by the current owner who reportedly intends to rehab it as a performanced center of some sort. It appears the place will not become offices in any case.
I must beg to differ with Brian on this one. The article, if genuine, does mention theatres, and is perhaps not too rosy in its reflection upon the two men in question in the theatre business. Still, if any of the information is accurate, then readers who are involved with theatres that might possibly want to engage the men, they are right to be informed. While no one wants this site to turn into a debate about the merits of this or any other firm, factual revelations are in order when repedated from the public media. A brief reply by the men may be in order, but the discussion should end at that point. If the classic Latin phrase “Caveat Emptor” (Let the Buyer Beware) is true, then so is the concept: ‘Let the reader beware’ lest he believe everything he reads without further investigation.
“Lifes-too-short” is feeling the human suffering deeply, and I know that all of us sympathize with him as well as the millions that have, and are, also suffering along the entire area ravaged by the hurricane, but I think that for the moment, his emotions have blinded his logic. Yes, if the loss of a theatre or all the theatres there could somehow bring back even one of the dead and missing, that would be acceptable to me and most everyone here. People are vastly more important than buildings, as even any idiot would realize. But, as others have brought out so well here, this IS a site to discuss theatres, and so after we have each done what was withing our power to help the evacuees, it is indeed appropriate to discuss their theatres, for the theatres are what we dearly hope will become again part of their futures, not to mention ours.
If “Lost…” has shed a tear or two for the loss of life and property, then perhaps he can imagine that we others have too, but choose to do so silently; I hope he will respect our feelings in so doing. Now, let’s get back to being as optomistic as we can be about theatres and their futures, for in many cases they are the futures for evacuees who will return and rebuild, as was said here with all hope and respect by wiser people than me.
Here is news out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which I guess we had expect (via the free NewsFlash bulletin of the THSA (www.historictheatres.org):
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2005 21:43:29 EDT
Subject: Saenger Thr/Update 9/6/05
Many thanks to RICHARD SKLENAR for sharing this email with NEWSFLASH.
is a longtime THS member.
In a message dated 9/6/2005 12:58:10 PM Central Standard Time,
I just found out that the Saenger in New Orleans lost the organ
is under water, and part of the roof and they were just about to
$2,500,000 restoration before their fall season, which has been
I will let you know more as I learn more..
Alabama Theatre for the Performing Arts
Website www.alabamatheatre.com "
Will is probably quite right; most palaces had their stage levels below the sidewalk level in order to cause the sloping or raked floor down from the sidewalk/lobby level toward the stage for the sake of sight lines. However, there could have been a miracle, of course, so let us retain hope to the last.
While everyone here has primary concern for the people now destitute in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many have also been wondering about those memorable theatres down south, and perhaps the message from Theatre Historical Society member Bill Hooper, copied here from their NewsFlash bulletin, will shed some light, depressing though his accurate observations are:
THSA NewsFlash #242 (www.historictheatres.org)
“Date: Fri, 02 Sep 2005 11:17:47 -0400
Subject: Hurricane Damage Thoughts
Some thoughts from member BILL HOOPER:
The Saenger is a great theatre in New Orleans, but also very affected are the very active venues the 1926 Thomas Lamb’s State Palace (formerly Loew’s) on Canal Street across the street from the Saenger, & Lansburgh’s 1921 Orpheum ½ block away on University Place.
I don’t have an interior photo of the Orpheum here, but there are some of the State Palace at:
The condition of the New Orleans theatres is very worrisome in that
photos have shown Canal Street has at some point flooded to a depth of at least 3 or 4 feet. With the power out, the sump pumps couldn’t get the water out, & anyway the water would have no place to go as it’s pumped into the municipal drains which would be overrun at that point. At 4 feet above Canal Street, all the mechanical rooms (AC, boilers, electrical service entry, breaker panels, etc.) will have been underwater for a while & damaged. Wiring conduit will have been completely filled with water, further deteriorating any cotton-covered wiring which may still remain, corroding splices in junction boxes, etc. The auditoriums
are excavated sloping floors, so everything in the auditoriums on the
floor & sides will have been underwater: bottom of the prosc & side
walls, seats, carpets, etc., not just partway through the house but all the way back.
Compounding this is likely roof damage. There’s been little rain since the hurricane, but there will be, & theatre interior survival after hurricanes on the gulf coast has been completely dependent on very quick repair of the roof after the storm. Otherwise, the plaster interiors quickly disintegrate, dropping chunks of the ceiling, peeling off the walls, etc. Roof damage & entry of water there are the biggest threats to the theater. Unfortunately, with New Orleans undergoing a lockdown possibly for months for municipal emergency & cleanup services before contractors, etc. for individual buildings being allowed into the city, there will be many storms & much rain entering any damaged roofs & destroying the plaster interiors. Longer term, even after the roof is repaired, the water which entered rusts the metal lath behind the plaster & causes intermittent detachment of chunks of the interior. This damage
is not confined to only the auditorium, of course.
The New Orleans State Palace, Saenger, & Orpheum are very much
endangered. Besides New Orleans, there are a number of historic MS theatres in heavily-hit areas that can’t be easily accessed for assessment: the Saenger in Biloxi, the A&G in Bay St. Louis, & northward into the state. For example, Meridian, MS was heavily hit, but a MS ATOS member reports that the Temple Theatre in MS is fortunately not damaged."
I am sure that everyone hopes that somehow these treasures will survive mostly intact.