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A story on the local news stated that the entire Startime Entertainment Complex shut down Sunday evening. This means that the game room, sports bar, comedy club, soda fountain, go cart track, and both putt putt golf courses, as well as the 10 screen movie theatre are now closed. This is somewhat surprising since someone had recently poured a ton of money into the theatre to replace all of the seats and carpet and install stadium seating in the six larger auditoriums. While I never saw an overwhelming number of people at the theatre, the complex as a whole seemed to always have a lot of people around. The Comedy Club especially seemed to do well.
The news story was rather vague on this point, but it appears that the operator of the complex either left or was forced out recently and the place was being run by the mall itself. Some of the other stores there have going out of business sales and it looks as if the entire mall may close.
Thanks for that picture Chuck. It brings back a lot of memories. I would occasionally visit family in Lyons and was always interested in the town theatre although the only movie I recall seeing there was “Night of Dark Shadows” in the fall of 1971. There were probably others.
I think that the Pal was closed the last time I was in Lyons, which would have been in the mid 80’s. It was certainly closed in 1986 when your picture was taken. A new twin theatre had opened in nearby Vidalia, and although Lyons is the county seat, Vidalia was the larger city.
Film Schedule 2003-2009:
Adventures of Ocee Nash
Lord of the Rings / 2 Towers
Lawrence of Arabia 70MM DTS (Last 70 to date)
Gangs of New York
Bringing Down The House
Rug Rats Go Wild
Gods and Generals
Wizard of Oz 1.85 matted to 1.33
Hairspray / Polyester
Phantom of the Opera Silent with Lee Irwin on the organ
Roman Holiday 1.33
Stroke of Genius (Screening)
Metropolis (Silent with Organ)
Big Ain’t Bad
Master and Commander
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship / Return of the King
Gone With The Wind
Ben-Hur 35MM Dolby A
Passion of the Christ
My Fair Lady 35MM mono
Raiders of the Lost Ark 35MM Dolby A
Stroke of Genius
Kill Bill 1 and 2
Doctor Zhivago 35MM Dolby A
Rebel Without A Cause / East of Eden 35MM Dolby A
Phantom of the Opera DTS
Beauty Shop / Barber Shop DTS
West Side Story 35MM Dolby A
Star Wars 3
Metal: A Headbangers Journey
Walk The Line
Raiders of the Lost Ark 35MM Dolby A
Miracle Worker 1.33 mono
Narnia: (6/26/06 First Digital Presentation)
Madea Family Reunion
Good, Bad, and Ugly
V For Vendetta
Maltese Falcon / Key Largo 1.33
Pride and Prejudice
X Men: Last Stand
Some Like It Hot Dolby A
Sound Of Music 35MM Dolby A
Casino Royale (Digital)
An Affair To Remember mono
Saturday Night Fever Dolby A
Meet The Robinsons (Digital)
Wizard of Oz 1.85 matted to 1.33
Spiderman 3 (Digital)
Shine A Light (digital)
Horton Hears A Who (digital)
No Country For Old Men (digital)
Ben-Hur 35MM Dolby A
Sex And The City (digital)
Kung Fu Panda (digital)
Mama Mia (digital)
Indiana Jones 4 (digital)
Quantum of Solace (digital)
Cleopatra 35mm mono
Gone With The Wind
To clarify my description of the picture in the above post, the theatre is in the lower left hand corner of the mall, not the picture itself. It is the small white building sticking out from the mall.
I have also noticed that some more pictures have been added. If you will click on the page 2 link and scroll about half way down, you will see a fine picture of the marquee, one of lobby and concession stand, and one of the auditorium.
The narrative states that the theatre opened on Christmas Day of 1964.
I can supply a little information for this theatre as I attended it several times while growing up in Birmingham. Eastwood Mall was the first enclosed mall in Birmingham and was located at the extreme eastern edge of Birmingham on US 78 near the Starlight Drive In and the great Golden Rule BBQ.
It was opened by the Cobb Theatre company in the early 60’s, probably around 1964. Although not unusual compared to most other theatres of its era, it marked a major change in Birmingham movie theatre history. Until it opened, 95% of first run movies opened at one of the four major downtown theatres, the Alabama, Ritz, Melba, and Empire. Eastwood was the first suburban first run theatre, and the seating capacity was probably around 600. The style was definitely the 60’s living room look with draped auditorium walls and sofas and chairs in the lobby. The lobby was open air to the Mall itself and at night was secured by a wire gate. The box office was a desk like counter at the entrance to the lobby.
Among the movies I can remember seeing at Eastwood were Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The Great Race, Khartoum, and The Battle of the Bulge. I am sure that there were others, and a look at that list shows that it booked a lot of prime movies. I remember Sound of Music and Battle of the Bulge were reserved seats. Business was so good here that Cobb soon opened a twin across the road in the new Village East Shopping Center. These were just a couple of ugly shoebox houses and perfect examples of the bland style of 1970’s era theatres. The Eastwood fell victim to the twinning plague that swept the country in those days and was split down the center in the mid 70’s.
As with so many of the early malls around the country, by the late 80’s Eastwood Mall found itself in a shabby state and far outclassed by the newer malls, Brookwood and Galleria. The mall was gutted and the wing that included the theatre was torn down and completely rebuilt, without a movie theatre presence.
The wonderful website, Birmingham Rewound, has a page on Eastwood Mall:
View link Click on this link and scroll to the last picture for an overhead view. The theatre is in the lower left and the drive in is in the upper right.
In 1998, and again in 1999 I made the trek to Dayton to experience Cinerama at the Neon. In 1998, the Saturday feature was This Is Cinerama, and in 1999 it was Cinerama Holiday, in glorious Eastman pink. Both times the Sunday feature was How The West Was Won. Given the friendly and informal atmosphere of the New Neon Movies, we were invited to look the place over on Friday night.
Since the Cinerama projectors must be mounted at screen level to avoid the vertical keystone effect, we were able to get an up close look at the whole operation. The side projectors were located in the back corners of the auditorium while the center projector was located in the lobby itself with the beam shooting through a hole cut in the back wall of the auditorium. The 7 track sound projector/processor was located next to the center projector. The entire presentation was run by John Harvey who alone did the work of the four to seven man crew used in the Cinerama days.
Despite the somewhat slap dash nature of the set up, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the presentation. Although the New Neon was small, with about 220 seats, from the fifth row of seats we were treated to an experience equal to that at the Seattle Cinerama and superior to the one at the Dome. Great sound, incredible picture, and a great time was had by all.
An article recently appeared in Slate magazine on the subject of Cinerama. This is the paragraph that mentioned the Neon:
Cinerama faded before I was born, but my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, became the unlikely site of a Cinerama revival in the ‘90s, thanks to the efforts of Dayton projectionist John Harvey. Harvey had previously set up a Cinerama screening room in his ranch homeâ€"eliminating two bedrooms in the processâ€"and helped the National Media Museum in Bradford, England, set up Cinerama projection in 1993. In 1996, Harvey moved his home equipment to the Neon Movies, a downtown theater that had served as a pilgrimage site for Daytonians seeking art house fare since the mid-'80s. Harvey’s Cinerama setup was supposed to have a one-month stay. Instead, it stuck around for more than three years, attracting widescreen enthusiasts like Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante.
Keith Phipps writes about movies for The A.V. Club, the entertainment section of the Onion.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2204189/
Link for the Columbia page. Listed as Atlanta Theatre.
Nothing but a dirt lot now.
Three screen Cinerama was long gone by the time I arrived in Atlanta. My only experiences with that format were at the Ritz in Birmingham, and the New Neon in Dayton. However, I do have some knowledge of the theatres mentioned in this article, so I will confine myself to that subject.
The Roxy (CT: /theaters/10331/ ) was the first Cinerama theatre in Atlanta, and like the Ritz was a conversion of a 30 year old movie palace. Some of the comments on the CT page are in error and some contradict each other, but one in particular is useful in describing the effects of the conversion. It had been reconverted to a traditional layout by the time I first attended a movie there in 1968, so there is not much I can add.
Martin Cinerama (CT: /theaters/4784/ ) started out life as the Erlanger before being renamed the Tower, or maybe it was vice versa, resembled the old Loews Grand in size and shape, and was a fine venue for live shows and movies for close to 30 years before being purchased by the Martin chain and converted to Cinerama. The conversion turned the theatre into a luxury showcase and was my favorite of all of the theatres that I have worked in during my 40 or so years in this business. By the time I showed up all of the Cinerama projection equipment was long gone, and the A and C projection booths were used for store rooms. The ribbon screen was still there, but it was removed in 1971.
After Circus World, Martin moved their Cinerama efforts to the new Georgia, which was in the northern suburbs and had acres of free parking. The Martin continued to do business as it became the home of the big musicals of the 60’s. Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Camelot all had roadshow engagements here. Sound of Music played for 18 months. 2001 was the only other Cinerama to play here during the late 60’s. The only addition I have to make to Michael’s list is to state that both Custer of the West and Krakatoa East of Java did play here. Eventually. After Martin sold the location to Walter Reade Org. those two titles played as a double feature sometime in 1971, or perhaps 1970.
The removal of the Cinerama ribbon screen took place because of yet another big budget musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This was at the insistence of United Artists Pictures. Reade would not pay the extra bill for a 70MM print and UA would not allow it to be run in 35MM on the huge, curved Cinerama screen because of the light and focus problems. For the 70MM reissue of This Is Cinerama a solid 95 foot screen was installed.
The Georgia Cinerama was built in the mid 60’s strictly as a single strip 70MM Cinerama house. There was never any 3 screen plan for this site. (CT: /theaters/11568/ ) As Michael’s list shows, it ran most of the 70MM releases, and if my memory is correct all were big reserved seat, roadshow type presentations, usually far in excess of the quality of the film itself. The Cinerama screen, which was solid not ribbon, was removed in 1971 and a smaller screen with a more shallow curve installed.
The Georgia was later twinned and is now a church. Both the Martin and Roxy are in the landfill.
More Fox Summer schedules. As you can see, it is turning into more of a revival of the previous years hits and ending with the May and June hits from earlier that summer.
L.A. Confidential DTS
Les Miz SR
Titanic (4 Days) 70MM DTS
Barney’s Great Adventure SRD
City of Angels
Easy Rider / 5 Easy Pieces 35 mono
Quest For Camelot SRD
Can’t Take It With You / It Happened One Night 1.33
Gone With The Wind
Horse Whisperer SRD
Mask Of Zoro
Saving Private Ryan DTS
Rug Rats DTS
Vertigo 70MM DTS / Psycho 35 mono
Shakespeare In Love SRD
Stagecoach 1.33 / Liberty Valance 35 mono
Blazing Saddles / Young Frankenstien (both mono)
Babe: Pig In The City
Driving Miss Daisy
Life Is Beautiful
Something About Mary
Tea With Mussolini
Prince Of Egypt
Wizard Of Oz 1.85 mat to 1.33
Shy Who Shagged Me
Wild Wild West
70th Aniversary 12/99
Jingle All The Way SRD
It’s A Wonderful Life 1.33 mono
White Christmas 1.66 Vista Vision
Toy Story 2
My Dog Skip
Road To El Dorado
Sound Of Music 35MM Dolby
Scream 3 / Scary Movie
Raiders of the Lost Ark 35MM Dolby
Mission Impossible 2
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
O Brother Where Art Thou
Bridget Jones Diary
Best In Show
Dr. Strangelove / Clockwork Orange
Emperous New Clothes
1/25/02 LaBelle et Le Bete (Beauty and the Beast) Silent w/ Phillip Glass Orch.
1/26/02 Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out Of Balance)
Lord of the Rings
We Were Soldiers
Some Like It Hot / Apartment
Gone With The Wind
2001 70MM mag
Last Waltz 35MM / Lets Spend The Night Together 70MM
Men In Black II
Star Wars 2 (Clones)
I am afraid that I can not help with the Planet of the Apes marathon dates. I was managing a theatre at that time and had enough work to do without keeping up with things which I used to find pleasure in doing. However, I no longer have to worry about that and have had time to list some more Summer Film Series schedules:
Fantasia 70MM @ 1.33
Sound of Music 70MM
42nd Street 1.33 mono
Memphis Belle 70MM
GiGi 35MM Dolby
Dances With Wolves 35MM Dolby
Home Alone 35MM Dolby
Fiddler on the Roof 70MM
Gone With The Wind 1.33
Buster Keaton Festival with Dennis James on the organ
Breakfast At Tiffanys 35 mono
Beauty and the Beast 70MM
Father of the Bride
Star Trek 6 70MM
Fried Green Tomatoes
Far and Away 70MM
Out of Africa 35MM
A Few Good Men
Oklahoma 70MM @ 30 FPS
A River Runs Through It
Last of the Mohicans 70MM
South Pacific 35MM mono
Howards End 70MM
A League of Their Own
Scent of a Woman
Oklahoma 35MM Dolby Paramount Center FPS
Jurassic Park (first DTS)
Remains of the Day
Joy Luck Club
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Age of Innocence
Going My Way 1.33
Affair To Remember / Sleepless In Seattle
Sunset Blvd 1.33
Wild Bunch 70MM
Saturday Night Fever
Dumb and Dumber
Madness of King George
Legends of the Fall
My Fair Lady 70MM
Doctor Zhivago 35MM DTS
Best Years of Our Lives 1.33
Gone With The Wind 1.33
North By Northwest
July 8: 2PM West Side Story 35MM Dolby
July 8: 8PM Doctor Zhivago 35MM Dolby
July 9: 2 PM Day @ Races / Night @ Opera 1.33
July 9: 8 PM Casablanca 1.33
July 10: 2PM Jaws
July 10: 5PM Raiders of the Lost Ark
July 10: 8PM Close Encounters
July 11: 2PM Searchers 1.66
July 11: 8PM Lawrence of Arabia 70MM
July 12: 2PM Singing In The Rain 1.85 matted to 1.37
July 12: 8PM Chariots of Fire
July 13: 10AM Wizard of Oz 1.85 matted to 1.33
July 13: 2PM and 8PM Gone With The Wind
Aug. 7: 2PM Snow White 1.85 matted to 1.33
Aug. 7: 8PM Sound of Music 35MM Dolby
Aug. 8: 2PM King Kong / Tarzan both 1.33
Aug. 8: 8PM Ben-Hur 35MM Dolby
Aug. 9: 2PM Beauty and the Beast 35MM Dolby
Aug. 9: 8PM Citizen Kane
Aug.10: 10AM Toy Story
Aug.10: 2PM Dr. No / Goldfinger
Aug.10: 8PM 2001 70MM
Aug.11: 2PM Phantom of the Opera (Silent) with Dennis James on the organ
Aug.11: 5PM Toy Story
Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
English Patient 35MM SRD (first Dolby Digital)
Vertigo 70MM DTS (first 70 DTS)
When We Were Kings
Bridge on the River Kwai
Hunchback of Notre Dame SRD
Nov. 14, 1997: Merry Widow (silent) with Dennis James
The Shades Mountain Drive In was located on Hwy 31 in Vestavia Hills. In the late 60’s is was demolished and a shopping center was built on the site. A Red Lobster now sits where the screen once stood. The drive in moved down to the foot of the hill just north of where I-65 crosses 31. The name was changed and I think the new one was called the Thunderbird. In the 70’s it was leveled and a small shopping center with a twin theatre was built in its place. The theatre soon became a draft house and is now a computer repair store the last time I noticed.
I think that the drive in located just east of Eastwood Mall, near the old Birmingham Hotel was called the Starlight.
I am not aware of a Carleton Heist that ever managed a theatre, but for years I worked with someone of that name who was the projectionist at the Greenbriar, Shannon, and finally some General Cinema locations. I will pass this on to him. Can he contact you through your member profile?
I was never aware of this place when it was a twin. I do know that it was opened by the Martin chain in 1965 (January I think) on the same day that they also opened the Village and Eastgate. The Eastgate was later renamed Suburban Plaza. All three were later purchased by Georgia Theatre Company.
On occasion it would do good business over the years, but for the most part GTC would put most of their booking efforts into the 1100 seat Greenbriar Mall theatre across the Lakewood Freeway, especially after the Greenbriar was twinned. It was fairly common for the bigger attractions to open at Greenbriar and later move across to Westgate.
The biggest year I can remember for the Westgate was 1974. During the spring and summer Westgate opened The Sting the day after it left its exclusive run at the Georgia Cinerama and The Exorcist the day it went wide from its run at the Phipps Penthouse. Both of these locations were so far away from SW Atlanta that it was like getting these pictures first run. That, combined with an unusually strong slate of movies opening wide rather than exclusive run, made for big business here. Some of those other features were Mr. Majestic, Paralax View, My Name Is Nobody, and the prequel to Billy Jack reissue of Born Losers.
With its three screens, a megaplex in those days, a poor year at the Lenox, which was tied to the fortunes of the United Artists Pictures release schedule, and the fact that the Greenbriar spent some time closed for twinning, Westgate was one of the top grossing theatres for GTC in 1974-5. The EFC Ben Hill Twin just down the road was never much of a factor.
Since its closing the theatre has been a church, and amusement hall and even had a go as a nightclub following the demise of the famous Mr. V’s Figure 8 Disco with its trademark “Earthquake Sound.”
Movie Lineup 1983-1990:
For Howard, and anyone else who finds this type of thing of interest, here is a list of the attractions from some of our summer movie lineups. Just to correct a mistake I made in a previous post, Coca Cola has been the sponsor only in more recent years. Before that it was Delta Air Lines. I am still digging through some of the old paperwork on the earliest years, but here is the lineup, as complete as I can make it, starting in 1983, which was year seven. You can see that even then they were showing fewer classics and more of the hits from the previous year. Where the information was available I have made a note concerning 35 or 70MM and what type of sound, or any other notes regarding presentation.
Doctor Zhivago: June 13
Dark Crystal: July 8
Sound of Music: July 18
Fiddler on the Roof: July 20
Giant: August 1
Gandhi: August 29
Gone With The Wind
The Right Stuff: October 20 (Invitation Only Premiere)
House of Wax: 3D, Halloween weekend.
Around The World In 80 Days: June 8
Oklahoma: June 25
Yentl: July 2
Heidi: July 9
Thief of Baghdad: July 14
A Star Is Born: July 16
Superman: July 23
Cleopatra: July 30
3 Coins In The Fountain: August 6
Doctor Doolittle: August 20
Never Cry Wolf: August 27
Greystoke: September 3
Temple of Doom
American In Paris (1.33)
Bridge On The River Kwai
South Pacific (35MM mag)
The King And I
Bringing Up Baby (1.33)
Star Trek 3 (70MM)
Hello Dolly (70MM)
Daddy Long Legs
Chariots Of Fire (35MM Dolby)
West Side Story (35MM mag)
Back To The Future (70MM)
Gone With The Wind (1.33)
Chorus Line (70MM)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Rocky and Bullwinkle (16MM)
Out of Africa: July 20 (70MM)
Glen Miller Story: July 28
New York New York: August 4 (35MM mono)
Funny Girl: August 6 (35MM mono)
High Society: August 22 (35MM mono)
Lawrence of Arabia: August 31 (35MM mono)
White Christmas: December 28
Music Man (35MM mono)
Top Gun: June 10 (70MM)
Grand Hotel (1.33)
Oliver: June 29
American Tail (35MM Dolby)
Color Purple: July 13 (35MM mono)
Little Shop of Horrors: July 17 (70MM)
Crocodile Dundee: July 28 (35MM Dolby)
Singing In The Rain: August 4 (1.33)
Star Trek 4: August 10 (35MM Dolby)
Camelot: August 24 (70MM)
The Mission: August 31 (70MM)
Thats Entertainment (70MM)
The Last Emperor (70MM)
3 Men And A Baby (35MM Dolby)
Some Like It Hot
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1.33)
Roxanne (35MM Dolby)
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1.33)
Bye Bye Birdie (35MM mag)
Empire of the Sun (70MM)
Phantom of the Opera (1.33 Silent) with Dennis James on the organ
Gone With The Wind: June 5-8 (1.33)
Accidential Tourist June 15
Pink Floyd: The Wall: June 16
Rainman: June 19 (35MM Dolby)
Babes In Arms: June 26 (1.33)
Big: June 29 (35MM Dolby)
Goodbye Mr. Chips: July 3 (1.33)
Wizzard of Oz: July 6 (1.33)
Roger Rabbit: July 20 (70MM)
Twins (35MM Dolby)
The Women (1.33)
Woodstock: August 16 (35MM mag)
Lawrence of Arabia (70MM)
Hamlet: November 18 (1.66)
Gone With The Wind: December 29 (1.33 Dolby) Fox 50th Anniversary
Littlest Mermaid (70MM)
Honey I Shrunk The Kids
The Bells Are Ringing
I. Jones and the Last Crusade (70MM)
Hunt For Red October (70MM)
Driving Miss Daisy (35MM Dolby)
Phantom Of The Opera (1.33 Silent) with Dennis James on the Organ
Has anyone heard of any plans to show How The West Was Won here on or before its Blu-Ray release date?
That was during my college years so I was the theatre gofer. I would change the marquee, pick up film, change light bulbs, and fill in whenever there was a need on the floor crew. Jack was one of that unfortunate group of EFC managers and projectionists who were carted off to jail for the crime of managing a theatre that was booked with “Oh Calcutta” all in the name of getting some free publicity for the Fulton County solicitor. Jack was the relief manager for the Atlanta area theatres at that time, but the manager of the Ben Hill quit rather than take the chance of going to jail so Jack got sent out to take the fall. For a short while after that he ran the Belvedere.
That was in 1972. By 1973 he was at the Toco Hill and he stayed there until at least 1975. The only notable thing that I can remember about his tenure at Toco was that “Deliverance” was booked on the intermediate break the day after it left its first run engagement at the 12 Oaks. The 12 Oaks was only about 5 or 6 miles away, but “Deliverance” ran at Toco for 14 weeks in the days that 4 to 6 weeks was considered a long run. It left for two weeks then came back for two more.
I ran into Jack again in 1977. By then he was managing a theatre for Georgia Theatre Company, the Village, I think. Later he was relief manager at Village, Suburban Plaza, South DeKalb, Westgate, but not Greenbriar for some reason. I always thought Jack a nice guy and pleasant enough to work for. He had one remarkable habit that I would never have had the nerve to try to get away with. In all of the times I worked for or with him I never knew him to have a home telephone in those pre cell phone days. Or, if he did he never told the company the number. This eliminated the aggravation of the company calling you on your day off and telling you to get to work, or switching you assignment for the day to some hell hole on the far side of town.
I have finally located the article from the newspaper announcing the first use of the digital projector at the Fox. “Narnia” was the feature. CT requests that we not cut and paste entire articles due to copyright concerns, but here are some sentences from the article that are of interest to this thread:
Projectionist Scott Hardin, who’s manned the booth for 29 consecutive Fox Summer Film Festivals, says he’s “kind of had to pinch myself” over the latest enhancement. “I’ve been anticipating this day for so many years.”
Instead of huge reels of celluloid, he’ll download “Narnia” from a removable hard drive into a new Dolby server, which will play it back through the NEC digital projector.
The projector is among the most powerful on the market. It has to be, because it must “throw” the image 160 feet, from the rear of the auditorium to the screen, more than double the distance in many cinemas.
Fox officials aren’t yet certain which remaining summer films will be available to be shown digitally, but they expect them to include “V for Vendetta” (July 31) and the recently booked “The Da Vinci Code” (Aug. 17). Other titles, especially older ones such as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (July 17), will continue to be exhibited in 35mm format. And the lyrics for the follow-the-bouncing-ball singalongs before every feature will still be shown via the decidedly retro Brenograph glass-slide projector that, remarkably, operates from the same spot it did in 1929.
The article is dated 6/26/06.
First let me say that I have enjoyed your posts on the Ziegfeld and RCMH pages of this site. I need to say that the technical side of this business is not really my field. Having started out my theatre days downstairs, and later in management, this site, especially the Ziegfeld page which has turned into something of a blog on showmanship in general, is more in line with my interests.
Your Ben-Hur write up reminded me of something that I had known about but did not think to consider when this subject came up. As I remember the story, Ben-Hur was filmed in 2.76 to 1 but the action was centered within the frame in something like 2.55 to 1 so that the theatres of the day could show it without cropping out anything important. Sort of an early version of what I understand Super Panavision to be. If my understanding of that is correct then I guess I owe Mr. Wade an apology since it is possible that he did indeed see an earlier screening of Ben-Hur in the wider 2.55 version. There are a couple of reasons that this is possible.
First is the way the curtain and masking operate. Instead of the local megaplex method of having someone in the booth hitting a button to move the masking back and forth (or up and down as the case may be) to one of two preset positions, the masking at the Fox is set by stagehands pulling the ropes. This allows the masking to be set to accommodate even the smallest variables in the size of the image. Second is the fact that the head projectionist at the Fox, who has been there since that first showing 30 years ago, is a true perfectionist. Before each show, he makes sure that the side and top masking is set to expose every possible inch of screen surface. So, if the image on the print was greater than 2.35 to 1, I am sure that the masking marks were set at the points needed to show every bit of it. Also, the Fox has had several screens over the past 30 years, the first of which, like the projectors, was the refugee from the Loew’s Grand. It might have had different dimensions and been slightly wider than the ones that followed which were measured to fit the layout of the Fox.
As for your visit to the Fox booth, that must have been in the fall of 1974. The Fox was still a grind movie house in those days but would occasionally cancel an evening for live shows in an effort to keep the doors open. Those projectors are long gone. If you want to wade through my post from last year, that story is in there, somewhere. That was during my theatre managing days and was long before my days of working in the Fox booth.
Your comment on the Turner letterboxing story reminds me that there was a VHS release during the 80’s that was pan and scan except for the race which was letterboxed. I never actually saw it but have heard several people mention it so it is probably true.
Your mention of the Martin Cinerama brings back good memories as it was my favorite of all the theatres I worked in, even if I was only an usher working my way through college. It was located only a couple of blocks from the Fox, operated under several names over the years, and is listed on this site as the Atlanta Theatre. When Martin renovated it for Cinerama they put in the 146 degree ribbon screen. I never saw three screen Cinerama there, but did see numerous 70MM presentations using the projectors that were installed starting with Mad Mad World. I regret to say that the theatre now resides in the landfill and the site now serves as a parking lot.
Starting 30 years ago the Fox ran a true “classic” film series usually scheduled for ten straight Monday nights. As the Fox started to emerge from the run down shell it was during the mid 70’s into the palace it is today, more week long stage show and single night engagements made running a consistent schedule difficult. When the series started it was known as the Coca Cola Family Film Festival and the schedule consisted of the usual suspects of classic films plus a good number of more recent (for the 70’s) films that were available in 70MM. Although a couple of my favorites, Patton and Oliver, only ran once, others like Ben-Hur, My Fair Lady, and of course Gone With The Wind, ran numerous times. I will try to look up the titles of these years and post a list a la Michael Coate.
In more recent years 70MM has almost vanished. The last ones I recall were 2001 in 2002, and Lawrence of Arabia a couple of years later. Also, the classics started to drop out in favor of more recent releases and we are lucky to see more than one or two such films per summer. In the 90’s the “Family” aspect was also dropped so “R” rated films could be run. In recent years, the earliest of that summers releases have been available by the end of the summer for a final chance for people to see them before the DVD comes out.
As for the method used for presentation, it is either 35MM or 2K. For the recent releases, anything that was released in 2K or 4K and is available, is run in 2K. All of the older films that were released in the days of film only are still run on film since there does not seem to be any movement toward putting golden oldies on 2K digital. This summer is a good example with Casablanca and Ben-Hur on 35MM and everything else, so far, on 2K digital.
We can hope that one day the studios will see the value in putting classic movies on 2, 4, or 6K digital. That way they would be more available and the studio would not have to worry about someone cutting the leaders and tails off of their “archive” prints or damaging them in any number of other ways.
REndres: I enjoyed your post and I do have a couple of comments, but no time at the moment. Hopefully tonight.
Hello Howard: Always good to hear from another refugee from the Zeigfeld page.
Yes, Enchanted was shown in 2K.
Last year I was surprised to hear that even some of the recent movies released in Digital Cinema would not always be available in digital editions. The equipment used to send the download to the theatres has the content erased so that it can be reused. This makes sense although I would have thought that a couple of editions might have been kept intact just the way prints of old movies are. That may well be the case, since as far as I know the movies that have been released digitally have still been available up to a year later.
So far this year, the Fox has run a recently struck 1.33 to 1 print of Casablanca (mono), and the above mentioned Ben-Hur. Everything else has been Digital Cinema 2K.
I will have to confess that I am not a movie “purist” when it comes to new technology. As long as the content is not tampered with I am happy to see the classics updated from mag to Dolby stereo and Dolby and DTS digital sound. If no 70MM prints are struck for Ben-Hur next year, I would like to see it offered as a 2K or 4K digital download. As Mr. Wade noted, the Fox booth has a tremendous throw to the screen which is accompanied by a vertical keystone. Good people can disagree on matters such as this, but I think that unless you get a brand new well timed 35MM print, the digital picture looks better.
Although not the point of this comment, I will note that as I write this at 6:28 PM on 7/17/2008, exactly 30 years ago, almost to the minute, I was walking into the Fox Theatre to see the first movie presented there since the place closed up on January 2, 1975. The feature: Ben-Hur, in glorious 70MM. I have described that event in more detail than anyone would care to read in my earlier post so I will get to the point. This comment will hopefully clear up a few of the technical questions raised by Mr. Wade in the above post.
As for the media used to present Ben-Hur, I can assure everyone that there was nothing digital about it, even, unfortunately, the sound. It was a 35MM print struck on May 9, 1993. This meant that while the sound was Dolby Stereo, it was analog since Dolby Digital did not come along until mid decade. Considering its 15 year age it was in pretty good shape, but I think that its condition could kindly be described as “Best Available”. As with any print that old there were numerous and noticeable dirt type scratches at the beginning and end of each reel, and repeated build ups and tear downs for platter screenings had resulted in missing frames. Fortunately, the Overture, Intermission tag, and second half walk in music were included although splices at the beginning of the Intermission tag and end of walk in music indicated that at least once someone had run this print straight through without an intermission. A real crime against showmanship in my opinion.
The size of the screen at the Fox is as large as it has ever been, and as large as it can be. Although there is some more room on the sides for a wider screen, there is no more room at the top. Since all of the vertical space is being used, expanding the width would cause the top and bottom to be cropped off. This is a problem I described in my original post where I pointed out that the Fox is a hybrid, designed as an auditorium, not a movie theatre or stage show venue. The image projected for Ben-Hur and other cinemascope pictures is as wide as it can be given the height limitations of the stage. If you are sitting the balcony, it may seem that the screen can go higher, but this is not the case. For anyone sitting under the balcony, especially near the back, the line of the bottom of the balcony meets the top of the screen, so anything projected on a taller screen would not be visible to these patrons.
When it comes to the screen size used for different movies, that is determined purely by the aspect ratio of the film in question. This is not a technical site, but simply put, there are three main screen shapes used in films. Describing the ratio of width to height, they are 1.33 to 1 (roughly the shape of a pre HD television), 1.85 to 1, called “flat” in the industry, and 2.35 (or wider) to 1, called scope, cinemascope, or widescreen. Some years ago someone who had attended a screening of “Gone With The Wind” at the Fox had written to the Q and A section of the AJC to ask why the Fox had taken out its huge screen and replaced it with a small square screen. The explanation for all of this is that the Fox is very careful to present the movies it shows in their correct aspect ratio. (When we ran “The Searchers” the 1.66 to 1 lens and screen width were used, a very rare event.) This means that when a classic such as “GWTW”, “Casablanca”, or “Wizard of Oz” plays, the side masking is brought in to make the screen the correct 1.33 to 1 size. It may look small in comparison to the massive Fox stage width, but the full height of the stage area is used. To try to widen the picture would result in the cropping that I described above. (For a perfect example of this, read the story of what happened to GWTW when they blew the image up to 1.85 to 1 for its 1967 70MM reissue.)
All of these notes apply to digital projection as well as film. The type of projection makes no difference in the size of the screen. Aspect ratio is the determining factor. A scope picture presented in digital projection will be the same size as one presented via film. The same goes for 1.85 and 1.33. I should point out that when I say digital I am talking about the new Digital Cinema Systems that are now being installed in theatres across the nation. I am most assuredly not talking about using some digital capable projector to show a DVD on the screen.
Speaking of this past Sunday, anyone who attended Ben-Hur was able to see all three aspect ratios in use. The preshow documentary Mr. Wade referred to was a Public TV production and was projected at 1.33 to 1 using the digital video projector. The rest of the program was all film. When the 35MM film projector was started for the previews, the masking was pulled back to the 1.85 to 1 mark. When the previews ended, there was a pause for the lens to be changed to 1.33 to 1 and the masking was brought back in so the cartoon could be presented in its proper 1.33 ratio. (Oddly enough, the film company logo on the front of the cartoon was modern and in 1.85 ratio so there were black bars at the top and bottom just like on a letterboxed DVD until the cartoon itself started and took up the full screen. When the cartoon ended, the 1.85 lens and masking were returned to present the Fox policy and feature presentation strips. At this point the curtain was closed and the curtain lights came on for the Overture. During the Overture, the masking was pulled back to its full open mark and the 2.35 to 1 scope lens was put in place. When the overture ended, the lights dimmed and the screen opened to its full width for the MGM logo.
With regard to some other points by Mr. Wade, I think that the newsreel in question is used because it features the World Premiere of “Gone With The Wind” as its final story. I am happy to see that he took note of the fact that the curtain and lights were properly used during the Overture. Very few theatres even have curtains anymore, and the applause from the audience when the lights dimmed and the curtain opened to reveal the MGM lion seemed to indicate that they appreciated an example of the long lost art of properly presenting a big, class, roadshow production. At least to the degree possible.
As for the debate between film as opposed to theatre grade Digital Cinema, let me say this. I have been working with film most of my life. Even though I now see my future job prospects being rapidly eliminated by the advent of Digital Cinema, I will have to admit that the picture quality of a movie properly presented (usually meaning being bright enough) using the Digital Cinema process is better than that of film. On Sunday afternoon, before the night showing of “Ben-Hur”, the Fox presented a Digital Cinema presentation of the Disney movie “Enchanted” using the digital projector. Both movies are 2.35 to 1 scopes so the picture size was the same, but the clarity of “Enchanted” to say nothing of the lack of scratches, specks, flecks, and splices, was greater than the 35MM film presentation of “Ben-Hur”. It is too bad that a 70MM print of Ben-Hur was not available for the Fox as it has been at least twice in the past. The last two times the Fox has presented “Ben-Hur” it has been with 35MM, so perhaps 70MM is no longer available. Next year is the 50th Anniversary of this great film so hopefully MGM, or whoever controls the rights now will order some 70MM DTS prints for an anniversary run the way “2001” is touring the country this year.
George, I believe we met in the projection booth at the Starlight Drive Invasion last September. If you want to contact me at
I have no brief for the City of Decatur Police Department, but lets be fair about one thing here. While the theatre has a Decatur mailing address, it is really in unincorporated DeKalb County. This means that the responsibility for investigating the crime, to say nothing of protecting the citizens of this area, falls on the DeKalb County Police Department.
Lets also be realistic. This is not the type of victim that engenders much sympathy from the general public. While it appears to be more of a street crime and could just as easily have happened to the victim and his mother if they had been walking out of any of the stores in the shopping center, the emphasis that the news stories put on the adult theatre aspect of this incident makes it just that much easier for the police to file this one in the inactive file and get on with whatever they were doing. (Please note: I said I was talking realistic here, not fair or right.)
I am sure that the police would like to have this case solved, for statistical purposes if nothing else, and if someone cared to walk into the station and supply the name of the perp then I am sure that they would be happy to listen. That possibility aside, I am afraid that this type of crime, against this type of victim, in this neighborhood, is not going to attract much pressure from the public or effort from the police. On the other hand, had the victim been the son of a business owner walking out of her store in, say, Northlake or Perimeter Malls, then I am sure that the situation would be investigated, and reported differently.
Hopefully, someday the police will arrest someone that knows the identity of the murderer and that particular someone will offer the name in exchange for a deal.
As to the manager you worked for, would his name perhaps have been Jack Demestre? (Pronounced da MESS tree)