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(SEATTLE TIMES, Wednesday, July 10, 1991)
Going To The Liberty — 67-Year-Old Theater Finds Success In Treating Kids Like FamilyBy Keith Ervin
“What’s your name, sweetie? How old are you?”
Her name is Mariah, says the girl sitting in the front row of the large movie theater. And she’s 10.
“We’ll sing `Happy Birthday.‘ Are you agreeable? If not, we’ll throw you out!” jokes the man with the microphone and the ready smile.
The audience claps, then sings a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Mariah.
Bud Dunwoody, proprietor of the Liberty Theatre, isn’t quite ready to dim the lights and show “White Fang,” a second-run Walt Disney movie.
After reminding the patrons to keep their feet off the chairs in front of them, keep their trash off the floor and enjoy the movie, he has a few more words of advice.
Be sure to buckle your seat belt on the way home, have a beautiful day tomorrow, and above all, “Say no to drugs. They can and do kill you.”
Kids may not take Dunwoody’s words to heart any more than they do the advice of their own parents. But in an age of faceless, electronic entertainment, they are offered something personal in this throwback to another era.
Going to the Liberty is more than going to see a movie. It’s an experience.
“In most movie theaters it’s more an entertainment situation nowadays than a social gathering,” says Dunwoody. “I’m trying to make it both. I want people to come in and have a good time and see a good movie and have a good feeling.”
It’s a formula that seems to work.
When Dunwoody took over the theater nine years ago, it was in decline, showing movies only three nights a week. Now the 600-seat theater is open every day, sometimes selling out its regular $2 shows as well as its $1 weekend matinees.
Dunwoody’s trademark opening act, with its tribute to the birthday boys and girls, didn’t start out in a lighthearted way. The first time he stood in front of the audience, it was to deliver a furious warning to the teenagers who had been disrupting shows with their loud socializing.
He threw out the troublemakers and solved the discipline problem. But he continued his practice of standing before the audience and saying what was on his mind.
The quintessential family theater, the Liberty not only offers fare for the whole family, it’s family-run. Working at the 67-year-old theater with Dunwoody are his wife, Patricia, his daughter Christy, his granddaughter Jennifer, and his son Dennis, who now manages the theater five days a week.
Of the children in the audience, says Dennis, “We call them our kids when they’re inside our theater. When they go back out, they’re their parents' again.”
The Liberty does show some films aimed at older audiences – “Awakenings” and “Dances with Wolves,” for example.
The theater once showed “The Abyss” even though it included some adult language and offered a glimpse of the heroine’s breast. That glimpse was acceptable, Bud Dunwoody explains, because it was brief and because it occurred while the woman’s husband was trying to revive her.
He censored the “F-word” in a recent film by turning the sound off momentarily. But Dunwoody dismissed one patron’s complaint that Demi Moore showed “too much cheek” in the hit movie “Ghost.” “They show more on these TV ads for swimming suits than we see in these movies,” he says.
Although Dunwoody chooses not to show R-rated movies at the Liberty, he has no objection to theaters that do. In fact, he shows “some of the better R’s” at the Neptune Theatre, which he has operated in Long Beach, Pacific County, for the past three years.
One kind of film he won’t show at either theater is the popular slice-and-dice horror genre: “There’s enough violence in the world without putting it on the screen.”
Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, Dunwoody got into the theater business after retiring from the Air Force in 1969. His brother-in-law offered him a job as a management trainee in a Renton theater. He managed theaters in Tacoma, Seattle and Portland before buying the Liberty.
At 62 – “and feeling like 40” – he’s in no hurry to retire from his second career. The point of it all isn’t to make money, he says, but to have fun:
“I’m not out to make a million dollars. If I was out to make a million dollars, I sure wouldn’t be at two bucks a head. The million dollars is not my goal.”
So he’s still at his small-town theaters several nights a week, greeting customers outside the box office and giving his cornball spiels that are as much a part of the show as the movie itself.
What about the warmup act on the nights Bud Dunwoody isn’t at the theater? He took care of that when he asked his son to manage the theater – and insisted that he continue the tradition of addressing the audience.
Dennis Dunwoody was uneasy about it at first. But, his dad says proudly, “He’s just like a duck in the water now. In fact, he’s probably just as crazy as I am.”
(From Moving Picture World, October 10, 1908:)
Sioux City, Ia.—Fred Melcher, of Chicago, has arrived in the city and will immediately take charge of the new moving picture theatre, the Olympic, which is being fitted at 415 Fourth Street. An elaborate front is being put in the new theater.
I believe the MASSENA Theatre had earlier been the STRAND Theatre. Check photos …
(From the National Register of Historic Places registration form:)
Princess Theatre-Carolina Theatre; narrow, rectangular theatre building of rock-faced concrete block with
rusticated concrete lintels; front gable roof of metal Spanish tile with round ridge vents; rear addition and fly gallery of brick; gabled facade of painted brick and stucco has two-story central bay with arch containing wrought iron balcony, round-arched window
alcove; first floor modern display windows of aluminum and glass on either side of doorway, with side lights and transom: stuccoed panels either side of second floor with projecting wrought iron light brackets; stuccoed gable; modern canvas marquees; windows with
transoms on side elevations boarded over; built 1913-14 by T. S. Burgess for Southern Pines Improvement Company and operated by Charles Picquet; in 1924 the
building was expanded and given a new facade for Oscar auf der Heide of New York and Dr. George Herr; Charles Picquet and Richard Tufts operated the theatre in tandem with the Carolina Theatre in Pinehurst.
KEN (KENWOOD) Theatre; Chicago, Illinois during 1938 redesigning work.
“March 18, 1952: Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. Davis,
operators of the Alan theater, have begun remodeling the building and plan to show an additional movie
each week.” (The theatre was owned by Charles Carter, the justice of the peace.)
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The Fort Jackson Theater opened last weekend to rave reviews.
Theater opens after two-year closure
November 19, 2009
By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson Leader
Soldiers with the 187th Ordnance Battalion filed into the theater to get the first seats at the Fort Jackson theater grand opening. Crowds gathered outside the theater at least two hours before the movie – a sneak preview of “The Blind Side” – was slated to begin.
Jason Rosenberg, AAFES general manager, Col. Lillian A. Dixon, garrison commander, and Billy Wood, movie theater manager, cut the ribbon during the grand opening of Fort Jackson’s movie theater. Dixon said she made the project, which took two years to complete.
Rene Muniz was one of the hundreds of people who stood in line Saturday to get a sneak preview of the renovated theater, as well as a free screening of the film, “The Blind Side.”
Muniz, chief of Fort Jackson’s Information Assurance Division, gave the theater two thumbs up. “I had been waiting a long time for that theater to open back up, and I wasn’t disappointed,” Muniz said. “Everything was nice and new and very attractive. And the movie was excellent, also.”
Muniz said it’s a big plus for the Fort Jackson community now that the theater has reopened. “I’ll definitely be a frequent visitor,” he said.
The theater holds 750 people, and it was a packed house Saturday. Many of the attendees were no doubt lured by the free movie, but everyone was treated to a sparkling new theater interior.
“Opening the theater is a double bonus for the Fort Jackson community,” said Col. Lillian Dixon, Fort Jackson garrison commander. “It has always been a key venue to our training mission. It also enhances the quality of life for our Soldiers, families and retirees. It will be a great outlet for our graduating Soldiers and their families during Family Day.”
Dixon made reopening the theater a priority when she arrived at Fort Jackson in 2007 and said she is pleased with the result.
“You can’t help but smile when you walk inside the facility,” she said. “I invite everyone to support the theater. The price is right and the company is even better.”
The renovated theater features new seats, curtains and carpet, fresh paint, upgraded projection equipment and concessions, and a new Dolby Digital sound system.
Matt Gibbs, project manager for Fort Jackson’s Directorate of Public Works, said approximately $600,000 in garrison funds went toward the renovation of the theater, which had been closed since 2007 because the facility had deteriorated so badly.
The renovation project began in April, Gibbs said, and was completed just before the theater’s grand opening last weekend.
Matt Shealy, chief of engineering for DPW, said the theater’s ceiling had been badly damaged by water leakage and maintenance of the interior had not been kept up in recent years. “It was just a tired, old space,” Shealy said.
Aside from being a major source of entertainment on post, the theater was a multi-use facility because of its large capacity.
“The theater is as important for training as it is for movies,” Shealy said. “We just don’t have that many spaces on post that can hold 750 people. We really needed the theater to open back up.”
But being a source of entertainment is a large part of the theater’s significance to Fort Jackson, Shealy said.
“We need a theater on post because that’s important for the families,” he said.
Rapp and Rapp also designed the atmospheric GATEWAY Theatre in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Built in 1908 during the booming lumbering era in Michigan, the STATE Theatre was known as the BIJOU and was redone in 1930 by C. Howard Crane, who used local labor using hand-crafted plaster casts for the 9,500 square-foot theatre. As years passed and owners changed, the Mayan murals were painted over and water damage became evident. The Dow Chemical Company Foundation provided financial support for the restoration project.
(December 10, 1979, Northwest Herald)
Six-screen movie complex opens in Hoffman Friday
by Thomas J. Moore, Herald business writer
The Northwest suburbs will have six new movie theaters — all under one roof — by the end of the week when the Barrington Square 6 Theatres in Hoffman Estates opens Friday.
The six-screen movie complex in the Barrington Square Mall at Higgins and Barrington roads will bring to nine the number of new movie houses opened locally this year.
Two of the others are at Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg and one at Randhurst Shopping Center in
THE BARRINGTON Square operation is owned by American Multi Cinema of Kansas City, Mo., and is the firm’s second entry in the Chicago area movie market. The company also owns the Ogden 6 Theatres in Naperville.
American opened the first multi-auditorium theater in the country in Kansas City in July 1962. It operates 526 theaters in 78 cities now, including two in Buffalo and Toledo with eight separate auditoriums each.
The company’s Hoffman Estates and Naperville theaters offer the most screens under one roof in the Chicago
area, with six each.
The Barrington Square 6 Theatres are of varying sizes, according to manager Paul Kalas. The smallest seats
250 persons while the largest contains 375 seats.
Kalas said the theater complex is capable of showing the same movie in two adjoining theaters using the same
copy of the film. He said the projector system is set up to run the same film with only a 30 second-time lag between what the viewers see on the separate screens.
THE OPENING of the theater complex also will increase the number of commercial movie screens in Hoffman
Estates to nine, but Kalas said he thinks the market is sufficient to support them all. The Century theater in the village has three auditoriums.
Kalas said he expects Barrington Square to draw from Schaumburg, which has its own four-theater complex as well as Hoffman Estates and Hanover Park. The Tradewinds Cinemas in Hanover Park has two screens.
He said Barrington Square will also draw customers from areas north and west of Hoffman Estates where there are fewer theaters.
Kalas said the six theaters here will be competing for the same first run movies that the other nearby theaters want.
Barrington Square 6 Theatres' main attraction, aside from the greater choice it can offer, is that it will try to match or beat the lowest admission and concession prices among competing theaters, Kalas said.
He said the regular admission price will be $3 for adults and students and $1.50 for children. During the grand opening Friday and Saturday, everyone will be admitted for the regular children’s price, he said.
TOOTER TOOTS WINS HIS CASE – CHICAGO, Feb. 3. 1932 – Lawyers clustered around Judge Edward Casey, hands cupped to ear, as a sedate man blew measured blasts on a tin whistle.
“Listen judge,” Leslie Parry, blower, would say. And then a shrill wheee-e-eee would come from his whistle.
Parry, acoustic engineer, was making his experiment to convince the judge that sound equipment installed by the Johns-Manville corporation in the Lucille theater, 653 North Cicero avenue, is effective. The equipment had been reproduced in court.
After the acoustic properties of the courtroom had been demonstrated as an example of sound properties in the theater, Judge Casey entered judgement of $575 against the theater for installation of the equipment.
(August 1, 1958) CHICAGO (AP) — The movie “The Fly” has closed a run at the Bugg Theater.
Built in 1948 by Harold Willis, the Ruskin Theater was the hub of entertainment for the surrounding communities. Since closure, the theatre has been used for various purposes, including a thrift store. One positive aspect is that this historic building is located within the Downtown Ruskin Redevelopment Plan area.
The PRINCESS Theatre was built by Henry L. Rhulander in 1927 and was converted to sound films by 1931.
The Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre’s architect was Irving M. Karlin of Chicago, Illinois, who brought it in for a construction cost of $90,000. The capacity was listed as 628 cars. Opening day was July 1, 1950. By September, 1950, the admission price had been reduced to 55 cents.
(The Morning Call, December 14, 2003)
Historic Hellertown movie theater gets new owner at auction – CFO for prior owner vows not to tear down art deco-style building.
By Matt Assad Of The Morning Call
The Movies building in Hellertown sold for $117,000 at auction Saturday, but the sale didn’t move the Main Street landmark any closer to renovation.
Then again, it didn’t move it any closer to demolition either, because it was bought by Ramzi Haddad, the chief financial officer for the building’s owner, Abe Atiyeh.
Atiyeh, a Bethlehem developer and owner of several senior housing complexes, bought the 1940 theater last year for $160,000, and Haddad said he was simply protecting the investment.
“You can’t even buy a house for a $117,000.” Haddad said. “I have to think about what I want to do with it, but I know I’m not going to tear it down.”
That’s what Rosana Rao wanted to hear most. Rao is a Hellertown gallery owner who has been looking for civic-minded investors to revive the 500-seat, 8,000-square-foot theater.
“Well, at least this gives us more time to put together a group that can save it,” said Rao, who has organized a group to try to save it. “This is better than letting it fall into the hands of someone who wants to tear it down.”
People from around the region once flocked to what was then known as the Sauconia after it was built by John Kofler in 1940. The art deco-style theater remained open until Kofler’s daughter, Elle, died early last year.
But in recent years the theater, which seats almost 600, had trouble drawing crowds, with its leaky roof staining the ceiling and walls, and its inefficient heating system keeping the place at a temperature more suitable for hanging meat.
Atiyeh bought it last December, with plans to turn it into a community center where bingo and school plays could be held. He replaced the roof and made a few repairs, but he abandoned the planned renovation and decided to sell it at auction.
The noon auction drew more than 50 people, but only a few serious bidders.
Auctioneer Joe Setton starting the bids at $300,000, but it was clear the dilapidated building wouldn’t fetch that when the first bid didn’t come until Setton dropped the number to $50,000. For five minutes, Angel Bas of Hellertown and Ed Hill, a Hellertown paving and excavating company owner, outbid each other, driving the price up to $110,000.
That’s when Haddad jumped in with rapid-fire bids, each time upping Hill’s price, and sending a clear message that Hill was not getting the building unless he went much higher.
Hill wouldn’t do that.
He said if his bid had won, he would have explored all options, including demolition.
Bas said he planned to turn it into an upscale restaurant and dinner theater that could have opened as quickly as 30 days after closing the sale. Bas said he hopes in the coming months to find other partners and approach Atiyeh and Haddad with a new plan to buy it from them.
“I know we can save it,” Bas said. “We just need a chance.”
TIME Magazine reported that Dale Theater owners Rubenstein & Kaplan tried a hardline action against TV and rowdy teenagers by barring adolescents, except those accompanied by adults, from their Dale Theater and claimed success in bringing adults back to the movies. They then reopened the long-closed Arion Theater with the same policy.
In the early 1960s a television documentary (which may have been “Hollywood and the Stars”) had a clip of the closed La Brea Theatre to illustrate the onslaught of television.
The Aldridge Theatre was slightly west of where the Haywood Building (Deep Deuce Grill) is today. Owned by Zelia Breaux and F.E. Withrow, the Aldridge opened in 1919. Big bands, vaudeville acts and movies were featured regularly. Music legends such as Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Duke Ellington appeared at the Aldridge.
The architect was Marks & Cooke of Towson, Maryland. Combined seating was listed at 1,000.
(From another forum:)
The original stage and fly areas along with a small orchestra pit are generally intact. The original balcony in the 1928 building was split off from the main floor in 1985. With the current seats, and balcony reopened, the original theater could seat a little over 500. There was also an addition built in 1975 on the north side of the theater that was split into two theaters in 1985, each seating 150 to 200.
Fund-raising is still ongoing, and the Friends of The Geneva Theater organization is currently working with the city to see if they would commit TIF Funds towards the purchase of the building. The plan is to restore the building for reuse as a Community Arts Center with a combination of a performing arts venue in the original 1928 portion, and multi-use visual and cultural arts space in the north portion of the building. Further information may be found at http://www.friendsofgenevatheater.org.
George Howard had two Bijou theaters, the first on the west side of the 200 block on South Main St. which was earlier a roller skating rink, and there were theater owners before and after Mr. Howard had it.
He was born in Florence, Kansas on, Jun 28, 1890, and later lived in Little York, but died on Jan. 28, 1973 at San Rafael, Calif., where he’d gone after the death of his second wife on Dec. 24, 1972.
He’d worked as a cigar maker at Fairfield, Iowa in 1910, and it seems that he had the winning ticket on the lottery which won him about $1,200. With that, he came to Monmouth early in 1911, intending to buy the Lyric theater, then in the Quinby building, later the Elks building east of the Monmouth public square. That deal didn’t go through, and he bought the Bijou Theater, which prospered and so he erected a new building with the theater within.
(Daily Republican-Register, Mount Carmel, Illinois, March 17, 1977)
Bomb in porno house investigated
FOX LAKE, IL. (UIM) – The bomb that destroyed the Towne
Theater, which showed pornographic films, might have been planted by the mob to extract a “tax” from the owners, according to a federal official. Peter Vaira, head of the U.S Justice Department’s Chicago Strike Force against Organized Crime, said Wednesday it was possible the bombing was carried out by mob forces.
“There has been a move in the mob to shake down some
bookstores – to exert a street tax,” he said. Syndicate figures are “in general, trying to collect a street tax from any kind of pornographic outfit,‘
The blast knocked down three brick walls of the theatre at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and triggered a fire 90 minutes after patrons left the movie house, authorities said.
No injuries were reported but damages were estimated at
$175,000 to $200,000.
Fox Lake Police Chief Hay Walk said a "high explosive’
was placed near the rear exit doors. Although police found no physical evidence of a bomb, Walk said nothing else could have caused such severe damage.
(Daily Herald, April 13, 2007)
• (Then-) Current Mayor Cindy Irwin was questioned in the Towne Theater bombing that took place on March 16, 1977. The movie theater, owned by then former mayor Joe Armondo and famous for showing X-rated movies, was using nonunion projectionists to show movies.
Irwin was later absolved of the crime, believed to be done by the disgruntled projectionist union.
Baehr Theaters Co. came from Bemidji and erected the theatre block.