Comments from LouRugani

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LouRugani commented about Hollywood Theatre on Mar 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Phil Addis and his wife Julie of Main Street Renaissance had the high bid of $15,157 – sight unseen – for the 1936 HOLLYWOOD Theatre at a sheriff’s sale Wednesday (Leap Day) February 29th 2012. He once saw “Star Wars” and “E.T.” there and said to the La Crosse Tribune that the HOLLYWOOD someday can again be a venue for live performances and movies. Its last event was a Bobby Vee concert in December 2004. Harris Bank held the deed and the owner had been the Schluter Construction Inc. of Plain, Wis. There are back taxes of $14,700 for the past five years. The sale still has to be approved by a Sauk County judge so it could be two months before Addis can even get inside the HOLLYWOOD, which is part of a National Register of Historic Places district. The seats, equipment and light fixtures have been removed.

The 1000-seat HOLLYWOOD was sold to Fortney, Fortney and Fortney LLP in 1993 to preserve it; then the family donated the building to the Children’s Museum of La Crosse in 2003. By 2005 it went up for sale again. It was assessed this year at $114,700. Main Street Renaissance already owns nine buildings downtown.

LouRugani commented about Calumet Theatre on Feb 29, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Jun. 1 2010 —HAMMOND — As hundreds of people gathered Thursday to celebrate the rebirth of the old federal courthouse on State Street, a much smaller group gathered inside the former Calumet Theater less than a mile away to mourn the loss of another historical structure.

Shuttered for more than a decade, the old movie house has been ravaged by time and neglect.

From the outside, the stone building with ornate etchings appears merely to need some sprucing up.

The dull red and yellow stripes along its classic marquee could use repainting. The few flashing light bulbs could use replacing.

A handwritten sign on the doors proclaims the Calumet will be reopening soon — but the inside of the building tells a much different story.

Trash lines nearly every square inch of floor space. A steady trickle of water flows from the ceiling near the projection room, and the smell of mold and mildew throughout the building is chokingly strong.

The screen, where Hollywood blockbusters flashed for generations of families, is ripped to shreds. The stage, where Miss Hammond contestants competed for years after the theater’s 1930 opening, now is filled with old bicycles and littered with debris.

“You can’t save this,” said Phil Taillon, director of planning and development for the city, whose Redevelopment Commission bought the building last year. “It’s not very difficult to have a building get to the point where it’s unfixable. This is definitely one.”

The story of the Calumet Theater’s fate mirrors that of some of downtown Hammond’s most notable buildings. Like the structures that once housed the Goldblatt Bros. Department Store, the Parthenon Theater and The Hammond Times, the Calumet’s curtain call will come courtesy of a wrecking crew.

(The Times, Munster, Ind.)

LouRugani commented about Times Cinema on Feb 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Former owner Jay Hollis has been hired to manage and keep the TIMES and ROSEBUD open while a search convenes for a new owner. AnchorBank of Madison had foreclosed on the mortgages, but the bank said today that the theaters will remain open. Hollis, a former painting contractor, created the Rosebud in 1999 after redoing the former Tosa Theater, and sold it in 2007. After owner David Glazer said the two theaters would close during the first week of March 2012, AnchorBank spokesman Timothy Carter said Hollis was hired by Siegel-Gallagher, the court-appointed receiver of the properties, to begin operating the theaters beginning March 1 throughout receivership while a new owner is found. Byron Butler, the senior vice president of marketing at AnchorBank, called Hollis “the original visionary” and said it was appropriate to continue operation with him.

LouRugani commented about Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse on Feb 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Former owner Jay Hollis has been hired to manage and keep the TIMES and ROSEBUD open while a search convenes for a new owner. AnchorBank of Madison had foreclosed on the mortgages, but the bank said today that the theaters will remain open. Hollis, a former painting contractor, created the Rosebud in 1999 after redoing the former Tosa Theater, and sold it in 2007. After owner David Glazer said the two theaters would close during the first week of March 2012, AnchorBank spokesman Timothy Carter said Hollis was hired by Siegel-Gallagher, the court-appointed receiver of the properties, to begin operating the theaters beginning March 1 throughout receivership while a new owner is found. Byron Butler, the senior vice president of marketing at AnchorBank, called Hollis “the original visionary” and said it was appropriate to continue operation with such a leader.

LouRugani commented about ADAMS Theatre, Adams, Wisconsin in February 2012. on Feb 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm

The Adams Community Theater Ltd. (A.C.T. Ltd.) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to acquire, renovate and preserve the Adams Theatre built in 1946 at 157 South Main Street in Adams, Wisconsin.

( ACT, Ltd., P.O. Box 344, Friendship, WI 53934. For more information: 608-339-0312 or 608-339-7795 or email . Visit )

The Adams Theatre closed in spring of 2011 and became a video store but has been purchased by the Adams Community Theatre group with Carla Byrnes as board president. The video-store operators had approached a community theater group in the area about purchasing the building. It decided it didn’t need the space, but the empty theater got the attention of some of its members. About 30 showed up for the first meeting of A.C.T. Ltd. and offered the owners $25,000 for the theater, which was accepted.

Fundraising exceeded expectations. With donations ranging from a few dollars to a $10,000 no-interest loan from an anonymous donor, the group raised more than $40,000. The roof needs to be replaced but otherwise the building is in good shape, Byrnes said. Byrnes envisions multiple uses for the theatre, which has a small stage. “We could do dramatic readings,” Byrnes said. “We have musicians in town who want to perform there. Some of our (local actors) are interested in doing workshops for kids on Saturdays.”

The School District also could use the space, said Sandy Pheiffer, a school employee. The three schools there are in constant use. “We have no dedicated space for the performing arts,” Pheiffer said. “We’re currently in production for ‘Beauty and the Beast’; we have to compete for use of the stage with our gym, (which always is) booked for sports.”

Byrnes said many residents collect classic films, and the building could be used as a venue to show the films. “I will be showing some of my personal films that are in the public” said Chuck Pheiffer. “Currently, we have the original (1946) projector that was put in the theater when it was new. We’re going to try and maintain the ability to show film prints when we can.”

Byrnes said the Adams Friendship Education Foundation plans to build an auditorium onto the high school in the next few years. “If we could be a stepping stone to that facility and offer a performing arts venue in downtown Adams, that’s what we’re hoping for. The City Council was thinking of the theater as an anchor of the downtown project,” Byrnes said. “Needless to say, we were thrilled since initially, we were trying to prevent having another empty storefront on Main Street.” The theater could draw other people to the area. “It’s terrifically exciting, and we do hope it will bring a resurgence for Main Street,” Sandy Pheiffer said.

LouRugani commented about Rex Theatre on Feb 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

(Racine Sunday Bulletin, June 12, 1960 with 3 photos)

Some of the most famous names of the American theater in the late years of the 19th century gathered after their performances at a small tavern at 217 Main St. Their performances, for audiences in Downtown Racine, had been given on the stage of the Belle City Opera House at 211-215 Main St. The 70-year-old house still stands, in use now as a bowling alley.

The structure is one of several in the Downtown area to play major roles in Racine’s entertainment history. Its name was changed twice, however, as the stage show glories of the old Belle City Opera House began to fade. In later years it was called the Racine Theater and then the Rex, as it became the first large movie house in the city.

H. W. Knopke, whose father owned the tavern just north of the Belle City Opera House, recalls: “Most of the big stars of the time were here — Lillian Russell, Sarah Bernhardt, Robert Mantell.” Racine audiences saw the top shows because leading performers and their troupes stopped in the city for a one-night stand between their Chicago and Milwaukee appearances.

Among the shows presented from the Belle City House’s stage during May of 1890 were the Postage Stamp Company’s performance of “A Social Season” on the 3d, Arden Benedick in “Story of the Dead” on the 10th, J. S. Murphy in “Kerry Gow” on the 16th, Charles H. Hall in “Knute Knutson” on the 19th and Ezra Kendall in “A Pair of Kids” on the 23d. Hohenstim and Fisher and Master T. K. Jones presented a six-day series which included “Disowned,” “Woman Against Women,” “Sea Waif,” and “Carl the Outcast.”

A book Knopke’s father maintained showed that other famous performers on the Belle City stage were John L. Sullivan for “Honest Hearts”. This was typical of the splendor of the opera houses which served Racine late in the 19th century, such as the Blake Opera House on 6th St. or the Belle City Opera House on Main St. and Willing Hands" and John Philip Sousa’s “Marine Band.” Many names, such as Pat Rooney and John Dillon, reappeared several times in the book and a frequently-performed show was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Local productions also appeared on the stage, the Racine Opera Co. presenting “The Mikado” and other shows, and Racine Elks Lodge 252 the “Elks' Minstrels.” The theater was built by the New Hall Club, an organization which for some unknown reason, Knopke recalled, had acquired the nickname “Forty Thieves.” Although the Rex, or Belle City, was Racine’s first big movie house, the first crude “talkies,” as well as the city’s first vaudeville show, were brought to Racine by the late W. C. Tiede.

Tiede became known as a showman in Racine soon after the Blake Opera House burned down in 1884. Tiede took over the old Turner Hall at 518-522 College Ave. for road shows. Later, after working on the road as an advance man for minstrels and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Tiede started the Bijou Theater where the Hotel Nelson is located, and gave Racine its first vaudeville shows. Tiede later returned to the Turner Hall — calling it first the People’s Theater and then the College Avenue Orpheum — for his “cameraphone productions.”

“Cameraphone,” ancestor of the talking pictures, was billed as offering “beautiful and no longer dumb” attractions. The productions, back in about 1909, synchronized a phonograph, located behind the stage, with a projector, located in the back of the auditorium. Dots or dashes on the screen warned the man changing records to get ready. More dashes, flashing on screen, signaled him to start the record going. But sometimes the synchronization went awry and audiences would continue to hear the sound after the auditorium and screen had gone dark.

LouRugani commented about Strand Theatre on Jan 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm

There are some lengthy exterior night scenes of the STRAND Theatre in the 1958 film “Intent to Kill” (The STRAND was playing “Rodan” during the filming.)

LouRugani commented about Music Hall on Jan 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Was the Music Hall the only theatre in Tarrytown? This article was in the Nov. 4, 1982 Aiken, SC Standard:

Warner Chairman Accused In Scheme To Defraud

NEW YORK (AP) — The board chairman of Warner Communications has denied a federal prosecutor’s allegation that he and other executives “schemed to defraud the company” through a secret $170,000 cash fund. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Akerman told a U.S. District Court jury Wednesday that Warner chairman Steven Ross designated Solomon Weiss to oversee the “secret cash fund.” The fund consisted of $170,000 in “bribes, phony invoices, false, fraudulent and misleading documentation and Warner checks for nonexistent services” related to a now-defunct motion picture theater in Tarrytown, N.Y., Akerman said. Weiss, 53, a Warner assistant treasurer from Hillside, N.J., is on trial on charges of racketeering, fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice and the preparation of false corporate tax returns. In return for cash bribes, Weiss “and other Warner executives arranged for Warner to purchase stock in the Westchester Premiere Theater,” Akerman charged Wednesday. “Mr. Ross unequivocally denies any authorisation, participation or knowledge of any secret cash fund,” said Warner attorney Martin D. Payson. Court documents have shown that Ross was a subject of the investigation, but he has not been named as a defendant and no charges have been filed against him. Weiss' indictment stemmed from an investigation of the bankrupt theater in Westchester County. Several men identified as members of organized crime have been convicted of skimming cash from the theatre and driving it into bankruptcy. Akerman said in opening statements Wednesday that he will prove Weiss accepted a $70,000 cash bribe from theater representative Leonard Horwitz in May 1973. And he said he intends to show that Weiss made a second secret deal a month later to have Warner buv more stock for $100,000. When the theater could not pay off, Weiss put together a new deal involving Warner issuing checks to the theater totaling more than $150,000 over four years to theater representatives for services never performed, Ackerman said.

LouRugani commented about LIFE Magazine essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (Bernard Hoffmann photo) on Jan 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Film-exchange delivery in the KENOSHA Theatre’s outer lobby looking south. (Door leads to adjacent retail shop.)

LouRugani commented about LIFE Magazine photo essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (Bernard Hoffmann photo) on Jan 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

Bill Exton, Manager, facing camera.

LouRugani commented about Cinema 50 on Dec 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I heard from a patron who said he attended the new UA Cinemas 1&2 on its grand opening, Christmas Day 1971. The features were “The French Connection” and a revival of “Lady and the Tramp”, and there were long lines, as one might imagine.

LouRugani commented about Columbia Theatre on Dec 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm

The COLUMBIA Theatre in Kenosha noted here opened on Wednesday, November 26, 1913 and seated 500, according to local newspaper accounts. There may have been a short-lived storefront theatre known as the Columbia Theatre elsewhere in Kenosha before that date.

LouRugani commented about Strand Theatre on Dec 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm

The STRAND Theatre (aka NEW STRAND) was originally the CRYSTAL Theatre and was renamed and opened as such on Saturday, September 4, 1920 after renovations during a closure of several weeks. A new facade, wall sconces, new furniture and a piano were installed along with new projection equipment. Willard Welch was the manager, and the NEW STRAND’s opening feature film was “The Glorious Lady” starring Olive Thomas. On stage that night, Marjorie Sershon sang popular songs accompanied by Howard Sershon. The NEW STRAND was part of the Charles Pacini Amusements local theatre chain. Pacini had been planning the renovations at the time he was murdered; the case was never solved.

LouRugani commented about Sierra Madre Playhouse on Dec 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm

That’s Thomas Mitchell in the photo, doing a scene as a doctor for the TV series ‘Screen Directors Playhouse’. He was heading to the one-story art deco building next door, which is still there.

LouRugani commented about LIFE Magazine essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (Bernard Hoffman photo). on Nov 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm

William “Bill” Exton, manager, KENOSHA Theatre.

LouRugani commented about Calumet Theatre on Nov 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Calumet Theater cornerstone may be used to mark grave By Jeff Burton (219) 933-3246 Monday, July 26, 2010 12:00 am

HAMMOND | The designs for some of Hammond’s most prominent buildings and majestic homes started with a simple stroke of his pencil, but more than 20 years after his death, Louis Hess doesn’t have but a simple stone to mark his final resting place.

That’s something Debbie Thill is hoping to change. The Schererville resident and fan of Hess' work became pen pals and friends with the noted architect in his later life and is petitioning the city to save the cornerstone of the Calumet Theater building, designed by Hess in 1930, for use as a headstone.

“To have a marker with his name and profession is all he could ask for,” Thill said. “It’s always bothered me all these years that there’s nothing there.”

City Planner Brian Poland said the Historic Preservation Commission was set to discuss the proposal earlier this month, but due to a lack of quorum, that discussion now will happen in August.

The Calumet Theater, currently owned by the city and slated for eventual demolition, was just one of the many Hammond buildings Hess designed from his Hohman Avenue office.

Hess built palatial homes on Forest and Moraine avenues, introducing to the region the sloping mansard roof and the use of natural stone in exterior construction.

He also designed the original Woodmar Country Club building and George Rogers Clark High School in Robertsdale.

His work as an associate architect of Hammond City Hall is also noted, not because of any design he did, but that city council members refused to accept any plans from a Chicago-based firm without the involvement of a Hammond architect on the project.

“He really was the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Calumet Region,” Thill said.

A championship sailor who lived life to the excess, Hess lost most of his wealth in the 1929 stock market crash and lost what little was left on homes he designed and built in Munster that wouldn’t sell during the Great Depression.

Although his career bounced back, he was later involved in a serious car accident and spent his later years bouncing around nursing homes and residential hotels, relying on public assistance. Hess died penniless in 1988 at age 86.

The city of Hammond provided financial assistance for his burial at Hessville Cemetery, where he lies near the grave of his grandfather Joseph Hess, founder of Hessville.

In a 1982 interview with The Times, Louis Hess said while his designs had their detractors, he felt they would stand the test of time.

“Someone once told me, ‘Hess, you could make a new house look 100 years old,’ and they were right,” he said. “I had a flair for the romantic. I would put in a little round window or a turret. A house must look like a home. You should be able to put a picture of it on a Christmas card with the snow falling around it.”

LouRugani commented about Indiana Theatre on Oct 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

(Indiana Evening Gazette, Friday, October 25, 1929)


‘Gang War" Picture Too Hot for Indiana Theatre; No Confusion.

A small fire which was extinguished before the Indiana firemen arrived occurred in the projection booth at the Indiana Theatre, last evening about 8:40. The blaze was caused by the breaking of a film. The damage was not over $100, $50 of which was the value of the film. Frank Kelly, the machine operator displayed courage, when he extinguished the blaze with his fire extinguishers almost before anyone in the audience knew anything was wrong. The local company was notified and in record time were on the scene. The booth, which is fireproof and which has attached fireproof shutters which close, was filled with smoke as the hissing film burned up. The film was inside the projection machine and the small blaze and smoke emerged from all the openings. All other films are kept in fireproof boxes until needed, so that there was no trouble from them. Mr. Kelly stated this morning that the fire was caused by the broken film igniting from heat from the light used in the film machine. About 200 people were in the theatre at the time, and they behaved in a wonderful way. Some never knew until it was all over that anything was wrong. Some never moved in their seats. The music was continued and most thought that just a break had occurred in the film and that it would continue soon. The reel of film that broke was the 5th reel of “Gang War”, and that scene that was being shown was one in which a lot of action was taking place, shooting etc. The theatre management wishes to thank the people for the wonderful way they acted and want to assure them that there is no danger, that everything is fire proof around the booth. Tonight the picture advertised will be shown, just as usual.

LouRugani commented about Miner Theatre on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm

(April 12, 1956) The Miner Amusement Co., which has theaters in Rice Lake, Ladysmith, River Falls, Chippewa Falls, Chetek and Cumberland, announced last week that Ray Miner, brother of the late George Miner of Rice Lake, has joined the company and will be the new manager of the Miner theater in Ladysmith.

LouRugani commented about Bruce Theatre on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:35 pm

(1950) The Bruce Theatre Presents The Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show

TWO COMPLETE STAGE SHOWS 8:00 and 10:00 p. m. Bruce Theater TUESDAY – JUNE 20 The Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show is headlined by two popular radio stars, Maggie and Scotty, who have been in the entertainment field for the past fifteen years. They have appeared and worked over WRFW in Eau Claire; WJMC in Rice Lake, Wisconsin; WEBC in Duluth, Minnesota; WENR in Chicago, Illinois; KSO in St. Paul, Minn.; and are presently making their headquarters in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where they appear and entertain daily over WEAU. They point with pride at their Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show which features such personalities as Jerry Wright, champion fiddler; Ronnie Champion, trick yodeler; Barefoot Bob Smith, the boy from Georgia; and many others.

LouRugani commented about Orpheum Theatre on Oct 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm

( The Bridgemen’s Magazine, Volume 21 [1921] ) Kenosha – Theater and Office – M. Tullgren & Sons, architects, 425 E. Water street, Milwaukee, soon let contract building 4-story, 60 x 100-ft., brick, concrete and steel, reinforced concrete flooring, concrete foundation, on Main street, for Orpheum Theater Co., 851 Tremont avenue. About $200,000.

LouRugani commented about Cameo Theatre on Oct 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm

(MOTION PICTURE, November 22, 1913) Kenosha, Wis.: Walter M. Burke and M. J. Isermann have invited bids for the purpose of building a theater, store and oilier building on Market square.

LouRugani commented about Cosmo Theatre on Oct 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

The COSMO Theatre in September 2011 completed a $200,000 digital film and audio upgrade. In celebration, the 472-seat COSMO offered free movie screenings of “Despicable Me,” “Bridesmaids” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” through Sept. 22.

Owner Dennis Lerch said “Film will probably cease to exist” in a few years. Trevor Dzwonkowski is the manager.

LouRugani commented about CRYSTAL (later STATE) Theatre, Burlington WI about 1911. Manager Ed Westrich is beside the boxoffice. on Sep 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Shortly before demolition in 1953.

LouRugani commented about LIFE Magazine essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (B. Hoffman photo) on Aug 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm

This is longtime manager Bill Exton.

LouRugani commented about Kenosha Theatre on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:10 pm

LIFE Magazine essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (Bernard Hoffman photo).