Comments from CSWalczak

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CSWalczak commented about Hard times for many repertory cinemas on Feb 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

I still find it hard to understand why a city like San Francisco can’t keep one or two good repertory theaters going, especially a theater like the venerable Castro, especially given its location. After all, while SF may not, in and of itself, be have a “massive population,” it’s still a part of the Bay Area, home to millions of arts-loving, well-educated people, and while public transportation may not be comparable to that in NY, one can get there relatively easily by BART and MUNI. If repertory still works in LA where one has to drive in order to get just about anywhere, it ought to viable in The City.

But there’s no doubt that the audience has diminished. I remember that well into the 90’s,one only had to turn to the Sunday edition of the SF Chronicle to see a wide array of repertory, alternative, and classic films at a number of venues around the Bay. Some of these still go on like The Red Vic and the Pacific Film Archive , but are obviously not traditional for-profit operations. The U.C. was probably the main rival to the Castro in terms of its programming; that closed some years ago now. The Avenue Theater out on San Bruno used to show silent and occasionally classic 3-D films; the Red Vic folks for awhile re-opened the a theater out by SF General and ran an eclectic program of films. In the summer, the Paramount in Oakland used to run some classic films too as did the Grand Lake on occasion. There was also revival programming at the Strand and Embassy (though things got rather seedy at those two now-gone theaters toward the end). If memory serves, the Parkside, before it was demolished, gave repertory a whirl for a time as well as did the Pagoda Palace up in North Beach.

A worrisome aspect of the Castro having difficulty maintaining an audience under its traditional business model is that its owners may reconsider twinning or triplexing this classic house; this unfortunate prospect has been raised before.

CSWalczak commented about Detroit Theatre on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Comment on Patsy’s comment of Dec. 27, 2006 (above): the theater used in “Dreamgirls” turns out to be in fact the Palace on Broadway in Los Angeles. The marquee was given a temporary makeover just for the movie shoot. There’s a picture here:
View link
that shows the marquee “dressed” for the shooting.

CSWalczak commented about McVickers Theater on Jan 30, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I, too, remember attending “Man of La Mancha” at the McVickers in, I think, 1966 or 1967 – in fact twice, as the first time I was in that balcony mentioned above and the it was rather far from the stage; later I saw it from the third row in the orchestra and it was an entirely different experience. I also remember the draping, and I also seem to recall that much of the ceiling plasterwork was painted over either a rose or a blue color. The orchestra level booths for Cinerama projection were still there then, also draped over. If memory serves, I also saw a production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” there too.

At that particular time period, considering too that Cinerama product was drying up, converting the McVickers to a legitimate theater was probably also due to the fact that Chicago had very few theaters available for Broadway shows. Then, most musicals played the Shubert (now the LaSalle Bank Theater – dreadful name) and comedies and plays usually went to the Blackstone on Balbo (now the Merle Reskin operated by DePaul University). In the late 60s and 70s, many Broadway shows in Chicago were resident or “sit-down” professional companies and played long runs, rather than the touring companies that play most cities today, including Chicago, where the runs typically run from a few weeks or, at best, a few months. (“Wicked” is an exception and is a throwback to the resident company era). After the demise of the McVickers, the problem of available space remained. By the 70s, big shows for awhile started going into the Arie Crown Theater in McCormick Place (a horrendous barn of a place). The problem was partially solved, at least for the mega-musicals, by the 80s, when the famous Auditorium Theater was restored and made available. With the restoration of the Oriental and the Bismarck (Cadillac Palace) as legit houses – in addition to the LaSalle Bank Theatre, the situation is considerably different today. But I still think it’s tragic that so many famous theaters in the Loop, in addition to the McVickers (State-Lake, United Artists, Woods, Roosevelt, Michael Todd, Cinestage, etc.) didn’t make it.

CSWalczak commented about Plitt and Cineplex-Odeon in Chicago on Jan 23, 2008 at 1:55 pm

I am sure of only one theater originally opened by Cineplex Odeon that is still operating within Chicago and that is the 600 North Michigan Avenue multiplex which opened in 1996.

CSWalczak commented about Cinerama Dome and ArcLight Cinemas on Dec 26, 2007 at 2:02 pm

There always was some distortion when “2001” is shown on any Cinerama screen; this was true even during the original engagements simply because it was filmed in Super Panavision 70mm, rather than three-strip Cinerama. From the projection point of view, the center of a Cinerama screen is further away than the sides, and even with custom projection lenses, when a single strip 70mm film is projected onto a screen such as this it is difficult to compensate for this fact. Essentially what is happening is that a rectangular image is being projected onto a curved surface. (Tape an old 35mm slide to the lens of a flashlight and point the beam onto something curved; the problem will be obvious).

When the decision was made to go to 70mm for Cinerama exhibition (initially with It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World") there was an attempt made to minimize the distortion by filming in Ultra Panavision and then using what was called “rectification.” Ultra Pan does use an anamorphic squeeze and the rectification process altered the squeezing during the film printing process by reducing it gradually across the printed frame so that there was most squeezing at the sides and gradually less until at the center of the frame there was none. This helped reduce but did not eliminate the distortion at the sides when the film was projected. (This process is described in detail on Martin Hart’s excellent “Widescreen Museum” website in the Cinerama section).

Films shot in Super Panavision (and some other processes such as Super Technirama) were shot on 70mm stock without using an anamorphic lens and these prints were never “rectified” for Cinerama showings as far as I know.

The degree of distortion is also affected by whether the film is being projected on a classic, louvered, deeply-curved Cinerama screen or one of those installed in the 1960s or later (including the one at the Dome) that were not quite as deep.

CSWalczak commented about Chicago Theatre on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:15 am

In a sense, yes. Most Broadway shows in Chicago are now booked in as part of the Broadway in Chicago series each year which is a joint venture of the powerhouse Nederlander Organization and Live Nation. They either own or have long term leases on the Cadillac Palace, the Oriental (Ford Center), and the LaSalle Bank Theatre (formerly Shubert) They also occasionally book shows into the Auditorium Theater and the Drury Lane at Water Tower Place. With that kind of clout, it would be difficult for another house to compete for the shows. Also given the up and down availability of product, the question would have to be asked if Chicago really needs another large capacity house intended for Broadway-type shows right now.

I have also been told that the Chicago, is spite of its seating capacity (over 3,000) has both a shallow stage and inadequate load-in and load-out access to the stage, making it difficult if not impossible for shows with large and complex sets to play there. It did have runs of a few shows in the past “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for example, but the staging of that show is simple compared to, say, “Wicked”. Many of the classic movie palaces that began as vaudeville houses or combination movie and stage show houses had shallow stages because vaudeville and the stage shows back then didn’t require complex stage sets.

This is one of the reasons that the costs of restoring and adaptive re-use of theaters are often staggering: the stagehouse has to be thoroughly rebuilt, brought up to modern building codes, and equipped with new rigging, computerized lighting,loading docks and large access doors. When the now defunct Livent company acquired the Oriental, it also acquired the old Bailey Typewriter Building behind the Oriental’s stage house, broke through the wall, and expanded the stage space so that the modern Broadway blockbuster could play there. I have been on the restored Cadillac Palace’s stage and it too now has large access doors, modern rigging, and fly space. The former Shubert/Majestic has had a number of remodelings, a huge one just recently.

I’m sure that MSG will decide if it wants to make the kind of investment that would enable make the Chicago capable of handling a contemporary Broadway blockbuster or use it as is for different kinds of events and entertainments. Given how slowly things sometimes move in Chicago (look at Block 37 across the street), I wouldn’t think an overhaul of the Chicago’s stagehouse will happen any time soon, even MSG decides to go that route.

CSWalczak commented about Movie Theater Coming to Chicago's "Block 37" on Nov 1, 2007 at 9:41 am

It is great that there will apparently be agan a functioning movie theater on the site where once two great theaters were, but only 800 seats total among the seven screening rooms? If the division is more or less equal, that works out to about 110 seats per room, and if there is even one “large” room, then the others would be even smaller. It sounds like another version of what Landmark operates at Century Centre to the north. If the intent is to go after the art or speciality market, things might get rough for Century Centre and the theater at Piper’s Alley.

CSWalczak commented about Seattle Cinerama on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:01 am

New and restored prints of “"This Is Cinerama” and “HTWWW” were struck a couple of years ago at the Crest National Labs; information about them can be found at the “Cinerama Adventure” website at

I have seen the new print of “HTWWW” at the Cinerama Dome a few years ago soon after it was struck; it looked good, but probably would have looked even better if a proper strip screen had beeen installed.

If I am not mistaken, the last time “HTWWW” was shown at the Seattle Cinerama, the print was the lovingly cobbled together one that John Harvey put together that was shown at the New Neon Theater in Dayton, Ohio during the Cinerama revival that blossomed there in the late 1990s. I think this was shown soon after Paul Allen’s restoration of the Seattle Cinerama.

CSWalczak commented about Tussaud's Cinema on Sep 20, 2007 at 12:19 pm

On p. 23 of the May, 2007 of the newsletter of the Hollywood Heritage organization (available at: View link) is a copy of a 1934 program for the Tussaud’s Cinema, and a small picture of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mum) inspecting the ruins of the Tussaud Cinema can be found here:

CSWalczak commented about Euclid Beach Park Avenue Theater on Sep 19, 2007 at 12:18 am

This is probably, if definitely, not the Euclid Theater in which the organ referenced above was installed. This theater was a wooden structure in Euclid Beach Park, open roughly from late April through September each year. Before having its sides removed and becoming an open air pavilion housing rides, it was called the Avenue Theater, never the Euclid Theater at least as far as I know.

More than likley, the organ was installed in the Euclid Theater that once existed at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, built in 1914 (see entry for this theater) or possibly in a theater located at 16359 Euclid Avenue at its intersection with Ivanhoe Road.

According to Mike Rivest’s list of theaters for Cleveland, this theater at Euclid and Ivanhoe was also called the Euclid, although I have not been able to verify this. (The auditorium section of this theater is still visible today, with its roof full of holes). The Euclid Theater that existed at 9th and Euclid was gone by the 1950s and probably well before, so it is possible that the theater at Euclid and Ivanhoe took the name after the one in downtown Cleveland was demolished.

CSWalczak commented about Aztec Theatre on Sep 11, 2007 at 11:32 am

The Springfield in which the Simpsons live is an imaginary location. I doubt if Cinema Treasures has entries for theaters in such places.

CSWalczak commented about Ozark Theatre on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:43 am

A recent article about the Ozark Theater and its restoration can be found here:
View link

CSWalczak commented about The Hollywood Recycling Machine on Aug 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

Obviously Love Movies and I see the situation on Broadway differently, and I doubt if one medium’s using material originally presented in another will ever stop. Frankly, I look forward to seeing new Broadway shows based on much-loved films though the result is not always successful.

For my money, if Hollywood wants to remake anything, I wish they would make some quality remakes of some Broadway musicals they trashed, especially in the 70s. I would love to see a quality remake of “Hello, Dolly!” or “Mame” or ‘A Chorus Line,“ re-imagined as a film using people appropriate to the respective roles and who can really sing and dance.

CSWalczak commented about The Hollywood Recycling Machine on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:16 pm

I think there’s a difference between a re-make and a re-imagining of a movie’s story or plotline. I think the quality remakes – many cited above – fall into that category, i.e., where the newer version shows some real creativity. I get irritated where the remake seems to be more like simple recycling or an excuse to use bankable stars or just an excuse to show off special effects or go for more explicit sex, violence or gore. As some have noted, remakes, per se, are not new; both Hitchcock and Capra remade films they made before.

I find it interesting that on Broadway, new stagings or revivals of shows occur frequently and few object; in fact there’s even a Tony award for Best Revival. Perhaps the quality of remakes might improve if there was an Oscar for “Best Remake”?

CSWalczak commented about Tibbits Opera House on Jul 27, 2007 at 10:41 am

The picture of the Tibbits as a movie house that I referenced earlier is now at:

CSWalczak commented about Sundance Cinemas 608 on May 7, 2007 at 11:32 am

Great news for movie fans in Madison. But a theater apparently named for its telephone area code? Somehow, “Let’s go to the 608” lacks the charm of “Let’s go to the Rialto or the Bijou or the Strand.”

CSWalczak commented about Tibbits Opera House on May 2, 2007 at 8:18 am

It’s now used primarily as a community arts center. I lived in the Coldwater area from 1970-85, and it always seemed to be in a perpetual state of being renovated. It’s also known for its summer theater season, (but don’t get me started on what I thought of some of those productions). This website:

has a picture of it when it was a movie theater during the period of approximately 1930-1954.

CSWalczak commented about New 400 Theaters on Apr 18, 2007 at 3:19 pm

The entry for the Guild Theater at 717 West Sheridan in Chicago shows that it was known as the Essex as well as the Pine Grove, Panorama, and Little.

CSWalczak commented about Gladmer Theatre on Apr 10, 2007 at 9:40 am

Especially in the 1950s and 60s, “roadshow” referred to a classy presentation of high profile films on a reserved seat or reserved performance basis. Typically, the film was shown exclusively at one large theater in each metropolitan area. The presentation emphasized real showmanship with overtures, intermission, and exit music, the best sound and projection available, grand curtains opening and closing, and souvenir books. The Cinerama films,and blockbusters such as “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “My Fair Lady,” “Lawrence of Arabia, ” and many others (especially classic films originally filmed in 70mm) were presented originally in this way. Those were the days!

By the mid-70’s the concept essentially died out for many reasons, especially the growing practice of showcasing at multiple theaters, saturation booking, the growth of multiplexes, the added expense of running a roadshow, and especially toward the end of the era, a number of films that frankly didn’t deserve this kind of deluxe presentation but got it any way such as “Paint Your Wagon”.

CSWalczak commented about Warner Theatre on Mar 27, 2007 at 12:16 pm

The pictures at the link posted by RamBear above are of the Warner Theater in Erie, PA, not the Warner in Torrington, CT.

CSWalczak commented about Get the Reel Story in Detroit on Mar 26, 2007 at 7:12 am

I had the chance to see this while in Detroit this past weekend; it’s a terrific exhibit. Perhaps one of the saddest things is to see the blow-ups of the movie directory pages from the Detroit newspapers over the years – there is one from each decade from the twenties through the nineties – and realize that one time Detroit had over a hundred single screen theaters and drive-ins.

It would be wonderful if other city museums or local city historical societies would create similar exhibits from time to time focusing on the movie-going experience and theaters over the years in their respective areas.

CSWalczak commented about Cadillac Palace Theatre on Feb 23, 2007 at 3:13 pm

It actually did not go unused after its last motion picture showings in the 70’s; until its restoration for live theater, it became a mixed-use facility known as the Bismarck Pavilion which was operated by the Bismarck Hotel for both concerts, stage performances, and banquets. A false floor was built over the orchestra level seats. I recall that some time in the 1980’s, part of this false floor collapsed during a concert, fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. I attended a function there in the year just before the restoration began; the projection booth for the 70mm projectors was still in place at that time suspended from the balcony level ceiling; during its Cinerama days, all three booths were suspended from that ceiling.

CSWalczak commented about Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:56 pm

I am sure that there are others who could give a better or more comprehensive answer, but it is clear that motion picture production and distribution now is nowhere near as vertically integrated as it was prior to 1948. The “studio system” basically died with the Consent Decree; now studios basically serve as production facilities and production managers; they don’t often do not own the finished films; they distribute them pursuant to contracts. Theaters now bid to show films and I am sure that there are procedures in place to keep the bidding process open. A glance at the offerings at any large multiplex will show that films from many studios are on exhibition at any given moment, even if the theater is owned by a chain affiliated with a studio.

CSWalczak commented about Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 on Feb 22, 2007 at 7:04 am

The court action that forced the major studios to divest their related theater chains took place in 1948. I am not a lawyer, but I do know that the major theory of the case was that the studios' control of motion picture distribution through their allied theaters amounted to a vertical monopoly. You can read more about the case here:

View link

CSWalczak commented about Euclid Theatre on Jan 24, 2007 at 6:23 pm

It sounds like the Oriental was on the site where the East Ohio Gas Building or the former Continental Bank building was later built. I don’t recall the Oriental, but I do remember a penny arcade on Ninth called Jean’s Funny House.