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According to the Annual Film Review of 1936, the Strand had 1,000 seats.
According to the Annual Film Review of 1936, the Park Theatre had 1,600 seats.
Was in the “ladder district” today to see “Wicked the Musical” at the Opera House (see my report on the Opera House on its page). The Bijou next door looks like progress is being made – most of the back portion where the Bijou auditorium stood is demolished – the front part of the building has interior demolition well underway and the front facade has already been restored. The site of B. F. Keith’s New theatre is partly taken up by the Opera House stage house, and the rest is construction area – eventually the addition to the Paramount/Bijou will be there.
Next door at the Paramount, they they have definitely started renovations – can see evidence of it behind the plywood covering the front. In the back there was a hole about ten feet square knocked out of the backstage wall. If the sun wasn’t shining toward me, I might have been able to see something inside, but no such luck. Saw a vague shape but couldn’t tell if it was the decorative column of the auditorium. Hope it is – the newspaper articles are contradictory about esactly how much of the auditorium interior will be saved.
Interestingly the Playbill reported that Suffolk University had submitted a bid for the Modern Theatre (just on the north side of the opera House) with an eye to renovation with a possible performing arts or theatre space on the first floor and dormitory space on the others. Bid deadline was August 30, 2007, hopefully the Boston RDA will announce a winner soon.
Playbill also mentioned the Wilbur Theatre down next to the Wang/Metropolitan has been placed on the market by Tremont Entertainment Enterprises. City officials will allow the new owners to use the building for entertainment, restaurant, office or residential use. Since it is landmarked, they cannot demolish it or make significant alterations.
Was in the “ladder district” today to see “Wicked the Musical” at the Opera House (see my report on the Opera House on its page) and they have definitely started renovations on the Paramount – can see evidence of it behind the plywood covering the front. In the back there was a hole about ten feet square knocked out of the backstage wall. If the sun wasn’t shining toward me, I might have been able to see something inside, but no such luck. Saw a vague shape but couldn’t tell if it was the decorative column of the auditorium. Hope it is – the newspaper articles are contradictory about esactly how much of the auditorium interior will be saved.
The Bijou next door looks like progress is being made – most of the back portion where the Bijou auditorium stood is demolished – the front part of the building has interior demolition well underway and the front facade has already been restored. The site of B. F. Keith’s New theatre is partly taken up by the Opera House stage house, and the rest is construction area – eventually the addition to the Paramount/Bijou will be there.
Just got to visit the Opera House for the first time since the restoration, and it is quite stunning. Although the basic layout of the auditorium is virtually identical to many of Thomas Lab’s other “adamesque” theatres, the ornamentation is another matter. Since this was built as a memorial to Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) keith, Lamb was told money was no object and to indulge himself, and he packed the walls and ceilings with the most elaborate and finely detailed ornamentation in any of his theatres. It was interesting to see the original color scheme – not flashy but fairly restrained – shades of ivory and beige, with generous application of gold leaf on the ornamentation, all expertly antiqued – looks quite like I remembered 20 years ago, except much cleaner and in pristine shape. The large blank panels between the ornamentation and columns is covered with luxurious red damask, and the ornamentation is just as elaborate at the very back of the balcony as on the proscenium. Even the balcony stairways have the damask and fine plasterwork. The main lobby and entrance library are both sights to behold – both very elaborate, and an impressive lobby ceiling with even more generous applications of gold leaf. At the top of the grand staircase, other staircases wind around a “podium” outdent forming the front of the oval landing appearing there. The podium area sticks out and would make a great place to address the crowd milling below (I couldn’t take the position of honor since the space was taken with a temporray concession table for the musical). At the back wall of the oval was the giant bust of B. F. Keith back in its place of honor. The foyer at mezzanine level (serving the “dress circle seats” has an elaborately carved multi-bay ceiling with several impressive seiling domes. The theater is carpeted throughout with the original carpet of black with gold designs. The seats were nicely covered with black and red patterned velvet, and the original chair ends at the aisles were restored. Lots of crystal chandeliers throughout the lobbies and auditorium. Accoustics were excellent and so was the amplification system – heard the entire musical clearly without having my ears hurt.
Took a peek outside afterwards – the new stage house is huge, even has a nice pattern to the concrete back wall. The NIMBY apartment dwellers got to keep their segment of Mason Street open, although it is more of a walkway than a street. (See my comments at the Bijou, and Paramount pages for what I saw of those venues) The old Tremont Street entrance and corridor of course is all gone, demolished when the new tower was built on Tremont Street. But the new arcade walkway built into that building has a replica of the old facade on the back of the building as well as the front. Inside the arcade looks all modern (but nice modern, much more attractive than the old entrance in its final form). The arcade that ran the length of the Opera House on the southside is all closed up beyond the back of the large Washington Street lobby. Just see the closed doors back there as I turn right to enter the inner lobby. No idea what is there now.
Interestingly, the report on file that the Library of Congress indicates that there was an internal entrance to the Bijou Theatre off of the men’s 2nd floor lounge (whose window looks out down onto the main entrance lobby) and in fact that the restoration of that space left a restored staircase leading to a blank wall (beyind which was the bijou theatre). I forgot to look for that staircase when I was up there but it would certainly be an interesting curio!
Overall, it was great to see the place again and to see it so well restored.
According to the Sept. ‘07 Boston Playbill (I got it at “Wicked – the musical” today) Suffolk has indicated they envisioned a mixed-use facility with possibilities including theatre/art gallery/performance space on the first floor, as well as additional student housing. They recently bought the building next door to renovate into a dormitory (building next to that is already under renovation).
Their bid has been submitted (and the deadline passed 8/30). Hopefully soon the Boston RDA will announce the winning bidder.
Currently the Center is undergoing a major renovation and expansion of its stage house. It will reopen once renovations are completed in 2008. Check their website (link above) for more details.– new addition on the back
According to Craig Morrison’s book “Theatres” for the Library of Congress, this theatre was built in 1910 and had a capacity of 1,636.
Aztec On The River’s webpage is at http://www.aztecontheriver.com and has some nice photos.
According to the THS’s list of largest movie palaces, the Strand has been converted to offices; presumably gutted.
According to the Theatre Historical Society’s list of largest movie palaces, the RKO Uptown had 2,922 seats. Their list indicates the auditorium was demolpshed, indicating the rest of the building survives.It had a Wurlitzer organ installed.
This theatre was operating as far back as the 1920s
Accpording to the 1936 Motion Picture Yearbook, the Madison seated 1,746.
This is the same as the Five Flags Civic Center (nee majestic) (/theaters/1176/) – both at 405 main street, built 1910, etc.
According to the Motion Picture Yearbook for 1936, this seated 2,400.
According to the 1936 Film Annual Review, the Richmond at that time seated 750.
According to the Film Annual Review of 1936, the Strand seated 1,300.
According to the Film Annual Review of 1936, the Capitol had 1,497 seats.
The book “The Show Starts on the Sidewalk” does list S. Charles Lee as doing the remodeling in 1936.
According to “The Show Starts on The Sidewalk”, S. Charles Lee designed this theatre in 1939 in an art-moderne style and it seated 900.
In the early 1980s the Plaza had been long closed, most of the former lobby was a retail store (no original details remained), and the rest of the lobby was an entrance corridor going back to the former inner foyer running along the back of the auditorium. At the north end (the right), was the original staircase upstairs. In front I saw an empty large room with a ceiling that curved downward (the ceiling under the balcony), and a new floor had been put in order the seating area. The staircase went up to the former balcony area which had been converted to offices. Behind the “curbed cailing room” was the rest of the auditorium fairly intact. Windows on either side had been uncovered and you could still see the ornate balcony front with a solid wall about 6 inches behind the balcony railing. The auditorium walls were plain (very old looking) plaster, and the front still showed the proscenium which was made out of fairly restrained ornemanetal pressed tin. The stage was walled off, both of these spaces had been a former dance studio. The cailing was very fancy ornamental plaster in a square classical design. The upper floors (former hotel space) was run-down single-room-occupancy spaces. Around 1983 or 1984, the entire building was renovated with the stage and auditorium being concerted into offices – the main auditorium portion is the law office and the ornamental ceiling was beautifully restored. An oldtimer remembered this as the 2nd run house which also featured saturday matinees, the Calvin being the ritzy place for major movies.
The restoration of the auditorium was very well done. Unusual color scheme (yellow & gold primarily with various muted shades of green & white trim, but a whole lot better than the original appearance, and the color scheme extended to the formerly all dark brown ceiling. The place is certainly brightened up! The first thing i saw entering the outer lobby was they removed the drop ceiling of the 1960s, revealing the former two-story lobby ceiling which had been hidden for decades.
Nathan Goldstein had renovated the lobby areas in the early 1980s, and actually did a very good job – the walls were painted with cream color paint that must have had mica mixed in because the walls literally sparkeled (it was muted and tasteful, not ostentatious) – it really looked nice and I wish they had kept that effect in the latest renovation. But they still did a great job.
The Calvin showed 2nd run movies as far back as I could remember (1970s – of course all theatres in Amherst/Northampton were 2nd run in those days), and remained 2nd run when the Hadley malls finally became 1st run. Although they did get a 1st run of Star Trek: the Motion picture in 1979 (originally was to be the exclusive booking in the area but the malls got it too). This drew some good crowds – in the 600-700 range – but still not enough for them to open the balcony. I had to wait until 1980 and an arlo guthrie concert to get upstairs (still had seats from the 1930s up there!) When they started showing occasional concerts in the early 1980s it was reported that until the end stage had been unused since the 1920s.
Before ther renovation, it was mostly cream color and the wall columns had blue background with dingy gold paint sloppily applied over the decorative motifs (vines and fruit, a simpler version of some decorations at the wonderful Wang (nee Metropolitan) theatre in Boston, MA. ) The ceiling was a dark marblized brown color. The areas between the columns had square accoustic tiling in a nice harlqeuin (read tilted 45 degrees) pattern going up about a third of the way, which I (in my architectural ignorance of 20 years ago) assumed had been original with possibly damask fabric above (which actually wouldn’t look that bad – the walls are a little bare now).
They didn’t actually add a third auditorium to the complex, they split one of the original auditoria down the middle. The original theatres seated approx. 300 each. They didn’t even bother to remodel the remaining “large” auditorium during the split; when I visited in the 1980s, the decor was noticably different in the larger one (older, but oddly, in better shape! – the original walls with minimal decoration were still there, the other two just had curtains down all the walls.
The Poli Palace was designed by Thomas W. Lamb
Saw a movie there in the 1980’s – interesting design – probably 700 seats all on one level, a flat wooden floor. Building had exposed slamnted wooden beams in the ceiling looked like it had been fairly recently renovated. I can see why it became a church later.