Coronado Performing Arts Center

314 N. Main Street,
Rockford, IL 61101

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bruceanthony
bruceanthony on May 29, 2004 at 10:52 pm

Jim I agree with your comments to a degree. Even the Megaplex being built today is now using some sort of neon. As I repeated before The Detroit and Atlanta’s Fox have a wonderful marquee but the St Louis Fox a boring marquee and the Wang has an Awful marquee. All these theatres have been very successful since there restorations so I would like to know why two cities got it and the others didn’t. A major movie palace feels naked without a proper marquee. Even the Nederlanders finally put a decent vertical on the Orpheum in SF which has very strict guidlines along Market St.Many cities will give an a historic structure a waiver if the marquee being restored is from the 20’s,30',40’s and 50’s. Disney when restoring the El Capitan in Hollywood had put a small vertical but it was to small for the size of the building.I had a discussion with Disney and pointed out the sign looked to small and there response was well it looked large when it was on the ground.Within a few weeks Disney had put a larger verical.At least the Coronado put up a vertical.Im not happy with the marquees in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square a very successful theatre complex. Im guess Im spoiled because when one of the first authentic restorations I had seen the Oakland Paramount, got it right from the front of the house to the back of the house and this theatre was restored as a Symphony Concert Hall.When the Fox-Oakland started there restoration project the first thing restored was the fabulous vertical and canopy marquee. Oakland doesn’t have a lot of money but felt it was important to restore the marquee.brucec

Scott
Scott on May 28, 2004 at 9:06 am

Jim, I don’t dispute your argument about the large costs associated with signage. I just thought that if it was maybe a foot wider and 5 or 6 feet taller (or something on that order), it would look a whole lot better. I certainly wouldn’t expect them to have re-produced the original, or equal the size of the one they took down during the renovation (which was huge). There isn’t even a need for a really large sign since there is no competition among theaters downtown any more. However, the one there now looks like a dwarf. It’s conspicuous by its smallness. I mean, the sign should conjure up at least a little magic. But it’s a small black mark on an otherwise successful renovation project. A project for which the City of Rockford is both grateful and fortunate.

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 28, 2004 at 2:36 am

It isn’t always that modern day designers don’t appreciate the larger marquees and vertical signs that once adorned virtually every movie palace in the nation. Often it is simply a matter of cost, since those huge signs are very pricey, not only to build, but also to run! Electricity back in the 20s was perhaps ½ cent per KWH, but today, it is closer to 10 cents, and that adds up fast since many such are left on during daylight hours as well. Then there are the local regulations against large signs and marquees that most cities passed back in the 50s when ‘modernization’ was the buzzword in conjunction with ‘urban renewal.’ Many of these regulations still remain on the books with limits of total dimensions or square footage or types of lighting. Some municipalities still regard such signage as garish, especially if the local owner/developer does not happen to have a suitable ‘financial arrangement’ with the local officials in power. Permits for those projects without suitable political connections seem to languish in bureaucratic ‘hell’. At least the CORONADO attempted to replace the vertical, something for which restoration funds are often lacking vis-a-vis other priorities. And then there are the authenticity requirements of some authorities where any sign, to be allowed, must be as authentic as possible, and that means spending what may have been tens of thousands in the ‘Twenties, to hundreds of thousands today. If it is a choice between replacing the authentic finishes and fabrics indoors versus a larger sign outdoors, I will always opt for the indoor costs. Lastly, we must remember that the neon extravaganzas of the past were often proven impractical in northern climates where a single ice storm could easily ruin hundreds of feet of tubing, costing tens of thousands to replace, and as for those with thousands of light bulbs, you do not want to know what it costs today to get a man up there for many hours to replace bulbs, and LED replacements for them are only just becoming practical at far, far greater initial cost! And then there is the matter of rust and paint.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on May 27, 2004 at 1:55 pm

Scott I would love to see what the original Vertical sign looked like. You are correct the present vertical doesn’t match the scale of the theatre. At least they put a vintage vertical up. I don’t understand the thinking that goes into restoration projects are the marquees a second thought. The first impression you get of our beloved movie palaces is the marquee. Many cities such as Boston has horrible marquees in front of there restored theatres. Smaller cities have done a better job restoring some of there marquees than some of our bigger cities.brucec

Scott
Scott on May 27, 2004 at 11:39 am

Bruce, I think the only flaw with this theatre is the vertical. During the recent renovation the very large vertical that had been there since the 1950s (or so) was removed and replaced with a more vintage design. Unfortunately, it is somewhat under-scaled for the theatre. Maybe puny is a better description, though it is similar in style to the original 1927 design. The rest of the exterior renovation work was superb, as what was a deteriorating facade now looks great.

I remember that, even as young children, my friends and I would talk about how neat the Coronado was. You know it’s impressive if 7 or 8 year old kids notice it. It was my experiences in this theatre that caused me, as an adult, to develop a more intense interest in movie palaces. In 1985 I just happened to stumble across a book in the NIU library in Dekalb, IL called “American Picture Palaces” by David Naylor. And much to my amazement, the Coronado was briefly discussed. My childhood theatre was featured in a book! That book, along with my memories of the Coronado, flipped a switch in my brain. From that time forward, I’ve been a movie palace nut.

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 26, 2004 at 7:05 am

Of the hundreds of theatres I have seen photos of, or visited in person, none has the outlandish mix of themes done so very well as the wonderful CORONADO! To have a rococco lobby go to a lobby with a well through the ceiling into the balcony foyer with statues of Venus Rising atop twisted columns under an imbricated dome, and then to enter an auditorium of a Spanish courtyard under an ‘atmospheric’ (stars and clouds) ‘sky’ of a ceiling with Japanese pagodas and dragons crawling around the organ screens, marks possibly the highest degree of imagination in one theatre in the nation. Yet it all works well together, and architect Klien is to be praised!

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on May 25, 2004 at 4:28 pm

Scott I agree. The Coronado is beautiful. I went on the Chicago Conclave last year and the Coronado was one of the highlights.This theatre is in beautiful condition and it still has the feel of a movie palace.brucec

Scott
Scott on May 25, 2004 at 9:57 am

I attended many movies here during the 1960s and 1970s. It continued to be a first run theatre into the early 1980s. All during this time it remained in beautiful condition. The management of this theatre made sure you knew you were someplace special when you came here. It was quite dramatic when they would open and close the curtain before and after each movie showing. It was first class all the way. I remember ushers in full dress uniform still patroling the auditorium and lobby as late as the mid 1970s. The auditorium was in such fine condition at the time of its restoration in 2001, that no painting, save for a few touch-ups, was needed. Just a cleaning was done.

The plasterwork in the Coronado is magnificent, and would rival the plasterwork in Eberson’s best theatres. Supposedly, the same firm that did the plasterwork for the Roxy in New York did the Coronado’s. I have not seen a finer theatre of its size. It is certainly one of the most beautiful atmospherics remaining in America.

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 22, 2004 at 6:13 am

A theatre that employs smaller scale, focus point ornaments is the CORONADO in Rockford, Ill, which features ‘vases’ of stained glass flowers in niches in the sidewalls under the balcony to this day. Using flame shaped bulbs to illuminate them, these decorations also lend the more artistic air so little found in smaller scale in theatres; we all appreciate the large scale effects, but a good planner balances the theme by means of attention to ornaments on both ends of the size scale. One might also recall similar ornaments in the form of the dioramas of Chicago cityscapes that once graced the niches in the walls of Chicago’s long-lost SOUTHTOWN (preserved at the Theatre Historical Soc. www.HistoricTheatres.org ), but people can increase the level of interest by using smaller ‘jewels’ to highlight the lobbies, as was done with antique figural lamps upon an imported mahogany back bar in the PABST in Milwaukee, for example. The wonderful ‘fountain’ of stained glass centered in the rotunda of the lobby of the RIALTO in Joliet, Il, also comes to mind as a wonderful focal point feature that takes that theatre beyond the ordinary. And the monumental crystal fountain at the top of the stairs in the LOS ANGELES is perhaps the largest of such custom ornaments to grace a theatre in a most memorable way!