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An article on the demolition in today’s Parma Sun News:
By Maura Zurick, Northeast Ohio Media Group
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on December 08, 2014 at 3:09 PM, updated December 08, 2014 at 7:02 PM
PARMA, Ohio — After the dust cleared Monday, piles of brick, glass and metal littered the Ridge Road spot where the Parma Theater stood for 78 years.
The demolition came with no warning, said Mayor Tim DeGeeter, who learned of the wrecking ball from Councilwoman Deborah Lime, who worked with the Friends of the Parma Theater to try to save it.
“This morning’s demolition came as a surprise to us,” DeGeeter said in a statement. “As this is private property, the city has no standing in this. Our concern is making sure that our residents are safe, that the demolition is done properly and in compliance with city laws.”
The theater closed in 2012, and shortly after, a fire started in the lobby causing $750,000 of damage. The blaze was ruled arson by the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the case is still open.
The Friends of Parma Theater tried to save the movie theater from the wrecking ball for nearly two years. Lime said she found out about the demolition from Facebook and phone calls.
“There truly will be a huge void and a loss to the area with the theater gone,” she said and thanked the volunteers who tried to save it.
The efforts to save the theater spanned from impractical, including a resident’s plan to buy the theater for $1 and convert it into a cat sanctuary, to fundraising to turn it into a community arts center.
Owner Norman Barr had to fix 20 building code violations or tear the theater down before Dec. 11 court date.
Demolition crews started around 8 a.m. By mid-afternoon the front of the theater was a pile of debris.
“As a resident of Polish Village and Parma I am deeply saddened and dismayed that the owners have chosen to demolish the building,” said Kathy Mabin, a member of the Friends of Parma Theater.
Mabin said Barr gave the Friends an inflated price and unreasonable time limit, only after the theater was the subject of news coverage.
“So now the community will suffer, gone is the history, gone is the hope to reclaim the building and make the space useful, and what is left behind is a gaping hole left by their destruction,” she said.
Parma resident Wayne Mesker, one of the original members of Friends of Parma Theater, came to watch the theater where he saw “Transformers” and “Spider Man” come down.
“It’s a sad day here in Parma,” Mesker said. “It didn’t have to be this way.”
According to local radio news reports, the Parma Theatre was flattened today. They also state that the group that was trying to save it was given no notice that it was coming down today.
wmjp: The materials I have are the photographs posted in the photos section here, a project manual and a set of architectural and mechanical drawings for the alterations of 1988. I do not have the drawings for the original construction in 1961, Mr. Geller had them as reference for “as built” conditions and would bring both sets [1961 and 1988] when we had owner/architect/contractor meetings, and when he visited the site several times a week while the project was underway and I looked at them several times when the original conditions differed from the 1988 drawings.
The project manual and drawings I have are labeled:
Abraham W. Geller & Associates
24 West 25th St. NY NY 10010
To the best of my recollection the 1961 drawings were labelled in a similar manner, and had the NYC Dept. Of Buildings approval seal affixed, making Geller the architect of record. I dont recall seeing Mr. Schlanger listed, but then I never had those drawings in my possession to study as I did the 1988 drawings. Mr. Geller did speak of him, though.
I’m sure Mr. Geller has gone to the big drafting table in the sky, as he was quite elderly in 1988, and I never heard if there was a successor firm that would have his files.
Mr. Schlanger was involved in many theaters including the Murray Hill, Sutton and Beekman for Rugoff, the original Framingham Cinema in Boston for GCC and ‘The Cinema’ in D.C. to name a few.
Regarding the Lincoln Center connection, I read something about that here too, but I did not post that info. I was unaware of it until I read it here.
hdtv267: In other areas of the country they have taken some of their aging, smaller but still profitable theatres
[ http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/7740/comments ] and installed the reclining seats and upgraded the concession operation, plus they have installed ‘MacGuffin’s Bar’ in the lobby, serving beer, wine and spirits that you can drink there or take to your seat. Have they done that here? I’m curious to know if that creates problems in that particular theatre, especially if they are still booking it as an action house.
Brooklyn’s Ridge Park Square theater now offers plush recliners, full bar and pizza
Brian Byrne, Northeast Ohio Media Group Feb 14, 2014
BROOKLYN, Ohio – A multimillion renovation of the AMC Ridge Park Square Cinema 8 will be officially unveiled Friday night, offering moviegoers plush power recliners, full bar service and expanded refreshment options.
Started in September, this is the first major upgrade for AMC Ridge Park, and it coincided with a similar project at AMC Westwood Town Center Cinema 6 in Rocky River. Kansas-based AMC has said the goal of the initiative, mirrored at roughly 25 locations nationwide, is to revolutionize what it means to go to the movies by bringing the comforts of home to the theater.
“The best possible guest experience is at the heart of everything we do. Whether that’s through numerous food and drink options, a full bar, incredibly comfortable chairs or an amazing movie presentation, we want our guests to be excited about coming out to the movies again and again,” AMC Executive Vice President for Development Mark McDonald said in a statement.
The recliners replace the traditional fold-down seating, and allow guests to stretch their legs. Capacity in each of the eight theaters has been significantly reduced to accommodate increased spacing between rows.
“It’s already leading to incredible feedback,” AMC Public Relations Director Ryan Noonan said.
Every screen and sound system has been replaced, and are now all fully digital and 3D capable, Noonan said.
Out in the lobby, guests will now find “MacGuffins Bar,” featuring on-tap and bottled beer, wine, cocktails and even a margarita machine. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar – named after a term coined by filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock – or inside the theater.
The snack bar still has old favorites like Goobers and Milk Duds, but has added hot options including chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks and pizza to the menu, now presented via a large digital screen. A “very popular” Coca-Cola Freestyle machine gives guests the ability to mix a wide variety of flavors, Noonan said.
The facility has also received fresh paint and carpeting, improved bathrooms and new signage on the façade.
The Brooklyn and Rocky River theaters are in shopping centers owned by Cleveland’s Zeisler Morgan Properties, Inc.
“We’re thrilled AMC is adding such extensive upgrades to both locations in Brooklyn and Rocky River. The renovations will redefine moviegoing in Cleveland and will significantly enhance the entertainment options for our shopping centers,” Zeisler Morgan President Shannon Blackwell said.
In anticipation of a rise in demand, both theaters are instituting a reserved seating policy. More information is available at amctheatres.com/ridgeparksquare and amctheatres.com/westwood.
Was the new seating installed on the original sloped floor, or have the auditoriums been converted to stadium seating?
Under the photo tab on this page, the second pic from the left – looks mostly demolished to to me. While another theatre may be built on that site, the building that closed in December 2011 is, for the most part, gone.
BTW, based on the previously mentioned photo, the status of this theatre should be changed to ‘Demolished’.
I’m surprised that nobody has commented on the photo added Aug. 13, showing that the Avco Center Cinema has nearly vanished from the face of the earth. So much for the alleged conversion that was supposed to save it.
Joe, what did it in, lease expiration or DLP conversion feasibility?
The last permit issued by the DoB was for conversion from a theater to retail store, dated 11/05/2004. I don’t know if the permit expires at some point if work has not commenced, but it would be uncharacteristic of the city to leave something like this open-ended.
I was never in the Plaza. By the time I came to Cinema 5 “The Queen” (aka Alexandra) was reigning there. OMG the stories about her! She claimed Mr. Rugoff gave her a lifetime contract to manage the Plaza. Ass’t mgrs had a shelf life of a week, new floor staff about a day. By all accounts she was a terror so I steered clear of the place because I was new and needed my job, although I really wanted to see the inside of it. She lived over near the Beekman somewhere, and she always had the armed Burns guard walk her home at night because she thought one or all of the ass’t mgrs or staff members that she fired would kill her on the street. An older woman usher at C I&II, a very nice pleasant lady who never had anything bad to say about anybody, was sent over there to be the assistant. After two days she came back boiling mad, slamming doors, and using some very colorful language to recount her adventure at the Plaza and exactly what she thought of Miss J. – we’d never seen her in such a state. needless to say, she did not return there.
I worked at Cinema 5/City Cinemas from 84 to 94. Mr. Marks was not there when I was. I went to Loews in 94. Did you know Gene Shafran, an Austrian guy who would mumble to himself in German? He was a manager at the Plaza at one time. When I started at Cinema I-II in 84 he was a part-time mgr there, Tue & Thur evenings. During the day he worked at Saks. He had plenty of stories about the Plaza, where he met and was supposedly tight with John Cassavetes, Gena Rowland and Peter Falk.
There are a million stories from all these theaters – I once worked with a cashier who always said “With all the stories that go through this place I ought to write a book!” I think a book could be written about every theatre, but who would read them other than us?
Arthur Marks was the Managing Director at Loews 84th. You could set your watch to his routine, and one day in the fall of 1995 he failed to show up at the theatre. The police were sent to his apartment and found him, he had passed away from a heart attack. Prior to 84th St. he worked at Loews Ridgefield Park over in Jersey. Prior to that, he owned a sports bar on 3rd Av-34th St. That business failed and he came to Loews. I didn’t know he worked for Rugoff, or maybe i did and forgot. And yes he was very tall but was haunched over a little. In his youth he played basketball for Tulane. And huge shoes – once when I came to work evening shift and he had opened the theatre in the morning, I rushed up to the boxoffice and asked the cashier, with an urgent tone, “did Mr. Marks come in today?” She said yes of course. I said “thank God – i was worried – last night when I was going home I saw a tugboat pushing one of his shoes down the East River!” He put up a gruff facade, but once you got to know him he was a nice guy, as long as you did your work, that is. He didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense from the people at the home office, either. His demeanor actually scared a number of them.
I worked there before the 1988 renovation, during the renovation through to the re-opening. Before the renovation Cinema I had 700 seats, Cinema II had 291. During the renovation, once the new seats were installed I counted them to compare with the purchase order and invoice and to have the DoB occupancy signs made up. C1 was 532; C2 was 290; C3 was 165; an additional 49 seats (5%) in spare parts, for a total of 1036 seats. Those were the accurate counts at that time. In the 25 years since then, the place could have been re-seated once or twice with different size seats. If they are the same seats, and I hope they are not, they are probably canibalizing seats up front or against the walls for parts to repair broken seats in prime areas. I haven’t been in there in almost 20 years so anything is possible.
The third cinema was created by removing the front six rows of seats in Cinema I and moving the screen forward, then squeezing some seats, projector and screen into the resulting space. Prior to the reconfiguration Cinema I had 700 seats; afterwards there were 532, and 165 in the added cinema, a loss of only three seats from the original capacity. The addition of that third cinema and combining the street level lobbies destroyed whatever prestige (real or perceived) that the place had. All it really needed was sprucing up with new seats, carpet and wall covering.
Once Pathe exited the theatre at 4 W58 it went to Loews and was re-named Fine Arts, but the Loews name was never on the sign, unlike every other Loews theatre in the history of the world.
Al, that zoning restriction did indeed apply, but I don’t think Pathe was aware of it at the time. They knew of its past as a theatre, which is why they inquired about it.
Once Pathé Cinema lost the lease on the Paris Theatre in 1990 they were interested in re-opening elsewhere and looked into this former Reade house. It had been converted into the chapel but appeared to be unused, windows filthy, trash accumulating in front of the entrance. Inquiries were made but the Archdiocese of New York was not interested in giving the place up. Early in 1991 Pathé Cinema went through bankruptcy reorganization and lost interest in pursuing a New York location. If the stars and planets had lined differently it’s possible that the former Fine Arts Theatre at 128 E58 would have been renamed Paris after the former Paris Theatre at 4 W58 had been renamed Fine Arts.
It’s an empty lot now. Change status to demolished.
Does anybody remember the little Walter Reade art house that was on 58th St. btwn Lexington and Park, mid-block on the south side of the street? I can’t remember the name of it, and I want to look it up here on CT. At the time that Pathé Cinema lost the lease on the Paris Theatre in the early 90s they looked at this former Reade house as a place to possibly relocate to. It was then being used as a chapel by the Archdiocese of New York, and they weren’t interested in giving it up. Today I think there is a Subway sandwich shop in there.
As I recall, the original projection/sound package we bought for the new 7-plex included Simplex 35/70mm machines in the main house and the largest house in the cellar, along with the 6-channel mag stereo Dolby processors, I don’t think digital had made its debut yet. The other 5 screens had Simplex 35mm machines and 4-channel Dolby processors. Plus, we got one professional grade 16mm machine with xenon lamp, I don’t recall the brand, that was set up to interface with the automation and audio systems in at least 2, if not all the screens in the cellar. Ralph Donnelly was booking the place at the time, and he made the rounds at Cannes and other prominent film festivals, and several times came back with a low-budget independent film that he thought was promising but had only 16mm prints.
In the description on the title page for this theatre, I’m not sure that the statement “…the empty building was destroyed by fire…” is entirely accurate. I have heard news reports stating that the fire damage was largely confined to the lobby, with smoke damage throughout the rest of the building, including the two adjoining stores. Other reports that the damage estimate is $750K. In any case, the building is still standing and the roof appears to be intact. As I recall, the lobby had been “redecorated” with wood paneling on the walls, the type you would have put in your finished basement in the 1970s, those thin 4'x8' sheets.
The Parma Theatre is on fire at this moment!
(article from WOIO Channel 19 news below)
Parma Theater Fire: Historic landmark goes up in flames
Posted: Nov 16, 2012 5:10 PM EST Updated: Nov 16, 2012 5:29 PM EST
PARMA, OH (WOIO) –
The Parma Fire Department is on the scene at 5826 Ridge Road at the Parma Theater fighting a huge fire.
The Parma Theater was closed about 2 months.
Parma Theater opened in 1936 and is one of the oldest theaters in the neighborhood. It closed on Labor Day of this year.
There is no information about the cause of the fire at this time or if anyone was injured.
Copyright 2012 WOIO. All rights reserved.