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Goodbye to an icon in Parma: Sun News editorialPublished: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 11:29 AMSun News staff By Sun News staff
Another sad reminder of the passage of time and the softness of the economy hits home this week as we learn the Parma Theater will shut down for good shortly after Labor Day.
For lots of Parma residents, watching animated classics and favorite childhood films on the enormous screen while seated in plush seats with a treat from the concession stand is a treasured memory. But the reality is we did not continue those weekly pilgrimages to that movie palace, nor did we take our children there on a regular basis in enough numbers to keep the theater afloat.
Viewing habits changed. Multiplexes with about as much charm as tiny warehouses sprang up to push the beautiful movie theaters out of the picture. In-home movie services and gigantic TV screens now are encroaching on that experience, and it seems families are abandoning the movie theater experience altogether and hunkering down in their own family rooms and living rooms to watch films.
The scenario has played out in other cities, where old, art deco movie houses limp along until the owner simply has to throw in the towel. There are sudden spurts of activity from nostalgic residents who suddenly look for ways to save the structures as community assets; architecturally important and significant in the fabric of the community. But after a flurry of concern and calls for saving the theater, what tends to play out is what was recently seen in Lakewood: The theater is razed and a fast-food restaurant is building on the site.
Without patrons, these theaters cannot make it.
Owner Norman Barr told the Sun Post he held out as long as he could. He has been looking for a buyer for five years. Here’s hoping a potential buyer with some creative, workable ideas for such a property steps forward. The city administration and city council should get proactive in helping market the high-traffic site at 5826 Ridge Road. But there is no question the challenge is great.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves saying goodbye to an icon of the community. We might not have supported it enough in recent years, but we wanted to know it was there; an anchor in our town that connected us to our past and to each other. But the passage of time has no respect for that sort of thing, and in the end, it is time that wins.
Parma Theater will close in September, owner says
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 11:14 AM Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 11:21 AM
Bob Sandrick, Sun News By Bob Sandrick, Sun News
PARMA Parma Theater, which has struggled financially in recent years, will probably close for good in September.
The news came earlier this week from Norman Barr, owner of the theater, which is at 5826 Ridge Road.
“We held out as long as we could,” Barr told the Sun Post.
Barr said the theater will probably close Monday, which is Labor Day. However, he said he may keep the theater open another week.
Barr said he is closing Parma Theater partly because he has been trying to sell it for more than five years.
Kelly & Visconsi Associates LLC, a commercial real estate firm in Beachwood, has been marketing the property for Barr.
Barr said he has not reached a deal with a buyer. He said there has only been “general talk” among those interested in purchasing the theater.
Barr said he is closing the theater also due to slipping attendance. Late last year, the theater cut back on show times and started showing movies only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Parma Theater is one of the region’s oldest movie houses.
According to “Parma,” a pictorial history of the city by Diana Eid, Parma Theater opened in 1936 as a one-screen theater with about 1,500 seats.
Barr had also owned Detroit Twin Theater, another old movie theater in Lakewood. He sold that theater and it closed in January 2011. McDonald’s is now building a restaurant on the site.
Barr said there are no firm plans for the Parma Theater site but he believes it might be redeveloped.
“That is probably what will happen,” Barr said.
Councilwoman Debbie Lime, whose Ward 2 encompasses the theater, said she was sad to hear about the closing.
“It’s a big piece of the community,” Lime said. “I’d like to see what we can do to save it.”
For those associated with the Cinema from way back in the early years: Mr. Ray Stibich, evening manager for many years, has passed away in Florida. Services in Ohio. Obit in the PD 2/23&24/2012 for further info.
So, what’s the scoop? Did they ever open that Anthropological store in here? Is there anyone with a camera nearby to possibly snap a few pics of it with the new tenant and inevitable changes to the exterior and post them on this site? If so, thanks in advance.
To expand upon what Brade48 has stated, by the time the theatre was built Avco had become a conglomerate of many units, the most visable of which were Avco Financial and Avco-Embassy Pictures. The theatre and the office building to the west of the theatre were part of the same development. The Avco Corp. was the primary tenant in the office building and had naming rights so the development became Avco Center. Avco Corp. was taken over in 1984 by Textron and relocated, so the office building now has either the name of the current primary tenant or just uses the street address as its name, e.g. The 108XX Wilshire Building.
I have always been told that a place with a stage and fly loft was a ‘theater’ A cinema without staging capabilities was a ‘theatre’.
It’s primarily a concert venue.
The heading needs to be corrected: the address was 6901 Pearl Road; and as a twin it had 1400 seats, 700 each auditorium.
I remember when the Merc re-opened after twinning that the Cinema II side had seats installed only in the back third because they ran out of time. In fact they were still mopping the dust off the floor when the picture started, a Geo. C. Scott picture I forget the title. They finished the seat install during the night.
$101,365/mo. – that’s pretty high rent for a 4 screen theatre, not doable.
When General Cinema transitioned from drive-ins to indoor theatres in the 1950s, they made a strategic decision to lease when possible rather than own property because it limited their liability for major repairs to the building. Usually the leases were written in a manner that made the landlord responsible for repairing the roof, making any structural repairs, replacement of heating and air conditioning equipment and maintenance of the parking lots and landscaping. The landlord also carried insurance on the building and in a catastrophic situation like a fire or severe storm damage the landlord repaired the building shell and GCC, being self-insured, repaired the interior build-out as an out-of-pocket capital expense.
The policy of leasing rather than owning proved to be a major element in the downfall of General Cinema. Leases prevented them from shedding the obsolete units with high rents and declining attendance numbers while at the same time they were trying to reconfigure the company with modern expensive stadium seating megaplexes.
Originally, the screen surrounds in both Cinema I and Cinema II were white, similar to General Cinema theatres of the era. Cinema I was lit red, Cinema II was lit blue. Prior to the opening of Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick came in to look the place over and DEMANDED the screen surrounds be painted black, or he would open his film elsewhere. Rugoff ordered them painted. In Cinema II it is still black.
So, now that the theatre and flea-bag hotel are gone, I’m sure the neighborhood is a much safer and pleasant place to be for the junkies, dealers, gang-bangers and school children of Passaic. What these pathetic small-minded city officials should have done was restore the theatre as a performing arts center and bulldoze the rest of the town.
In these type of venues the source of the unique ‘aroma’ is the carpeting – a combination of spilled beer, barf and far too frequent applications of carpet shampoo that isn’t allowed to dry before spilling more beer and barf on it.
Thanks for these ads MR – the CT page for the Westgate 6-plex is located here: /theaters/7738/
I don’t know how I missed that – I guess from the names Euclid and Doan I just assumed…well…no excuse…careless reading at 2am.
It’s possible that Loew’s operated the Euclid from 1919 until they built the Park in 1921 across the street and a little bit west. As this theatre was less than half the size of the Loew’s Park it probably became a move-over house and Loew’s eventually lost interest. The subsequent operator probably renamed it. It would be interesting to see if there are any advertisements showing Loew’s operating the Euclid and Park simultaneously.
Yes I’m watching the same show on PBS… :)
Mr. Schlanger’s role in a number of theatres in New York, DC and presumably this one was usually that of a consulting architect, advising the architect-of-record only on the technical aspects unique to a motion picture theatre. Specifically, things like acoustics, sight-lines, seating layout, floor and balcony pitch and arc, projection and audio equipment, electrical and space requirements for the projection booth were his expertise.
That’s why I questioned the photo of the Albee I saw in the book – one theatre was Lamb and the other was the Rapp Bros. I worked at the Palace and am quite familiar with it. So while perusing the book I saw a photo and automatically assumed was the Palace until I read the caption that indicated it was the Albee.
The RKO Albee was long gone by the time I came to NY so I never got to see it. I saw a photo of the lobby and auditorium in the book “American Picture Palaces” by David Naylor, and It looks amazingly similar to the RKO Palace in Cleveland OH. I suspected it was a mistake in the captioning of the photo, but was never quite sure. I would like to ask the Albee Theatre aficionados here to check out the links below that contain photos of the Cleveland Palace, which has been restored and is open and operating as one unit of a performing arts center. After viewing the photos could you please report here if the lobby and auditorium are similar to your recollections of the Albee interiors? Thanks in advance for your opinions.
RKO PALACE – Cleveland Ohio:
Exterior (front and side):
To give proper credit, the photos were taken and links posted on the Palace page on this site by CT member ‘spectrum’ on Jul 9, 2009.
The CT page for the Palace Theatre Cleveland OH is at:
It has indeed closed after the last show tonight. The other theatre this owner has, the Parma, has been up for sale but is still operating. We’ll see how much longer that one lasts.
Wow I never saw that ad. Do you know the date and what paper it was published in? Thanks.
Not quite a gut remodel, Al. They built a smaller auditorium within the old opera house. The first time I was in there was the night the ceiling fell down, I was working at CI&II we got the news and rushed down there. The ceiling over the balcony had come down and a large section of that then slid down the incline into the orchestra. I couldn’t see much at that time due to the heavy cloud of dust and there were no lights operable.
Several months later, I was given the key and sent down there to retrieve a buttermat and some other stuff. I took a big flashlight because nobody knew if Con Edison had shut off the power. By that time the entire ceiling was down in the orchestra. At the top of the side walls there was a vast amount of space between where the ceiling had been and the roof. There was enough space that another auditorium could have been built up there. Also, along the sides were the side sections of old horse shoe balcony of the ancient theatre. Snooping around further, I found that in the projection booth there was an old rickety wooden stairway going up to that balcony. That whole structure up there was made out of wood and there was evidence of past fire damage. There was old fabric wall covering straining to stay on the walls along with the old light fixtures. Below this balcony was another, but it was hidden behind the side wall of the cinema. Below that, on the ground level was the exit alleyway from the cinema. This was all on the west side of the building, the east side was similar, but inaccessible, and the ground level was the men’s room, ushers and porter room.
When they readied the place for temporary operation I drew the short straw and was assigned to be the manager. A new ceiling had been installed but instead of putting it in its original position they put it all the way up near the roof, leaving the old balcony’s exposed. In addition to installing the screen we had Geo. Moulinos mask off all that upper area and walls with drapery.
When that was finally shut down to be made into the quad, THEN they did do a complete gut, I was in there when it was just 4 walls and the roof.
Parmatown was the first twin theatre in the Cleveland area, Chapel Hill in Akron was the first twin theatre in Ohio. Southgate was built as a 12 or 1300 seat single screen. About 1971, at the same time the Westgate Cinema City under construction Southgate Cinema II with about 600 seats was built in the alley between the large cinema and the Cleveland Trust. The alley originally contained the auto-teller for the bank. The original auditorium was not divided until the early 1980s. The regional vp over the Cleveland division mgr. had been the opening manager of the Southgate Cinema, and as long as he was in charge of the area would nix any plans to divide that large theatre. Once he was switched to oversee the west coast instead of the midwest, the Southgate #1 was split.
Is it still sitting vacant? I was sure they would divide it up into ten trashy jewelry stores, or have the finally reached the saturation point with that junk? Every other storefront on 74th St. was that stuff. Even then, when the bar next door to the theatre went out of business, it was divided with 2 jewelry stores on the street level and 2 more in the cellar.