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In the 1980’s occasional live performances and/or outdoor movies in the parking lot on the site of the theatre. They actually had a marque with twinkling lights, and when you walk through the entrance and into the parking lot, there was a large screen off to the right just about where the back wall of the stage would have been. Every time I saw it, I regretted I wasn’t around when the building still stood.
The Brooklyn tabernacle has reorganized their website; the link at the top no longer works. The following will take you to a set of photos taken during their restoration of the theatre. http://www.brooklyntabernacle.org/history.cfm# It looks like they were doing a fantastic job restoring the venue to its original appearance! I just wish they would put up a set of post-restoration photos so we can see the end result.
The seating capacity should be changed to 3,600.
The Paramount had fairly restrained, classical type decorations in its long, narrow auditorium, columns down the sides with brown curtains in betwen. Decorations were fairly attractive. There was a shallow balcony at the back, which seemed unusual for a theater this narrow. Was sad that it was destroyed, it continued showing first run movies right to the end. The front has had the red facing and marque removed showing the original beige stone front, and the Paramount sign is removed from the cornice. The main shell of the building is otherwise intact, but the interior is all new.
The Garden Cinema was an unusual atmospheric theater with idyllic scenes of new england countyside painted on the walls and a greek pediment style proscenium arch. When i first checked out area theatres it was quite a sight, even though my the early 1980s the walls had darkened so you could barely see the murals. There was a large aquarium in the back of the orchestra section. I don’t know if they changed the ceiling or not, but when i went in, instead of the traditional twinkling stars and blue ceiling with clouds, there were a myriad of star-shaped recessed light fixtures shining bright light down into the auditorium Interesting effect but not traditional atmospheric.
The ceilings were very darkened like the walls. There were virtually no plaster ornamental features on the walls as almost all of the decorations were the painted scenery although a few portions of buildings were cleverly shaped and meshed to the paintings. When I went in early 1980s they still played the organ before the feature!
When it was multiplexed, the lobbies all got modern wall coverings and decorations (although otherwise unchanged) and the balcony was sealed off and split down the middle. The railing at the top back is original but all walls and seats are modern.
The orchestra section is split into three spaces, all modern furniture and walls, and two more screens in the stagehouse area. I hope all the original walls are preserved behind the new auditorium walls but I don’t know if they are.
The showplace appeared to have been built in the early 1920s. I went in one time – you’d walk straight back and turn right to enter the auditorium – fairly straightforward classical architecture, kind of like a smaller simplified version of the Calvin in Northampton. Greenfield’s downtown theatres survived doing first run right up into the mid 80s' due to the lack of any competition. Finally the Greenfield Cinemas opened in a strip mall off Route 2. Soon the Showplace closed and the Garden Cinema was split into seven screens. Then the Greenfield Cinemas closed. One rare case of the old palace (albeit multiplexed) driving the modern strip mall venue out of business!
This cinema actually had eight screens. They were opened in 1980 with the mall. Absolutely the nadir of theater construction – eight identical shoeboxes, narrow, approx 250 seats each, cheap vinyl seats. Plain red and purple curtains on the walls, and small screens. It was all done on the cheap.
The biggest problem is this was part of the “cafe square” section which for some reason was in the basement level one floor below all of the stores. the whole cafe square was out of the way for shoppers as a result and the cinemas were really tucked out of sight, so they really never had a chance. They started with a mix of 1st and 2nd run films and quickly dropped to all 2nd run. Only thing they accomplished was to run the remaining downtown theatres out of business. But they couldn’t compete with Showcase Cinemas in west springfield and barely lasted ten years before being gutted and converted into a mini-golf establishment. That lasted less than two years and it is now a Filene’s basement store.
For many years there were two other venues in Amherst showing movies. the Town Hall Auditorium showed movies until 1955 when town offices were built in that space. The ceiling remained intact as attic space and when the 2nd floor rooms were removed in a 1980’s renovation, they were revealed again and restored. Unfortunately they built a new 2nd and third floor in the building and once again, the old ceiling is attic space. The proscenium is sadly gone. This space must have seated close to 1,000.
The other venue was an auditorium built as part of the Jones Library in 1926. That seated about 300 and showed films for many years. In 1968 when the library was renovated, a 2nd floor sliced the auditorium horizontally, with book stacks going into the stagehouse area. The ceilings curved close down over patrons in the new room, curving to the floor on the sides. I believe it was called the Burnett Room.
In the late 80s or rearly 90s the library was renovated again and the floor removed and stage area walled off, and the room restored as the main adult meeting room. The curved deiling still remains but it’s all modern white walls in the room now.
In the 1980s, the Amherst Cinema showed 2nd run films and occasionally oldie double features. Once they had a science fiction movie festival there which became an assignment for one of my UMass classes.
The auditorium was long and narrow with plaster columns running down the sides with ornate corinthian tops and light coves with alternating blue and green lights. I always remember the glowing clock to the left of the screen saying “amherst savings bank” long after the bank was bought out. It was renovated in the early 1980s with new curtains hung on the walls between the pillers. The ceiling had been molded ornate tin like many of the older stores downtown, but in early 1970s a modern dropped ceiling was installed.
In the renovation the main building was gutted and converted into stores and the new cinema center is in the backmost part of the old building extending into a new extension. Haven’t been into the new cinemas yet but the lobby looks well done. I imagine they did a good job with the auditoriums as well. they are different sizes, I believe the largest holds around 400. The retail portion is fully occupied now. I miss the old cinema but, being so long and narrow, there was no practical way to convert it to modern uses.
The Pleasant St. Theater opened in 1976 in a former shoe store, and 1 year later reconfigured its layout (originally the screen was next to the front of the building). Bare Brick walls, nice modern lighting, gives a neat ambience for the independent amnd foreign films they show. When i went, there were even some comfortable sofas instead of auditorium seats in the back row.
The 2nd screen was added around 1980 in the basement. Even narrower, and the seats were all director’s chairs. Still a great location to see non-mainstream films
The Calvin has been beautifully restored. It never looked too shabby even in its final cinema days, but there was major work needed for the physical plant. They did an extensive job, and now the Calvin has a regular program of concerts, plays, musicals and even occasional films!
For years this was Sheehan’s Cafe, a very ornate bar. Closed late 1980s or early 1990s.
Forgot to mention – the Mountain Farms Four opened approx. January of 1974 a few months after the mall opened. The Hampshire Six across the street opened in June of 1979.
As of early 2007, nothing much has changed. The hallway that enters the mall builting left of EMS is still bare sheetrock – unpainted – they are probably waiting until they get a tenant before doing any more work. The explorable walkway mentioned abofe is not where the theater used to be, it’s the space to the right of that walkway in the back half of the building, right behing EMS – that space should still be intact at this point. The door was locked any time i tried to go in.
For years this was the main theater in Amherst until Hampshire Six opened and shortly after that opened both went to first run movies (finally!). But Mountain Farms Four was really built at the nadir of cinema construction – shoebox theatres, approx 300 seats each, plain red & orange curtains – long and narrow, with really small screens up front. We’d make occasional visits to the Calvin in Northampton or the Amherst Cinema to get a real cinema experience – they were still doing 2nd run then.
The drive-in closed around 1976. Eventually the screen was torn down, and a home & garden center was built on part of the site. That has since turned into a thrift store. Last time I looked, some of the posts that held the portable car speakers were still sitting in the ground in the areas closer to the screen.
The two cinemas added in the mid 80s also were the first in the area to feature dolby stereo. Overall these theatres (although some were smaller) were an improvement over Mountain Farms Four Theatres because the screen covered basically the entire front of the theatre. At Mountain farms they still had the stairway going up to the exit door which took up almost 1/3 of the back wall, leaving a ridiculously small and high screen. Not a great place to see Star Wars, etc. Four auditoria seated about 335 people the other two seated 165 each. Instead of curtains they had some abstract modern decorations on the walls. The lobby/concession area had a color scheme which complemented the Cafe Square’s old-downtown look.
These should be titled Cinemark Theatres. Twelve screens, stadium seating. Big screens. My guess is size ranges from 150 to 300 seats. State of the art projection and sound. The main hallway has photographs of vintage movie palaces. The Cinemark’s auditoriums can’t match these old palaces, but some carefully chosen retro decorations and wall sconces add a nice touch. Certainly better than the Hampshire six theatres they replaced (although those did have a nice lobby) It’s great that the Amherst-Hadley-Northampton area finally has a complex that gives a lot of choices.
Since at least 1969, this was known as Campus Cinemas and it was actually a triplex.
The auditoriums each held just over 500 seats, with golden draperies on the sides (felt like they were made of fiberglass, behind them were cinderblock walls), and steps up to emergency exits on each side of the screen. They were identical in size and layout except Cinema 1 had a separate inner lobby (I don’t know why – perhaps that one had been added later, but from the outside rear of the building it looked like it was all a single construction) They were the main cinemas for Amherst at the time (being approx. 600 feet from the line between Amherst and Hadley) but it was all 2nd run. They opened in 1965, when the rest of Campus Plaza was built.
After the Mountain Farms Four Theatres opened in early 1974, they struggled to compete, eventually dropping to 3rd run and finally porno flicks before closing in 1976.
Zayre’s closed in 1981, and Stop & Shop moved into their space in the spring of 1983. That summer, the Campus Cinemas were demolished. About ten years later, the Stop & Ship expanded west and connected with the new T. J. Maxx store which was built on the site of the cinemas.
The Campus Cinemas were a lot nicer that the Mountain Farms Four theatres – larger and with bigger screens. Too bad they were not able to compete.