Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Babylon Cinemas on Feb 23, 2010 at 3:13 am

The mid-1950s rebuilding of the Babylon Theatre was designed by architect Maurice D. Sornick. A few photos appeared in an ad for Heywood-Wakefield seats in Boxoffice of January 7, 1956.

A photo of the auditorium was on the cover of Boxoffice, June 2, 1956. The Babylon was operated by Associated Prudential Theatres.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Crookston Grand Theatre on Feb 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

The Grand was apparently operated for several decades by members of the Hiller family. The Grand Theatre was being managed by C.L. Hiller at least as early as 1929, when the July 6 issue of Movie Age said that sound equipment was being installed n the house. A 1937 Boxoffice item said that the Northern States Amusement Company was operating the Grand, Lyric, and Royale theaters at Crookston.

Northern States might have been the Hiller family’s operating company even then. In 1985, the June issue of Boxoffice said that Jeff Hiller was the head of Northern States Amusement Company, but that item and the 1937 item are the only appearances of the company name I’ve been able to find in Boxoffice. C.L. Hillers brother, Ernotte Hiller, was operating the Grand at least as late as 1973.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gopher Theatre on Feb 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

The original owners of the Gopher were C.L. and Ernotte Hiller, also operators of the older Grand Theatre in Crookston. Boxoffice of October 12, 1940, said that the Gopher had opened recently, with 706 seats. It also had a magic fountain, though Boxoffice gave no details about this remarkable feature. Perhaps living in Hollywood had left them jaded about such things.

An April 17, 1937, Boxoffice item had said that the Grand, Lyric and Royale theaters at Crookston were all operated by the Northern States Amusement Company, which had bought a site for a new 800-seat theater in Crookston. I’ve been unable to confirm that this was the house that eventually opened as the Gopher, but if it was then it was designed by Liebenberg and Kaplan.

In 1956, Ernotte and Mrs. C.L. Hiller (C.L. himself had died the previous year) were operating two theaters at Crookston, and were planning to build a drive-in. Boxoffice of March 3 that year said that during the drive-in season the Hillers would close one of the hardtops. I haven’t found the Gopher mentioned in Boxoffice later than that, so maybe they decided to close it permanently.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Park Theatre on Feb 22, 2010 at 9:23 am

Park Theatre operator Gordon Aamoth, making his first visit to Hollywood, was photographed with actor Fernando Lamas on the set of the movie “Sangaree.” The photo was published in Boxoffice Magazine, March 14, 1953. The caption had the most recent mention of the Park I’ve been able to find.

Gordon Aamoth owned the Park, Roxy, and Towne theaters in Fargo in association with his brothers, H.C. and Francis Aamoth. The latter two opened the Roxy in 1932. The Towne, formerly the State, was operated by the Aamoths from 1951 until 1962.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Broadway Theatre on Feb 22, 2010 at 9:18 am

The Roxy was opened in 1932 by brothers Francis and H.C. Aamoth. A third brother, Gordon Aamoth, was later associated with them. The Aamoth brothers also operated the Park Theatre in Fargo from at least the late 1930s until about 1953. They operated the Towne Theatre during the 1950s and into 1962.

According to an item in Boxoffice of September 27, 1965, the Roxy was leased to independent operator Willis Menge from about 1955 until 1965, when Menge sold the operation to the Dakota circuit, headed by Ernest Peaslee (or Peasley— Boxoffice uses both spellings), who had acquired the Towne from the Aamoth brothers in 1962. The Roxy had been Fargo’s last independently-operated theater.

The Broadway Theatre was sold to Delaware-based Windsor Theatres in 1973, along with the Towne, as reported in Boxoffice of April 30 that year.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Towne Theater on Feb 22, 2010 at 8:22 am

Boxoffice of April 14, 1951, reported that the former State had recently reopened as the Towne Theatre. The State Theatre had been bought from the Minnesota Amusement Company (a Paramount affiliate forced to divest itself of many theaters by the consent decree) by Francis, Gordon, and H.C. Aamoth on February 9, 1951.

The Aamoth brothers, already operating the Roxy and Park theaters in Fargo, had the State remodeled to plans by Minneapolis architects Liebenberg & Kaplan, expending $50,000 on the project (a later Boxoffice item said the cost of the project was $65,000.) The Towne was to be managed by Gordon Aamoth.

Later that year the Aamoth brothers entered an agreement to sell the equipment and lease the Towne to E.R. Ruben, but this deal fell through. The October 13 Boxoffice item about the sale said that the Aamoths had paid $125,000 to buy the State, and gave the seating capacity as of the time of the sale to Ruben as 1,045.

The Aamoths made another attempt to sell the Towne in late 1953, but this deal apparently failed as well, as the April 10, 1954, Boxoffice said that Gordon Aamoth had had the Towne updated and redecorated. This $11,000 project included a new screen, improved lighting, and the replacement of 300 balcony seats. Additionally, Boxoffice said, “…the former ‘castle’ effects on the walls have been removed and replaced by acoustical wallboard.”

Gordon Aamoth finally managed to rid himself of the Towne in 1962, when he sold the house to Ernie Peasley, operator of the Auditorium Theatre in Stillwater, who would take over the Towne on March 1, according to Boxoffice of February 26. I haven’t found any of the Aamoths mentioned in later issues of Boxoffice except for a 1965 item which said that F.P. and H.C. Aamoth had opened the Roxy Theatre in Fargo in 1932.

The Towne was in operation into 1973, when the Peasley circuit sold it, and the former Roxy (which had been renamed the Broadway), to the Delaware-based Windsor Theatres, as reported in Boxoffice of April 30. The house did not remain open for long after that, though. Boxoffice of November 26 said that the Towne had been razed in late October.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Orpheum Theatre on Feb 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

An item in Boxoffice of February 3, 1940, sheds light on the fate of the Orpheum. Minnie Hector Smith, who had until 1936 operated the Orpheum under a lease, had filed suit against the Minnesota Amusement Company, charging that the firm, operator of rival theaters in Fargo, had in 1936 leased two-foot strips on either side of her theater and denied her access to the space, thus blocking the Orpheum’s emergency exits, and the theater was forced to close as a result. I’ve been unable to find anything about the outcome of Mrs. Smith’s lawsuit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Northwest Plaza Cinema on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:45 am

All the early reports about this theater in Boxoffice do indicate that it opened as a single-screen house, and a very large one at that. The announcement of the June 25, 1969, opening appeared in Boxoffice of June 30, and said that the Northwest Plaza Cinema had 1,700 seats. A slightly longer item in Boxoffice of July 14 included a small photo of the theater, though it looks like it was taken before the building was completed, as there’s no signage.

A brief notice in Boxoffice of November 18, 1974, said that GCC had closed the house for twinning, and the reopening was scheduled for December 20.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Sunset Hills Cinema 4 on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:42 am

Boxoffice ran an article about this theater in its issue of July 19, 1965. The text is fairly detailed in its description of the house, but the four photos are not very helpful. The Cinema I and II was said to be the first two-screener in the St. Louis area. The theater was designed for GCC by St. Louis architect Syl G. Schmidt.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Edwards Huntington Cinema on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:38 am

The rather busy facade of the Edwards Huntington Cinema was featured on the cover of Boxoffice of July 19, 1965. An interesting feature of Roland Pierson’s design is the convex section of the front carrying the signage, which mimics the proportions and curve of a CinemaScope movie screen; a clever example of architectural form suggesting, rather than following, function. Louis Sullivan must have turned over in his grave, but J. Walter Thompson would probably have been impressed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Strand Theatre on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:35 am

The July 14, 1969, issue of Boxoffice ran a single-line item saying that the Strand in Lowell had been remodeled.

Boxoffice of March 3, 1975, reported that the Strand Theatre had been sold to a Cambridge developer named Raymond A. Carye. The developer’s plans were not firm, but rehabilitation of the Strand as a cinema-restaurant-cultural center was mentioned, as well as conversion of the building into offices.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Village Theatre on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

Fred Hyde and Associates opened their Village Theatre on March 18, 1947, as reported in Boxoffice of April 5. An older theater in town, called the Coronado, was in operation at least as late as 1953.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Evans Drive-In on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:26 am

The walk-in section of the Evans Drive-In had 65 seats, according to this article in Boxoffice of July 19, 1965. In 1965, the Evans installed a system allowing patrons to receive the movie’s sound track through their car or portable radios instead of wired speakers.

The sound system was provided by a Wheatland, Colorado-based company called Minicast Corp., and must have been one of the earlier instances of the use of low-power radio for sound at drive-ins. It used an AM frequency rather than the FM which later became common for this purpose. The article mentions that operator R.L. Stanger had designed the Evans Drive-In himself.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Bradlick Theatre on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:21 am

A few interior photos of the Bradlick Theatre in Boxoffice, July 19, 1965. Captions say the house had 900 seats.

I’m glad I wasn’t a kid named Brad growing up in Annandale when this theater was operating. The mockery they must have endured!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gem Theatre on Feb 21, 2010 at 4:18 am

The caption of this small photo of the Gem in Boxoffice of April 5, 1947, calls it the Rosalind Theatre, though a December 7, 1946, item had said that Bill Wegman’s new theater would be called the Gem. Further puzzlement is offered in Boxoffice of May 26, 1951, which refers to a Roseland Theatre in Homedale. I’m not sure if either of these is an actual aka for the Gem.

The caption of the 1947 photo also refers to a “makeshift” theater Bill Wegman had previously operated in Homedale. The earlier theater was also called the Gem. Boxoffice of May 22, 1937, said “The Gem Theatre of Homedale, Idaho, is reported to have opened recently.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about State Theatre on Feb 20, 2010 at 6:14 am

The scheduled opening date for the State Theatre was September 12, 1939, according to Boxoffice of September 2. The State had 670 seats and had cost $65,000 to build. It was owned by Gene Custer and Floyd Price. The partners had opened the Lewis Theatre at Lewisburg, W.V., the previous week.

Boxoffice of December 17, 1938, said that E.R. Custer’s new theater at Charleston, on which construction was scheduled to begin soon, had been designed by F&Y Building Service, of Columbus, Ohio.

Gene Custer also operated the Custer Theatre in Charleston, which had opened in 1938.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Lyceum Theatre on Feb 20, 2010 at 4:51 am

The November 27, 1961, issue of Boxoffice said that the Lyceum had been closed permanently by order of the New Orleans Board of Buildings Standards and Appeal. The house had last been operated under a lease by J.G. Broggi. The item noted that the Lyceum had been built by the late Frank Heiderich, but didn’t mention when it had opened. The item did refer to the Lyceum as one of the oldest movie houses till operating in New Orleans at that time.

The earliest mention of Heiderich and the Lyceum I’ve found is in Boxoffice of June 19, 1937, which said that he had become a grandfather. I haven’t found an obituary for Frank Heiderich in Boxoffice, but the April 5, 1952, issue had a brief item about the death of Mrs. Heiderich which said that Mr. Heiderich was believed to have started his career in exhibition in 1907. The April 12, 1952, issue mysteriously changes the spelling of the name to Heidrich, and says that Frank Heidrich had owned the Lyceum for “…over 20 years.” Son Henry Heidrich would take over management of the theater, this item said.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Gem Theatre on Feb 20, 2010 at 4:50 am

I was noticing the pagoda-like boxoffice in that 1912 photo. It’s an interesting bit of Chinoiserie set amid the European classical details of the facade. It looks like there might have been some Art Nouveau stained glass in the arch, the doors, and the upper floor windows as well. I wonder if there are any surviving photos of the interior?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about State Theatre on Feb 20, 2010 at 4:44 am

Boxoffice of September 30, 1974, had the sad news: “The historic State Theatre in Harrisburg, purchased last October by the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Ass'n, now has been razed. The 50-year-old house was demolished to make way for a new office center.”

Flickr user pscf11 says this photo depicts the Lyceum in Harrisburg. The evidence cited is that a bar called Carley’s is now located in a building next door to the site of the Lyceum, and that building is seen in the photo. I’ve looked at a photo of the exterior of Carley’s on the bar’s web site (photo 14 of their slide show), and I don’t see a strong resemblance. The building could have been altered, of course, but until other evidence surfaces, I remain sceptical about the claim that the Lyceum in the photo is the one in Harrisburg. The address of Carley’s however, is 204 Locust Street, which means that the address of the State probably was 208 Locust, or very near it.

The Lyceum at Harrisburg is listed in the 1904 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide, which gives that house a seating capacity of 1,732.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Cinema 4 on Feb 20, 2010 at 4:38 am

This theater started out as a twin. Boxoffice of June 25, 1973, said that construction was about to begin on a twin theater for Turner-Reynolds Theatres (formerly Turner-Farrar Theatres) just off the town square in Harrisburg. Each auditorium was to have 309 seats. The August 6 issue of Boxoffice said that an October opening was planned for the twin on South Main Street. I haven’t found any items about the actual opening or giving the original name of the theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Lincoln Theatre on Feb 19, 2010 at 2:12 am

I found a Lincoln Theatre in New Orleans mentioned in Boxoffice of July 4, 1966. No address was given so I don’t know if it was this Lincoln Theatre, but it could have been.

Also, Washington is currently misspelled in the address field above. Washingtin sounds like it would be the punch line in a joke about a Model T Ford.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Annex Theatre on Feb 19, 2010 at 2:09 am

According to Boxoffice of January 15, 1955, the Carl Floyd Theatres circuit had recently taken over operation of the Annex. Floyd took over the Winter Garden Theatre and the Starlite Drive-In at the same time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Jeff Theatre on Feb 19, 2010 at 1:29 am

The September 27, 1941, issue of Boxoffice said this: “The Jeff Theatre, operated by W. H. Castay, will be one year old September 29.”

“Bill” Castay (whose first name was actually Walter, not William) also operated the Arrow Theatre in New Orleans, and operated the Jeff Theatre at least as late as 1950. He was still operating the Arrow in 1959, but I haven’t found the Jeff mentioned later than 1952.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Overton Theatre on Feb 17, 2010 at 3:56 am

The only mention of a Paul Horton in connection with Overton I’ve been able to find in Boxoffice is in the brief September 5, 1953, item which said that the Redwood Drive-In had opened.

A January 14, 1956, Boxoffice item said that James Brakeall had bought the Overton Theatre from Bill Hall, who had “…operated the theatre for more than twelve years….”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Criterion Theater on Feb 17, 2010 at 3:54 am

The Criterion got a thoroughly modern look in a 1950s remodeling which Boxoffice featured in a multi-page article in its issue of August 7, 1954. There are several photos, but there is only one small “before” shot among them.

The credits section of the article attributes the design of the project to architect Dietz Lusk Jr., and though it doesn’t specify the firm of Boller & Lusk I think the partnership was still in existence in 1954.

Incidentally, the Boller Brothers Architectural Records in the Western Historical manuscript Collection attribute the original design of the Criterion to Robert Boller, not Carl. By the time the Criterion was built, Carl had already moved to California and Robert was handling the firm’s theater projects in the Midwest.