Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Plaza Theatre on Dec 8, 2009 at 1:42 am

The Plaza was opened by Associated Independent Theatres. Early reports of plans for the house in various issues of Boxoffice in the summer of 1961 said that it was to be a large theater, seating 2,200 but, judging from the photos linked in comments above, the project appears to have been downsized considerably.

A September 17, 1962, Boxoffice item refereed to it as “…the luxurious new Plaza Art Theatre, which has been operating only four months since its completion by Associated Independent Theatres.”

Boxoffice of December, 1981, reported that the Plaza was being converted to a twin.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Sunwave Twin Theater on Dec 8, 2009 at 1:35 am

This house must have opened as a twin. The August 23, 1971, issue of Boxoffice had an item about division managers for United Artists Theatres which said “In Central Suffolk, Herman Ficken continues with 13 theatres, including the new Sun/Wave Twin cinemas in Patchogue.” No details about the theater were given.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Park Central 6 on Dec 8, 2009 at 1:32 am

Boxoffice of December, 1984, said “A new Plitt Cinema Six will open in late spring of ‘85 in the Park Central Shopping Center on the Winters Freeway at Southwest Dr., in Abilene, Texas.”

As I recall, Odeon swallowed debt-ridden Plitt in late 1985 (and almost choked on it. MCA had to bail them out.) I can’t find the actual opening date for this multiplex, but it’s possible that the project was delayed due to Plitt’s financial problems at the time, and that it wasn’t completed until after Odeon took over.

If there was a long delay in the project, Odeon would probably have had the design reworked, too, accounting for the similarity to the Montreal house Mike Rivest mentioned. Through the 1980s, architect David K. Mesbur headed a team that did all Odeon’s designs in-house, for both new and remodeled theaters.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Joy Theatre on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:25 am

The December 20, 1940, Boxoffice item which was the apparent source for some of the information about this theater in drive-in mike’s comment also mentioned that prior to Houck’s conversion of the house into Joy’s Atlanta Theatre in 1940 it had been a burlesque house. It was located downtown. The name under which it had operated as a burlesque theater was not given.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Victory Theater on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:13 am

The Victory ended its run as a movie house in 1925. It was demolished to make way for a business building. The Reel Journal of February 21, 1925, said that the new building would be 38x76 feet, so unless part of the theater’s lot was divested for some other project, it must have been a fairly small house. Still, it was apparently an important part of Kansas City’s early theater row. The Reel Journal said “…what was once as grand a motion picture theatre as could be found in town now is only a second and third run house.”

Archie Josephson, by the way, was listed as proprietor of the Hotel Bray, at Twelfth and Baltimore, KC, in an ad in another 1925 issue of The Reel Journal.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fox Tower Theater on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:12 am

Warren: There was an earlier Wonderland Theatre in KC in 1926. See the article on this page of The Reel Journal, May 2, 1925 (Headed “War Pictures…” etc.)

As for the Twelfth Street Theatre which, according to some Boxoffice reports, had been a burlesque house and later became the Downtown Theatre and then the Esquire, it’s listed here now. I’ve been puzzling out the time-line of the names, and might have it right. It was the Downtown Theatre when Fox Midwest took over in 1938 and changed it to the Esquire, so Wonderland name must have been used for only a couple of years. It was next door to the Tower.

And so there’ll be something about the Tower in this comment, a May 3, 1947, Boxoffice item says that Fox Midwest operated the Tower as a double-feature house starting in 1939, and in 1947 was returning it to its earlier position as the circuit’s “A” house in KC. The Esquire which had been playing first runs day-and-date with the Uptown and Fairview, but from 1947 the Tower filled that role.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Esquire Theatre on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:07 am

Another clue to the earlier history of the Esquire appears in Boxoffice of May 3, 1947. The item was about the Tower replacing the Esquire as Fox Midwest’s “A” house in Kansas City, playing first run movies day and date with their Uptown Theatre. The item says that, as the Twelfth Street Theatre, the Esquire had been a burlesque house.

However, an item in The Reel Journal of August 28, 1926, said of a fellow named Cullen Espy: “Starting his career with Skouras Bros. some years ago as manager of the Twelfth Street Theatre in Kansas City….” It seems unlikely that the Skouras brothers would have operated a burlesque house, so if the place had that policy during the late 1920s-early 1930s, they must have sold the theater to another operator, and then Fox Midwest bought it in 1938. As a Skouras operation in the earlier 1920s The Twelfth Street had been a regular movie theater.

In addition, comments exchanged by Warren Harris and Claydoh77 on March 28, 2008, at the Tower Theatre page reveal that this house was called the Wonderland Theatre beginning in 1932. The Wonderland was a grind house. So far there’s no information about when the Wonderland became the Downtown.

So the time-line of names now appears to be: Twelfth Street Theatre from around 1922, when it was operated by the Skouras brothers (probably the original owners,) and then at some unknown date it was converted to a burlesque house operating under the same name until 1932, then it became the Wonderland Theatre for a time, and then the Downtown Theatre, and then the Esquire from 1938 until closing.

I believe the Twelfth Street/Esquire is in the last photo on this web page, right next to the Pantages/Tower. A similar picture is on the Tower’s Cinema Treasures page, but this larger photo makes it clear that there are two theaters side by side. The Twelfth Street is the nearer theater, with the arch on the front.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Regal Theatre Grill on Dec 5, 2009 at 2:44 am

An item in Boxoffice of October 25, 1947, datelined Smyrna, says “Silas Coleman and James D. Berry, World War II veterans, opened their new Regal Theatre here October 20.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Lakeshore Cinema Cafe on Dec 5, 2009 at 2:41 am

A multi-page article about the Mikadow Theatre in Boxoffice, June 8, 1957, said that the theater had reopened in an entirely new building on January 19 that year after the original house, built on the same site in 1916, had burned to the ground in 1956. The rebuilt theater, designed by local architect Sylvester Schmidt, had 640 seats. The article has photos of both the interior and exterior of the new theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fine Arts Theater on Dec 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

The conversion of the Varsity to the Fine Arts must have taken place not too long before the June 8, 1957, issue of Boxoffice published the photo of the auditorium that appears on the right-hand page here. The seating capacity, the caption noted, had been reduced from 1000 to 720 in the renovation.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Totah Theater on Dec 5, 2009 at 2:29 am

From the smattering of events listed on the calendar at the theater’s web site, it looks like the Totah is now actually open, if only for a few days each month.

The site also gives the current seating capacity as 300.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Cozy Theatre on Dec 5, 2009 at 12:10 am

A January 12, 1946, Boxoffice article about the death of Tulsa exhibitor John Edward Feeney says “In 1914 he bought the Cozy Theatre at Okmulgee….” Was this an entirely different Cozy Theatre, or did it become the Rex and then later go back to the name Cozy? The building in the Historical Society photo certainly looks as though it would have been built before 1914, and that marquee could easily have dated from the early 20th century.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Tennessee Theater on Dec 4, 2009 at 1:30 am

A photo of the Tennessee Theatre was on the frontispiece of the Modern Theatre section of Boxoffice, October 3, 1953. I believe it depicts the upper level foyer lounge, with a mirrored wall at the far end doubling the apparent length of the room.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Niantic Cinemas on Dec 4, 2009 at 1:27 am

A brief article with three small photos of the Niantic appeared in Boxoffice of November 4, 1950. The article said the house had opened recently with 660 seats.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Portland Drive-In on Dec 4, 2009 at 1:17 am

This drive-in actually opened in 1953, not 1954. The July 11 issue of Boxoffice that year said “Management of the Markoff Circuit arranged an early July opening of the new Portland Drive-In.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Beach 4 Theatre on Dec 4, 2009 at 12:50 am

A glimpse of the interior of the Beach Theatre appeared as the frontispiece to the Modern Theatre section of Boxoffice, November 4, 1950.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Shea's Seneca Theater on Dec 4, 2009 at 12:18 am

The Seneca Theatre closed in December, 1961, and was reopened in 1965, with its seating reduced to 1,332, according to this article in Boxoffice of April 19, 1965. There’s a small photo of the front of the theater.

I haven’t found out how long the Seneca survived as a movie house after this reopening, but the October 7, 1968, issue of Boxoffice gives the opening date of the Psycus, the discotheque-rock music club that was the theater’s later occupant, as September 27 that year.

The destructive behavior of a particularly delinquent generation of teenagers led to great distress among the elders of Buffalo, as told in one Boxoffice article about a wave of vandalism and rowdy behavior hitting the city’s theatres. According to one claim, almost every seat in the Seneca Theatre had been slashed or torn. One theater manager said “We’ve never had so much trouble trying to manage the youngsters. I’m sorry to say that the girls are worse than the boys.” The article appeared in Boxoffice of November 27, 1943. Kids those days!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Opera House Cinema on Dec 3, 2009 at 1:11 am

The Village Opera House was opened as a reserved-seat roadshow house on May 15, 1969. The first attraction was “Sweet Charity.” The house was conceived by designer Peter Wolf as a “Victorian Jewel Box.” The house, initially operated by Tejas Theatres, was part of a themed project called 1849 Village, but the style of the theater building was much more later Queen Anne-Eastlake than it was the Greek Revival still predominating in the 1850s. If the theater was typical of the buildings in the project, 1879 Village would have been a more appropriate name.

Rendering here in Boxoffice Magazine.

The May 26, 1969, Boxoffice item about the opening failed to mention the seating capacity but said that the screen was 20x46 feet.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Broadway Theatre on Dec 3, 2009 at 12:38 am

The Broadway Theatre closed in June, 1952, and reopened as the Fox on March 6, 1953. The new operator was H.B. Meiselman, who ran a small regional circuit. The house was renovated and seating was reduced from 1,200 to 1000, according to a brief article in Boxoffice of March 14, 1953.

The June 26, 1926, issue of The Reel Journal said that H.L. Royster, managing director of Warner’s Broadway Theatre in Charlotte, was offering reserved seats for a 12-week summer season of movies and stage productions at the house. Royster said “…Charlotte citizens will be offered the best and latest New York musical comedy plays at the Broadway, starting Monday, June 7, with a change of program in both photoplays and stage plays on Mondays and Thursdays.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about State Theatre on Dec 3, 2009 at 12:29 am

The March 14, 1953, issue of Boxoffice said that the State Theatre had been closed and converted to commercial use “about a year ago.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Palace Theatre on Dec 3, 2009 at 12:27 am

The modern facade on the Palace in the 1950s photos was the work of local architect Robert Thomas Martin who designed the renovation of the house that took place in 1949. The third floor of the Palace building was removed as part of the project.

An interesting revelation in the July 9, 1949, Boxoffice item about the renovation was this:

“Midnight rambles were held on Thursday nights for whites at the Beale Street Palace for 21 years. Whites were seated in the balcony and Negro patrons downstairs. They were discontinued in 1941 because of the war, but will be resumed when the remodeling program is completed.”
I don’t know that the midnight rambles for whites ever were brought back after the renovation, as the African-American movie industry that made the films presented at such shows was already on its last legs in 1949.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Avon Theater on Dec 3, 2009 at 12:20 am

The Utica Observer of November 23, 1915, ran an ad for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company which claimed that the organ installed in the Avon Theatre was “…an exact duplicate of the one which received Gold Medal of Honor at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.”

There are several articles about the Avon in issues of the Observer right around the time the house opened, and they can be found in the database of New York (mostly upstate) newspapers at the rather misleadingly named web site Old Fulton NY Post Cards. I read several in vain hope that the name of the architect would be mentioned. If it was, it must have been in one of the blurry sections that inevitably plague scans of old newspapers.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Palma Ceia Theater on Dec 3, 2009 at 12:12 am

The earliest mention of the Palma Ceia Theatre I’ve found in Boxoffice is from April 3, 1943, an item mentioning the failure of its operators to renew a 90-day lease they’d taken. The place was apparently fairly new then. As late as 1947 one Boxoffice item referred to it as one of Tampa’s newest neighborhood houses. I’d surmise that it was an early 1940s house, completed or at least underway before the war began and building restrictions were imposed.

By the late 1940s the Palma Ceia was being operated by Claughton Theatres. A 1953 Boxoffice item said that the Palma Ceia had launched a program of foreign movies two nights a week. The house was still being run by Claughton Theatres when Boxoffice of February 15, 1955, reported that CinemaScope was being installed. The last mention of the Palma Ceia I’ve found in Boxoffice is in an April 28, 1956, item about a lawsuit filed by State Theatres, which was seeking a leasehold interest in this house and two other Tampa theaters.

I found an un-updated web site with the old address of Mason’s lodge 317, and it was at 2309 S. MacDill. The building, at the northwest corner of San Carlos, has been thoroughly remodeled and no traces of its theatrical past is identifiable in Google Street View.

From a tiny fragment of the former facade wall seen in one of two photos at the Catalano Engineering website (the company that handled the conversion to office space) it looks like the entire top was taken off of the building and a new second floor added. The line in the accompanying text about how the building “…needed to be preserved….” might have been meant ironically. Do they still have irony in Florida?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Ultravision Theatres 1 & 2 on Dec 1, 2009 at 1:47 am

This prototype of the UltraVision theaters (that is the way it was spelled in an ad for the projection system’s developers, Wil-Kin Inc., in the September 29, 1969, issue of Boxoffice) opened in September, 1969. A small photo appeared in Boxoffice’s issue of September 15.

Various issues of the magazine say that the house was designed by Wil-Kin, a division of the Paramount-ABC affiliate Wilby-Kincey chain of theaters. In fact, the company did hire an architect who worked very closely with the developers of the innovative projection system to make sure the UltraVision Theatre would have the optimum form to show the system to full advantage.

Two Boxoffice items give the name of the architect, but with different spellings, both of which turn out to be wrong. The November 2, 1970, issue, in an item about the opening of two more UltraVision houses, says that the Charleston theater, on which their designs were based, was designed by Bill McGhee, but a September 8, 1969 item gave his name as William McGee.

Correcting the errors in Boxoffice, the AIA’s Historical Directory of American Architects lists a William Bringhurst McGehee as a member of the Asheville, N.C., firm Six Associates. A 1972 Boxoffice item notes a William B. McGee of Six Associates as having done preliminary work on the twinning of the Carolina Theatre at Hendersonville, North Carolina.

I think we can safely identify the lead architect of the UltraVision Theatre as William B. McGehee, of the firm Six Associates. His listing in the 1970 AIA Directory also lists the Phipps Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, another Wilby-Kincey house with UltraVision equipment, among his works.

The architect(s) who adapted McGehee’s original design for the later UltraVision theaters might also have worked at Six Associates, but I haven’t yet been able to confirm that.

On the subject of the UltraVision projection system itself, projectionists in particular will probably be interested in this October, 1991, Boxoffice article commemorating the 25th anniversary of this innovative development. The article mentions that UltraVision equipment was eventually installed in 60 theaters.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Phipps Plaza Theater on Dec 1, 2009 at 1:17 am

Long-time Paramount-ABC regional affiliate Wilby-Kincey Theatres' announcement of plans to build the Phipps Plaza Theatre appeared in Boxoffice Magazine’s issue of February 3, 1969. The new house was to be equipped with the UltraVison 70 projection equipment developed by Wilby-Kincey subsidiary Wil-Kin Theatre Supply Company, and the auditorium would feature a continental seating arrangement with rows 45 inches front to back. I haven’t found the exact opening date, but the July 14, 1969, issue of Boxoffice said construction was underway and the house was expected to open that fall.

The Phipps Plaza Theatre was designed by Asheville, N.C. architectural firm Six Associates. Though Boxoffice didn’t mention his name, the lead architect on the project was William B. McGehee, who filled the same role for the first UltraVision Theatre built for Wilby-Kincey at Charleston, North Carolina. The Phipps Plaza Theatre is listed among McGehee’s works in his entry in the 1970 AIA Directory.