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Here’s something from Boxoffice of September 22, 1969: “Spyros Lenas is scheduled to open his newest indoor, a 1,500-seater in the Willowbrook Shopping Center complex Wednesday (24).” Other Boxoffice items give a seating capacity as low as 1,200 for this house, though.
As far as I’ve been able to discover, Lenas' house was the first movie theater in the Willowbrook Shopping Center. The house appears to have been quite successful in its early years. Boxoffice of August 24, 1970, reported that the Willowbrook Cinema had just completed a six month area exclusive run of “Hello Dolly,” with five months as a hard ticket road show event and one month as a continuous performance presentation.
The single-screener was twinned in 1977, and was then advertised in conjunction with the adjacent Little Cinema 1 and 2 as the Willowbrook 4 or the Willowbrook Quad. It’s mentioned frequently as a Lenas operation from 1969 to 1978, but I’ve been unable to find anything about it as a Loew’s house. I haven’t found it mentioned in Boxoffice under any name after 1978.
I’ve posted about the Willowbrook Cinema on the Cinema Treasures page for the Little Cinema, which gives the same address as this page does.
The Willowbrook Shopping Center was designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Welton Becket and Associates, architects of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
The June 15, 1970, issue of Boxoffice reported that Spyros Lenas would soon open a 250-seat automated theater on the site of a former restaurant behind his Willowbrook Cinema. This became the house that was called the Little Cinema. Later Boxoffice reports gave the seating capacity of the first Little Cinema as 300.
Boxoffice of June 12, 1972, has an item saying: “DeVisser Theatres announced the grand opening of Little Cinema II, its third theatre in Willowbrook Shopping Center in Wayne, N.J.. All three theatres, including the Willowbrook Cinema and Little Cinema I are owned and operated by Spyros Lenas.”
Boxoffice of December 13, 1976, says this: “Lenas' Willowbrook Cinema in Wayne, which is adjoined by Little Cinema 1 and 2 is advertising that a fourth unit soon will be constructed alongside the existing three. The multiples are all located on the main mall inside the Willowbrook Shopping Center.”
But instead of building a fourth auditorium, the original Willowbrook Cinema was split. Boxoffice of December 19, 1977, said that Lenas' Willowbrook Cinema had reopened as a twin, with approximately 560 seats on each side. They were designated as Cinemas 3 and 4, with the two Little Cinema auditoriums designated as Cinemas 1 and 2. This item said that the originaal Willowbrook had seated about 1200 as a single-screen house, though Boxoffice items at the time of its construction had said that it seated 1,500.
I think the theater listed on Cinema Treasures as Loews Willowbrook must actually be Spyros Lenas' original Willowbrook Cinema (that page gives it the same address as the Little Cinema.) As all four theaters were adjacent, either the Willowbrook Cinema should be listed as being in in Willowbrook, or the Little Cinema should be listed in Wayne. Or, since the whole complex was last advertised as the Willowbrook Cinema 4, maybe they should share a single Cinema Treasures page.
Here is an article about Spyros Lenas (right-hand page) in Boxoffice of August 31, 1972. Lenas was also the operator of the Anthony Wayne Drive-In, adjacent to the Willowbrook center. The Loews six-plex built in 1982 might have been erected on the site of the drive-in, but I’ve been unable to confirm this.
This weblog post from the Augusta Chronicle says that architect G. Lloyd Preacher designed the Rialto Theatre.
An article about the Mercury Theatre appeared in Boxoffice of August 5, 1950. There are four photos. The decoration of the house was by the Hanns Teichert Studios of Chicago, and the architects were the Cleveland firm of Matzinger & Grosel (Paul Matzinger and Rudolph Grosel.)
The opening date of the Mercury Theatre was May 18, 1950. The style should be listed as Art Moderne rather than Art Deco. Boxoffice of May 20, 1950, gave the original seating capacity as a generous 1,600.
Here is an article by Hanns Teichert, whose firm decorated the Mayland Theatre. The January 7, 1950, Boxoffice article includes photos of both the Mayland and a theater called the Lake, which was located in an eastern suburb of Cleveland not named in the magazine. Like the Mayland, the Lake was designed by the architectural firm of Matzinger & Grosel. I’ve been unable to determine of the Lake is listed at Cinema Treasures yet.
The Madison Theatre in which the organ was installed in 1921 (noted in Lost Memory’s first comment above) must have been a different theater, perhaps a predecessor to this house. This Madison Theatre opened September 1, 1949. Boxoffice of September 10 that year said that the new house for the Modern Theatres circuit (formerly Scoville, Essick & Reif) had been designed by Cleveland architects Matzinger & Grosel.
Like its sister theater in Berea, the Vine was designed by the Cleveland architectural firm of Matzinger & Grosel. Boxoffice of November 17, 1945, announced that construction had begun on the project.
Three small photos accompanied this article about the Vine Theatre in Boxoffice of December 7, 1946.
Boxoffice of June 4, 1938, announced that the Avalon Theatre had opened the previous Friday. The new house had been designed by architect Paul Matzinger.
The Stillwell Theatre was built for Lena Stillwell, operator of the Bedford Theatre. Boxoffice of January 18, 1941, announced that the plans for the new house, construction of which was expected to begin that spring, had been prepared by Cleveland architect Paul Matzinger.
A photo of the lobby of the Brook Theatre was on the cover of Boxoffice of August 5, 1950.
Boxoffice of April 21, 1941, said that Scoville, Essick & Reif would rebuild their Ezella Theatre. Construction was scheduled to begin that spring. An earlier Boxoffice item about the project had given the seating capacity of the original Ezella as 600.
The introduction above and some comments on this page say that the Estella resembled the later Vine Theatre in Willoughby and the Mayland Theatre in Mayfield Heights. Both of those houses were originally built for the same circuit that operated the Ezella, and both were designed by Cleveland architects Paul Matzinger and Rudolph Grosel.
Though not all of the Scoville, Essick & Reif/Modern Theatres circuit houses mentioned in Boxoffice over the years are specifically attributed by the magazine to the firm of Matzinger & Grosel, a 1947 item did say that most of the circuit’s theaters had been designed by them. Given the similarities noted above, the rebuilt Ezella was most likely one of those Matzinger & Grosel designs.
Photos of the Ezella illustrated this article by decorator Hanns Teichert in Boxoffice of August 5, 1950.
The Melrose was being operated by Interstate Theatres in 1945, when the December 21 issue of Boxoffice reported that the house had been updated with a new, streamlined boxoffice, a green tile front, and some redecoration of the interior.
The opening of the Teatro Panamericano was noted in a brief article in Boxoffice of October 16, 1943. The house had hosted an invitational preview the previous Monday, and had opened to the public the following night with the Mexican film “Â¡Ay Jalisco, no te rajes!” and live performances by popular Mexican entertainers.
The town’s web site says that the Garza was previously called the Palace Theatre. It also says that it was renamed the Garza when renovated as a live venue in 1986, but Boxoffice mentions the Garza Theatre in Post at least as early as 1943.
The earliest mention of the Palace I’ve found in the trades is in Motion Picture Times of August 25, 1928, though the house apparently opened in 1916.
Boxoffice of March 26, 1936, said that the Palace at Post had been taken over by the Griffith circuit. By 1943 the Garza Theatre at Post is mentioned as being operated by Westex Theatres, a Griffith subsidiary.
I can’t find the name Palace mentioned after 1936, nor anything about any other theaters operating at Post before the Garza is mentioned in 1943, so the renaming must have taken place between those years.
The town’s web site says that the theater closed as a movie house in 1955, and was then boarded up for almost three decades after being damaged by a fire in 1957.
Boxoffice of September 25, 1948, said that construction had begun on a new theater at Post, Texas. The project was expected to take eight months to complete. However, I haven’t found the Tower mentioned by name in Boxoffice before 1959, and a building in the midcentury modern style of the Tower might have been built at any time during that decade. Still, the town’s web site says that the other movie theater in Post, the Garza, was closed in 1955, so the Tower was most likely open by then.
Post is mentioned infrequently in Boxoffice, so it’s unlikely I’ll be able to dig up any more about the town’s theaters from that source.
Boxoffice of February 12, 1938, reported that the Liberty at El Campo was one of several houses operated by the Long chain in which Griffith Theatres had acquired a half interest. Griffith intended to remodel the Liberty.
The Liberty was taken over from Long Theatres by Harry Grief in 1953, according to Boxoffice of March 28 that year. Grief intended to adopt a policy of showing Mexican movies.
Boxoffice of October 30, 1937, said that Jack Pickens' new Trot Theatre had recently opened at Cuero. An October 16 item had given the origin of the theater’s unusual name. It was named for an annual event in Cuero called the Turkey Trot, in which thousands of turkeys were paraded down the city’s main street.
Not long after opening the Trot Theatre, as well as additional theaters in other towns then controlled by the Hall circuit, Jack Perkins agreed to open no more competing houses in the Hall brothers' territory in exchange for complete control of the theaters in Cuero and two other towns. Pickens thus took over operation of Cuero’s Rialto and Rex theaters, former Hall operations.
Boxoffice of December 29, 1951, said that the Trot Theatre, operated by Video Theatres, had closed on September 29, and there were no plans to reopen it. The Trot had specialized in westerns and Spanish language movies, the item said.
There’s indication that at least one Spanish language house operated in Cuero after the Trot closed. A February 23, 1952, item says that Celia Saenz de Montes of Cuero had visited film row in San Antonio, though it doesn’t say specifically that she operated a theater there. Then there is a March 10, 1956, Boxoffice item mentioning an A. Lopez as operator of the Teatro Lopez in Cuero. It’s possible that the Trot was reopened as a Spanish language theater and renamed, but I’ve not found any confirmation of this.
The Normana Theatre at El Campo was in operation at least as early as 1933. It was mentioned as having been open then in a 1940 Boxoffice article about an antitrust suit.
Brad Richards says in the first comment above that the first Normana Theatre was the one in Cuero, Texas. That theater was sold by Rubin Frels in 1930 and was renamed the Rialto by its new owners, the Hall circuit.
No mention was made of another Normana Theatre in any of the 1928-1930 trade publication items about the first Normana, so it seems likely that the El Campo house was opened between the time the Cuero Normana was sold in 1930 and the 1933 events cited in the 1940 Boxoffice item.
I’ve found and April 3, 1948, Boxoffice item indicating that the remodeling of the Rialto did take place. It included new restrooms, a remodeled balcony, a new front, and a renovation of the projection booth. The project was nearing completion, the item said.
The Rialto opened in 1928 as the Normana Theatre, part of the Frels circuit, and was first operated by Rubin Frels' sister Norma, for whom the theater had been named. The July 7, 1928, issue of Motion Picture Times said that the new theater was expected to open in about 30 days, but the September 29 issue of the same publication said that the Normana Theatre had “just opened.”
A Boxoffice Magazine “Twenty Years Ago” feature in the issue of June 11, 1949, revealed that in mid-1929 S.G. Fry and E.D. Nichuls had opened a rebuilt theater called the Palace next door to Frels' Normana, and a May 6, 1930, Motion Picture Times item said that the Hall brothers had taken over the Palace and would update it to compete with the Normana.
Motion Picture Times of June 30, 1930, reported that the Normana Theatre had been sold by Frels to Hall Industries, and that the latter company would renovate the house and rename it the Rialto. I’ve been unable to find the Palace mentioned in later issues of the trade journals, but a 1937 item says that Hall Industries was operating the Rialto and Rex theaters at Cuero, and indicates that the Rex was the Palace renamed.
In 1937, Jack Pickens opened the Trot Theatre in Cuero, and shortly thereafter took over operation of the Rialto from the Halls. He also got control of the Rex, which he apparently then closed. Pickens merged his operations with the Griffith circuit in 1938, and the April 30 Boxoffice item about the merger said that Pickens operated only two theaters at Cuero. The Rialto and Trot are mentioned in later issues of Boxoffice, but the Rex is never mentioned again.
A January 31, 1948, Boxoffice item said that the Rialto at Cuero was to be remodeled and enlarged, and that tenants of shops in the building had been informed by the Griffith circuit that the space they occupied was to be taken over for the theater. I’ve found no further mention of the project in Boxoffice, and in the absence of any photos of the theater more recent than the 1930s I can’t say if this remodeling project was carried out or not.
Is this called the El Rancho or just the Rancho? Boxoffice of October 24, 1953, said that Homer Gray was selling his Rancho Drive-In at San Pablo to Ray Syufy. Then the El Rancho Drive-In at San Pablo was mentioned as a Syufy operation in Boxoffice of October 15, 1955. Boxoffice switches back and forth in various items over the years. Which form was on the screen tower or attraction board (or did they each have a different one?)
To add to the confusion, Boxoffice of July 9, 1973, has an item saying that the San Pablo city council had asked the courts to have the Rancho Drive-In permanently closed as a public nuisance, but this item gave the location of the theater as 14th Street and Broadway.
Whatever the name, the drive-in was in operation by September of 1951, and must have been one of the two drive-ins that were reported in Boxoffice of July 8, 1950, to then be under construction at San Pablo.
-DB: That photo has been posted at Cinema Treasures before, but I can’t remember which page it was on. I don’t think anybody was able to identify the theater.
Boxoffice of May 6, 1950, said that the Inglewood Theatre had recently been opened by Crescent Amusement Company. Few details about the theater were given, other than that it had both a cry room and a party room, and that it would be the only suburban Nashville house to present daily matinees.
An article announcing the partnership between Trans-Lux and Inflight appeared in Boxoffice, November 13, 1967 Upper left.) The company planned to have at least fifty Trans-Lux Inflight Cines in operation by the end of 1969. All were to have screens twenty feet wide, and would seat about 350 patrons. The architect for all of these projects was John McNamara.
A May 6, 1968, Boxoffice item said that the first Trans-Lux Inflight Cine would be opened soon in Bartow, Florida, and that the second would open at Tampa that summer. The company totally missed its goal of opening fifty theaters by the end of 1969. Boxoffice of April 17, 1972, reported that the Trans-Lux Inflight Cine, a twin theater, had opened at Daytona, and was the 18th house in the chain. The theaters were still being designed by John McNamara, though.
Boxoffice of December 12, 1953, said that the Iowa Theatre at Fort Madison was one of three theaters in the state that had closed the previous week. The item gave some of the history of the house, which had been the oldest theater in Fort Madison.
Prior to becoming the Iowa Theatre in the 1930s, it had operated as the Grand Theatre and then the Columbia Theatre, being for several decades a venue for touring companies of stage productions. The building had originally been erected in the 1880s as a skating rink. The house was listed as the Grand in Julius Cahn’s guide for 1900-1901. It then had 908 seats.