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The J. P. Harris chain never owner nor operated the Penn.
Like the MGM films, virtually all major United Artists movies had their Downtown engagements at Loew’s Penn with the obvious exceptions of roadshows such as “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “West Side Story” and the minor films that opened on double bills at neighborhoods and drive-ins.
One US film of great consequence that went straight to the nabes was “Dr. No.” Ironically, when the Bond series caught on, “Dr. No” played Downtown repeatedly on reissue double bills.
Virtually wevery MGM movie of any consequence opened first-run at Loew’s Penn. A few minor ones premiered at Loew’s Ritz, often on double bills. (The Ritz was used mainly as a moveover house dfrom the much larger Penn.)
You could count on two hands the MGM films that opened at any other Downtown theater (“The Cobweb,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Athena,” the roadshow engagement of “Gigi,” etc.).
I don’t know anything about any “local stock company” ever operating the Penn.
Al, For years I believed I had seen the final film there, “The Designated Mourner.” Was that the next-to-last 68th Street Playhouse feature?
No question that the structures themselves had incomparably more character than the sterile multiplex auditoriums of today. And I was fascinated by the pairings on those double and triple bills.
On vacations (at first), I would begin many a day with a double feature starting at 8:30 on that block. At first I was more fascinated than not by all of the extra activity in those theaters, including something I’d never seen in an American moviehouse before: vendors selling concessions in the aisles and private duty guards bumping snoozers with a billy club.
After several of those moviehouses had closed around 1990, I pursuaded one of the owners (or perhaps a real estate agent specially dispatched) to walk me through all of the closed moviehouses, all of which I think were for sale. I was surprised this was so easy to arrange for a story that would appear in a Pittsburgh newspaper, and I was thoroughly absorbed by all the little tidbits of information … even as I was trying to absorb as much visual information as I could.
But, alas, they were in horrible condition, and they were not about to be resuscitated to the conditions they probably enjoyed in the 1940s.
I couldn’t agree more with Bway (two posts above). What I first walked up and down the key block on 42nd Street in the mid-1950s as a kid, I was knocked out by the razzle dazzle of all those lights on all those marquees with about 10 double features.
When I started to return to NYC as an adult professional in the late 1960s and finally got into most of those theaters, they were rounding their final corners.
By the 1970s they were inching and then sprinting toward being cesspools with smelly auditoriums, snoring and boozing patrons, frequent pepperings of crude language within the audience and numerous indications of extracurricular patron activities and rodents.
Outside, pimps, prostitues and muggers galore.
I’m no great champion of the Disney company, which made an art of excessive avariciousness a long time ago. But that corporation’s contribution to Times Square, including the renovation of the New Amsterdam, contributed greatly to the gentrification of a block that desperately needed and deserved rescuing.
Since then, the two multiplexes on the block have been drawing a much rougher-than-average clientele, but it’s still better than what we had before.
I’m dumbfounded by criticism of the “Disneyfication” of 42nd Street. The block and indeed the whole neighborhood was putrid before Disney and others stepped in. They destroyed no “character.” There was no character left worth salvaging.
The theater opened the evening of April 14, 1983, for its final screening – the invitational premiere of the locally made “Flashdance.”
A special guest at the premiere was Pittsburgh Police Officer Victor Cianca Sr., who made a cameo appearance in the picture directing traffic. Vic died Jan. 24, 2010. Vic had either just retired or was about to retire at age 65 when the picture screened.
Please, folks. No guessing. It only garbles clarification despite good intentions.
The January calendar page of the 2010 Pittsburgh calendar, as linked above, is more “artist’s conception” that anything. It is the view one might see of the theater building from Fort Duquesne Boulevard. There is no First Street, and if there were, it would be perpendicular to Fort Duquesne Boulevard and five blocks closer to the Point. (It almost certainly existed a century or more ago, but not near this spot.)
To sort this out: As indicated above, the playhouse known as the Gayety became the Fulton, a moviehouse, for several decades. It is/was on Sixth Avenue, with a major exit onto Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Later in that era, the Fulton Mini (a shoebox of a cinema) was installed on the corner (Sixth Avenue at Fort Duquesne)of the building but also facing on Sixth. The Mini had multiple names that changed with ownership; they included Fulton II and Fulton Annex.
The Boulevard of the Allies is many blocks away.
When the Fulton Theater and the entire lower levels of the Fulton Building were renovated as the Byham Theater (used 99 percent of the time for live stage presentations), the main Fulton auditorium was left essentially intact, but the shorter-lived Fulton Mini became part of the lobby – indeed the box office, still with its entrance on Sixth.
The several stories of offices above the theater(s) were converted into the Renaissance Hotel.
Those former Fulton Building offices above the theater once housed the Associated Theatres chain, which morphed, through circuit sales, into Cinemette and then Cinema World.
There were also screening rooms on the ninth and later 10th floors.
Other film-related offices included what little was left of Paramount’s Pittsburgh presence.
The Miller probably had a deal to play most United Artists product, Mike.
“Help!” had just opened at Daniel Village the day before I got to Augusts. I had about 24 hours to kill before I checked in at Fort Gordon. Having seen everything else in town, I found my way to “Help!” and sat through it twice consecutively.
The second Beatles film, “Help!,” opened at Daniel Village.
71 Dude, Can you suggest a way to enlarge newspaper files such as the one you posted above? I can never read those because they’re too small. Need the key to magnifying them but cannot locate one.
“Woodstock” and “The Wild Bunch” is an odd double bill, all right. No doubt they were packaged for that drive-in engagement because they were both Warner films from the same period. On the other hand,combined they run five hours and 18 minutes. And with a late start the first week of August, plus an intermission between them and possibly one midway through “Woodstock” (three hours and four minutes) I’d be surprised if many cars were still there at about three in the morning.
As for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Alice’s Restaurant,” they played hundred of engagements together. They were both United Artists pictures from the same season. Once they were “played out” individually, UA sent them out as a package because they were perceived as sharing a bit of a counter-culture identity. That was true of “Alice’s Restaurant,” for sure; “Midnight Cowboy” had much greater mainstream appeal, but in this case it could be pressed into service for its underlying counter-culture appeal.
“Dracula Has Risen From the Grave” was rated G in 1968 and never re-rated.
“Taste the Blood of Dracula” was rated GP in 1970 and re-rated R in 2004. Possibly that’s a director’s cut or other footage was added. (Note that it skipped right over the PG-13 rating in between.)
“True Grit” was rated M (the current PG) in 1968, then immediately re-rated G after a slight trim.
Anyone interested in checking the correct ratings can do so at:
Mike, The 1974 film of “Doc Savage” was rated G by the rating standards of the day, and its rating has never been changed by the MPAA (CARA). None of the pre-ratings (November 1968) Christopher Lee movies was rated after the fact. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” has no rating, either.
Whatever movie guide you have is illegally “guessing” at ratings or illegally imposing them. I say illegally because the ratings are copyrighted.
What people (such as film critics) ARE allowed to do with unrated movies is to write, for example, “Unrated but PG-13 in nature for one expletive, some crude language, some violence and sensuality.” But without that clear explication, it’s unlawful to self-impose and publish ratings.
It’s true, Mike, that after the MPAA/CARA ratings system was introduced in November 1968, the only movie Alfred Hitchcock made after that that was rated R when initially released was “Frenzy.”
But for whatever reason, Universal Pictures, which controlled several of Hitchcock’s old Paramount pictures by that point, paid to have the original 1960 “Psycho” rated in 1984, and, to no one’s surprise, it received an R.
Dozens of pre-1968 movies were belatedly rated, including “Gone With the Wind,” “The Outlaw” and the Disney cartoons that were regularly recycled.
Hi, Mike. “The Great Escape” was a year old before that Modjeska engagement. I remember the Modjeska getting some good action pictures, but always as late subruns or reissues. I wonder if in earlier decades it was a bonafide first-run theater that competed at least a little with the Miller and the Imperial.
Excellent, Chuck. Thanks.
Compare the Beekman interior photos to the lobbies and waiting areas of today’s multiplexes, all junked up with video-game decor. Does someone want to make the case we’re more sophisticated today, other than electronically?
Hi, Mike, according to the CT entry on National Hills, the theater did not open until November 1966, which is why I never got there. (I left Augusta in May 1966.) “The Sound of Music” already had begun its long run at Daniel Village, which was the newest and most luxurious theater in the Augusta area at that time.
Can’t access either of those links, T.
Joe, That Boxoffice issue errs on at least one major point. For most of the years of its existence, the Liberty was part of the John P. Harris chain, which included the Harris (Downtown), the South Hills (Dormont), the Denis (Mt. Lebanon) and the Perry (Perrysville).
Interesting that for the RCMH four-week engagement, “Singing' in the Rain” rounded out the quartet of MGM classic epics that included “Gone With the Wind,” “Doctor Zhivago” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Invariably when the MGM package was booked around the country, the fourth epic was “Ben-Hur” or “Ryan’s Daughter,” making it a foursome that originally had been released as roadshow (reserved-seat) attractions. “GWTW” invariably did the biggest business and earned the most additional weeks, followed by “Zhivago.”
Any chances the individual weekly grosses are included?
I have no interest in the 70 mm issue, but I can tell you absolutely for sure that the premiere, open-ended roadshow engagement of “The Sound of Music” in the Augusta area was at the Daniel Village.
It followed a scant two-week engagement of the musical that won the Best Picture Oscar the previous year, “My Fair Lady.” I never did find out if this was a recycled showing of “MFL” (the advertising seemed to indicate it was new to Augusta) or whether the powers that be thought “MFL” could sustain only a two-week run in a medium-size southern market.
Lorcan Otway is a great gentleman, as was his father. I’m sure everyone who cherished visits to Theatre 80 St. Marks, from the theater days of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to the great classic double bills the Otways ran in the 1970s and 1980s wish him well with his ambitious plans for that homiest of venues.