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Just when you thought the multiplex experience could get no worse! Joe Sixpack doesn’t seem to mind at all though. Just as long as he can see the latest blockbuster on opening week he doesn’t care if it’s projected with a 100 watt bulb or even in focus or in frame. $15 for 3-D, ten bucks for a small popcorn and small Coke? No problem. “Dude I was first on my block to see \"Pirates of the Caribbean, Part…Whatever”!
As a teenage movie fan I used to love to walk along Film Row in San Francisco during the 1950’s. It was mostly on Golden Gate Avenue with a few distributors on the cross streets. I knew the manager of the Allied Artists (formerly Monogram) office who would frequently take time to talk movies with me and if I was lucky give me a one sheet poster or two to take home. These offices gladly accommodated mom and pop theater operators from the boondocks who came into town to book films as well as the big city operators, chains and independent film bookers. What a change there has been in film distribution as well as exhibition!
Another movie with an old time carbon arc/changeover projectionist as the hero is appropriately entitled “The Projectionist”. Chuck McCann plays the man up in the booth and his boss (the manager) is Rodney Dangerfield. It’s got a clever opening and closing that anyone who has done that somewhat lonely but rewarding job in an old fashioned theatre (NOT a multiplex!) will appreciate!
As a lad being a projectionist was my dream job! I was one of those audio-visual geeks who ran the 16mm Bell & Howell in the classroom at school and wanted to do the same thing with those big 35mm machines in a movie theatre. I learned the craft (the old fashioned way!) while in the Army, moonlighting part time at our post theatre. After the service I wanted to continue working in my dream job but quickly found out that the union in the big and medium sized cities wasn’t accepting new members (unless possibly your dad or uncle was a member!) and in small towns the non union jobs (if you could even fine one!) paid little more than minimum wage, sometimes just minimum wage and you were lucky if you got one night off a week! So I went to work for the railroad instead, eventually became a locomotive engineer. Probably just as well with theatre closings and automation on the horizon. Working in a platter/xenon multiplex has no appeal to me, sounds about as exciting as loading up a DVD into a DVD player. The couple years I did have in the dual projector/carbon arc booth while in the Army were great though and I look back on that time fondly! Loved those Simplex X-7’s!
As newcomers to Roseville we were glad to see a new theatre close to us in this underserved market. We went to see “Unstoppable” last week there and even though I’m no big fan of modern multiplexes, it was a satisfactory experience. Staff seemed friendly and there’s a $5.50 early show (10 AM), cheap by California standards! Another nice thing is only local merchant video ads before the show instead of that annoying half hour of loud commercials and trailers masquerading as entertainment that the other chains (Cinemark & Regal) show. The digital projection and sound were first rate too. There is a promise by owners to show some independent films which is also good news for us. For now we have to drive 20 miles to downtown Sacramento to see anything other than the mass market Top 20 flicks!
One thing I’m wondering about is their advertised (and premium priced!) “Ultimate Digital Cinema”? What is that? I couldn’t find anything about it online and there is apparently nothing playing there in that format now. Top admission price for the 2-D version is $13.25, for the 3-D version $15.25. OUCH! The individual auditoriums are all on the small side so I can’t imagine what kind of deluxe experience you get for that extra charge! Anybody familiar with UDC?
In most cities and towns in 1953 you also saw double features along with a cartoon, newsreel, prevues and possibly an added short. You also didn’t have to take out a mortgage to visit the concession stand! Nobody was texting or talking on their cell phone either. And believe it or not there was a projectionist on duty back there to keep the film in focus and frame at all times. Ah yes those were the days…and days we will never see again! That all being said I still enjoy visiting the multiplex once in a while but only during a bargain matinee and only bypassing the concession stand!
Wow! Hard to believe United Artists would cut that end title sequence off of that reissue especially since there are no credits at the beginning of the film at all. I’ve known of a few lazy projectionists who cut end credits off of the last showing or only showing of the evening just so they could go home (or hit the bars?) early even though that’s a violation of the contract between the film companies and the theatres I believe.
That reminds me of the time I saw “Around the World in 80 Days” (35mm version) at an Army post theatre at Camp Kaiser, Korea in 1960 (wow a half century ago this year!). That film of course had another great and long (8-9 minutes) Saul Bass end title sequence, made even more enjoyable by a reprise of Victor Young’s great musical score which I loved. The civilian Korean projectionist let the titles (actually the entire last reel of the feature) run about a minute and then closed the dowser, stopped the projector and turned on the house lights, I was furious and went up and complained to the theatre manager, a grouchy old Army sergeant who told me just shut up and get the Hell out of there. Ah the pleasures of Army life!
As a boy growing up in the 1950’s being a projectionist was one of my dream jobs, along with owning my own movie theatre. I even loved running the 16mm projectors at school. I learned the craft of 35mm carbon arc/changeover projection while in the Army as a sideline to my regular Army MOS but when I got discharged in 1962 I found the opportunities to continue doing what I loved were severely limited. I couldn’t get in the big city unions and out in the boondocks where there was no union, there were few jobs and the pay was seldom more than minimum wage. So I reluctantly went on to other things, eventually became a locomotive engineer on the railroad. Nowadays with platters and xenon lamps, monitoring 16 screens and a complete lack of showmanship the job doesn’t interest me much at all. I’m glad I abandoned the craft before it went to Hell!
I received the book yesterday from Amazon. Beautiful photographs by R.A. McBride combined with well written essays about movie going and theatre operations in San Francisco by several noted authors. My only reservation is that the theatres in the photographs (all interior shots) are not identified on the individual pages. You have to go to the back of the book for a list of photographs to ID the theatre.
I think (and hope!) that the new mall is a step in the right direction. Market Street is pretty nice from the Ferry Building to 5th & Market and then it turns into a skid now no sane man’s land from 5th to about 8th. The two big shopping centers between 4th & 5th on Market have been very successful with locals and tourists and I suspect this one will be too. It should raise property values considerably on the other side of Market St. and hopefully on the adjoining blocks too. No doubt that will all take some time, maybe a lot of time, but like I said I think this is a step in the right direction for Market Street. Admittedly time may also prove me wrong!
That all being said I will miss the St. Francis too, the St. Francis in it’s glory single screen first run years that is, not the sticky floored twinned grind house of it’s final years where no matter what horrific double feature program was up there on the screen the real horror was in the audience! I miss all the Market Street theatres that I grew up with from the glorious movie palaces like the Fox, Warfield and Paramount to the great second run Embassy with it’s nightly Ten-o-win game to the rest of the grind houses, the Strand, Centre, Pix, Powell, Hub, etc. where you could see two flicks for as low as 50 cents and live to tell about it. This was of course before the grind houses became primarily inhabited by druggies, drunks and escapees from mental institutions. Going to the Embassy or Strand or St. Francis in any of their final days was no fun at all, at least in my humble opinion! Ah what fond memories of all of those Market Street theatres a half century ago though! Rest in Peace St. Francis, you will indeed be missed!
Available on Amazon now for $28.76, 28 per cent off list price with free shipping and no sales tax in most states. I just put in my order and am extremely looking forward to receiving and reading it. Great to hear that Mr. Tillmany is working on another of his excellent volumes on Bay Area theatres too!
When I was in the Army (1959-1962) the domestic and overseas movie theatres were programmed and operated by something called AAFMPS (Army & Air Force Motion Picture Service). Interesting that they are now part of the PX system. Projectionists at Fort Bliss were moonlighting service personnel I believe. In Korea a Korean civilian ran the 35mm booth at our post theatre.
I have fond memories of Fort Bliss and El Paso based on when I was a young GI stationed there in 1961-1962, almost a half century ago! In those days we had two very nice theatres on base where we could see recent movies for 25 cents, four single feature program changes a week. About 6 months into my tour of duty there the bone headed post commander decried that we soldiers had to wear our uniforms or a coat and die to go to the movies. You can imagine how that goofy policy went over! The great majority of us boycotted the post theatres and got our movie fixes in downtown El Paso at the Plaza, Capri, State or Pershing first run houses or the Palace and Crawford flea pit grind houses. We did lots of business at the dozen or so El Paso drive ins too, one in particular (North Loop?) where a whole carload could get in for 99 cents! Those were the days…sort of!
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the remaining Cinerama travelogues in true three strip Cinerama. Restoration is extremely expensive (maybe impossible on some titles given the original elements!) and with only a couple if theaters in America, maybe a couple more worldwide to exhibit them the market and financial incentive is just not there. The Hollywood Dome rarely shows the two Cinerama features that have been restored. Digital restoration and DVD release a la “Windjammer” may be more practical.
Frankly I doubt there is even much of a DVD or Blu-ray market for the remaining travelogues. There apparently isn’t much of a DVD market for ANY old film nowadays. Ancient travelogues even in Smilebox Blu-ray would probably sell very few copies. “Windjammer' just might be an exception, given the adventure element and the great musical score. I’m extremely looking forward to the upcoming Blu-ray.
I don’t think Cinerama restorations in Smilebox format on DVD Blu-ray are a waste of time at all. “How the West Was Won” is absolutely stunning in that format, blowing away all previous video versions. The Cinerama sequences in the documentary “Cinerama Adventure”, also in Smilebox format on the accompanying DVD disc with “HTWWW”, also look spectacular. As good as seeing true Cinerama on a giant curved screen? Of course not! Waste of time? Not in my opinion!
The Cameo Cinema is a little jewel box of a movie theatre. Every small town should be so lucky as to have such a lovely cinema. The previous owner who obviously had deep pockets did much of the renovation but it’s great it that was passed on to such a caring proprietor as Cathy Buck. I remember the theatre fondly from the few years I lived in St. Helena a half century ago! Back then it was known as the Roxy and run by a man named John Acquila who later became the town Mayor. It’s been closed for several times over the years but somebody always seems to step out of the shadows and save it. On my periodic visits to St. Helena I always stop in and see a show which is usually personally introduced by Ms. Buck! I love that little theatre!
Hmmmm….aside from the fact that Valentino’s movies once played in movie theatres I can’t see how this is related to Cinema Treasures. Whatever…
Great story! If I lived in one of those small towns I would be one of the most enthusiastic volunteers. It’s so nice to know that some small town (mostly single screen I suspect) theatres survive! Can they afford to scrap 35mm film and go digital in the not so distant future though?
Re-releases generally do not do well in today’s market! With rare exceptions (and this MIGHT be one of them) once it’s out on DVD films have limited appeal to today’s young audiences who are only interested in seeing the latest blockbusters, the ones that they have been bombarded with hype and TV advertising for! Even with IMAX and 3-D I don’t think this re-release will be around very long. Of course I also could be wrong!
OOOH! 8 whole more minutes of action and sfx scenes! I can hardly wait…NOT! Are they going to add an extra $3.50 surcharge for those 8 minutes on top of the 3D and IMAX surcharges? Call me when there is another re-release of “Lawrence of Arabia” in 70mm or better yet “How the West Was Won” in three strip Cinerama!
The Pantages they are talking about here at 5th & Market closed way back in the mid 1920’s. The Pantages name was transferred up to what is now the Orpheum at 8th & Market. It’s just the multi-story commercial building that exists now. For years the lower floor was a Kress’s store which I remember fondly from my younger days.
The St. Francis was a quite nice movie palace in it’s day. I was always hoping for a restoration a la the Golden Gate, Warfield and Orpheum but alas that is obviously not to be. That section of Market St. is in dire need of redevelopment though (what a dump!) and this retail project may be what’s needed, at least as a start, to make it more hospitable. So little new parking in an already congested area is a mistake I think.
Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to see the United Artists lit up again like the Orpheum? I toured it a few years ago on an LA Conservancy theatre tour and it’s in GREAT shape! Lots of vacant office space there (the whole building?) but maybe some or all of that could be converted to condos like so much other downtown LA real estate.
Nice to see the Tower showing films again! Since they are dealing with Warners it sounds like they are showing 35mm prints too and that’s a good thing! I have fond memories of attending the Tower when I lived in nearby Folsom 1962-1965. I’ll be moving back to the area in the fall (Roseville itself in fact) and look forward to visiting one of my old movie going haunts from over 50 years ago. Good luck to these two young movie theatre entrepreneurs!!
From the article:
“We were in the movie, almost all the way through, and we said, ‘It smelled like smoke,’ and we thought it was just part of the movie.”
Oh no! Please don’t tell me that they are bringing back “Smell-o-vision”? Anybody old enough to remember “The Scent of Mystery? What a stinker that was (in more ways than one!)
Reopening (finally!) is May 14, 2010. Here’s an article from the St. Helena star:
Too bad there aren’t plans for films, at least occasionally. It would be a great venue for a WIne Country film festival. I really like it when these renovated theatres make films a part of their programming. Nothing like catching a flick (preferably a classic) with a large audience at an former movie palace such as at Oakland’s Paramount or San Jose’s California or Antioch’s El Campani to name three greater Bay Area examples.
Fond memories for me of seeing movies at the single screen Uptown when I lived in the Napa Valley 1959-1964. By the time it was converted to a four screens it was pretty much ruined. I look forward to seeing the restored Uptown in the near future.
Come to think of it maybe it’s better the multiplexes don’t have intermissions. They probably would put on that damn 20 minute parade of commercials masquerading as entertainment (the pre-show video) again!
As far as what Terry Wade said above, couldn’t there just be an “Intermission” tag followed by 10 or 15 minutes of black film) with automation system programmed to turn on and off the house lights? That wouldn’t involve any more of that expensive projection room labor (popcorn seller rate plus 25 cents an hour?). That probably isn’t going to happen as long as the film distributors have the theatre operators by the you-know-what! Get ‘em in and move 'em out! Rawhide!