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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!
As we become older and the kidneys become weaker intermissions in 3 hour plus movies become a necessity! Even when I was a young pup, I liked them as a chance to get up and stretch my legs. What I didn’t like back in those days was intermissions in films that didn’t have them built in. For example I’m thinking of an intermission that wasn’t supposed to be there in Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” at the UA Theatre in RIchmond CA, it’s purpose obviously just to sell some additional concessions. Our local drive in had policy of placing an intermission in the middle of any film that had a running time over 2 hours. They didn’t look for a good place to put the intermission either. If the film was on 6 reels, it would come at the end of reel 3, if on 7 reels at the end of reel 4. It didn’t matter if the reel ended in the middle of a conversation, they just spliced on an “Intermission” tag. You should have heard the honking horns, at least from the people who were actually watching the movie!
I hate to see it go. That program along with other well written print film criticism has saved me lots of money by avoiding turkeys and led me to some real gems I would have otherwise missed. True it’s never been the same since Siskel died and Ebert left though. Roeper was and is a lightweight critic and so were the two Bens. I think it was back on the right track with the New York Times A.O. Scott and the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips though. Nowadays young people in particular don’t read and don’t care what critics think. It’s just what blockbuster has been hyped the most and what everybody else is going to see this weekend! “Hey dude I saw Avatar yesterday! It was hecka good!” That’s film criticism in the 21st century!
Oops on the above post I was referring to the Hayward Theatre, not the Ritz. The Ritz didn’t have a balcony of any kind! Those were the two downtown movie theatres in Hayward, mainstream Hollywood until the mid 1970’s when both went the porno.. The Hayward caught fire one night and was later demolished for a parking lot. The Ritz (a Mitchell Brothers Theatre in it’s porno days) became a Goodwill Store for several years before being demolished.
Yes people DO complain about the ever increasing cost of everything connected with sporting events and live concert events too…as indeed they should! A ripoff is a ripoff no matter who is doing the ripping off!
The $10 movie is rapidly going the way of the under $5 small popcorn, at least at the theatres in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. Our local Regal multiplex is charging $11.50 for non matinee ($8.75) showings. Add $4 for 3-D and $5 for Imax. Combine that with Regal’s higher than average concession prices and it doesn’t seem like such an entertainment value to me…especially considering some of the crap Hollywood is putting out nowadays! Don’t even get me started on mediocre or worse film presentation, that marathon of pre show commercials masquerading as entertainment and audiences full of talking, texting idiots!
Agreed that people shouldn’t sneak food into theatres if that’s the policy (and of course at most locations it is!). Theatres just like every other business have a perfect right to make and enforce the policies of their business.
As a veteran of the porno theatre experience in my younger days (hey some of those XXX flicks in 35mm widescreen color weren’t too bad and to this day I’ll take a sex movie over a slasher movie!) I will agree that audiences were extremely well behaved for the most part. Of course it helped that most patrons were men by themselves and the age of the cell phone and texting had not arrived.
I remember one time at the Ritz Hayward (CA) the projectionist got the wrong reel on and there wasn’t even any commotion from the audience. Yeah I know with a porno flick it can be normally difficult to tell even if the wrong reel is on but it this case the feature being shown was a compilation of old black and white stag films (Alex deRenzy’s “History of the Blue Movie”) and the co-feature was a much more contemporary color feature, deRenzy’s “Fantasy Girls” if I remember correctly. It was quite obvious to me that the wrong reel from the wrong feature was on but it was dead silence from the audience. The Ritz had a stadium balcony which I was sitting in so I went over, banged on the projectionist door and informed the sleepy looking projectionist of the situation. A minute later and the projector ground to a halt. Still dead silence from the gents in the audience as the right reel was threaded up and the show then continued. Yeah those were some well mannered dudes in those porno movie theatres back then!
The golden age of legal hardcore porn in theatres was short lived though. Home video understandably brought the era to a rather abrupt end. Most of the today’s porn is pathetic and I can’t imagine how bad it looks blown up from VHS or DVD. Judging from this story about this Baltimore theatre it sounds like one rather solitary activity by some of the patrons is still taking place. On the hottest day of the year you would see guys coming in with jackets to put over their laps. Apparently now as back then you had to watch out for an occasional sticky floor! To put it as delicately as I can…uh it might not be Coke! Aside from that infrequent rude and certainly illegal activity I sort of miss those movie going days. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it!
One of the nice things about single features is that you can just skip the $5-6 small drinks and small popcorns. Well at least I can! I have no objection at all to paying a premium price for concessions in a movie theater. I don’t expect 7-11 or McDonald’s prices and know that’s how the theatres make their profit and stay in business. However when prices get to the point of being highway robbery it’s time to boycott the concession stand and just get something to eat before or after the movie. Young people (yeah some older people too!) apparently feel differently and continue to walk away with giant tubs of popcorn and half gallon cups of Coke with nachos and hot dogs on the side so I guess the sky is the limit as far as how high prices will go.
RickWolfe it sounds like you run a first class operation and I’m talking much more than having fair concession prices. I don’t blame you at all for enforcing your no food brought in policy. I wish their was a theatre like yours near us!
Wow! Quite a change in Korean cinema since I was there during my U.S. Army tour of duty 1959-1960. Where I was stationed up in the boondocks the theatre in the local village didn’t even have a screen. They just waited until a fat lady came in and showed the movie on her back. (Oh not really! I heard that joke on an old Jack Benny radio program 55 years ago and have been waiting to repeat it ever since!)
It continues to amaze me how slowly Cinerama spread across the country. I grew up in the Bay Area so I saw all of the three strip travelogs at the San Francisco Orpheum during the period 1952-1959. In 1959 I joined the Army. While stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1961-1962 I saw the whole travelog cycle start all over again at El Paso’s Capri Theatre. After being discharged from the Army in 1962 I settled in Sacramento and a year later, as noted above, once again the cycle started at the Esquire with “This Is Cinerama” opening 11 years after it had opened in San Francisco, only 80 miles down the road.
I have a fuzzy memory of an official announcement that the Tower would become Sacramento’s second Cinerama theater (single strip 70mm only by this time of course) but I guess the format was loosing steam big time by then (how low can you go after “Krakatoa, East of Java”?) so those plans were scrapped. I vaguely remember a big wide curved screen but don’t recall anything in 70mm ever projected on it.
Amazing and interesting series Michael! Thanks for your hard work in compiling it!
A parade of commercials for movies and TV shows that you wouldn’t watch if they were free masquerading as “entertainment”! What a laugh! At least with the slides and music you could pretty much ignore them and talk to your companion before the show. It’s pretty hard to ignore this crap (thank you booming surround sound system!). The regular trailers (if there aren’t too many of them!) are okay but that pre show entertainment is just another reason for me to stay home and watch movies on hi-def satellite or blu ray DVD which frankly looks much better than the mediocre to poor presentation in most multiplexes nowadays! Ah for the days when it was an enjoyable experience going to the movies! Don’t get me started on those cell phones and texting!
Modern young audiences don’t seem to care about quality film presentation. As long as there is some sort of image (in focus or not!) up there and the sound is deafening they are happy. As far as drive ins go, if you are in the back seat doing…uh other things…well the darker the better!
Hurrah for that theatre management! Those damn cell phones and the idiots who use them in theaters are the main reason that with rare exception I don’t go to the movies anymore, and I say that as a life long movie fan who loves (or used to love) the big screen movie going experience. Thank God for DVD, Blu-ray, HD satellite TV and wide screen HDTV sets! That technology came along just when we needed it most! You can now have a home theater experience that beats the presentation in many of the multiplexes and enjoy it without an audience of self indulgent jerks. That is a good thing!
This young woman in the article who got kicked out couldn’t understand why she shouldn’t check her bank balance (and I bet it only took TWO SECONDS!) in the middle of the movie huh? More proof that we are becoming a nation of morons!