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The RKO-CW people sold this theatre just days before they sold the rest of the company to Cineplex. When The Grand Pooh-bah of Cineplex found out he went to the guy who bought it and offered him the sun, the moon and the stars to buy it back, but was refused. While I generally view Cineplex and The Grand Pooh-bah with contempt for ruining so many decent theatres New York, I will admit that on these big old palaces they did do a decent job of restoration [e.g. the lobby of the Loew’s Met in Brooklyn]. This would have been one that I would have been glad to see him take over.
It’s a shame that the slimeball who let the Keith’s deteriorate wasn’t jailed years ago for his disregard of the landmarks law. And the City of New York is culpable for letting him get away with it. The City could have declared eminant domain and bought it from this guy and sell it to someone committed to restoration, like Cineplex.
Nope, wasn’t Ralph…. it was above him. Although I never heard him say so, I don’t think he agreed with certain things that were done there. If he’d had the last word on things, there would have been less radical changes. The Cinemas had a reputation for both programming and design, and nobody was more aware of that than him – he was the one who brought in the original architect to maintain the character of the theatre. However, once the design-phase was underway, higher-ups from out-of-town had other ideas. It used to be a very special place, but with the general-release dreck they play there now, it’s just another plex.
BTW, it was built at a cost of $750,000. in 1962, and it was sitting on rented land. The 1988 ‘adjustments’ cost $3 million. In the past few years they finally bought the land underneath it.
When they get the photo function working on this site, I have architects photos of it both when it was completed in 1962 and after the 1988 ‘adjustments’ and will post them.
Although I worked there at the time, I would agree with ‘fornasetti’ that the place was ruined with the 88 renovation. All it needed was new carpet, wallpaper, new seats and the restoration of the artwork. But the guy in charge at the time just had to have a third screen and one common lobby like a real triplex. Aside from that his only concern was ‘how big is the screen?’ and ‘how many seats?’ If someone is trying to get it landmarked I would suggest they continue their efforts – these people who run it now would sell their mothers for fifty-cents – after all, look what happened to the Murray Hill and the Sutton…..
The floor in the Festival was flat – the back 3 or four rows were built up only slightly, like 2 or 3 inches max. It was an adapted space. Before it was the theatre, the entire building had been Milgrim Dept. Store. The only major structural work done for the theatre was removal of the columns from the middle of the auditorium.
Wasn’t the divorcement to seperate the MGM Studios from Loew’s, Inc., which left Loew’s with only the theatres?
The neighborhood there was ok in the 50s, and then went downhill real quick in the 60s.
Wasn’t Dan Talbot/New Yorker Films (of the Lincoln Plaza and the late Cinema Studio) running the Metro for a few years before Cineplex blew into town?
I used to see the figures for this theatre in 2000 and 2001 – in a seven-day period there were 10 or 12 customers all week and grosses of under $100 – for weeks at a time – I’m surprised they didn’t close it sooner than they did.
Those ridiculous amoeba-shaped sofas in the lower lounge came from the Beekman – cliche 50s modern furniture that I’m sure looked better uptown in it’s original setting – it was too big for that small room at the Gramercy. Perhaps MOMA added them to their cliche-50s-modern architecture and furnishings collection.
When MOMA gets through with it, isn’t it going back to off-bway productions with Roundabout? I thought they sub-leased it to MOMA.
When the Commodore first closed in 1971, it was made into a roller-skating rink….
The building that the Plaza Theatre was in was built in the late 1800s and originally the stable for the Vanderbilt mansion that occupied the site where Bergdorf-Goodman is today from 1889 to 1926. The blocks between Madison and Lexington were industrial/commercial/utility properties, because Park Avenue at that time was the New York Central right-of-way with railroad tracks on the surface going into the old Grand Central Terminal. Open rail yards occupied the area from 57th St. to the old terminal on 42nd St. from Lexington to Madison Avenues. The ajoining blocks were not desirable property until sometime after 1910, when the new (present) Grand Central Terminal was built, and it’s rail yards and right-of-way was put under ground.
In addition to the Vanderbuilt stable becoming a movie theatre, The main house on Fifth Ave. also had a connection to the movie theatres. Before the above-mentioned Vanderbilt mansion was demolished in 1926, Marcus Loew bought and and disassembled the Vanderbilt’s mosaic Moorish Smoking Room and had it reassembled as the Ladies Lounge in the Loew’s Midland Theatre in Kansas City, and it is still there today. The chandelier from the same room was installed in the lobby of the Loew’s State Theatre in Syracuse.
The Fox Cedar was opened by National General Theatres and was a lavish theatre for it’s time. It was probably about 1200 seats originally, and had very plush seats. It was set up for reserved-seat roadshows: the seats were numbered, and there was a hard-ticket box office with the pigeon hole ticket racks. The lobby had entrances on Cedar Road and another in the back at the parking lot. Next to the candy stand and behind the large window that faced Cedar Road there was a lounge area with upholstered chairs, sofas, tables, lamps and deep-pile carpeting. When Loews took over they ripped out this lounge area, tiled the floor and put in those dreaded game machines, and it was down hill from there, they ran it into the ground.
This must have been General Cinema when it first opened – the sign on the front above the entrance canopy – ‘Cinema’ in an unusual stylized script is the same script used in the theatre sigs for the GCC formatted display advertising in the 60s, and it was also used on the uniform blouses the female employees wore in the 60s & 70s. When Cineplex had the theatre (Loews aquired it from the merger) they probably put the pink neon tubing in the sign, since they were out of their minds with that damn pink neon everywhere. It was probably blue neon, originally.
Most of the Cinemas at the time used the red serif-style block letters, but there were a few theatres where the landlord of a more upscale property did not want that type of sign, and felt that the script was more elegant looking.
Parmatown Mall Cinemas
Born November 15, 1967
Died August 12, 2004
Loews bought the local Community Circuit chain, which included this theatre along with the Riverside, Village, Berea and Showplace theatres. This was an orchestra only, no balcony or stadium, in an art-deco style. The auditorium ceiling was sculptured plaster and had purple neon cove lighting. It had been well taken care of by the previous owner. When they triplexed the Richmond it actually didn’t look too bad, it retained a lot of it’s original character. They put two theatres in the back half of the auditorium with 10 or 15 foot wide passageway between them that accessed the third theatre which was the front half of the original auditorium, full width, with the stage left intact.
Cineplex put the whammy on many theatres, and this is a perfect example. They took a perfectly viable, well-attended theatre that was tastefully decorated for it’s upper east-side audience, and threw away a lot of money on faux-marble floors, hideous pink neon, re-built seats (no, they weren’t new) and ‘Real Butter’ signs plastered everywhere. The result made it look like a plex in a suburban Toronto shopping mall, not an upscale Manhattan movie house. If that wasn’t bad enough, they never put another dime into it – they didn’t maintain the escalator, or the heating & air conditioning systems, or the roof, or even the light bulbs. All that, coupled with their inability to comprehend the film booking patterns that existed in Manhattan in those days, and they turned the place into a dump in record time. For some reason that to this day remains a mystery, Loews merged with the nearly-insolvent Cineplex, taking on their HUMONGOUS debt. As the combined company was skidding towards backruptcy and looking for cash, the B/C was too far gone, and worth more as a development site. You can put Cineplex right up there behind UA when it comes to running theatres into the ground.
No, I think this was in the works before the merger, because ABC started construction in there fairly quickly after the National closed. For the amount of work that was done there, it would have been a long planning process with the architects and engineers, and another long process with the Dept. of Buildings for permits and approvals.
It was the other way around – Almi/Century bought RKO-SW from Pacific in 1981, and called it RKO Century Warner. The National had been transferred to RKO from Cinema 5 under Pacific’s ownership of both. Later, in about 1985 RKO-CW bought Cinema 5 from Pacific, except for Cinema I & II (they had a management agreement on that one) and it eventually became the nucleus of City Cinemas.
I think the National closed shortly before the merger, though I could be wrong, I don’t recall us being involved with the National.
Sony had to spin off the theatres into a completely seperate entity, and not a subsidiary of Sony, Columbia Pictures or any other operating unit of Sony, because they were merging it with Cineplex, which was a publicly held corporation. Sony retained a majority of the stock in the new Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. The name stayed on the Lincoln and Metreon theatres. When the backruptcy happened, the stock became worthless and the stockholders, Sony included, were knocked out of the picture. Since there was no longer any association with Sony, their name had to come off the Lincoln and Metreon.
Parmatown Cinemas will close in August
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Plain Dealer Reporter
After 37 years and thousands of movies, the action is coming to a close at Parmatown Cinemas.
The five-screen theater, one of the longest-running in the area, will show its last movie on Aug. 12.
It will be replaced by a Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is scheduled to open in fall 2005.
“The theater was doing well, especially of late,” says Jon Forman of Cleveland Cinemas, which managed the theater since July 2002. “Mall management just made the decision to bring in Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
Pittsburgh-based Dick’s operates more than 150 stores in the eastern half of the United States, including five in the area.
“We had been looking to replace the theater with a big box' retailer,” says Chris Monaco of RMS Investment Corp., which owns and operates the mall. “It’s extremely hard for an old five-screen theater to compete with these new multiplexes out there.”
Twelve-plus screen theaters have become the norm over the last decade, and mall theaters have seen a steady decline. There are three multiplexes within a 15-minute drive of Parmatown.
“Mall operators prefer to use space for retail, which commands more money,” says Forman. “These days, theaters tend to be close but not actually a part of a mall.”
Still, Cleveland Cinemas managed to reinvigorate Parmatown Cinemas after a disastrous run as Cinema Grill. The local chain not only jettisoned Cinema Grill’s dinner-theater approach, it instituted senior specials and Monday discount nights that bolstered attendance.
“Parma is a very loyal film-going market,” says Forman. “People have been living there for, say, 25 years and they’re willing to support their local theater.”
Forman will return the favor by offering free popcorn and drinks Aug. 9-12. And he isn’t excluding the possibility of returning to Parma. “We had long conversations with RMS about relocating the theater,” says Forman. “Right now, it’s a question mark. But there’s no doubt that Parma would support another one.”
When Mann’s left New York in the late-70s, their theatres including the National were taken over by Cinema 5 Ltd. who twinned it. Shortly after, it was transferred over to RKO (Cinema 5 and RKO were both owned by Pacific Theatres at that time) since Cinema 5 was primarily an art-house operation, and in those days a Times Square crowd was definately not in keeping with Cinema 5’s operation.
With the National’s last renovation, by Cineplex in about 1987, they divided the lower theatre in half making it a triplex. The finishing touches were being put in place, pink neon lit, ersatz marble floors polished, bookings finalized, and two days before opening day the landlord showed up. Cineplex had neglected to get his permission to divide the lower theatre, and the landlord got a court order to make them rip the place apart and put it back to 2 theatres, delaying the reopening by a few weeks.
The heading for the Ziegfeld does not list the architect, and I didn’t see it in all the comments. It was probably the same architect who designed the Burlington House (or whatever they are calling the office building fronting on Sixth Ave. these days), since the theatre was part of that development. However, the original interiors of this Ziegfeld were by Dolly Reade (Mrs. Walter Reade, Jr.) She also redecorated several other Walter Reade theatres.
In the early 1990s, City Cinemas had an architect draw up plans for the Lunt, with it divided into 4 or 5 cinemas. As I recall, the drawings showed 2 cinemas on the orchestra level, 2 in the balcony level and possibly 1 on the stage. I don’t know what the deal was, but obviously it never happened.
The architect, Yamasaki and Associates, was later the architect of of the now-destroyed World Trade Center in New York.