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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.
This threatre did do a bang-up business with the art-house crowd, but the place was a dump. Clean, but tile floors, silver wall paper and fluorescent lighting in the lobby, and the auditoruims had junky seats and lighting at intermission consisted of a single pink floodlight bulb over the lobby door pointed at the screen. Except for the bookings, Peter Elson ran this place like one of his Times Square action houses (The Embassy’s). Bookings = 10 – Ambiance = 0
The reason local residents called it “The Itch”:
“…The Interborough Theatre on Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck was a notorious spot in the 1920s. Patrons of this movie house almost always came back scratching. The theatre was infested with lice, and the children of the area aptly called it "The Itch.” Luckily, this situation did not exist in most other movie houses…“
—"The Beautiful Bronx” by Lloyd Ultan
You’re right. Is the Alpine still open? If so I can’t think of any other of the old ones still operated by Loews in New York.
The old 83rd St. Quad was on that block at the corner of 83rd St., and the new 84th St. 6-plex is on the same block but at the corner of 84th St.
BTW, check the Loews 83rd St. page on this site – there is a photo of the old quad with the new 6plex in the left edge of the pic.
84th St. 6-plex is on the north half of the blockfront btwn 83 & 84 Sts., east side of Broadway. The 83rd St. Quad was on the south half of the blockfront btwn 83 & 84 Sts., east side of Broadway. The first 2 days the 6-plex was open, the quad was open too, and the old and new theatres sat there side by side. The present apt. bldg. sits on the ground that the quad was on AND on the roof of the 6-plex. Trust me, I worked there.
In the 80s The Gramercy was playing second-run film. When the ceiling at the Murray Hill collapsed 2 days before they were supposed to open Alien 2, the new film was moved to the Gramercy, and it remained first-run until City Cinemas closed it.
There was usually some provision in the sale to include a replacement theatre in whatever was being built. The old Loews State and the Loew’s Building above it on Times Square was sold with the agreement that a new 4-screen theatre would be included and be a tenant. What is now the Virgin music store was to have been a mall, with a number of stores and the theatre. The developer put up the building and before the interior was completed went bancrupt. The incomplete building sat there for 10 years until that situation was settled and the property sold to a new owner and completed. By the time the new State Theatre opened, 4-screen theatres were obsolete, and the plan for a mall was thrown out in favor of a single tenant.
The 84th Street was some kind of exchange – the 84th St. 6-plex was built next door to the 83rd St Quad. When the 84th St. opened, the quad closed and was demolished. The apartment building was built on the ground the quad was on and on top of the new 6-plex. The theatre and ground it’s on was owned by Loews, and the apt. bldg. bought the air-rights and built on top of it. It is actually 2 seperate buildings. Loews role there may have changed, but up until a couple of years ago, that’s the way it was.
It should be noted that the name was Loew’s Tower East, because the name of the condominium building of which it is part is Tower East. The entrance to the Condo is on 72nd Street, where the entrance to the old theatre had been. In the early 90s, when Sony got involved signs were changed to ‘Sony Theatres Tower East’. A resident of the condominium, apparently an executive of Panosonic or JVC (a rival of the Sony Corporation) made an issue of having the name Sony associated with the name of his residence. The landlord prevailed upon Loews/Sony management to either remove ‘Sony’ or ‘Tower East’ from the sign, so they changed it to “Sony Theatres 72nd Street East”. When Sony got un-involved and signs were changed to Loews again, they kept the 72nd St. East name, despite my suggestion that they go back to Tower East. But to everyone who has known that theatre for any amount of time, though, it will always be the Loews Tower East, regardless of what the sign says.
This should be Renton Village Cinema I & II (guess I made a BIG typo!)….