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Not quite a gut remodel, Al. They built a smaller auditorium within the old opera house. The first time I was in there was the night the ceiling fell down, I was working at CI&II we got the news and rushed down there. The ceiling over the balcony had come down and a large section of that then slid down the incline into the orchestra. I couldn’t see much at that time due to the heavy cloud of dust and there were no lights operable.
Several months later, I was given the key and sent down there to retrieve a buttermat and some other stuff. I took a big flashlight because nobody knew if Con Edison had shut off the power. By that time the entire ceiling was down in the orchestra. At the top of the side walls there was a vast amount of space between where the ceiling had been and the roof. There was enough space that another auditorium could have been built up there. Also, along the sides were the side sections of old horse shoe balcony of the ancient theatre. Snooping around further, I found that in the projection booth there was an old rickety wooden stairway going up to that balcony. That whole structure up there was made out of wood and there was evidence of past fire damage. There was old fabric wall covering straining to stay on the walls along with the old light fixtures. Below this balcony was another, but it was hidden behind the side wall of the cinema. Below that, on the ground level was the exit alleyway from the cinema. This was all on the west side of the building, the east side was similar, but inaccessible, and the ground level was the men’s room, ushers and porter room.
When they readied the place for temporary operation I drew the short straw and was assigned to be the manager. A new ceiling had been installed but instead of putting it in its original position they put it all the way up near the roof, leaving the old balcony’s exposed. In addition to installing the screen we had Geo. Moulinos mask off all that upper area and walls with drapery.
When that was finally shut down to be made into the quad, THEN they did do a complete gut, I was in there when it was just 4 walls and the roof.
Parmatown was the first twin theatre in the Cleveland area, Chapel Hill in Akron was the first twin theatre in Ohio. Southgate was built as a 12 or 1300 seat single screen. About 1971, at the same time the Westgate Cinema City under construction Southgate Cinema II with about 600 seats was built in the alley between the large cinema and the Cleveland Trust. The alley originally contained the auto-teller for the bank. The original auditorium was not divided until the early 1980s. The regional vp over the Cleveland division mgr. had been the opening manager of the Southgate Cinema, and as long as he was in charge of the area would nix any plans to divide that large theatre. Once he was switched to oversee the west coast instead of the midwest, the Southgate #1 was split.
Is it still sitting vacant? I was sure they would divide it up into ten trashy jewelry stores, or have the finally reached the saturation point with that junk? Every other storefront on 74th St. was that stuff. Even then, when the bar next door to the theatre went out of business, it was divided with 2 jewelry stores on the street level and 2 more in the cellar.
sorry, the Alzheimer’s is setting in… HOW could we have forgotten the Ziegfeld. Thanks Al.
Nice pics btw. Is that graffiti on the front recent, since the closing, or something that WMOTTB neglected while they were open? It looks like they are still removing stuff, I can see the box office sales computer still sitting there, I’d be surprised if they left that sort of thing for the demolition crew.
What about the Cinema Village (12 St)?
I think you mean The Paris, not the Plaza… is the UA East (1 Av-85 St) still open?
Not that it matters to any of us, but as I think about it more, I’m wondering if the condominium owners realize what will be in store for them once a supermarket opens in their building.
First, a supermarket has mice and roaches virtually built into the place, they get delivered with the first shipment of produce. While the theatre has been there, if a blue-haired resident on the 33rd floor has has been traumatized by an unfortunate encounter a roach the size of a Buick in her butlers pantry, the building manager was immediately dispatched to the theatre to inspect my extermination reports and snoop around the place with flashlights looking for actual vermin or evidence thereof, which they never found at least while I worked there.
Second, a supermarket requires a lot of rooftop refrigeration equipment to oprerate their coolers and freezers in the store. The theatre has one small cooling tower on the roof, as far away from the apt. tower as we could get it, yet if the drive belt on our cooling tower started to wear and the unit rattled a little more than usual I would get a barrage of phone calls from surly apartment residents demanding that I shut off my air conditioning until it was repaired.
Also, There is also the matter of deliveries to the market in the overnight hours, seven days a week.
I predict that after a while the residents will regret the day they agreed to install a supermarket, and look back on the halcyon days of the little old Loews Tower East longingly. “Alas,” they will say, “I fear we have erred. Our quest for big bucks per square-foot was misguided.” But it will be too late, too late for them, too late for us. The Loews is gone. Time marches on. And you can never go back. (I’m getting sappy now, I better stop).
If that’s the case, then Gristede’s has to be using basement space under the stores along with the street level. It was always my understanding that the basement under the stores was mechanical space for the condominium building, there is a garage under there somewhere, too. If they just use the street level stores and divide the theatre horizontally and use both levels it will not be much of a supermarket.
What are the other retail tenants there now? Is it still Bath & Body Works (on the 72 St corner), a yuppie sneaker shop and Vicki’s place (next door to Loews)?
I think the lease is up for renewal. I seem to recall back around 2000 there was great uncertainty surrounding the question of renewing the lease or letting the place go. At the 11th hour Loews signed on for another term of 10 years.
To me it makes little sense to close this theatre, since due to zoning restrictions they can’t build a new 35-plex across the street, even if the property was available. Zoning was changed in the early 1980s to say no new theatres may be built and existing theatres may not add any square-footage in the area bounded by 57th St to 79th St., 1st Ave to 5th Ave. So, in light of the restrictions, I would think they would want to maintain their presence in the area.
The theatre will make money but they can’t just play just any rubbish there like they can on 86th St. It requires a mix of more upscale general release films and foreign product. It also requires a film booker to actually know his theatres, histories and the demographics of the area where they are located. A booker of a place with 25 or 30 screens can use the booking theory of “throw enough sh*t against a wall and some of it will stick”.
The large national circuits are owned by private equity investment firms as well as many of the regional chains and have purged all the theatre people from their ranks. The financial people are running the show these days, micro-managing everything from the home office. History, tradition and common sense have been thrown in the trash. Nothing matters but the bottom line.
Oh yeah, you’re right! And I commented there too. How did I miss that? I guess the Alzheimer’s is setting in.
I regret to announce that the Walmart of the theatre business from Kansas City has decided the last day of operations for the Loews Tower East 72nd St will be Thursday December 9, 2010, as per CT member astrocks. Unknown at this time if the place will be offered to another tenant for use as a theatre or gutted for retail use.
Is it closed? I went past there the other day and the marquee was lit up and had titles on it, I don’t remember what they were though.
I thought BBKings was part of the E-Walk complex and newly built. Or is it possible that the old Harem porno theatre was incorporated into the new building?
Actually, I’m looking at the picture in the Harcourt book with a magnifying glass and it quite clearly says ‘Thick Cabinets’. It’s a different photo than the one in Boxoffice, it is a photo of the building with signs on the edge of the roof. Is that another term for Frappe? For instance, carbonated soft drinks, i.e. Pepsi, in the midwest is called ‘Pop’, in NYC it’s called ‘Soda’ and my relatives in Worcester MA called it ‘Tonic’. I thought this might be another regional term that goes by other names in other areas.
dwodeyla, in a photo of Richards Drive-In in the Harcourt General book, the sign lists their specialties: Fried Jumbo Shrimp, Chicken-in-the-basket and Thick Cabinets. I guess it’s a New England thing, but what are Thick Cabinets?
Yes – we read the gas meter and electric meters – every day – during the so-called energy crisis in 77-78. That year we had a big blizzard, snow several feet deep, wind 100 mph – transportation was at a standstill – the theatres didn’t open – all the managers in the area got a call at home from someone in the home office telling us to go to the theatre and shovel the snow off the roof. Apparently there was a theatre someplace where the weight of the snow made the roof cave in. I told them they were out of their minds, that everything was covered with ice and the wind was 100 mph, and I’m NOT going up on the roof. I was told I didn’t have to, just put a couple of ushers up there. I hung up on them. I figured the building was insured by the mall. Not only did the roof not cave in, when the blizzard subsided I did go up there and found very little snow, because the heavy wind had blown it all off.
You’re welcome. Another old ‘GCC dawg’ here, too!
BTW, I should have mentioned above that those other operations of the company were located primarily in the northeast and midwest. I remember as a kid the Peter Pan Snack Shops were, in the pre-McDonald’s era, comparable to Bob’s Big Boy or Denny’s without the in-car service. While there were none around me I’ve seen photos of Richard’s Drive-In and it appeared to be an early fast-food type of place – the sign says Fried Jumbo Shrimp, Twinburgers, Chicken-in-a-Basket and Thick Cabinets – whatever that may be.
dwodeyla, do you know if the change from the company’s long-time architectural firm, Riseman Associates, to the Cambridge Seven group was due to the retirement or passing of Riseman or Joe Saunders (just speculating – I don’t know exactly when, in the scheme of things, those events happened.) or was it a ‘out with the old – in with the new’ type of decision once Paul Del Rossi ascended the throne?
Do you know approximately when Riseman became involved with the company? I see he isn’t credited with this theatre, the original architect here is Ben Schlanger. Mr Schlanger was a consulting architect on the Cinema I – Cinema II in New York (theatre #1075 on this site), opened in 1962. That theatre had the same ‘shadow box’ screen surrounds, the upper cinema was lit red, the lower cinema lit blue, and the gray Alpro paneling on the walls, elements used by General Cinema through the 1960s and 70s.
Riseman designed all the General Cinema operations from about the early to mid-1950s through the late-1970s, when he either retired or passed. In the early days Smith Management/General Drive-In/General Cinema operated bowling alleys, Amy Joy Donut Shops, Peter Pan Snack Shop, Richard’s Drive-In restaurants as well as the drive-in and indoor theatres, everything built by the company, or remodeled after acquisition from others was the work of the Riseman firm, located in Boston. Riseman also did a lot of theatre work for Sumner Redstone/National Amusements, also headquartered in Boston.
Right up until they were vacuumed up by amc in 2006, Loew’s wasn’t shy about letting people know who was managing their theaters. A point of negotiation with the merger, amc let the Loews name remain on the New York City theatres, because A.) Loews has had operations and headquarters there since the earth cooled, and B.) as a half-hearted acknowledgment that Loews had a more storied past than they do.
They did this crap with the Hanna, too. Reduced the seating, transforming it into a type of performance space that will prove to be just a passing fad. In another 10 years traditional proscenium theatres will be back in vogue and the Great Lakes Shakespeare group will be moaning the space no longer meets their needs, and want a larger seating capacity. The difference is that the Hanna was fairly run down, whereas the Allen just underwent a multi-million dollar restoration. If they had proposed this plan while the Allen was still a dump, before the restoration, you could sort of breathe a sigh of relief and say well at least they are trying too save it from complete deterioration, but the theatre is no longer in desperate straits, condition-wise. That the Cleveland Playhouse has to reduce the seating to only 500 proves that they are really only a small-time production company, little more than a community theater group, lacking the artistic vision to come up with quality entertainment that would properly utilize a Class-A facility. I’m sure they could come up with a couple of benefactors to build them a small performance space that would suit their needs in one of the multitude of vacant retail spaces along Euclid Ave.
What will happen if, after the economy rebounds, more of the Broadway shows start touring again? Playhouse Square will regret their decision to let this venue be so drastically butchered. They should come up with a plan to partition the existing space that will preserve the architecture in a way that can be easily un-done to restore its present configuration, in the event The Cleveland Playhouse goes belly-up.