Comments from LouRugani

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LouRugani commented about Retlaw Theatre on Nov 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm

FOND DU LAC — A local developer wants to turn the historic Retlaw Theater into a boutique hotel. Commonwealth Construction Co. has a purchase option and is evaluating repurposing it into an upscale boutique hotel in the recently created Arts and Entertainment District with 34 rooms and retail space, to open in spring 2015. The Retlaw Theatre, opened in 1925 and closed in 1998, for a time served as home to a theater company and Fusion restaurant but has stood vacant for several years. It’s owned by Boyd Partnership. Commonwealth would restore the Retlaw’s primary façade on Main Street.

LouRugani commented about Majestic Theatre on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:52 am

Streator’s Majestic Theatre in the movie business again By Steve Smedley, Bloomington IL Pantagraph, Nov. 4, 2007

STREATOR – A chance meeting nearly 30 years ago led to the summer reopening of Streator’s 100-year-old Majestic Theatre.

It was 1979, and a young man from Streator, fresh out of high school, was chasing a dream to work in Hollywood. But 18-year-old Tim Burke ran out of money in Arizona. His journey stalled.

Burke, who worked as a projectionist for his grandfather at the Majestic during high school, found a job at a small two-screen theater in Phoenix.

There, he met Kyle Mitchell, a 16-year-old who would buy the Majestic in Burke’s hometown 28 years later.

“I thought it was incredible,” Mitchell recalled. “None of us thought we could be a projectionist. That was the highest paying job in the theater. Then along comes this teenager who knows what he’s doing. He had years of training.”

Burke only stayed in Phoenix one year, continuing his pursuit to Hollywood, where he works today at Paramount Studios. But he worked in Phoenix long enough to make an impression on Mitchell, who would take a long, jagged journey that eventually steered the Arizona native to Burke’s childhood home, to Streator, to the Majestic.

Two years after Burke left Arizona, Mitchell, now 44, moved to Los Angeles to study at the University of Southern California.

He stayed in California for three years, before moving back to Arizona to manage properties for Mann Theatres. The theater chain relocated Mitchell to Colorado, and six months later, he decided to open his own theater-servicing company back in Arizona. That lasted about 15 years.

Throughout Mitchell’s journeys, he and Burke kept in touch.

Then Burke received a letter from a hometown friend. The small envelope contained a 1995 news article clipped out of the Streator Times. The city wanted to demolish the Majestic, located at 119 N. Vermillion St.

Burke didn’t let it happen, and two years later, the sale was final. Burke owned the Majestic, the place his grandfather taught him his craft.

Mitchell remembers flying to Illinois in those days to meet Burke at the Majestic. In those days, Burke would often sleep in the projection room.

But because of contractual obligations, Burke couldn’t show first-run movies at the time. Profit was hard to find when showing classic films, and the Majestic closed.

But Burke maintained ownership of the building.

Mitchell, meanwhile, no longer had the private business. He had been operating a small theater at a shopping mall in Arizona with his wife, Cindy. He wanted to remodel. The mall wanted a large multiplex theater. The Mitchells decided it was time for a change.

They wanted to live in a small town, and Mitchell fondly remembered his trips to Streator. He and Burke began to brainstorm, but they had a mountain ahead of them.

The building was in rough shape from years of neglect. When they first walked in to assess the damage, an icicle hung from the ceiling to the floor in the 525-seat auditorium. But Burke invested a lot of money in repairs. Mitchell invested a lot of time.

“I just donated to the good of the Majestic,” said Mitchell, who now owns and manages the theater business, while Burke maintains ownership of the building.

And for the first time in at least a decade, the Majestic showed a first-run movie earlier this year, just in time for its 100th anniversary. Nearly 750 people attended the opening weekend.

Here’s a brief look at 100 years of Streator’s Majestic Theatre:

  • The Majestic opened July 29, 1907, as a vaudeville house with live theater and music. That year, the theater even hosted a wedding in a den of lions, according to records with the Streatorland Historical Society Museum.

  • It was once part of a bustling entertainment industry in a small town with at least four other theaters: the Bijou, the Granada, the Plumb and the Lyric, according to files at the museum. The Bijou, which opened in 1903, only lasted a few years. A fire destroyed the Granada in 1963, and the Plumb was demolished in 1980.

  • In 1995, the city considered demolishing the building. That never happened, and in 1997, Streator native Tim Burke purchased the building. But due to contractual obligations, Burke couldn’t show first-run movies at the time and the theater wasn’t profitable.

  • This spring, Arizona native Kyle Mitchell leased the building from Burke to reopen the theater. For the first time in at least a decade, the Majestic showed a first-run movie.

LouRugani commented about Majestic Theatre on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:38 am

(Bloomington Pantagraph, June 8, 2008) End of vaudeville spelled doom for Majestic Theatre

Opened in 1910, the Majestic Theatre fell to the wrecking ball in April 1956. Today, the Government Center building occupies the corner.

By Bill Kemp, Archivist/Librarian, McLean County Museum of History

During the height of the vaudeville era, troupes of comedians, musicians, acrobats and actors arrived in Bloomington by train twice weekly, bringing with them carloads of sketch props, scenery, absurdly garish costumes, and trained animals. Vaudeville, it was said, was “big businesses with a bounce.”

The Majestic Theatre, located at the southwest corner of East and Washington streets, was Bloomington’s largest and most successful vaudeville house. Notable entertainers who performed on its stage included Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Roy Rogers and Mae West.

The theater opened on April 18, 1910, and its inaugural bill – though it included no household names – had plenty of vaudeville punch. Opening night performers included Carl Emmy’s “$5,000 animal act” and the Holmen Brothers and their “European sensational comedy act on the horizontal bars.”

Built of red vitrified brick, the Majestic could hold 1,400 on the main floor and two balconies. Its opening represented nothing less than “a great epoch in the histrionic phase of the city’s life,” declared owner Maj. Max Goldberg. The interior frescoing featured “delicate pea greens, gold and old rose tints.” The “ladies' retiring room” (with “maids in attendance”) and “gentlemen’s smoking room” were on the mezzanine.

The extravagance, though, could not hide one ugly aspect of life in Bloomington: Blacks were seated separately from whites in specially designated, segregated rows.

In an age of horrific theater fires (in 1903, the Iroquois Theater tragedy in Chicago claimed more than 600 lives), Maj. Goldberg stressed the Majestic’s “modern and up-to-date” design that offered “utter freedom from fire, danger and panic.” There were six ground floor exits, and the balconies emptied by separate stairs and exits, with a fire escape on the exposed wall along East Street.

By 1910, vaudeville cards often included short films, and the Majestic included a “moving picture machine” (dubbed the Majesticscope) to show “animated photography.”

During its early years, Majestic tickets ranged from a high of 25 cents for reserved boxes to a low of 10 cents for the cheap seats in the balcony (or about $5.50 and $2.20 today, adjusted for inflation). In 1911, acts included King & Brown, described as “two men and a pair of legs,” or “comedy monopede acrobats.” There also was Harry Thriller, “the lad on the tables and the chairs,” and Hector, the mind-reading dog.

The history of the Majestic includes sublime observations of life on the vaudeville stage. To save money, the Marx Brothers ate in their dressing room, preparing a dinner of goulash cooked over a Sterno-type stove. And there was the time when an overzealous stagehand turned a too-bright spotlight on fan dancer Sally Rand, leaving little to the imagination. The next day (or so the story goes), the line for tickets stretched from the box office all the way to Front and Main streets.

Even in its earliest days, the Majestic faced an uphill battle against the increasing popularity of movies. By 1915, there were several small nickelodeon-type theaters in downtown Bloomington, such as the Princess at 412 N. Main St. and the Scenic at 304 N. Madison St. That year also marked the opening of the Irvin Theater in the 200 block of East Jefferson Street. This “modern photo play house,” with its impressive screen and 1,000 seats, was the largest movie theater in town. By the mid-1920s, the Majestic was the only place in town to see regularly scheduled live entertainment.

In November 1937, the Majestic played host to Blackstone, billed as “the world’s most mystifying magician.” His roll call of tricks included “The Spanish Fantasy” and “Girl in the Auto Tires.” Interviewed by a local news reporter, the magician also recalled an appearance 15 years earlier when Jim Tucker, a veteran Majestic stagehand, misread a lighting cue and illuminated the “vanishing horse” before it had rightly “vanished.”

What had vanished by the late 1930s, though, was vaudeville, which was unable to compete against movies and radio. By the late 1940s to early 1950s, the Majestic stood empty and forlorn. “Darkened with the passing of vaudeville and grown ugly out of disuse,” observed The Pantagraph in 1955.

The theater finally fell to the wrecking ball in April 1956. Crowds gathered to watch the old vaudeville house come down in a shower of bricks.

“The pigeons have lost a good home,” cracked one sidewalk wit.

“The old vaudevillians lost theirs a long time ago,” was the comeback from Pantagraph reporter Bill Harris.

LouRugani commented about Ritz Theatre on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Fun of Seeing Movies in Grand Old Theaters Can’t Be Duplicated

By BOB SWIFT (The Ledger, Wednesday, July 19, 2006)

I suffer from the old-age syndrome that makes me constitutionally unable to believe that a hot dog should cost more than 10 cents, a Coke more than a nickel, a bag of popcorn, a dime or a movie more than a quarter. Movies cost a dime when I was a little kid, a quarter when I was a bit bigger. Actually, I recall a time when the price of a ticket was 9 cents, and when it was a dime, the manager bumped it up to 12 cents. Today, you’d stand in line to see a flick that cost 12 cents. I’ve seen people stand in line for two hours, in the hot sun, waiting to buy a movie ticket. They did when “Star Wars” came out. I wanted to see the movie but I hated standing in line. It’s a thing about ex-GIs. I can’t recall ever standing in line for a movie when I was a kid, except when I went to the Ritz Theatre with my mother to see “Gone With the Wind,” or perhaps at a Saturday matinee at the Grand Theater when they showed a double feature: Gene Autry AND Roy Rogers on the same bill. Wow! Heaven can wait. The Grand Theater was what they called the second-run theater. It was “across the tracks,” that is, a little bit west of the old Atlantic Coast Line railroad tracks that ran from north to south through the middle of the park. It was on Winter Haven’s Fifth Street Northwest, just before it angled off toward Lake Howard as Grand Avenue, which is now called Pope Avenue. The Grand Theater was at the end of a block which included the A&P, the Whiter Haven Pharmacy, George Kalogridis’s beer joint and pool room, and the wood-floored newsstand that later became Charlie’s News, when Charles Goshorn left the News-Chief (there was a hyphen in it then) and bought the newsstand. I knew about the newsstand and the A&P, but until I was a senior in high school and a member of John’s Mob, I never got into the pool room. But in 1945 and ‘46, Tony Kalogridis, also in John’s Mob, would take us to shoot pool on Sundays when the pool room was closed and his dad blissfully ignorant of his offspring’s adventures. The Ritz Theatre was on Central Avenue, flanked by clothing stores, across the street from Roby’s Book Store, the W.W. Mac 5 and 10, and the Seaboard Air Line ticket office. The Ritz was the first-run theater. It had cushioned seats, whereas the Grand had bent plywood seats. The Ritz had carpeting in the lobby. The Grand’s lobby was floored with gum. You went to the Ritz to see Linda Darnell or Joan Crawford emote in all-white rooms, wearing white satin pajamas, talking on white French telephones with 20-foot cords. You went to the Grand to see Adele Jergens in harem pants. You went to the Ritz to see William Powell and Franchot Tone, wearing tuxedos and tapping cigarettes on silver cigarette cases. You went to the Grand to see the Bowery Boys, with Leo Gorcey’s malapropisms and Huntz Hall’s slapstick. You went to the Ritz with your parents. You went to the Grand with your rowdy pals. The Ritz showed what they called “A” movies: Betty Grable musicals, Errol Flynn pirate pictures, Shirley Temple’s bouncing curls, Wallace Beery’s expressive face, Lana Turner’s sweater, Humphrey Bogart’s sneer. The Grand showed “B” movies: Chester Morris as Boston Blackie and Tom Conway as The Falcon, The Three Stooges twisting noses, Dennis O'Keefe sailing a copra schooner, Maria Montez charming a cobra, Ann Sothern as a wise-cracking reporter. Sometimes, after an “A” movie had played the Ritz, it would return to the Grand for a “second run.” If you were patient, you could see the “A” movies at the Grand, much cheaper, plus the other half of a double feature, which might be something like “Invasion of the Crab People.” On Saturday afternoons, the Grand was bedlam, full of kids brandishing cap pistols and sticky candy, cheering Lash LaRue or Charles Starrett. The audience often got into the spirit of things (“Look out, Gene! He’s in the hayloft!”). On Saturdays you got to see a western or two, Chapter 7 of the “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” serial, Woody Woodpecker cartoons and a musical short featuring Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The Ritz offered a lot for your money, too. Besides the feature, you might see previews of coming attractions, a Donald Duck cartoon, a March of Time or John Nesbitt’s “Passing Parade,” a Movietone newsreel (war clouds over Ethiopia), the latest hi chapeaux from Paris, water skiers at Cypress Gardens and chimpanzees riding tricycles while Lew Lehr intoned “Monkeys is the kwaziest people …”, a Traveltalk (and so, as the sun sinks slowly in the West, we say a fond farewell to the beautiful island of …), a Pete Smith Specialty, an Andy Clyde two-reeler, a short featuring Horace Heidt or Xavier Cugat … and the theater manager, who came on stage to ask your indulgence when the film broke. Not only that, but you could see it all again by just remaining in your seat. You could see it all a half dozen times for the same ticket. Some parents used to park their kids in the movie house in lieu of a baby sitter. All for a dime, kids. When I’m in a modern movie theater, I can’t help wishing I was in one of the old-time movie palaces instead. And I don’t mean just New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the queen of them all. Going to the movies in any good-sized town was a class act. In the first place, a movie theater was big. You had the feeling that you had been transported outside your mundane surroundings to a fairy tale land of magic and illusion. You see, you didn’t have television at home, or air-conditioning. The theater had the air-conditioning (a banner ran around the marquee, depicting blue icicles and the legend, “Twenty degrees cooler inside.”). It’s rather depressing, to me at least, to pay top dollar and then sit in a theater modeled after a Thorn McCann shoebox. I know, the sound is first class and there’s “stadium seating,” which is quite comfortable. There just isn’t the sense of adventure, or a sense that you’re really doing something wonderful when you go to the movies. Not so back then. Most theaters in the old days (I’m talking 1930s, '40s and '50s here, folks), had real balconies, where, after your hormones had grown into their teens, you could shyly, or slyly, slip your arm around Mary Sue’s shoulders. If you were in the very last row you might try a more complicated move. If Mary Sue’s wit and coordination were in tune, what you would grasp was her floating rib. Many theaters, such as the Polk in Lakeland, had lofty, vaulted ceilings and ornately plastered walls. The walls, especially those flanking the screen, bore fake balconies and arches of Moorish or Spanish design. These were back lighted with glowing red and orange. Carved sconces lighted up elaborate draperies and cast triangular shadows. You had the impression you were in the courtyard of a mansion or castle. Gazing about, munching on popcorn flavored with real butter, you expected Ronald Colman to swing from a balcony on a string of onions, rapier in hand. The entire theater, lobby, corridors, stairways to the balconies, even the rest rooms, carried out the same romantic theme. And there was an extra special touch that the real, true, deluxe movie palaces possessed. I remember some examples: the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the Olympia hi Miami (now Gusman Hall), and the Polk in Lakeland. Each had a soaring ceiling that, wondrous to behold, was covered with twinkling lights and cloud effects. When you looked up, you felt as though you were gazing into a star-filled sky that stretched into infinity. The Polk in Lakeland has been restored to its former glory and they’re trying to restore the Ritz. Alas, the Ritz was ruined, as a theater, when they turned it into a teen hangout years ago. It isn’t the only building that’s been ruined or torn down. As Pete Hamill says of Henry James, “… he mourns those buildings of his childhood that had been replaced, for vulgar commercial reasons, by structures of inferior quality.” So do I. I speak of Winter Haven High School, for instance, or the old City Hall. Some have been remodeled badly: the First Baptist Church, the Publix Supermarket across from the church, the Roseart Hotel on Third Street at Avenue B. Or the Ritz Theatre. Ah, well. I was speaking of movie palaces. In the poshest of the posh, such as the big New York movie houses, the mighty Wurlitzer organ held sway, booming out before and between shows. Was it actually a Wurlitzer? I don’t know. But it made a mighty roar! O, glorious sound! The Ritz in Winter Haven wasn’t quite elegant enough to have a booming organ, although it was elegant enough. When I was about 2, my father was a sign painter. A few years later he would become director of exhibits for the Florida Orange Festival, and later a drugstore owner and real estate broker. But one of the things he did as a sign painter was make showcards for the Ritz, when Byron Cooper was the manager. A perquisite of the job was that my Dad and his family got into the movies for free, so I grew up seeing many, many movies at both the Ritz and Grand theaters. And in later years, when Frank Sparrow was manager, my best friend was a ticket taker at the Ritz so I often (don’t tell anyone) got in free. All in all, the air-conditioning, the added attractions, the decor (I guess I’m not talking about the Grand, here) added up to … what? … an experience, a romantic outing. You really got your money’s worth in romance in those theaters of the past, even before munching your Good 'n’ Plentys or seeing the movie. Seeing the movie? Heck, for the price of a ticket you got much more than a movie. You even got uniformed ushers with discreetly dimmed flashlights, who escorted you to your seat, found errant children after they had seen the movie twice, and warned rowdies to be quiet or else. And all for one thin dime, or a quarter … or … I guess the price kept going up all the time and we didn’t realize it. Or perhaps we didn’t notice because we were looking at the starry ceilings, or Woody Woodpecker, or Mary Sue’s blue eyes. Nowadays, it’s big bucks. The popcorn costs a fortune. The soft drinks come in large, extra large and super colossal large. You have your choice of movies, but all you get to see is the film you chose, previews of coming attractions and a lot of advertising. No Porky Pig. No water skiers. No Pete Smith Specialty. No March of Time. Besides, the management throws you out when the film is over.

(Bob Swift is a resident of Winter Haven.)

LouRugani commented about HI-WAY OUTDOOR Theatre; Wadsworth, Illinois. on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm

WAUKEGAN NEWS-SUN, Thursday, August 10, 1950.

LouRugani commented about HI-WAY OUTDOOR Theatre; Wadsworth, Illinois. on Oct 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm

August 27, 1950: Seventeen days after its grand opening, the HI-WAY OUTDOOR Theatre adjusts its adult-admission prices.

LouRugani commented about Hi-Way Drive-In on Oct 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Remarkably, research shows that after its opening at 7:30 pm CDT on Thursday, August 10, 1950 with Ray Milland and Rosalind Russell in “A Woman of Distinction”, the Hi-Way Outdoor Theatre near Wadsworth, Illinois was only open for a total of fifty-one days before it closed forever on Saturday, September 30, 1950 and fell into decades of disrepair. This may be some sort of a record in the realm of theatre failures. A guess as to the reason: the Hi-Way was then far removed from population centers. Its promoters may have made the assumption that enough cars on busy US 41 would spot the Hi-Way and make a quick decision to pull in for a double feature and that IL 173 would supply patrons from the east and west. Still, the immediate area was then lightly populated and the incorporated communities on 173 were somewhat distant. Also a time difference with Wisconsin – two miles north – may have mattered. Wisconsin didn’t then observe Daylight Saving Time and for Wisconsinites the Hi-Way opened at 6:30 PM CST. The far more deluxe Keno Family Outdoor Theatre was between Kenosha – ten miles distant – and the Hi-Way, which few Kenoshans knew of as the Hi-Way didn’t advertise in Kenosha.

The economic realities must have set in rather quickly. In a move to stay afloat, a new adult admission price of 55 cents was announced for Sunday, August 27, 1950. Children were still admitted free. The double feature that night was “Bride for Sale” with Claudette Colbert, Robert Young and George Brent plus “Singing Guns” with Vaughn Monroe.

It all ended on Saturday, September 30, 1950. “Three Came Home” with Claudette Colbert and “Sand” with Mark Stevens made up the final program. There’s no record on how many of the Hi-Way’s 500 parking spaces (some sources say 628) were occupied. The Hi-Way’s final ad in the Waukegan News-Sun in announcing what was called its “final performance of the 1950 season” thanked all its patrons for their past patronage and that they were “looking forward to seeing you all in the spring."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Some facts on the Hi-Way Outdoor Theatre: Eugene Regenauer of 148 Fulton Ave. in Waukegan was the general contractor. The Hi-Way’s Magnascreen tower was 44 by 60 feet in size; the water-cooled projectors had 4-inch lenses and were elevated to avoid keystoning. Special emphasis was made on food service; Hi-Way patrons were handed menus upon entering the theatre and employees pushing insulated carts would deliver meals to the parked cars. In the Hi-Way’s main "Restaurant Building” one could order full dinners of Southern-fried chicken, barbecued baby pork spareribs, fish-and-chips or chopped steak at prices from 85 cents to $1.10. Children were always admitted free.

All throughout its too-short 51-day life the theatre’s motto was “Drive Over and Drive In”. Today that sounds like a tacit admission that even at its opening the unfortunate Hi-Way Outdoor Theatre was a bit isolated. Too distant to attract enough of those patrons who otherwise could have enjoyed its amenities and made it a lasting success.

LouRugani commented about Town Theater on Sep 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

From the Venetian Theatre website: “Until recently, the Venetian property was composed of two separate buildings. The theater portion (not including the auditorium) was originally built in 1888 to house the First National Bank of Hillsboro. In 1911, the bank moved to the Cady building on the southwest corner of Third and Main Streets. J.W. Shute, the President of the bank at that time, encouraged Orange Phelps, who was operating the 108-seat Arcade Theater directly across the street from the vacant bank building, to purchase the property. Phelps purchased the old bank building and opened the 200 seat Grand Theater there the same year. In 1916, 300 more seats were added and the Grand became the Liberty. A fire closed the Liberty in 1925. After the subsequent remodel and addition of the auditorium, it was reopened as the Venetian. The Venetian burned due to a faulty curtain motor in 1956, and the newly refurbished Town theater opened in 1957.

Phelps sold the Town to Tom Moyer Luxury Theaters in 1978. Films continued to be shown there until 1996, when the City purchased it for $1,500. It has since remained vacant until purchased by Denzil Scheller in August, 2007.

The second building on the eastern portion of the current Venetian property was constructed originally in 1887. It first was occupied by a general merchandise store at street level with a printing shop and office above. It has generally housed retail operations including grocery and flour storage, hardware, music, and most recently Faro’s clothing store. The City of Hillsboro purchased this address in 2001 from Wayne Holmes in order to facilitate redevelopment of the theater.

LouRugani commented about Adler Theater on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

On November 10, 1921, Trags Theater, Neillsville’s new $35,000 motion picture house, opened at 7:30 p.m. with Mary Pickford in “Through the Back Door,” the next-to-last Pickford release, with four showings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday afternoon matinee at 2:30.

Trags Theater was the culmination of months of planning on the part of a Neilsville resident William E. Tragsdorf. The theatre was 30 feet wide and 126 feet deep, with an arcade on Sixth Street. The main entrance was on Hewett Street and the front of the house is two stories and of red ornamental brick. The show house is absolutely fire proof throughout, the floor being of concrete and the projection room, well lined. The lobby was on Hewett Street with a glass enamel box office, French doors in front and two large gilt poster frames. Delays made it impossible to complete the lobby by the opening show. Patrons exited the theater through the arcade, which was later fitted with a confectionery and cigar store.

The seating capacity was 402 seats on the main floor and two loggias with ten wicker chairs in each reserved for box parties. Restrooms and the theatre office were on the second floor. The ceiling of the auditorium was thirty feet in height. There were six ornamental lights on each side wall and four indirect lighting bowls in the ceiling. Two Torrid Zone furnaces and ten large fans were installed.

The main floor of the house will seat 402 persons. The concrete floor slopes to the front and is easily cleaned from back to the front.

There were two Simplex motor-driven projectors with music by an American Fotoplayer piano with pipe organ effects. The stage was large enough for vaudeville with a dressing room at one side. The scenery was painted by Universal Scenic of St. Paul and the drop curtain had a scene of the bridge from Old Panama, painted from a photo by Will Tragsdorf while he was located in Panama.

All the construction work was by local workmen including the architects, Balch & Lippert of Madison. The masonry was by Van Wagner, Owens & Van Wagner, the heating and ventilating by P. M. Warlum, the decorating by Jack Schueing, the carpeting by Otto Roessler.

Originally, the theater lot had been the site for a hardware business which started in 1879, owned by Denis Tourigny who, after 40 years in business, sold out in 1919. Tragsdorf owned and managed the theater atb the beginning, then Darrell Gotschlin managed it until resigning in 1934. Wilmer G. Meier then came from Waupaca to accept the managerial position and remained until the theater’s closing. .

LouRugani commented about Hi-Way Drive-In on Aug 29, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Drive-In Near Waukegan Forced Into Receivership (Boxoffice, March 10, 1951)

George May has been named receiver for the Highway Amusement Enterprises, Inc., operators of the Highway (sic) Outdoor Theatre here, and four other defendants in a mechanics lien proceeding.

Listed as co-defendants in the $65,000 mechanics lien proceedings are the Midwest Theatre Service and Equipment Co., Irving S. Karlin, architect and secretary of the operating corporation; John Selby, screen erection engineer; and Staben and Hooper, consulting engineers. May will safeguard the assets of the firms bringing liens against the theatre property which was constructed last fall.

LouRugani commented about Kenosha Theatre on Aug 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm

(From Boxoffice, October 29, 1938:) William Exton posted $10 to be given any man over 21 years who would remain two full days and one whole night in the lobby of the Kenosha Theatre in a coffin during the two-day engagement of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”.

LouRugani commented about Orpheum Theatre on Aug 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Orpheum to open two stadium theaters (April 23, 1998, by CHRISTOPHER PFAU, Racine Journal Times)

Downtown Kenosha’s Orpheum Theatre will open two new movie theaters featuring stadium-style seating on Friday night.

“We think this is the direction downtown Kenosha wants to go as far as bringing people to the downtown area,“ Jeff Maher, president and owner of the Orpheum at 5819 6th Ave., said of the theaters.

The stadium-style theaters, which cost about $500,000 to put in, include state-of-the-art sound systems, Maher said.

The addition brings to four the number of theaters in the Orpheum, a discount movie house.

Ticket prices are $2 everyday, except on Tuesdays, when tickets cost $1.

Maher said he believes moviegoers are calling for the stadium-style seating which ensure unobstructed views of the screen.

“In order for the discount theaters to compete, (the theaters) have to go to stadium-style seating,“ Maher said.

LouRugani commented about Isle Theatre on Aug 18, 2013 at 4:17 am

(From the closed theatre’s website:)

The Isle Theatre has undergone renovation, being completely restored and improved from the original, and was re-opened on April 18, 2008. It was built in 1921 as the Zim Zim Theatre. It was purchased and remodeled in 1935, and underwent a name change as the result of a naming competition. It is located in Downtown Cumberland, Wisconsin at 1345 2nd Avenue, and appropriately named “Isle Theatre”, piggy-backing off Cumberland’s nick-name the “Island City”, as the city limits are surrounded by the waters of Beaver Dam Lake.

The theatre had been closed since 1997, and with ideas of the building being torn down, former City Councilman, Tom Nesvold, pursued a buyer to preserve the downtown icon. Mark Ruppel, CEO of Ardisam located in Cumberland, says the company bought the building from the city, planning to re-open the theatre for the community because it holds so much history for the town and memories for the people who live there. “I’m a long time resident, I had my first date there like everybody else.” Ruppel says what better way to bring a piece of history back to Cumberland and share it with the whole town. “There’s nothing like experiencing a blockbuster movie that comes to town. It’s great to be at home with your family but it’s even greater to have your family out. It’s what creates community.”

Restoring the building isn’t just about the past. It’s creating a future. Mark and Ron Ruppel have partnered with Tom and Deanna Nesvold in creating an entertainment destination. The theatre offers area residents and guests a state-of-the-art viewing experience while retaining the character of the original theatre. With input from local artist, Jeff Hile, the original tin ceiling has been restored and is the focal point of the art deco interior design. The old projector is on display, and 150 original seats re-upholstered, including the classic “love-seats”. While the theatre was under construction, a vintage poster was found folded up in the ceiling at the back of the building. The poster is from the 1919 Paramount Pictures Silent Movie, “Louisiana”, starring Vivian Martin and is on display, along with historical Cumberland Photos. The remodel includes an entirely new lobby, snack bar, rest rooms, and a new sound and projection system. Nezzy’s Sports Bar & Grill is adjacent to the theatre at the back-side of the building and has access to the theatre to expand the entertainment value for movie-goers. The theatre is available to rent for special occasions or meetings.

We hope you enjoy the Isle Theatre experience!

LouRugani commented about Lido Theater on Jul 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Kenneth LeRoy Olson was born in Hale, Wisconsin on August 18, 1922 to Hanna and Almer Olson, one of their seven sons. They moved to Manly in 1929. Kenneth attended school until 1940, and worked at the Manly Creamery and the Lido Theatre after school hours. He married Shirley Marsh on September 1, 1940 in Osage. In 1942, Kenneth and his family, now including their two children Larry and Steve, moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he managed the Granada Theatre.

Kenneth Olson joined the Marines on December 26, 1943 and left the next day for Camp Pendleton and went into action overseas a year or so later.

On February 20, 1945, Marine Corporal Kenneth L. Olson died of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima. One mmonth later, his wife received the following telegram:

“Deeply regret to inform you that your husband, assistant cook Kenneth L. Olson USMCR died 20th February 1945 of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima Volcano Islands, in the performance of his duty and service of his country. The remains were buried at sea. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy.

A. Vandergriff, Gen. U.S.M. "

        Commandant of Marine Corps.

Still later, his wife received a letter from the Chaplain’s Office of the US Marines stating that “there never was anyone more highly respected and beloved” than Cpl. Olson.

He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

LouRugani commented about Downtown Cinema on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Kenneth LeRoy Olson was born in Hale, Wisconsin on August 18, 1922 to Hanna and Almer Olson, one of their seven sons. They moved to Manly in 1929. Kenneth attended school until 1940, and worked at the Manly Creamery and the Lido Theatre after school hours. He married Shirley Marsh on September 1, 1940 in Osage. In 1942, Kenneth and his family, now including their two children Larry and Steve, moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he managed the Granada Theatre.

Kenneth Olson joined the Marines on December 26, 1943 and left the next day for Camp Pendleton and went into action overseas a year or so later.

On February 20, 1945, Marine Corporal Kenneth L. Olson died of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima. One mmonth later, his wife received the following telegram:

“Deeply regret to inform you that your husband, assistant cook Kenneth L. Olson USMCR died 20th February 1945 of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima Volcano Islands, in the performance of his duty and service of his country. The remains were buried at sea. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy.

A. Vandergriff, Gen. U.S.M. "

            Commandant of Marine Corps.

Still later, his wife received a letter from the Chaplain’s Office of the US Marines stating that “there never was anyone more highly respected and beloved” than Cpl. Olson.

He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

LouRugani commented about LIDO Theatre; Manly, Iowa. on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Kenneth LeRoy Olson was born in Hale, Wisconsin on August 18, 1922 to Hanna and Almer Olson, one of their seven sons. They moved to Manly in 1929. Kenneth attended school until 1940, and worked at the Manly Creamery and the Lido Theatre after school hours. He married Shirley Marsh on September 1, 1940 in Osage. In 1942, Kenneth and his family, now including their two children Larry and Steve, moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he managed the Granada Theatre.

Kenneth Olson joined the Marines on December 26, 1943 and left the next day for Camp Pendleton and went into action overseas a year or so later.

On February 20, 1945, Marine Corporal Kenneth L. Olson died of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima. One mmonth later, his wife received the following telegram:

“Deeply regret to inform you that your husband, assistant cook Kenneth L. Olson USMCR died 20th February 1945 of wounds received in action at Iwo Jima Volcano Islands, in the performance of his duty and service of his country. The remains were buried at sea. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy.

A. Vandergriff, Gen. U.S.M. "
                Commandant of Marine Corps.

Still later, his wife received a letter from the Chaplain’s Office of the US Marines stating that “there never was anyone more highly respected and beloved” than Cpl. Olson.

He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

LouRugani commented about World Theatre on Jul 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Acme to rehab south side theater.

Former World Theater to become video-production studio (The Business Journal-Milwaukee, March 25, 1991, by Rich Kirchen)

A Milwaukee company that makes sets and props for video production companies and industrial trade shows plans to rehabilitate a boarded-up theater in the Walker’s Point area for use as a studio and production facility.

Acme Corp., 529 W. National Ave., recently received approval from the Milwaukee Common Council’s Economic Development Committee for state development zone tax credits toward its $125,000 project at the former World Theater, 830 S. 6th St., said Bob Trimmier, a neighborhood commercial revitalization staffer for the Department of City Development. It would be an independent, full-service studio, he said.

Acme will receive $18,200 in new job tax credits, $3,125 in location credits and $655 in sales tax credits, said Mike Brodd, the DCD’s manager of neighborhood economic development. The company has committed to creating four jobs with the project, Brodd said.

Mark Miskimen, who owns Acme Productions, said the new facility would have a separate identity from Acme and probably would have a name that is a play on the old World Theater.

Acme is buying the building from Bob Hoffmann.

Trimmier said city officials are delighted at the reinvestment in the theater building, which is near the key intersection of South Sixth Street and West National Avenue. The city also is pushing for redevelopment of the city-owned four-story Kroeger Building, 611 W. National, which may be sold to Esperanza Unida Inc., a Hispanic community group.

LouRugani commented about World Theatre on Jul 21, 2013 at 4:51 am

The Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory at the Division of Historic Preservation-Public History in the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, lists the World Theatre as being built in 1926. It’s been on the National Register as of December 12, 1978 and on the State Register as on January 1, 1989 as part of the Walker’s Point Historic District. The original seating capacity was listed at 750 and the original estimated cost was $30,000. After decades of church use, the theatre surprised many in mid-1984 by briefly reverting to double-feature film offerings as the “All World Theatre” with a 99-cent admission. I was graciously allowed to tour it yesterday and the seating has been replaced by pews. There’s a balcony, and the lobby is basically original but little ornament is visible in the auditorium save the pilasters with its dropped ceiling.

LouRugani commented about Bartlett Theatre on Jul 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm

The Bartlett was the first theater in Highwood, owned by Danny Bartlett, with Bartlett Cabs next door. The Bartlett was later managed by the Quarta brothers from Lake Forest and renamed it the Highwood Theatre. In the 1970s, Highwood’s Mayor Fidel Ghini pressured the theatre to close for showing X-rated movies.

LouRugani commented about FORT SILL SHERIDAN Theatre; Fort Sill, Oklahoma. on Jul 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Army & Air Force Exchange Service courier Edwin Thillet walks the aisles in the Fort Sill Sheridan Road Theatre Feb. 12, 2013. The theatre stopped showing movies in December, 2012.

LouRugani commented about Sheridan Theatre on Jul 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

The Fort Sill Sheridan Road Theater stopped showing movies in December, 2012 but the facility will continue to be used for ceremonial and training events, say Army & Air Force Exchange Service officials. About 60 AAFES theatres have stopped showing movies as technology is moving away from film projection and toward digital pictures and sound, said Chris Ward, AAFES Headquarters spokesman in Dallas, but about another 60 AAFES theatres worldwide are making the conversion to digital. With theatres converting to digital projection, AAFES theatres now using 35mm prints have been undergoing reviews to determine the cost-effectiveness of converting its theatres to a digital format. A review of the Fort Sill Sheridan Road theatre determined that with a cost of about $120,000 to convert to digital and the availability of local off-base entertainment venues, the continued operation of the theatre was not thought to be viable.

LouRugani commented about Star Cinema on Jun 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Reedsburg cinema closing ‘a loss’ for community

(Wisconsin State Journal) Dec. 6, 2008)

If the Reedsburg movie theater reopened tomorrow, the fare might include “Titanic,” “Waterworld,” “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” and, perhaps “Like Water for Chocolate.” But it won’t reopen, because in Reedsburg, the day the movie theater died was June 9, when the Baraboo River ran through it. Now, businesses that counted on customers who shopped and dined with a movie date are feeling the effects of the closing. Even the decision two weeks ago to permanently close has irritated city officials, who have been trying for months to get the Chicago-based Kerasotes company to confirm its intentions.

City administrator John Dougherty hinted this week of a local takeover of the six-screen theater, something that would be welcomed by Reedsburg resident Julie Fitzgerald, who just wants a chance to take her children to a local matinee again. “They kept changing their tune,” said Dougherty this week of the company’s recent decision to close the Reedsburg Star 6 Cinema. “Now they are saying that while they are not planning on reopening it, they would like to sell it,” he said. Prior to that, the company had indicated they would use the building for storage.

The theater has been closed since June, when record rains turned the Baraboo River through downtown Reedsburg into a lake, with the cinema building an island. Despite several feet of water inside, city inspectors report today there is no mold and “everything cleaned up just fine,” Dougherty said. The movie house, he said, is vital and brings in weekend traffic to Reedsburg’s businesses. With that in mind, and the suggestion from Kerasotes that it wants to sell, the city “has been working with someone local who expressed interest in opening it back up,” Dougherty said.

City help to reopen the enterprise on the property, valued at just over $1 million, would be limited. The city pitched in several years ago when this building was opened. Attendance at the cinema, up to its closing, was good, Dougherty said, and no other Reedsburg businesses closed because of the flooding.

Fitzgerald, who with her husband and two children regularly attended matinees as a family treat at the cinema, said prices went up when Kerasotes took over the movie theater last January, and that may have led to fewer customers. She said the cinema was able to show current movies on its six screens with a good selection that included family fare. “We miss it, we would come in and have dinner or lunch and go to a movie; we just don’t drive to the Dells for a movie,” she said. “It wasn’t crowded but it was pleasant,” she said.

At the Chamber of Commerce, Carrie Covell feels let down by the closing. A movie theater should be able to survive, she said, “because we are a feeder community for quite a few small communities,” including from neighboring Juneau County. “This is prime real estate downtown. A movie theater brings in dinner guests and cocktail drinkers, and afternoon shoppers,” she said.

A memo from Kerasotes to the city said the company “will continue to maintain and use the building for storing equipment and staging purposes.” That could mean the building might not be available for sale to another company that might open a movie theater that would compete with the company’s Wisconsin Dells-Lake Delton theater. Because the building is on a commercially zoned lot, using the theater as a warehouse for storage is legal, with conditions, said city building inspector Art Biesek.

No one from Kerasotes returned telephone calls for comment.

The company also owns Star Cinema in Fitchburg, which it purchased at the same time it purchased the Reedsburg theater and four other Star Cinemas last January. Kari Walker, owner of the Touchdown Tavern on the same street as the now-closed Reedsburg theater, said many have speculated about Kerasotes' plans, and suffered from the closing. “Any time you have an additional 20 or more vehicles in town, the chances are some of those people are going to go to more than one place, they’re going to grab a bite to eat, pick up some shampoo, buy a cell phone case,” she said. “We consider it a significant loss for downtown, because it is also something for all ages,” she said.

Dougherty remains optimistic the theater will reopen, that “someone else will make a go of it. "We still have the option of giving or not giving (Kerasotes) a conditional use permit to use the building as storage,” he said. The company wouldn’t intentionally keep it closed to help out its Dells theater because “the Dells is going to grab the people who don’t wander far from the Dells, and Reedsburg would be for our surrounding community who don’t want to deal with the traffic of the Dells.”

LouRugani commented about Crivitz Theatre on Jun 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Irene Banaszak, 96, resident died Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. The former Irene Kradecki was born Sept. 3, 1914 in Milwaukee. She married John Banaszak on June 29, 1935 at St. Leo’s Church in Pound. The couple resided in Crivitz, where they owned and operated Crivitz Furniture and the Crivitz Theater until retirement.

Surviving were two daughters, Lorraine Kraszewski of Suamico and Carol (Gary) Wieting of Crivitz; a son, Donald (Florence) of Hobart; nine grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Her husband, John preceded her in death along with a son, Raymond.

They are interred in the St. Mary Church cemetery.

LouRugani commented about Joy Theatre on Jun 4, 2013 at 4:58 pm

The architect was Franz Roy, whose office was nearby at 9046 S. Commercial Avenue. He designed a number of area buildings.

LouRugani commented about Lyric Theater on May 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

(Wayne Independent) – Lyric Theater fire recalled

The 1961 Lyric Theater blaze was one of the costliest fires to hit Honesdale’s business district.
By Kevin Zwick
Mar. 31, 2011 @ 1:14 am

On March 25, 1961, eight-year-old Gerry Dunne and his buddies made their way to the Lyric Theatre to see the screening of the British monster flick “Gorgo,” a U.K.-based film similar to Godzilla. But Dunne and his friends never saw the film that day. Instead, they witnessed a monstrous blaze tear through the theatre, one of the costliest fires to hit Honesdale’s business district.

The fire, which began around 6 p.m. near the theatre’s candy counter, set the entire building ablaze. The building was home to the theatre, Jack Martin’s Pharmacy, the Wayne County Democratic Committee office, and also housed a tax consulting business owned by Gerry’s grandmother, Isabel Dunne. At the time Gerry didn’t know that his grandmother and her associate Robert Adams were trapped on the second floor of the burning building. Apparently, neither did the fire fighters.

According to a report by The Scranton Times, Isabel and Robert were working in the second floor office when they discovered the fire. As Isabel started into the hallway, she became overcome by the dense smoke. Finally, they climbed out of their second floor office window, and jumped five feet onto the building marquee. Neither had the strength to climb to the rim to signal or call for help, but Robert was able to throw his jacket to the ground to try to signal fire fighters. Then-Fire Chief Vincent Martone scaled a ladder to place a hose in the second floor window and spotted the two on the marquee and called for help to remove them. Isabel, who was unconscious, was given artificial respiration by off-duty state trooper William Bluff, who was a volunteer with the Honesdale Fire Company.

Gerry said he remembered crews pushing onlookers “further and further away” from the blaze because Willard Matthews’ Sunoco Service station, which was located near the north side of the Lyric building, had massive gas tanks which could have caught fire.

Isabel was transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and shock, and was released a few days later.

The Lyric building, located on 1050 Main Street, is now occupied by the Turkey Hill gas station. “We all loved that theatre,” Jerry said. He noted the spectacular interior of the theater, which included a balcony, as well as box seats on each side of the theater.

According to the Wayne Independent report, the total damage estimates were not available, but Jack Martin said he lost nearly $25,000 on stock of drugs, furniture and fixtures. Luckily, the brunt of his loss was mostly covered by insurance. Nearby buildings included a loss of about $2,500 to $3,000 from a smoke and water estimate to Paul Matter’s garage on the building’s southern side. Minor damage was suffered by Willard Matthews’ Sunoco Service station on the north side of the building.

The Ritz Theatre in Hawley opened its doors seven nights a week to compensate for the loss of the Lyric immediately after the blaze.

The Lyric Theater first opened in 1907, with a showing of the stage play “The Lion and the Mouse.” Tickets for that show were $2.25. At the time of the blaze, The Wayne Independent interviewed older borough residents who said that before the building was built in early 1900s, an enclosed pony lot was located on the plot of land.

First responders were Honesdale, Seelyville, White Mills, Hawley, Pleasant Mount, Narrowsburg, Crystal Fire of Jermyn and Carbondale. The Civil Defense and Civil Air Patrol handled traffic during the fire, and Honesdale Police Chief Nicholas Stapleton ordered all patrolmen on duty once the fire started.