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To give the history as I know it.
Opened in late 1910 as the Drohen theater.
Closed June 22, 1920.
Reopened March 21, 1921 as the Regent.
Closed October 1929 due to devastating fire.
Reopened Thanksgiving 1942 in its current form.
Closed November 1992.
I “met” the elder, as I did attend a few movies in town back in the late 70’s and 80’s. The elder was usually seen at the Cine. I would estimate that he was in his 80’s about 1980, which means he would have been late 20’s/ early 30’s for the fire. Likely the man you met wasn’t very old, or maybe not born yet at the time of the fire, so didn’t have direct knowledge of the organ.
The 1910-1929 Drohen/Regent was of metal skinned wood construction, not the sturdier brick of today.
Boy, it’s taking me a while to finish this one. The Regent reopened on Thanksgiving, 1942, as a second run house. “Constructed by Dalton B. Burgett for a syndicate headed by Clyde R. Lathrop of Brocton.”
This is all based on an article in the Dunkirk Observer.
The reconstructed Regent celebrated it 50th aniversary by closing its doors. Ironically both beginning and ending as a second run theatre. In 1942 a seat cost 35 cents, in 1992 $1.50.
Ammentment to the above, and likely answer to the missing Wurlitzer:
October 28, 1929
REGENT THEATRE A TOTAL FIRE LOSS
By this time it was operated by the Berenstein Theatre company of Elmira. Nothing was left standing but the front and west walls.
Dalton Burgett was manager by this time. Yup, the pipe organ was lost in the fire. (Sorry, I am writing as I read.) The Capitol was also owned by the same company by this time. The Regent was purchased from Lally in May of 1926.
The building was built by James Drohen in 1910. Drohen built the Capitol, also.
Urban Renewal is not necessarily the cause for all the loss, though. It may be, but at present I don’t have enough information. The north side of 3rd street (where the Regent is located) is occupied by railroad tracks. There was a problem with folks getting clipped by trains, and with the tracks at surface height the trains had to slow down. By the lat ‘30s it was decided to elevate the tracks. I am sure that as the tracks were elevated, some buildings, particularly on the north side, were lost. If this involved any movie houses, I do not know.
Also, after some thought, I suspect that the organ was removed by the early 40’s. According to some of the old ads, they used to advertise the organist. It’s my understanding that movie houses, until the advent of sound, would have live music during the shows. Once the movies provided their own sound, I bet the organs were replaced with more seating. I could be wrong.
I failed to mention that there was also an Empire Theatre in Dunkirk somewhere, and that one seems to have been a Paramount Theatre. I don’t know if it is Warner as in what you say, or Warner as in Warner Brothers.
The problem with most of the ads I have seen is that they do not include addresses on them, not full explanations of the company. Didn’t these folks know 50-80 years later we would have questions? How dare they just advertise their movies. :)
Many things were lost or almost lost to UR. That church you visited, across from the Regent, was almost lost, one of its support buildings was torn down. Up the road my uncle’s store was torn down and replaced with a bank. Down the road Quality Markets is where the State theater and I think the Palace theater was located. Although the Palace appears to have gone by the wayside about 50 years before UR. And I am not certain if it it was located where the church parking lot is, or further east on 3rd street. I can barely remember the city that was when my years were in single digits. :) I also seem to recall a big bridge in Westfield that rose over the railroad tracks. I don’t remember when they removed it, but I sure miss it.
Then again, I recall massive fires taking what UR hadn’t gotten to yet. Fredonia had a couple of those fires, as well. Plus a train wreck or two helped reduce Dunkirk, one even made a building near the Capitol unstable, about a year or two before the Capitol’s roof collapsed. I’ve been wondering if that train wreck damage had any effect on the Capitol.
There appear to be at least 2 other theaters in Dunkirk, the Palace and Dorhen (or something similar.) The Dorhen is apparently named after a street that either no longer exists or was renamed before my existence. As I learn more, I will share.
Nope. He’s got me by about 10-20 years. Although I’ll bet my broter or sister does.
In 1949, ads for the Capitol included along the top a statement “A Warner Theater”.
It isn’t on the “Disturber” website. I did a search earlier today for microfilm/microfiche, and found this website: View link
And, yes, you have to subscribe for this service. As time goes on, I have more and more of an interest in Dunkirk/Fredonia history, and being 7 hours from the library, I consider the cost worth it.
In 1949, when searching for the opening of the Van Buren Drive-in, I found that there were ads for the Winter Garden, Regent, State, Capitol, and Geitner theaters. Boy have times changed. In 1949, weekend shows also included a midnight showing, at least during the summer. And today I understand why. ;) The Regent and Capitol also advertised which newsreel they were affiliated with.
As a side note, until recently no local supermarket stayed open past 10 pm, even now I think Martin’s is the only 24 hour store. (Perhaps Wal-Mart is as well, but to me that outfit doesn’t exist. :) In 1949 a small supermarket was open from 9a-11p during the week, and until 10 on Saturday. No wonder I left 16 years ago, the town wasn’t progressing.
I also saw an ad for a drive-in across from Midway Park. I didn’t have a chance to see if it is on here.
I am presently reading the article in Dunkirk Observer about the opening of this theatre. 7/15/1949.
Capacity 800 cars. Screen is 50x40 on a 58 foot tall steel tower.
The ad: “Two shows nightly, rain or moon” 50 cents a person, $1 per car minimum.
First movies: “Mickey” and the 3 stooges “Shivering Sherlocks” (Shemp)
I found a website that allows me to look through old newspapers. The Dunkirk Observer is one of them. Print isn’t great though. My eyes are tired now.
The Regent opened on 3/27/1921. It was an older theatre rebuilt. (I can’t read the article well enough to find the old name. 3/26/1921.)
Owned by the Lally Theater Corporation. It seats about 1,000. And it had a balcony. I wonder when it lost that, I don’t recall one. Looks like the Archetect was H.T. Higgins, at least for the remodel. Guess I have to find the article in a more readable form next time I am in Dunkirk.
The second picture down (if this works) is said to be the Van Buren Drive-In. http://sororitygirls.yearbookhigh.com/custom4.html
The outline of the screen looks the same, but I don’t recall the building beneath.
Correction to the independent comment. It looks like it is now a member of the Wallace chain.
Looks like these theatres were Cinemark at closing, Thursday, March 20, 1997. And it looks like Tinseltown opened on June 28, 1996. I didn’t even know about that theatre until 2001. I guess I am not as up on cinemas as I thought.
I saw Wierd Science here, the only movie I saw at this theatre. A few years later I <gag> Cowboy Way at the Milcreek 6. Recently I saw RV at the “Cinemark Milcreek Cinema 6”. I thought it was a better theatre for RV than Cowboy Way. Then again, the tickets for RV cost a whopping $1. And the theatre was packed.
I think this was a General Cinemas theatre back in the 1990-92 timeframe. I also think it was still operational as an independent when I was last in Oklahoma City in 2004.
It’s been 14 years since I saw a first run movie here. Wasn’t this a General Cinemas Theatre?
Wasn’t this operated by Litchfield, or something similar in 1990? I was last here in 2004, and was surpised as to how poor its condition had deteriorated to.
My most prominent memory of this theatre occured on 12/31/1999, at about 9:00pm. While about halfway through “Sleepy Hollow”, the millenium bug must have his somewhere, as the power went out for about 3-5 minutes. Still haven’t seen the whole movie, as they didn’t restart it where it stopped, lost a couple of minutes. Never saw what happened to Casper Van Dien. Funny, haven’t seen him any movie since, either. :)
Even more curious about the Hoyts issue is they operated a small multiplex southwest of Buffalo for a few years in the mid 1990’s not of their design or construction.
Fredonia was named the best small town to live in WNY by some WNY business magazine a couple of months ago. And as long as gas prices keep going up, I think a reasonably done viewing environment in the D-F area could do well. In my lifetime there has not been a reasonably done venue. (I admit I haven’t been to the opera house since reconstruction, but movies are not its prime function.) The multiplex in town was horibly constructed, and changed hands 3-4 times since it opened in 1990.
Having lived out of town for years, I realize now that the grass isn’t greener. When retirement comes in about 7 years, its either back to Dunkirk, or off to Ithaca. I did my time in Cali and Vegas. Some decent theatres there, but to costly to live. Even here in WV I pay more for a house than I would in WNY, even though taxes are less. I would have to live in WV a long time for the cheaper taxes to pay off. And now that gas costs the same here and there, I’ll take there. After all, there has Niagara Falls. Here we have folks who bicker over whether WVU or Marshall is better.
I’m curious about how things go, as I may need to figure out how to finance a theatre or two. Especially in how to reclaim a DI from the weeds. :)
If it were East Kentucky, I do what I could, but TN is to far away. I spend most of my free time heading back to NY.
Why not revive VB Drive-in? With a manament that cares, I bet it would work. Not to disparage the previous operators, I don’t think they really cared about any of the venues in the area. Nor, it seems, does the current owner of the multiplex in town. I see oportunities. But you folks have 7 years to do something. :)
Comments like do NOT help “your side”. Take it outside. May I suggest myspace?