Comments from Nick DiMaggio

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Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 52: New Orleans) on Jun 12, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Thanks again CSWalczak. Appreciate your additional info. and effort to help determine which format SOM was initially projected in. I had almost forgotten about the ad for the re-release of “2001” when it played at the Palace in 1970. The newspapers carried a blurb at the bottom of ad that mentions the projector model and screen size.

As stated in the ad, “you will see 2001 projected from the Century precision model projectors.” You guessed correctly! At least this verifies the booth had Century machines. Since these are capable of projecting both formats I guess this is no indication of the format SOM was projected in. This will probably remain a mystery for all time.

The machines in the booth upstairs were definitely not equipped with magnetic sound heads. Several roadshow attractions that played at the Palace were projected from this booth and none were ever presented in stereo. Cleopatra, Dr. Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter are just a few of the many big attractions projected from the upstairs booth with an optical track.

Another thing I noticed when SOM was projected from upstairs was occasional distortion in the sound. During the main titles while the overture plays the soundtrack was slightly distorted during high passages. This was also very noticeable when Julie hit her very high notes. The treble speaker horn may have been the culprit. There had been no sound distortion with the prior print probably because other speakers were being utilized for the Century machines.

Your comment regarding the switch to 35mm requiring a less skilled less sophisticated crew makes sense. Management obviously realized they had a huge winner on their hands with SOM. After months and months of sold-out showings and crowds continuing to fill the house with no end in sight, management must have figured the huge savings they could reap by exchanging the 70 print for a 35 thus reducing the expense of both print and crew. Since the screen size wouldn’t have to be compromised their reasoning was probably who would notice the difference anyway? This could very well have been the reason for the switch!

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 52: New Orleans) on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Thanks CSWalczak for your extremely detailed explanation which clears up a couple of things. Nunzienick is actually me. When CT changed over to the redesigned website my ID username/nickname began appearing on several of my posts but it has since been changed back.

Regarding my posting on the 1965 initial run of “Sound of Music” as being in 35mm—I only assumed it was 35mm due to the screen which was masked for 35mm anamorphic. A former operator friend who had done some relief work at the Palace later told me if the film was being projected from the Cinerama booth then it had to be a 70mm print as those projectors ran 70mm only. I had wrongly assumed the projectors in the Cinerama booth were also capable of showing 35mm.

I saw the film a total of 7 times at the Palace in 1965-66 (plus two additional times when it was re-released in 1973.) I still have the ticket stubs. On my initial two or three viewings I recall the image being bright and sharp with a richly defined clarity, and no noticeable grain. Also the soundtrack was in stereo. I think it was around my 4th visit when I noticed it was no longer being projected from the Cinerama booth but rather from the old 35mm booth upstairs. The masking did not change at all. I did notice the onscreen image was now slightly more grainy, and not quite as sharp as it had been before. And the soundtrack was no longer in stereo.

So for whatever reason after several weeks of showings in 70mm a decision was made to exchange the print for a 35mm print and project it from the upstairs booth. I’m venturing to guess that a good majority of the audience who were repeat viewers (and there were thousands of them) more than likely didn’t notice the difference in picture & sound quality but I certainly did.

Thanks also for the info & link on “Mad World.” I had almost forgotten about the soundtrack album I have. I just checked and it does have the Cinerama logo. As for the projected 70mm width you’re probably correct in guessing that management probably made the decision to standardize all 70mm films with side maskings.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 52: New Orleans) on Jun 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Clarification on my comment above: “screen masked approximately 10 to 12 feet on both sides”. I meant to say 10 to 12 feet inward from the original masking for 3-strip projection."

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 52: New Orleans) on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

Well all this Cinerama information is certainly exciting! This may either help or add to the confusion. At the Palace in Tampa all films in 70mm were presented with the screen masked approximately 10 to 12 feet on both sides and no masking at the top. The films were “Grand Prix” “Circus World” “2001” “Ice Station Zebra” “Krakatoa” and “Song of Norway.”

There were two exceptions: the 70mm engagements of “Mad Mad World” in 1963 and “Sound of Music” in 1965. I remember both films being projected from the Cinerama booth on the main level (just like the others) but the screen was masked not only on both sides but at the top as well. This is the same screen size that was used whenever 35mm scope films were projected from the old upstairs booth.

When “Sound of Music” returned in 1973 in 70mm, the top masking was removed but the sides remained masked. The image filled the screen ceiling-to-floor and out to the side maskings. But I never understood why the top of screen was masked for the 1965 engagement and the masking removed for the 1973 engagement if both engagements were in 70mm. I recall Michael Coate had commented on this awhile back saying it may be due to the theatre honoring their Cinerama licensing agreement by not utilizing the full Cinerama screen for a non-Cinerama film in 1965. This sounds like the most logical answer.

“Mad Mad World” was filmed in Ultra-Panavision but does anyone recall it being advertised as Cinerama? I could have sworn it was but now I don’t see the Cinerama logo on any of the posters online I’ve looked at.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 51: Rochester) on Jun 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Telliott, There’s no explanation for it. I find it amazing that “South Seas Adventure” played for a mere 3 weeks in both Tampa and El Paso when in some larger markets the film ran in excess of 70 weeks. Of course I realize that Tampa and El Paso are much smaller markets. But how a major Cinerama attraction (in 3-strip no less) could have such a short life span in the same market that saw long runs of other Cinerama films is simply mind-boggling. For the record I saw “South Seas Adventure” and thought it was just as enjoyable as the other Cinerama films. I guess the bottom line is that no one can predict how well a film will perform in various markets of the same size.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 51: Rochester) on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for continuing this great series. Interesting to see the number of weeks each film played in various markets.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 50: Portland) on May 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

At the Palace in Tampa all 70mm films were shown on the Cinerama screen which had been masked down on both sides. I’m not certain exactly how much of the image was lost from 3-strip but I would guess about 10 to 12 feet on either side. When “THIS IS CINERAMA” opened in 70mm I recall the center panel was about the same width as 3-strip, but the two side panels lost nearly half their image within each panel.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about REMEMBERING CINERAMA (Part 49: Cleveland) on May 22, 2012 at 11:16 am

Great to see the series has returned! CSWalczak: Thanks for the link to that great “classic” photo of the Palace. I love seeing photos of the crowds at theatres showing Cinerama films.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 19, 2012 at 6:40 am

Tampapix (Dan P.) is a friend of the son of John Chinchett. John was the owner of Chinchett Neon Signs, the company that created the signage for the Tower as well as many other businesses in the Tampa area years ago. The Tower photo came from the photo book titled “Vintage Tampa Signs & Scenes” which was published last year I believe. The book is loaded with many photos of signs created by Mr. Chinchett. I can’t say for certain but this may be the only photo of the Tower sign that appears in the book. Hopefully Tampapix will see this and comment

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Eastlake Square 3 on Apr 14, 2012 at 10:49 am

MelodyP, Thanks for the memories! So nice to hear from another former Eastlake employee. It’s extremely rare to see comments from employees of various theatres in the Tampa area. So when an employee does post a comment it’s always a treat to read. Sounds like you had some fun times at Eastlake!

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Nola Theatre on Apr 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Mike, I found the story by looking through old issues of Boxoffice Magazine online at:

Nearly all issues are available from around 1925 to the present. Once you’re on just click on the desired year and month. You can browse entire issues page-by-page. Warning: the site is very addictive so be prepared to spend a few hours browsing!

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 6, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Juan, The manager at the Tower really knew how to throw a Christmas party! We never had anything like that at the Dale Mabry. I’ve been thinking why the difference from one drive-in to the other (Christmas bonus, free passes for employees) if both theatres were owned by the same company. But I had forgotten that the Tower and Dale Mabry were under different ownerships in 1960. So that would explain the difference as far as management style. By the mid-1960’s all drive-ins in Tampa (as well as the Ritz Theatre in Ybor City) were under the ownership of Tampa Bay Theatres, Inc. The one exception was the Hillsboro Drive-In which was owned by Florida State Theatres. Tampa Bay Theatres later sold all their drive-ins in Tampa to Floyd Theatres out of Lakeland.

You were lucky to have a manager like Mr. Plitz. He obviously cared enough about your studies and saw to it that you were not left in the cold without a job. That’s not something you see very often today.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Hey Mike, Haven’t seen you on CT in ages! Miss reading your comments. Great to see you back on. One day I just might surprise you on FB.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Juan, You poor guy. Too bad there wasn’t a way of voiding the tickets. That certainly would have put a crimp in her plans. And afterwards making you aware of what a great time she had was spiteful. I wonder if the Tower management ever become suspicious of how she won the tickets!

I’m afraid my stories about the Dale Mabry would probably bore you and anyone else as well. I never had any unique problems/experiences. It was my second job and my first time dealing with the public so most are just general stories about problem customers, complaints, and various duties I had to perform. Luckily I managed to stay out of harm’s way the entire time I was there.

Here’s one example: Lady comes in with a more-than-half-eaten corn dog complaining corn dog is raw, and demanding a full refund which is denied by manager. Customer yells and threatens to tell friends and everyone else never to come to this drive-in. There are several others of this nature but you probably get the general picture.

Now this incident happened at the 20th Century Drive-In to a couple friends of mine. I was supposed to go with them that evening but couldn’t make it. They forgot to place the speaker back on the pole before leaving and they and yanked the entire pole out of the ground along with the cement base, and pulled the window completely out of the car parked next to them. Not sure what the outcome was but as I recall somehow my friends didn’t have to pay for any damages but received a stern lecture by the manager and driver of the other car.

As you can see my stories are generally tame and non-unique in comparison to yours and others I’ve heard. By the way, we received a Christmas bonus of an extra $5.00 with our regular pay at the Dale Mabry. And every payday two free passes were included with our pay (for family and friends.) Do you recall if the Tower did the same?

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I think it’s pretty much the same feeling people have here as they do in Virginia regarding trailer park residents. The trailer park image has changed from what it once was years ago and unfortunately not for the better. I’ve heard about this area being the winter home of Barnum & Bailey folks for many years with most employees/performers residing around the Mango/Seffner areas. But it’s interesting to hear some performers resided in Tampa. The fat lady in a skimpy outfit must’ve been an unforgetable sight. I guess the carneys were probably keeping a low profile so as to stay out of jail.

Snakes and water moccasins were a big problem at the Auto Park Drive-In. The theatre was located next to the bay off 22nd Street Causeway, and the open sewage pipe from the booth drained right into the bay. The projectionist had to carefully check the toilet before sitting down as snakes and water moccasins were known to occasionally surface in the bowl. Not to mention the mosquitoes here were the absolute worst. Every car that entered the lot automatically received a free Pic coil at the box office.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thanks tampapiz. I see the trailer park, and as Juan said, it covered quite a bit of territory from Bird Street north to Waters and east towards the track. Note the open field he mentions between the park and the greyhound track. Must’ve been a very nice area back in the day. Today 1-275 runs over a good portion of that field.

Juan, Today the Hilltop trailer park you described is probably the area where Wendy’s sits today. Wendy’s is near the southwest corner of Florida Ave. & Waters. Behind Wendy’s is a large parking lot and a plaza that once had a Ponderosa Steakhouse and Kash N' Karry grocery store both now long gone.

Yep, McDonalds is still there although the original building has been replaced at least 4 or 5 times since the early 60s. Seems like every 15 years or so they demolish the old building and replace it with a new modern McDonalds. McDonalds was the savior of so many people years ago who were living on a fixed income. Directly behind McDonalds is a low income government housing apartment complex.

I wonder if any alligators ever ventured onto the lot while the movie playing. Imagine opening your car door to visit the concessions stand and coming face-to-face with an alligator—-yikes! But there was probably a fence between the river and the drive-in lot.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Apr 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Juan, That’s amazing! I had no idea there ever existed a trailer park across from the Tower, especially as extensive as you described covering ground from Bird St. north to Waters then east towards the greyhound track. That must have been quite a large trailer park! The K-Mart you mentioned still sits on the property today (it’s still open) along with two or three other stores attached to the main building. I’m sure you’re aware that section of town is not what it was years ago. Certainly not the worst but not one of the better areas of the city either.

Sounds like the Tower people were a fun group! You guys were lucky. The people I worked with at the Dale Mabry were much older than I. Not that we didn’t have a fun group…we really did. But I was 19 at the time and the three ladies I worked with were at least 60 & beyond. We had fun working together and they were all super nice people, but we never had any after work get-togethers. As soon as the concessions closed we all cleaned up and headed out. Once in awhile if I wasn’t very tired I’d sit in my car and watch the rest of the movie.

I can just imagine how awkward it must be having to face people I work with the following day after they’ve seen me in my birthday suite…LOL! Do you recall where the skinny dipping watering hole was located? I wonder if it’s still exists today.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Studio Movie Grill University Mall 14 on Mar 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Appreciate the update Chuck—thanks! So I wonder if the plans are to completely gut the lower level or just a portion. The lower level contains the two original GCC larger cinemas so I hope the plans don’t include gutting these. The two enhancements are a must to survive since without digital and stadium seating there’s just no way they can keep it going so that’s good to hear. Prints left on platters and in cans…wow! I’ve always thought prints HAD to be returned to the distributor when the run was over. You’re right about Regal. Sounds like they were in a foul mood and simply locked the doors and that was it. I bet employees were not even aware until the last day of operation.

Mike, You wouldn’t believe the mall today. It was beautiful when it opened in ‘74…the largest in town at the time. Today it’s just amazing that it’s still open. I walked through the mall about a year ago and it was depressing to remember what once was and is no longer. Sears is the only remaining anchor aside from Dillard’s although the store is mainly a clearance center so not sure you could call it a true anchor tenant. But the enhancements coming to Frank Theatres may help to hopefully inspire other changes for the good.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Mar 31, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Juan! I love hearing anecdotes and stories about our drive-ins. I worked at the Dale Mabry Drive-In refreshment center (Dale Mabry and Gandy) in 1969 and have a few stories of my own. Those were fun times! I drive by the Tower property at least once a week thinking here’s a beautiful piece of land that still sits abandoned. I still wish they had never demolished the drive-in. Although I didn’t frequent this theatre often (I live on the opposite side of town) I remember going several times from the late 1960s through closing.

The Floriland was the only drive-in in town I never had a chance to visit. A friend of mine was a relief operator there during the 1950s. His wife tells me she went with him every Friday evening and watched the movie from the car while he worked the booth. She said they had the best cheeseburger baskets with fries for only 99-cents. They both loved the Floriland. She said it was the best drive-in in town and only a 5-minute drive from their house. When the Floriland ran “From Here To Eternity” there were so many cars lined up on Florida Avenue that a cop had to direct traffic.

After the Floriland closed a grocery store opened next to J.M. Fields. I think it was called Pantry Pride. In the early 70s these buildings were absorbed into the new Floriland Mall anchored by Zayre department store at one end and Montgomery Ward at the other as well as a two-screen theatre called Floriland Cinema 1 & 2. The mall closed years ago and became an indoor flea market for some time, and later a city/county government center. Hillsborough County’s traffic court and a branch of the tax collector’s office were located here. I think most of these offices are now closed and the complex is nearly empty.

Today it’s impossible to tell there was once a drive-in theatre on the Floriland Mall property. Such is the case with so many former drive-in properties now completely obliterated by new developments.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I bet you never ran so fast in all your life! And for the next few evenings you were probably hoping this guy wouldn’t remember you if he ever showed up at the drive-in again…lol!

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Ritz Theatre on Mar 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Thanks Joe for the drawing and additional info. Evidently the Ritz was also known as the Rivoli at some point during the early days. I remember seeing a photo with the Rivoli sign on the building. The drawing is very intriging. It may have opened as the Haya and was later changed to Rivoli and finally Ritz. Or possibly Haya was never used. Probably the only way to determine for certain is checking the city directory to see what’s listed at that address around or about 1917. I’ll put this on my to do list.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Tower Drive-In on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thanks Juan1941. Nice to hear comments from a former employee which you seldom see for theatres in this area. I feel the same way every time I drive by the deserted lot. Plans for constructing a hotel on the property fell through years ago. They should have at least waited until the plans had been finalized before demolishing the screen tower and concession building. If the screen and concessions were still standing the drive-in could very well have been reopened and still be in operation today. I understand the Fun-Lan continues to do good business so the Tower should certainly have been able to survive.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Elite Theatre on Jan 31, 2012 at 8:02 am

Mike, I ran into the same problem here in Tampa. I was shocked to find no movie ads were published in the Tampa Tribune at all until just prior to 1920 as I recall. That would make it next to impossible to research local theatres that ran silent films. Who knows how many of these silent theatres we really had?

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Bijou Theatre on Jan 31, 2012 at 7:57 am

Mike, I ran into the same problem here in Tampa. I was shocked to find no movie ads were published in the Tampa Tribune at all until just prior to 1920 as I recall. That would make it next to impossible to research local theatres that ran silent films. Who knows how many of these silent theatres we really had?

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio commented about Gospel Drive-In on Jan 31, 2012 at 7:38 am

Thanks for the interesting find Mike! There was also one of these drive-ins in Pinellas Park, FL called Drive-In Cinema that showed only religious films. I had a chance to visit the lot just before the theatre closed a few years back. The booth was equipped with both 16mm and 35mm. Not sure of capacity but it was fairly small. Go to Drive-In Cinema in Pinellas Park to see a YouTube video of the drive-in by posted by FloridaDriveIns.