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Long before Cineplex, Drabinsky, et al, there was Odeon Theatres Ltd which entered the Canadian market, often acquiring existing theatres, including some that were of the movie palace category. Gradually they built a chain of theatres all across Canada. Changing times brought about the construction of the first multiplexes and eventually they divested themselves of all their single screen houses. At some point Odeon became Cineplex Odeon and eventually Cineplex Galaxy, etc., with their empire extending into the US as well. Most recently they acquired Famous Players theatres, thereby wiping out their chief Canadian rival of many years past.
Incidentally, the ‘50" vs 50 ft screen’ promos have been running on network tv as well as cable channels since the beginning of the month. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on attendance.
If the Virtual Heritage site is working again and you click on the 360 tour of the Met, you can see pics of the auditorium with the seats stripped down to the frames. I can’t recall offhand if some or all of them were unbolted from the floor and stacked out of the way or not. Since the theatre has been infrequently used in recent years for rehearsal space, as well as a site for filming, space on the auditorium floor may have been needed for that reason.
Never say never! The Capitol was also listed as a heritage site, but that didn’t stop them from delisting it and then demolishing it.
The Pantages Playhouse already has it’s own listing on Cinema Treasures. Although hard to believe today, since it has been used strictly for live entertainment for approximately 80 years, it did once upon a time show movies as part of the program.
It was announced today that the Odeon Drive-In will reopen for another season. Company sources said that although attendance had been slow during the week last year, weekend business was sufficient to warrant operating the theatre. That coupled with an over the winter letter writing campaign might have convinced them to try it again. Opening date is scheduled for May 19.
Bear in mind that restoration of the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres was done under the auspices of the Ontario government and had the seemingly bottomless pockets of the provincial government to draw from. As well they had the original Thomas Lamb plans for both theatres. To date the Kings has no such benefactor to fund any restoration efforts and I believe that replacement of the ornamental plaster will be way down the list of necessary things to be done immediately. The major hurdle will be to reopen the theatre at all.
Have you factored in other incidental expenses such as rent, utilities, liability insurance, not to mention employees' salaries? As I recall from years back, having attended RHPS showings with considerable audience participation, there was a fair amount of clean up involved afterwards. That would mean paying a crew for that little chore. Also, who knows if the building would still pass a safety inspection for use as a theatre. In other words it ain’t gonna be as cheap as one might think. Finally, I have to wonder if RHPS would still have the drawing power week after week as it did in years past. As much as I’d love to see the Met reopened, it would definitely be an uphill battle all the way. Note previous postings re the Burton Cummings and Pantages Playhouse theatres, also owned by the city, and constantly looking for additional funding. The Cummings aka Walker has been in arrears on the mortgage for years and has been unable to proceed very far with restoration efforts that were begun in 1991. It’s not a promising picture.
The likelihood of the Met reopening as a single screen theatre is very remote indeed. Economically a single screen theatre just can’t cut it. Bear in mind that the theatre has been closed for 20 years, has been allowed to deteriorate badly and will cost millions to restore, which is why there hasn’t been anyone coming forward with any proposals. Another problem is that it is ‘landlocked’, meaning that the stage house could not be enlarged. It is bounded by the public laneway to the north and by Holy Trinity church property to the south which is already designated as an historic site. Typical of some theatres of the time, by today’s standards the stage house
is small and would limit the type of offerings presented. At the same time it would have to compete with a multiplex as well as the Imax theatre only two blocks away in Portage Place mall. According to some sources those venues aren’t living up to expectations. Worth mentioning is the ever present problem of
downtown parking which would be a nightmare on a night that events are taking place at the MTS Centre immediately across the street from the theatre.
It would not surprise me at all to see the proposal to convert the Met into a rock ‘n’ roll museum get the nod from the city, although to date no one has said who would underwrite that project should it be approved.
As of this week the mayor has asked Hartley Richardson to conduct a feasability study to renovate and reopen the ‘Met’ as a Canadian rock ‘n’ roll museum, restaurant and entertainment venue. This was probably prompted by the proposal put forward by Burton Cummings, former lead musician of the Guess Who rock group, as being the salvation of the long shuttered theatre. I suppose we’ll have to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude until the results of that study are, hopefully, made public.
In other words it was a done deal. The city had “an offer they couldn’t refuse” for the property and allowed the theatre to fall into a serious state of decay. That way there would be little argument for its preservation. Demolition was speedy and without any fanfare whatsoever as I recall.
Sad to see what happened to the Cap at the end. Here and there in those pictures you can see a little of the splendor that it once was, as well as the mangled remodel job that Famous Players inflicted upon it in converting it to two screens. It’s unfortunate that no shots of the original main entrance, marquee, vertical sign, foyer and staircase on Portage Av. have surfaced. It matched the grandeur of Lamb’s auditorium design. Even the older Donald St facade, marquee and vertical sign, while never as grand as the Portage Av entrance, looked better than the replacement seen in the picture above.
Originally, Alexander Pantages was lured away by Famous Players to handle the live entertainment bookings for the Capitol and closed his Pantages theatre (now the Pantages Playhouse). That theatre came under city ownership for back taxes and has been operated continuously by city agencies since 1923.
No that’s correct…but better known as B. Marcus Priteca. He was the favored architect of most, if not all, of Alexander Pantages theatres.
The move of the Academy aka Schubert theatre in Minneapolis has already been documented on one of the cable channels (Discovery or History). The same program also had a segment on the move of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
GAR, do you have any idea when the organ was removed from the Lyceum and where it might have ended up? As I recall as part of the Northstar complex, now Radisson, a twin screen theatre was built which replaced the demolished Lyceum. It too no longer exists. Also, do you have any more info on the Rialto aka Downtown theatre? It should be added to Cinema Treasures.
I can’t wait for that book to be published!
The Broadway is located on Buffalo’s east side in the ‘war zone’ of abandoned and derelict buildings, as well as weed strewn vacant lots.
The last time I was past the theatre it looked abandoned with graffiti adorning the walls. I have no idea what the interior must be like. Quite probably anything of value has long since been removed. Given the location I’m quite sure security is a problem.
It was the chandelier from the Genesee theatre, located a short distance from the Bailey theatre that was reinstalled in the Riviera. I do not know if any fittings from the Bailey were salvaged prior to demolition. The building sat empty for a number of years after closing and as I recall had been heavily vandalized. I believe it was finally demolished in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The last time I drove past that intersection the land was still a vacant lot.
You could add the ‘Fotoplayer’ to your list of mechanical players. The Fotoplayer was built by the American Photoplayer Co which was a division of Robert Morton. These instruments were intended for smaller theatres that had neither the space, nor the budget for a large pipe organ. Most were equipped with a dual roll player mechanism, thereby offering a further savings on the salary of a musician to play it. Apparently they served only one purpose and that was to accompany silents and were soon discarded when ‘talking’ pictures arrived. Whether the Saenger had a similar instrument as a stopgap measure until the Robert Morton organ was installed, or whether this was an error in the information is anyone’s guess.
I can recall one scene in the 1958 version of ‘The Fly’ that brought gales of laughter from a Canadian audience. It’s where Vincent Price mentions that “…soon it will be spring….” The audience is treated to a view outside of green grass, trees in full leaf and birds twittering. Anyone who has lived through a Montreal winter (where the action is supposed to take place) must have wondered what on earth was going on. Does this come under the heading of artistic licence?
If I recall correctly (I don’t have my copy of the book on hand for reference at the moment), a story related in Ben M Hall’s ‘Best Remaining Seats’ mentions that during construction of the Roxy, Gloria Swanson visited the theatre and climbed the scaffolding to where Roxy was supervising some work on the dome. On a whim she etched something like ‘I love you Roxy’ into the wet plaster. Rather than being annoyed Roxy ordered it preserved and had it gilded along with the rest of the dome.
Warren, a shameless plug to be sure, but a welcome bit of information nevertheless.
Ken’s post offers more info about the organ than the Uptown Theatre site does. All they state is that in 1928 a Wurlitzer “Grande” (?) organ was installed. It was removed in 1962. No details are offered as to the disposal of the instrument; whether it went into private hands, another theatre, or if it was broken up for parts.
Another source of information about Buffalo theatres can be found in a lengthy manuscript written by Ranjit Sandhu. It documents all theatres and nickelodeons located in Buffalo from the turn of the century. Unfortunately the work has never been published. The only available copy of the manuscript for viewing is held in the Special Collections Dept of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Lafayette Square, Buffalo NY. It cannot be signed out and can only be seen in the library on request.
Beginning in the 1950’s newer recreation centers were constructed on most military bases in Canada. These combined gyms, snack bars, bowling alleys, game rooms, theatres, convenience stores, etc, etc in one large facility. Prior to that many base theatres were often in any leftover structure that could be adapted for the purpose, some dating from the onset of WWII. If you think the theatres were bad, you should have seen some of the leftover WWII barracks. Can you say firetrap?
The left hand set of doors visible in the photo link provided by lostmemory originally led to the Winter Garden theatre. The right hand set of doors went into the Elgin (former Loews Yonge) theatre. The box office kiosk always remained just about in the same position as now. For years the left hand doors and part of the lobby directly behind them were blocked and used to house a small jewellery store under the marquee. If you looked carefully as you walked the length of the Elgin lobby corridor, cleverly concealed into the wall decor was an access door through which you could enter the Winter Garden corridor and see the elevator bank and stairs leading up to that
theatre. Because of the jewellery store housed under the marquee many people never knew that the second theatre ever existed.
As a single screen theatre the Garrick was updated in the early 50’s. The updating was primarily to the marquee, lobby and concession areas, while the auditorium received a new paint job and new seating (see previous posts re flamingo pink and teal blue color scheme). I don’t recall if lighting was updated then or not. The organ console was ‘remodelled’ by being sandwiched between two triangular boxes with ripple glass fronts containing multi colored lights inside. Within days after reopening a section of the ceiling plaster gave way and came crashing down. I don’t recall any mention of injuries so this may have taken place during hours when the theatre was closed. In any event repairs were carried out and the theatre reopened without further incident. Since there was at least a 20 year gap from the time that updating took place, quite possibly the theatre was in a bad state of repair by the time it was twinned. Also, downtown theatres were beginning to feel the pinch of failing attendance and Odeon decided that a twin screen venue would be more profitable.
Excellent photos of the Tampa theatre. Seeing the ornate interior reminds me immediately of the tongue-in-cheek comment in Ben M Hall’s book that the theatre “is replete with a statue of Christopher Columbus discovering the orchestra pit…”
It would appear that the orchestra pit exists no longer since the organ console now rises through a trap in the stage apron. I assume that at some point the stage was extended and the pit covered over.