Comments from Jack Oberleitner

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Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about State Theater on Jan 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm

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Jack Oberleitner commented about Mishler Theatre on Jan 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

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Jack Oberleitner commented about Logan Theater on Jan 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

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Jack Oberleitner commented about Capitol Theatre on Jan 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

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Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Page Cinema Arts Theatre on Jan 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I’m a consultant for this non-profit group. I can’t find a place on the site for the following update information, maybe this will work:

Page Cinema Arts Theatre
Riverside (Dayton) OH 45341
Address: 5584 Airway Road, Dayton,
Status: Closed/Renovating/Restoring
Style: Art Moderne
Function: Live Performances, Classic, Independent and Foreign Films
Seats: 800
Chain: Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc. (NCGI)
Architect: Unknown
Firm: Unknown

Theatre information: 937 613-4432
NCGI is a 501c3 non-profit corporation dedicated to the restoration of historic theatres and the presentation of quality live and film entertainment at reasonable prices.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Happy New Year's on Jan 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Somewhere, marquee lights still twinkle and beckon us to enter.

Somewhere, a tuxedo clad doorman waits to greet us.

Somewhere, marble floors are bathed in the soft glow of chandelier light.

Somewhere, an usher waits, flashlight ready, to guide us that one special seat midst an acre of seats.

Somewhere, velvet curtains are ready to openas lights dim, in this garden of earthly delights.

Somewhere, a projectionist looks at his watch, ready to strike an arc, press a foot pedal and open the dozer.

Somewhere, reels of film are ready to cast a spell of magic and memory.

Somewhere, a manager closes a folder, straightens his tie and prepares to “go on the floor.”

Somewhere, there is a warm and friendly place waiting to take us on a two hour voyage of fantasy.

Somewhere, there is a CINEMA TREASURE for us all.

Enjoy the search and HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Dr. Phibes rises once again at the Colonial Theatre Spooktacular on Sep 12, 2008 at 12:19 pm

The original one-sheet poster for “Phibes” was a play on words of the :”Love Story” tag line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The original Phibes line was: “Love means never having to say you’re abominable.” A later version poster was a psychedelic style with the dumbed-down line: “Love means never having to say you’re ugly” and “Phibes rhymes with vibes.” Anyway, it is indeed a great, campy horror flick and used to be a great double feature midnight show coupled with “The Return of Dr. Phibes.”

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about The Brooklyn Paramount returns after 46 years on Aug 26, 2008 at 10:23 am

We should be glad that there is at least a chance that this grand showplace may be renovated and once again used as a theatre. It’s a shame that some of the Manhattan showplaces, most notably the ROXY, never got a second chance. As the song goes ”…they took (the) Paradise and put up a parking lot…”

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Cinema North 1-5 on Jun 23, 2008 at 4:21 pm

When I first came to the Dayton, OH area, the north and Northwest side of Dayton had several successful drive-ins, plus indoors like the stylish Kon Tiki; Loews Ames (a comfortable neighborhood house), the modernistic Fox Northwest and the Ritz (originally a new Walter Reed cinema) and the Salem Mall Cinemas. The latter was housed in one of the nicest, fashionable regional Malls of the time.

When Chakeres Theatres took over the Cinema North they updated, remodeled the facility. A beautiful huge, real crystal chandelier was added to the lobby area. The new Cinema North performed nicely as a “re-born” first-run house.

Sadly, vandals and gangs took their toll on the entire area. Fast food restaurants added bullet proof glass to the drive-in windows and one by one ALL of the above mentioned theatres closed. A shooting in the Salem Mall Cinemas was the final bell for the cinemas that had been struggling to stay open under new, local ownership. Eventually the entire Salem Mall was closed and torn down. While I’m not aware of serious problems IN the Cinema North, parking lot, vandalism there and other locations hastened the decade-long demise of this once proud area.

The sad truth is that many cities have experienced similar problems, or worse. It’s a shame to see so much history and beauty destroyed by a handful of hoodlums and thugs. It’s so much more relaxing to watch a movie when the person behind you isn’t “packing heat!”

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Dayton Mall Cinemas on Jun 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Michael, I understand completely, sorry if my comment was a bit misleading. In my humble opinion the answer to who was part of “select” engagements vs. wide distribution probably lies mostly with the way films were bid for and booked in that era. I don’t remember when “blind bidding” (bidding terms on unseen releases) was made illegal; however, bidding on films was still very much in effect. A bad bid, especially in competitive situations could literally mean the difference between success and failure of a theatre or even a small circuit. I remember sitting in many a booking meeting as we tried to determine how much we would offer the film companies to win a picture over competition. Some exhibitors even bid 100% or more in hopes to make a few bucks in popcorn sales on a big picture. Nasty times.

I don’t remember the exact terms of Empire; however, I’m guessing that some of the Ohio cities you mentioned were limiting the number of screens they wanted to “gamble” on Empire. It is not entirely unlikely that Cleveland exhibitors opted to wait on the select run to see how the picture performed and then send in an “eleventh hour bid” on the wide break hoping to save a few percentage points. In addition, the co-op advertising requirements on the select run would have been much higher. With the original Star Wars, for instance, Fox called for a full 2-page pre-opening ad and a full page on opening day, etc. In a market like Dayton those two ads amounted to over 5 grand. Between 90/10 opening week film rental and a huge advertising outlay, there was a lot at risk.

Theatre owners often fail to see the forest for the trees, and the logic of the movie business is often a complete lack of logic. I know this is no revelation to a knowledgeable person like yourself.

BTW, I looked at your Empire web site. Very nice and professional effort. You are to be commended!


Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Dayton Mall Cinemas on Jun 22, 2008 at 7:26 pm

It shouldn’t be too surprising that EMPIRE had a two theatre run in Dayton. A two or three theatre run was normal for most releases. Although a mid-sized market, Dayton is divided, geographically, and to a degree economically, into three very distinct areas, North, East and South. First Run films never ran in West Dayton except for an occasional drive-in release. The Salem Mall or Kon Tiki (north), Fairborn or Page Manor (East) and Dayton Mall (or other South cinemas) was normal. The Dayton Mall Cinema One and Kettering theatres were the only viable 70mm cinemas in Dayton at the time. Everyone else ran 35mm mono sound prints.

Sadly, all of the above mentioned theatres are gone. The Dayton Mall One was, for a newer mall theatre, extremely plush and comfortable with a very large slightly curved screen. In short, it was a great place to comfortably experience a 70mm, 6-track stereo film.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about State Theatre on Jun 14, 2008 at 1:28 pm

The Cinestage Group Theatres bought the State in late 1972, shortly before selling out to William Cloninger. The area was a primarily Italian and Polish coal mining center. The air always had flakes of coal dust in it. Everyday, the accumulated dust had to be removed from the boxoffice and poster cases. It’s come a long way since then.

Since the theatre was an XXX house prior to Cinestage, a mammoth campaign was launched to promote the renewed theatre and non-X policy. A Sha Na Na type rock band performed on the marquee the night before opening which evolved into gridlock in the otherwise sleepy town.
Opening night was a sell-out and would be another fun memory if the projectionist hadn’t suffered a heart attack prior to the film portion of the evening’s program. The audience stood and applauded everyone for their tireless effort in re-opening the State.

In the years to follow Cinestage presented live music in the lobby and before some features, live shows including an all Polish vaudeville night, kids matinees and more. Local apathy and the beginnings of multiplex theatres took their toll on the State which Cloninger was forced to close in the mid-70’s.

Jack Oberleitner

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Victor Theater on Jun 14, 2008 at 1:05 pm

David Victor originally operated the Victor McKeesport. The Victor and mammoth, 3100 seat Memorial were the leading McKeesport first-runs. Warner’s bought both theatres in the 30’s. David Victor moved to New Castle, PA which was an industrial boom town at the time. He leased the Nixon Theatre, remodeled it and renamed it the Victor. The tiny (400 seats?) New Castle Victor survived as a first run until the late 40’s when it closed for seven years.
During the late 40’s Leo Mickey was the Victor McKeesport manager. In 1951 he was moved to New Castle to manage the Penn and, ironically, the Victor, amongst others. He served the community well for nearly 40 years.
Jack Oberleitner

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Strand Theater on May 27, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Ed- Assuming “Where’s Charlie” played the Paramount, which someone else will have to verify, the theatre in question, across and down the street, would have been the State. I saw Mickey Rooney in the “Atomic Kid” at the State around the same era. The third theatre would have had to been the Strand which was, at least, 3 or 4 notches below the State in quality. Further down Federal Street was the Warner, now Powers Auditorium, which, in my opinion was more opulent than the Pittsburgh Warner. Around the corner from the Strand, on Wick Avenue, was the stunningly beautiful Palace. The posts on the Palace are quite interesting to read. Also look at the State posts. It was eventually closed and nicely remodeled and reopened in 1959 with a “roadshow” run of Ben Hur. It continued as a roadshow only theatre for several years and actually closed when a hard ticket picture wasn’t available.

On a personal note, we have a few things in common; I am a lover of the Pittsburgh area theatres and worked for the Sterns/Associated as a manager and district manager. I’ve always enjoyed your writing. I’m a writer also and also went to basic training at Fort Gordon. It might be interesting to trade “old war stories.” I would think we know/knew many of the same people. I just re-read your 1970 tribute to Ed and Wendy King. They are still fondly remembered. â€" Jack Oberleitner

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about ISO: Theatre Almanac and Film Daily on Mar 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for the info.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Paramount Theatre on Feb 11, 2008 at 4:57 pm

I remember the uptown showing occasional silent films, like the original King of Kings. I was only in the uptown twice after it was remodeled. It was a neat little theatre.

Victoria, maybe you should look at the Uptown if you’re seriously interested doing something theatrical in the Youngstown area.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Paramount Theatre on Feb 11, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Alas, Wolfgirl is probably dead on target. When I was living in the area, I frequently visited all the downtown theatres. While the Paramount had a first class manager, Jack Heinz, the theatre itself was indeed in a different class than the other first-run houses in downtown Y-town. When the State was remodeled and made into a 70mm roadshow venue, the Paramount slipped into a fourth position behind the State, Warner and Palace. The interior of the paramount auditorium always seemed to me to look like an attempted modernization ala late 30;s or 40’s while still keeping a bit of the fancy work, lighting fixtures, etc. from it’s pre-remodeling days as the Liberty.

There was an interesting news piece on Dayton TV a few nights back comparing Dayton and Youngstown. It included shots of Powers Auditorium and other brief shots of W. Federal Street. The commentator suggested that Dayton had “turned a corner” in revitalization of the core area, and Y-town was on the edge of finding new life.

Dayton also had a Palace Theatre (Originally Loews Downtown Theatre) that was very ornate. While the bloom was definitely off the rose, it still had a majestic feel. The nearby Victoria was not nearly as architecturally interesting. In a conversation with a city council person who was on the downtown planning committee, I pled the case for preserving the Palace. He commented that it was “their” opinion that downtown entertainment centers and movies were a thing of the past, never to be seen again. He further advised that the Palace site could produce much more revenue as a parking lot than a theatre of any type. The Palace was demolished; however, eventually some saner minds prevailed and the Victoria was refurbished and saved as a successful arts center, the multi-million dollar Schuster Performing Art Center was built, and even a repertory cinema, the Neon Movies was opened and apparently does a sufficient business to stay open.

I guess my point is that we should be thankful for what DOES get saved, and perhaps the municipal leaders are recognizing the value and beauty of core theatrical projects. In my experience, to really pull off a successful restoration there are several elements required. These elements include a central volunteer steering committee headed by a person who is knowledgeable about a diverse amount of architectural, theatrical and management skills. It also requires a cooperative city government and multiple sources for funding since no one source will ever fund the entire project. Politics and personal egos will kill a restoration project quicker than anything.

While I am saddened when the battle is lost on one project, I am always overjoyed when one really works.

Farewell to the Paramount, I guess, in the end, it was too little, too late.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Palace Theater on Feb 9, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Thanks Wolfgirl!

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Newport Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Prior to Peter Wellman buying the Newport, the folks operating it advertised a “conventional dress policy.” As was explained to me, a “conventional dress policy” meant that women were expected to attend wearing a dress or skirt, while men should, at least, wear a sport coat. While it was not unusual in pre-60’s era for people to dress up a bit for many/any reason including going to a movie, I am not aware of any other theatre that DEMANDED that patrons dress to a code set by the theatre management.

Peter Wellman was a pretty flamboyant showman. Definitely “old-school.” He operated the Wellman and New Mock theatres in Girard, Ohio, designed Y-town’s Home Theatre. He designed and built the areas truly suburban theatre, The Belmont, on Belmont Avenue. Unfortunately for the Belmont, the concept of a first-run suburban theatre was a few years before it’s time. The Belmont quickly closed and was converted to the Atlantic Mills discount outlet.

Allegedly Wellman lost a great deal, but managed to keep the Newport running as a classy and successful venue. He would eventually re-claim the two Girard theatres for a short while prior to his death.

The outer lobby was mirrored, leading to the large, by new theatre standards, main lobby. The auditorium walls featured unusual, back-lit white tree sculptures. The ceiling was a very avant design decorated with red neon. A bit garish; but then, that’s show biz.

Bob Vargo was Peter Wellman’s able assistant. Bob loved theatre and show business and brought a lot of sparkle and professionalism to the Wellman operated theatres while completing his college career at Youngstown University. A true professional showman, I have often wondered what became of him.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Strand Theater on Feb 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Thanks Wolfgirl. I’ve enjoyed reading many of your Youngstown theatre memories. You might be interested in one I just posted about my first experience at the Y-town Palace.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Palace Theater on Feb 9, 2008 at 2:08 pm

I’m sure many visitors to this site are familiar the editorial cartoon printed in the Times the day of the opening of Sid Rothafel’s Roxy theatre in NYC. For those who haven’t seen the cartoon, it shows a small boy, holding the hand of an adult while looking wide-eyed at the fabulous Roxy lobby. In the caption the boy is asking: “Does God live here?” I often think that the people who didn’t personally experience the grand theatres of pre-TV movie years have genuinely missed out on one of life’s best offerings. Many of us devotees have, I’m sure, felt just like that little child.

My first time at the Palace Theatre in Youngstown was with an uncle sometime in the late 40’s. The maternal side of our family was not rich by any standard; but like many immigrant families, was very much into music, cultural things, and such. We lived about 20 miles from Youngstown, and a trip to Y-town’s downtown was a real treat.

My uncle took it to be his duty to introduce me to as much of the best life had to offer as possible. Although very talented in many ways, he worked in a cement factory by day. Several times a month, however, he would dress up and go to some special event in Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Youngstown. (He took me to my first opera when I was 6!)

On this special day, he told me we were to experience something that was soon to be gone. It actually turned out to be several things. In Youngstown he parked his Packard and we went into a very fancy barbershop where, while I got a trim, my uncle got “the works” shave, haircut, shine, manicure and hot towels from a brass warmer. After stopping at the train station to pick up his girl friend, we went to The Mural Room (anybody remember it?) for dinner and my first bowl of turtle soup. I don’t think the soup impressed my young taste buds.

Then we walked to the Palace where both a movie and several Vaudeville acts were promised. As the tuxedo-clad doorman graciously tore our tickets, I was spellbound by the beautiful grand staircase that sat mid-lobby. The chandeliers twinkled and glistened. The plush red carpeting was like walking on a cloud. Statues and oil paintings in the lobby and mezzanine areas, young men dressed like the cast of a Sigmund Romberg operetta, and concession girls in evening dresses combined to convey an evening that was more than “killing time” or catching a flick.” Indeed the theatre itself, and those who worked there, were an iatrical part of the MAGIC that was an evening “at the Palace.”

We were seated mid-auditorium. The plush décor and architectural features would rival any present day symphony hall. The lights dimmed and. A single spotlight lit a circle in the middle of the stage. A young man in a white dinner jacket stepped from behind the heavy red velvet curtain. He smiled and welcomed us to the Palace. He began to sing, the curtains opened. The orchestra grew in volume and the stage glowed as brightly as a summer day.

There followed singers, dancers, an act with trained bears, a magician, and a finale in which the entire cast, sans bears, bowed to thunderous applause. After a brief intermission, the movie came on the screen, cartoon, newsreel, trailers and feature. Sorry, I don’t remember the name of the feature.

Three hours flew by. As we crossed the street in the direction where the Packard waited, my uncle took my hand and asked if I had enjoyed the afternoon and evening. I stumbled for words. It was too overwhelming. I grinned as he looked down at me and said, “…remember this, it won’t be here forever.”

I enjoy many memories of great films at the Palace, White Christmas being one of my favorites. All the magic slowly disappeared, vaudeville, that swank barber shop, the trains, and the plush hotel restaurant, the Packard, the department shores and myriad of shops on Federal street. All of them needed each other to survive. The magic faded and left downtown.

A decade or so later, a “developer” promised to put a luxurious office complex with a Cinerama theatre on the second or third floor where the Palace stood. The lights at the Palace dimmed and the grand curtain closed for the last time. Until the end came in the form of a wrecking ball, this grand lady maintained her beauty and dignity to the very end. All that followed was a parking lot.

I went on to work in theatres, own my own small chain and, as mentioned in other postings was fortunate enough to restore several theatres. Many people like me have tried, from time to time, to recreate those wondrous feelings when it really meant something to get “dressed up” and go to a dinner and a movie. While we can never duplicate all of the magic, we can still honor that golden past.

Jack Oberleitner

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Strand Theater on Feb 9, 2008 at 11:17 am

Someone once told me, The Strand was originally a newsreel theatre. I suppose the operators of the Todd Hotel thought it was logical to have a news theatre available for out of town guests, salesmen and the like, to catch up with world events in the days before TV.

If memory serves, there was once a “hole-in-the-wall” pizza shop near the Strand where one could get a square of pizza about the size of two playing cards with one piece of pepperoni for 10 cents. Like 75 cent, or less, movies, those times are long gone.

Also, Fred Childress was a wonderful critic in mid-century Youngstown. His writing was colorful and interesting with a “big city” flare. Mr. Childress often mentioned the names of the managers at the local theatres. People like Jack Heinz (Paramount), Frank Savage (Warner), and Ed Princeton (Palace) became as well known as the theatres themselves. Far too often the people that truly breathed life into these wonderful venues, theatre front employees and managers, are forgotten. In the “golden days,” it was not unusual for a theatre to have cashiers, doormen, users and multiple layers of management making that theatre a true career, with as much as 20+ years of service.

My apologies for the, probably wrong, spelling of the above names. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen those names in print.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Capitol Theatre on Feb 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Sorry John, I really don’t know. I’ve not been involved with day-to-day operations for several years. Louis P. Silverman is in charge of operations on the corporate level.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Capitol Theatre on Jan 30, 2008 at 9:05 am

I don’t know. If it were up to me, I would have done it years ago. The Miller neon was very distinctive, rather unusual colors, if memory serves. I’m sure today’s high energy costs affect use of outside signage. In 1972 it cost about $300 a month to heat/cool the Milton Capitol. I shudder to think what that cost would be today.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner commented about Capitol Theatre on Jan 29, 2008 at 7:30 pm

oops…Cinestage also had the Manor (originally Jerry Lewis) Cinema in Shippensburg, PA. I may have blocked it out since it was such an utter disaster in the cash department.