Showing 126 - 150 of 152 comments
The World was a grind house when I moved to Sacramento in 1962. It programmed double features for about 50 cents admission, showings daily from 1:00 PM to midnight as I recall. I still remember the first program I saw there, a couple of Fox CinemaScope films from the 1950’s, “The Tall Men” with Clark Gable and Jane Russell and “April Love” with Pat Boone and Shirley Jones. The color on “The Tall Men” had already turned pink, the first time I’d seen than phenomenon. Do I have a good memory of what?
A short time later the World changed to a triple feature, daily change of programs, open all night policy. There was quite an eclectic mix in the programming those days. You could see fairly recent (a year or two old) features mixed with stuff from the 1930’s and 1940’s. I remember watching “Rocket Ship” (feature version of a Flash Gordon serial), an old Universal Bob Baker western, lots of the Warner Brothers classics, a bunch of 1950’s Columbia features, etc. etc. ect. There was no rhyme or reason to the combination of titles on the same program but that was typical of the grindhouses of the era.
The World was a great place for a young film buff like myself or anybody else looking to see some cheap flicks and some you couldn’t see anywhere else in town. The audience seemed to consist mainly of older people and transients and for the most part they were pretty well behaved. This was before alcoholics, druggies, punks and idiots took over the grind houses. That small men’s restroom at the top of the stairs could get pretty smelly at times though! The biggest problem with the World is that they didn’t advertise in the Sacramento Bee or Union. No programs at the theater either. You had to go down to the theater or buy one the the now defunct San Francisco newspapers (Call Bulletin?) where ironically they did have a small classified ad, probably because they were part of a chain, United California Theaters I believe, who advertised all of their Northern California theaters that way.
The triple feature grind policy didn’t last much beyond the mid 1960’s. The World policy then changed to softcore sex films with a new operator. It later went hardcore and became part of the Pussycat chain, the second Pussycat in Sacramento (first was the former Encore on K Street).
I don’t remember when the Encore was closed and demolished but I belive the 9th Street entrance to the Sacramento main library now stands in it’s place. The theater wasn’t much, certainly not a movie palace, but it had it’s own character and I have fond memories of the few years I attended.
It’s pretty discouraging that after over a month of operation they still haven’t got any projection room personnel that know how to splice the 2000 foot reels together in frame as they make up the feature on the platter. I can’t recall a theater that opened with such amateurish projection and I’ve been going to movies since the late 1940’s…and spent more than a few days and nights in projection rooms too! I had that threading and splicing in frame thing figured out after about 10 minutes. It’s not rocket science you know!
I don’t want to come down too hard on the Alameda though. The craft of projection and the art of good film presentation has pretty much disappeared from theaters throughout the country and probably around the world. Just give one of the popcorn selling guys or gals an extra 50 cents an hour and let them handle the projectors in ten or twenty auditoriums. Most of the rubes who paid their $10 a seat won’t know the difference! Now if only we could outsource it to India…and maybe with the upcoming move from 35mm to digital we’ll be able to do that! Welcome to movie going in the 21st Century folks!
An absolutely fascinating read!
So what is going to stop Mr. & Mrs. Joseph P. Yuppie from paying their $35 (plus $25 for premium concessions?) each and still forgetting to turn their cell phones off and/or text messaging and talking throughout the movie? Ordering food and drinks and having them delivered and paid for during the show sounds a little disruptive to me too. Then there is the negative effect on one alcoholic drink too many on some people. From my multiplex experience it’s more than just rowdy teenagers who make for a miserable movie going experience nowadays. Rude, inconsiderate behavior seems to be spread across the whole spectrum of age and class…or maybe I’ve just been patronizing the wrong multiplexes!
I agree with the Florida Times-Union! It’s certainly one of my favorites to check out every day!
It was a fun and interesting job in the changeover days, carefully checking each print when it came in on exchange reels, maintaining those sometimes troublesome carbon arc lamps, threading the projectors and rewinding the 2000' (20 minute) reels, listening for the end-of-reel bell to alert you to strike an arc and start watching for the changeover cues, changing the lenses and aperture plates to go from flat to scope or visa versa…most of all trying to give the audience the best film presentation you could. I was never bored. Nowadays with xenon lamps and platters it seems to me about as interesting to me as putting a DVD in the player, not that I don’t respect the men and women who do take their projection jobs seriously. It still takes skill to do it right (watch that focus and framing PLEASE!) but for me it just ain’t the same as it was in the “good old days”. I look back fondly on my days in the booth even though they ended long ago.
As a young GI stationed at nearby Fort Bliss in 1961 and 1962 I attended the Valley a few times. It was a neighborhood house and never seemed to attract much of an audience at the time. It was a clean and modern theater with a stadium balcony that I liked. I remember watching a double feature of “Ride the High Country” and “Pirates of the Black Witch” there just a couple of days before I got discharged from the Army in the spring of 1962.
I used to frequent the Crawford when I was a young GI stationed at Fort Bliss during 1961 and 1962. The theatre was way past it’s glory days by then, somewhat of a flea pit dump in fact. An occasional rat would scamper across the aisle and apparently it was best to keep the houselights out at all times with a grind house policy of continuous shows with no intermissions. The balcony appeared to be closed permanently. The price was right though, about 50 cents for matinees as I recall and not much more that that in the evening. The programming was second run double features with two changes a week, new shows on Sunday and Wednesday.
Presentation wasn’t too bad at the Crawford though and this was before grind houses became to be primarily occupied by druggies, winos and escapees from mental institutions. The Crawford helped me keep up on current flicks on my Army meager Army paycheck budget. We had two very nice theaters at Fort Bliss with current films, four single feature program changes a week and 25 cent admission but the boneheaded post commander decried that us GIs had to wear coat and ties or uniforms to attend (what nonsense!). Most of us in turn boycotted the post theaters and headed downtown to see our flicks. The first run Plaza, State and Capri were preferred but sometimes there was just a better program at the cheapie Palace…or the Crawford. At other times, usually towards the end of the month, the Palace and the Crawford were all you could afford! I actually look back on those days (sort of) fondly now.
I’m always glad to hear of an independent single screen theater operating anywhere (even if there is a plan to add a second screen here). The Varsity has apparently been a fixture in Davis since 1950 and has sort of an interesting history as you can see on their website:
The posting was from a newspaper (California Aggie, possibly a college paper…Davis is definitely a college town!), not an advertisement by the operators of the theater so I have no problem at all with this posting. The Varsity sounds like a Cinema Treasure to me and I was happy to read about it. In fact it made me want to take a trip to Davis (only about 80 miles from my home) to check the Varsity out. I’m also pleased to see that the two other theaters in Davis (Regal multiplexes) are also located in the heart of downtown rather than out in the boondocks. I like that!
Even though I’m a Bay Area resident and a big fan of John Stanley I’m not quite sure what a book about a TV horror movie host has to do with classic movie theaters…unless it’s that the movies he showed on TV once played in movie theaters.
I’ve been going to and enjoying movies in theaters for over 55 years but I’ve just about had it with the bad projection (out of focus, out of frame, improper sound level, etc.), with the rude behavior of modern day audiences (cell phones, text messaging (Grrrrr!), talking, coming in late, etc.) and with the outrageously overpriced concessions ($5.00 for a small popcorn or Coke…give me a break!) The final straw for me has been those 20 minutes of commercials masquerading as entertainment in the form of pre-show bad quality video. That torture is of course before the 15 or 20 minutes of loud trailers for movies you have mostly no interest in or intention of seeing.
Hey high definition satellite TV, even standard definition DVD, looks and sounds pretty damn good on a wide screen plasma TV, better in my opinion than the image at many of the multiplexes. I’m finding myself staying home more and more. We usually only go out for the flicks that really benefit from the big screen theatrical experience, the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy for instance, or something we REALLY want to see. Otherwise it’s wait until it comes out on DVD or on one of the HD movie channels and enjoy it in peace and quiet at home.
That all being said, I suspect that there will always be movie theatres, maybe just not as many of them. People, young people in particular, just want to get out of the house and go somewhere and see something with an audience. I remember back in the early 1950’s when they said black and white TV was going to kill off the movie theaters altogether. It did of course reduce the number substantially but it didn’t eliminate them. In recent years there has been a theatre building boom in fact. Yeah I suspect movie theaters will be around long after most of us are gone…and that includes all you young whippersnappers! That’s just my most humble and most ancient opinion you understand!
I saw it at Grauman’s Chinese on the very day those two robot characters and Darth Vader put their prints in the cement of that famous theater. I believe it was sometime in August of 1977. I didn’t plan it that way, I was just passing through LA on my way from the Bay Area to San Diego and swung out to Hollywood to take a look at what was left of the theaters on Hollywood Blvd. It seemed like a perfect time to catch the by that time quite popular film and it was impressive indeed in 70mm and Dolby stereo on the big Chinese screen. I later saw it again in 70mm at the Warfield in San Francisco where it was preceded by the Warner Brothers cartoon, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century”, also blown up to 70mm.
I’m also dismayed that business is down at those theaters, the great Grand Lake in particular. The last I heard (several years ago) is that business was up considerably after Mr. Michaan got an agreement to get the more popular first run films there instead of having them go exclusively to the Jack London Square theater. The free popcorn is indeed a nice bonus and I suspect that audiences aren’t subjected to that godawful pre-show video presentation (a 20 minute parade of dim witted commercials masquerading as entertainment!) that is now another reason to avoid the Regal and Century chains. Century of course used to proudly claim “No Commercials” in their advertising but since they got took over by that other company whose name escapes me, they have also joined “the dark side”. I live in San Leandro but I’ll make more of an effort from now on to attend the Grand Lake and Orinda, with or without the free popcorn!
I would say that police should be used anytime a couple of polite demands to leave the theater are ignored. A stern warning to desist from the uncivil behavior should precede the demands. Of course we have to realize that police may have more urgent priorities and not be immediately available in every community. In urban areas many of these punks are carrying guns or ready to start punching somebody out at the slightest provocation. I definitely don’t think it would be that good of an idea for management or their low paid, inadequately trained employees to try to forcibly remove these jerks. Of course if they choose to go after your demand, no problem!
I think most theaters could do a bit more to decrease the cell phone problem in general (which is nly getting worse from my recent experience!) I would have signs on the box office and on auditorium doors stating that cell phone use (including text messaging) is prohibited. After the preview trailers, an additional policy trailer should remind people of that. Some theaters do include the no cell phone message as part of their “our feature attraction” tag and it seems to be somewhat effective. You can usually see a few phones being pulled out and turned off. We are all human and forget to do things at times. A reminder can be helpful and effective. Others think that rules just don’t apply to them. They are the ones who deserve to be asked to leave and the police called without hesitation if they refuse. Just my humble little opinion!
That text messaging crap is just about the final straw for me! Those damn cell phones light up the whole aisle, especially distracting in stadium type theaters. Just last Sunday I went to see “The Illusionist” and this fine film was pretty much ruined for us by some teenage bimbo in front of us lighting up the aisle with her cell phone every few minutes. She obviously had absolutely no interest in the film on the screen, probably just a bored auditorium jumper waiting for the next showing of “Jackass 2”. If that wasn’t enough, towards the end of the film she moved to our aisle, using some super bright LED flashlight (maybe it was just her cell phone) to guide her way. You can’t talk to these jerks and management has little incentive to discipline or throw them out. DVDs look pretty good on my new Panasonic Plasma TV, high definition on satellite looks even better. One of these days I’m going to say “Enough is enough!” and just give up on going to the movies altogether. After over 50 years of loving theaters and loving movies I take no pleasure in saying this but it’s the truth!
Great news! Having been raised in the East Bay, I’m looking forward to this one almost as much as I was to Jack’s recent (and superb) book on San Francisco theatres. I’m on my way to Amazon to place my order right now. Thanks Jack!
I met Jack Tillmany a couple of years ago and asked him about writing a book on SF Theatres. His reply was something like “No, I’ll leave that to others!”. Obviously he has changed his mind and that’s really good news! Nobody knows more about Bay Area theatres than Jack Tillmany or has such a good photo collection on them. I can’t wait to get this one! Hopefully we will sequel a sequel covering the rest of the Bay Area.
I was stationed at Fort Bliss in 1961 and 1962. There were two very nice post theaters (with 25 cents admission for recent films, four single feature program changes a week) but the bonehead commanding officer decreed that us GIs wear uniforms or coats and ties to attend them so most of us boycotted those post theaters and went downtown or to El Paso’s many drive in theaters for our movie fix. The Palace was pretty run down (only the Crawford was worse!) but it was clean and they had some interesting double feature programs for very low prices. I spent quite a few afternoons and evenings there. I remember seeing Hitchcock’s “Psycho” for the first time there as well as a reissue of “Red River”, “Around the World in 80 Days” (with Spanish subtitles) and a bunch of ancient grind house fodder like “Drums in the Deep South”, “Tulsa” and a Bowery Boys marathon (four features on one program). Often the programming was more interesting to me than that of the first run downtown houses (the Plaza, Capri and State). I’m glad the building at least is still standing.
The Rex was the only downtown Oakland theater I was never in. It looked like a dump from the outside and I never felt brave enough to enter, even if they were showing some old Flash Gordon movie I wanted to see. When I joined the Army in 1959, three of us enlistees shared an Army provided hotel room in downtown Oakland before reporting to the induction center. I headed to the Central but the other two guys decided to catch an American International horror program at the Rex. When they came back they confirmed what I suspected. “What a dump!” they said. According to them, there was more horror in the audience than on the screen and they had also some insect bites as a souvenir of the majestic Rex!
I preferred the Lux or Central but I saw quite a few programs at the Broadway in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was a typical big city “grind house” with several program changes a week. Double features and later triple features with continuous shows from 10 a.m. It was open all night in the years I attended. You never knew what the program would be. Recent major films, reissues, stuff from poverty row you never heard of. I always liked to look in Oakland Tribune’s classified movie listings to see what was showing. The theater itself had seen better days but the programming was sometimes interesting and the price of admission was right…cheap!
I remember the Central fondly as still a grand old place in the late 1950’s. Like the nearby Lux, it had a second run double feature policy with continuous showings starting at 10 a.m. Admission prices were low and presentation was very good. I remember seeing “Oklahoma!: there in 4 channel magnetic stereo sound and it looked and sounded nearly as good as it would at the Fox Oakland a few blocks away.
I loved the Lux in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was an exceptionally clean and well managed second run house. Continuous showings of recent double features starting at 10:00 am with a nightly Spino game. A speaker was mounted outside so you could hear the movie soundtrack as you browsed the posters. Nice concession stand and as several people pointed out, the hot dogs were great! I would take the Key System bus from Richmond just to catch a double feature at the Lux. I think the last movie I saw there was “The Wild Bunch”. When they went to kung fu and other exploitation fare, I lost interest and heard in the final days the audiences were as rough as the movies on the screen. Every time I’m in downtown Oakland I stroll into the Goodwill store and look up at the portholes in the old projection room (now a storage area or office) and remember those pleasant days at the Lux.
The Park was an independent theater, built in 1949 by the Jeha family. Richard Jeha was the manager throughout the 1950’s when it was my neighborhood theater. Mr. Jeha had a great deal of patience with us rowdy kids and teenagers and also earned our great respect. My love affair with the movies and theaters started passing out monthly handbills for the Park in return for a monthly pass. Initially there were three program changes a week, then two and finally one by the end of the 1950’s. Except for rare major blockbusters, all were double features. Saturday matinees included a Republic or Columbia serial chapter, five cartoons and a prize drawing in addition to the regular program. A Friday night Bingo game, conducted by Mr. Jeha was a popular feature for many years. When wide screen and CinemaScope came along, a wall to wall screen was placed in front of the original and more attractive stage, screen and curtain. Magnetic stereo sound was not installed and 3-D died before it could make it to the Park. In the early 1960’s the Park was remodelled with a slightly smaller wide screen and the return of a screen curtain, then it was ruined by the twinning in the early 1970’s, just a few years before it closed and became a church, which it remains to this day. As I was reminded of at a class reunion 25 years later, those of us growing up in El Sobrante in the 1950’s have fond memories of the Park.
The State was a second run Fox West Coast house at 501 McDonald Avenue (5th & McDonald) with 610 seats. It sometimes featured move over programs from the Costa, just two blocks away on McDonald. It closed in the early 1950’s.
The Fox was a Fox West Coast Theatre at 710 McDonald Avenue, formerly the Costa. Due to the Consent Decree in the early 1950’s, FWC had to relinquish their lease on the other Richmond Fox (Fox-California) at 823 McDonald. That theatre became the United Artists (UA) and the Costa was completely remodeled (Skouras-style) and reopened as the Fox on April 3, 1952. Seating capacity was 1118 in 1950. Along with the UA, the Fox closed down briefly in about 1957 leaving Richmond, population roughly 100,000 at the time, with no first run theatres. Only the last run flea pit Rio was left on McDonald Avenue. Both the Fox and UA soon reopened and lasted for a few more years, until the early 1960’s. As I remember, it was the UA rather than the Fox that was converted into a Woolworth’s (as mentioned above by Garrett Murphy).