Comments from LouRugani

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LouRugani commented about Towne Theatre on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm

(DAILY HERALD, Thursday, May 25, 1950) The new Towne theatre on Grand Ave. in Fox Lake will be opened Saturday evening, May 27, marking a big step forward in the growth of the community.

The theatre, operated by the Robert Helson Corporation, will offer as its first attraction “The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady” which opened in the Oriental Theatre in Chicago only two weeks ago. The doors will open at 6:30 p. m. and the first performance starts at 7:00 p. m.

The Towne will be under the management of Jonas Fugett, long time employee of the Helson firm, headed by Robert T. Held of Chicago and Robert C. Nelson, well-known Lake County attorney and school board attorney for the Fox Lake Grade school.

The new theatre is of the most modern design with every facility for patrons' comfort as well as entertainment. More than 600 Kroehler Pushback seats have been installed. This new type of seat makes it unnecessary to stand when someone desires to pass to and from other seats in the aisle. Those who desire hard-of-hearing aids may ask the head usher and they will be provided without charge.

The screen is a Starke custom built Cycloramic screen which is the newest type of screen and the first type of screen with any major improvement for vision from the sides of the theatre made in the past 20 years. The projection and sound equipment is high intensity Motiograph 35 carbon-arc, the best available equipment on the market. The draperies are beautiful sateen finish fireproof material. The carpeting is extra thick and is in a beautiful design of four shades of gray.

One large wall surface of the lobby is adorned with a “black-light” mural of the Lake Region painted by Hans Teichert, the best theatre decorator in the United States.

The refreshment accommodations are complete, popcorn, cakes, candy bars, etc. The building, which is one of the very few completely fireproof theatres in Lake or McHenry counties, is finished in Indiana limestone with three all-glass entrance doors.

Ample free parking facilities have been provided for patrons of the theatre, and the operators have promised that every effort will be made to obtain the latest and best film fare.

LouRugani commented about Towne Theatre on Mar 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm

The address was 66 Grand Avenue.

LouRugani commented about El Rey Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 11:37 pm

This evening’s “Better Call Saul” episode with the twin (prop) pay telephones was set along the outer wall of the El Ray Theatre.

LouRugani commented about STAR AND GARTER Theatre; Chicago, Illinois. on Feb 20, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Sunday, February 25, 1934: Chicago Herald and Examiner

LouRugani commented about RICHMOND Theatre; North Adams, Massachusetts. on Feb 8, 2015 at 11:52 am

The North Adams Transcript, 20 Sep 1951, Thu, Page 22

LouRugani commented about Bluemound Drive-In on Feb 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm

(Boxoffice Magazine, October 14, 1950) The Blue Mound Drive-In, first outdoor theatre to be opened in Wisconsin, before World War II. It has been modernized and is drawing crowds. It is Boston owned …

LouRugani commented about Town Theater on Jan 22, 2015 at 5:19 pm

The Chicago Tribune of November 30, 1935 gives the opening date of the TOWN Theatre as Friday, November 22, 1935.

LouRugani commented about Congress Theater on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:01 pm

The Congress Theatre for the last year has been caught up in a legal battle between developer Michael Moyer and event promoters who claimed to have the right of first refusal to purchase the property after its previous owner Eddie Carranza finally gave up his fight with the city and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and decided to sell the historic building. However WBEZ reports that Moyer is set to close on the Congress Theater sometime in the next 60 to 90 days. In a press release, Alderman Moreno revealed that the redevelopment of the theater will also include a small inn and affordable housing units. According to previous estimates, repairs to the Congress Theater could cost up to $20 million and take years to restore. Moyer, who previously redeveloped the downtown Cadillac Palace, will work with Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and W.E. O'Neil Construction on the Congress Theater project. To kick off the beginning of the Congress' new life, Alderman Moreno and New Congress, LLC will hold an open house at the theater on Saturday, January 24 from 1-4pm.

LouRugani commented about Avalon Theater on Jan 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Cinema operator Lee Barczak already knows what you’re thinking: People are staying home in droves to watch movies on Netflix, as large theater chains counter by adding expensive features and the latest technology, such as 64-foot-wide screens, enhanced sound and stadium-style seating with reclining chairs. So, why reopen a two-screen theater in an 85-year-old building that last showed films 14 years ago? Because this cinema is Bay View’s Avalon Theater, a historic landmark that now includes a full kitchen and bar, along with new seats, screens and digital projection. “I think people are interested in an alternate experience, and not just the same experience over and over again,” Barczak said. And, while there’s no denying the challenge from Netflix, Hulu Plus and other streaming services, Barczak believes a lot of people enjoy being with other movie fans to watch films on a big screen. “I don’t think that ever goes out of style,” he said. At least, that’s what Barczak is hoping.

The Avalon, 2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., opened Thursday, with showings of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.” The restored theater’s debut came after 11 months of renovations totaling $2 million. The Avalon now features a sit-down dining service for movie audiences, with a menu featuring pizzas, paninis and appetizers, along with popcorn and other traditional movie snacks. There’s also a bar, which has its own separate entrance on Kinnickinnic Ave., and is open to people who aren’t buying movie tickets.

The Avalon first showed movies in 1929. A city report on its historic designation called the Avalon’s design a distinctive example of the Mediterranean Revival architectural style, and the first Wisconsin theater built for movies with sound. Its remodeled touches include over 1,200 new twinkling lights on the cinema’s ceiling to re-create the Avalon’s atmospheric feel of a starry sky, and a new marquee with a design that pays homage to its 1920s roots. The lobby features Moorish arches, twisting Mediterranean columns, figures that resemble gargoyles and a statue of Athena, a Greek goddess — all from the original building.

The Avalon had a seating capacity of around 2,200 when it opened, Barczak said. With new, wider seats, and a layout designed to make it easier for wait staff to serve food, it now can seat 218 in the main auditorium, and 68 in the side theater, he said. Once the main theater’s balcony reopens (that’s been delayed because of the costs of installing an elevator), there would be room for another 60 to 80 patrons, he said.

While Barczak expects the Avalon to draw a lot of Bay View neighborhood residents, he believes it will provide an unusual moviegoing experience that will attract a lot of patrons from other parts of the Milwaukee area. He said east side and downtown residents, in particular, will likely see the Avalon as an alternative to the Downer and Oriental theaters, both owned by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres, the nation’s largest art house cinema chain.

Barczak, whose businesses include Rosebud Cinema, 6823 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, and Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St., has the advantage of owning the Avalon building, which includes additional retail space and 19 apartments that generate cash. He also operates Morgan Kenwood Advisors LLC, a Greendale financial planning firm, and has experience running dining operations at the Rosebud and at his Sheridan House and Cafe, a boutique hotel and restaurant, 5133 S. Lake Drive, Cudahy.

Barczak is a movie buff, and said there will always be a place for theaters — despite the technological advances that make it easy to watch movies at home, or on the go. “I could watch movies on this,” Barczak said, waving his smartphone. “But there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen.”

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tom Daykin covers commercial real estate and development.)

LouRugani commented about WESTBY Theatre; Westby, Wisconsin. on Nov 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm

WESTBY Theatre owner Louis V. Bergholt poses at the theatre with his 1941 Oldsmobile.

LouRugani commented about Keno Drive-In on Nov 9, 2014 at 5:20 am

(Kenosha News, Sunday, November 9, 2014) Is this the end for Keno Drive-In? On final weekend of season, land owner, manager disagree on theater’s fate (By Janine Anderson) Depending on the source, you get a different idea of the future of the Keno Drive-in. Operator Jeffrey Kohlberg isn’t ready to say Sunday is the theater’s official last day, but the landowner says this is pretty much it for the historic attraction. On Friday, Kohlberg, president of the Glenview, Ill.-based Cinema Management Corp., which operates the Keno and another drive-in in Illinois, said he can’t say this is the last weekend. “I don’t want everybody to get down and say it’s all over,” Kohlberg said. “I don’t know when that final decision’s going to be made. It could be in a month; it could be next spring.”

But S.R. Mills of Bear Realty, the company that owns the land, said Saturday it is unlikely the theater will reopen next spring. The land needs too many improvements, he said, and making them isn’t feasible. Kohlberg said the facility also needs costly improvements. He previously told the Kenosha News that proceeds were down about 22 percent this year, and that the lack of digital projection equipment makes it harder and harder to bring in the kind of first-run movies patrons want to see. “I always hope it’s going to be there,” Kohlberg said. “My dad started in the 1950s with drive-ins. We have one in Illinois that’s been here since 1961. I hope no drive-ins disappear. There’s still hope.”

Mills doesn’t see it that way, and his company is in the early stages of planning for some other use on the site. No neighborhood plan exists for that property, or the hundreds of acres around it, he said, and Bear is working with Pleasant Prairie to put one in place. Several plans will eventually be taken to the Plan Commission and Village Board so officials can decide which one to adopt, Mills said. After that, the area could be opened up for development. Mills expects the plan to call for predominantly residential development, with some commercial corners, including the location of the Keno. He said while he is sure the Keno will not be there next year, like Kohlberg, he’s fond of the theater. “We’ve thought, can you get the economics to work?” he said. “If you do it, if you monetize the food and the beverages, maybe you can make it into something.”

He’s not the only one with that thought. Restaurant chain Johnny Rockets is partnering with Indiana-based USA Drive-ins to bring back the retro-style theaters, part of a nationwide rollout of four new Route 66-type diners. They plan to open 200 drive-in theaters over the next four years. Kohlberg believes investment in the property could make it successful. His organization made a go of it with its other theater, he said, installing a digital projector and other amenities that helped bring in patrons. “If it does continue, there’s a lot of innovations we’ve done down (in Illinois) which we might do up there,” Kohlberg said. “Patio heaters, patios with seating so people – when the weather gets kind of cool – can sit and watch the movie outside in warmth. We put a new playground in. All this can be planned for the Keno, too.”

Those improvements are expensive, too. Kohlberg said his firm has considered investing its own money into the facility improvements, which could likely cost upward of $100,000, but no decisions have been made. “I can’t emphatically say it is or it isn’t,” staying open, Kohlberg said. “We’re in limbo right now.”

While the Keno Drive-in management won’t officially say this is the final weekend forever, it was the last weekend of the season. The horror movies on the big screen attracted some die-hard fans who didn’t mind the cold. Cars started lining up around 6:30 p.m., about a half-hour before the box office officially opened.

Janelle Lopez, of Waukegan, was there with Bri Cotto, of Kenosha. “I thought we would go out and catch it,” Lopez said. “It’s a different way to see a movie, and not have to sit in a theater.” Especially in the summer, they said, it’s nice to sit outside and watch children playing as the movie plays.

Shannon Hicks and Matthew Cullen came up from Illinois, though Cullen actually hails from farther afield. He is from California, but is in the military and stationed in the Chicago area. “I’ve never been to a drive-in,” he said. “They are all closed (in California), and I’ve never seen an operating one.” Hicks has been to the theater before and said she enjoys the whole atmosphere of the drive-in.

Ishi Salazar and his daughter, Rosa, haven’t come too often, but enjoy it when they make it out. Rosa enjoys horror films, and her dad thought this would be a good way to close out the movie season. “I grew up with it in California,” he said. “They’re extinct, just about, now.” Rosa also likes the experience. They get to talk in the car, she said, and no one tells them to be quiet. They also like to bring in their own food. Saturday’s choice was take-out from Wendy’s, though Ishi said he always buys popcorn once inside.

LouRugani commented about Portage Theatre on Oct 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm

There’ll be a lecture on abandoned theatres in partnership with the Theatre Historical Society of America at the Portage Theatre on Thursday November 13, 2014. Doors open at 6:30 and the lecture starts at 7:00. Admission is free. The lecture will be an updated version of “The Fall of the American Movie Palace” with photographs of the Loew’s Kings Theatre renovation.

LouRugani commented about Modjeska Theatre on Oct 17, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Once upon a time, The Modjeska Theater, 1134 W. Mitchell St., was a neighborhood movie palace, the big daddy of Mitchell Street, the second busiest thoroughfare in Milwaukee after Wisconsin Avenue. The street was so bustling and such a magnet for surrounding South Side enclaves that it boasted six theaters in about as many blocks. Among them The Juneau, dressed up in Venetian splendor, was a big draw and so was the Granada, directly across the street from the Modjeska, and the Pearl, further west on 19th Street. The current Modjeska Theater, built in 1924 and designed by Chicago’s C.W. and George Rapp, needs work, but step inside and you’ll still be transported to the era of the grand movie palace. It’s richly detailed, both inside and out, and it was clearly a temple to motion pictures and to Vaudeville, which shared the spotlight here.

Among the theaters Rapp and Rapp designed were the Warner (“The Grand”, still standing) and The Wisconsin and the Uptown Theaters in Milwaukee, both razed.

An earlier Modjeska – named for Polish actress Helena Modjeska (nee Modrzejewska) who had died in 1909 – was built on the site in 1910 by Milwaukee movie moguls, brothers Thomas and John Saxe, who built a companion place Downtown on Third Street, the Princess (demolished in the ‘80s). The old Modjeska was damaged in a fire, but its 900 seats were inadequate to meet demand anyway, and so the old Modjeska was torn down to make way for the 2,000-seat theater that still stands today — though with a somewhat smaller capacity now — wrapped in terra cotta and currently undergoing what supremely knowledgeable theater historian Larry Widen (author of “Milwaukee Movie Palaces,” aka “Silver Screens”) — who had been leading the work before parting ways with the theater’s owners — called, “a really good clean up.”

“This is a Downtown-style movie palace,” he said as we stood at the foot of the stage and gazed up to the ceiling, three stories above. “It had all the trappings. There were five other theaters on this block and this was the most expensive. This was the pricey one. Usually what would happen is the movies would premiere Downtown. I think they played about a week. You know, the big Bogey or Cagy picture or whatever would start out Downtown. Then it would make its way out to the first tier of the suburban theaters and this was one of them. This one, the Uptown, the Oriental, the Tower, the Avalon, The National and from there they would kind of make their way down the street from 35 cents to a quarter, 20 cents, 10 cents to 5 cents.”

The theater has been closed for nearly five years and United Artists stopped running it in 1989. It was still screening films into the 1990s. The Modjeska had, for a period, been the Midwest home office for UA and by the early ‘80s it was a budget cinema, admitting patrons for $1 a head. Later, Stewart and Diane Johnson bought the theater and it became home to the Modjeska Youth Theater Co. and the venue continued to also host concerts and other events on a rental basis. Magician David Seebach often staged events there. In 2007, the youth group and the Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corporation (MSDOC) partnered to create the Modjeska Theater Project, which purchased the theater, and three years later the youth group folded. Now, the Modjeska is owned by a non-profit trust called the Mitchell Street Development Opportunities Board. Having been vacant for five years, the theater already was in need of some TLC. Then last winter happened. More specifically, a pipe burst in the basement and here were about 900,000 gallons of water down there in February. Though it seems mostly dry and, remarkably, doesn’t smell too musty anymore, there’s a visible high water mark on the walls.

“Right now there is mostly painting and cleaning going on,” says Project Manager Jesus Enrique Nañez, who’s on the theater’s board. “We have several contractors that are volunteering some time for electrical and plumbing work to make sure we are up to code. The heaviest work load is in funding these repairs.” The roof has been redone and a crew of volunteers is helping to repaint and repair parts of the theater’s many surviving details, like gorgeous railings up to the balcony lobby, and scrollwork in the theater. The entry lobby is adorned with plaster motifs and appears to be in fine shape.

The orchestra pit was covered by the youth group when it extended the stage in the 1990s. Two boxes remain, though the organ and the pipes that would’ve been housed in lofts above the boxes are long gone. “As of right now we do not have a projected opening date,” says Nañez. “We have a goal to open some of the theatre space to artistic and community based groups in 2015. However, we will provide public access to the theatre during our participation in the Doors Open Milwaukee event and we encourage people to come over to check out the theater and all of the renovation progress.” The board expects to present a mix of programming in the theater, including a variety of films about 25 percent of the time. Concerts and performances by a range of arts groups interested in the space will round out the schedule.

The Modjeska was built as a stop for regional vaudeville acts and has hosted live music for decades. Marty Robbins played there in ‘61 and in more recent decades the theater has hosted performances by Marilyn Manson, They Might Be Giants (during whose concert the stage famously gave way), Ministry, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Gregg Allmann and others. “The stage was built with an orchestra pit with an organ and an organ box and a full stage,” said Widen. “The stage is now 28 feet deep to the back wall and it’s 40 feet from proscenium opening to opening. You can get a pretty good-sized act on the stage.”

Playing to the local crowd is what theaters often did, and the Modjeska screened Polish films in the 1940s to draw on the area’s heavily Polish population. In that spirit, Widen had said the Modjeska planned to spotlight films currently being made in the reinvigorated Mexican movie industry and Nañez suggests that remains the plan survives.

There are panoramic views of the city from the roof, and old offices above the retail shops that are part of the building. On the opaque glass panels in some of the doors you can make out the names of former occupants, which had been painted on. In one former office, the youth group had created a “mini Modjeska,” a tiny theater. Behind the screen you can open the windows and step out on to the marquee. If you lean out you can look straight down Mitchell Street, down to 11th, where the streetcar used to bend the corner around. Up in the projection booth, there’s an open toilet and sink in the corner because projectionists weren’t allowed to leave the booth under any circumstances, so the facilities were demanded by their union. Above the balcony level are two rooms where the films were assembled for projection.

In the basement, newly built wooden racks hold the letters that name the films on the marquee. This is where the dressing rooms for performers are located and the basement is a maze of rooms. Down here it’s dark, but one can see the quirky patterns on the walls left by the water of the winter flood. There are also walls adorned with graffiti left by performers of shows performed on the stage above. It was on the list of buildings for the 2014 Doors Open Milwaukee event, Sept. 20-21.

There’s work to be done, and only a portion of the estimated $150,000 required to complete the work has been raised. Much of the remainder is expected to be generated by revenue once the theater reopens. “This project is being completed by mostly volunteers and donations,” says Nañez. “Painting, cleaning up, creating a good buzz about the theater. Every donation helps us buy vital supplies needed to move the project forward. There will be great opportunities for individuals and companies vested in the area to have naming rights of different sections of the theater. we have launched our first mailer requesting donations and we have had some great results come in already. We are certainly in need of more support and would appreciate donations and volunteers at this time.”

If you are interested in donating time, effort and/or money, please contact Jesus E Nañez at (414) 982-9378 and help restore a vital part of the social history of Milwaukee’s South Side.

LouRugani commented about Mid-City Outdoor on Oct 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm

On the evening the Mid-City Outdoor Theatre opened, WLIP 1050 broadcast the opening ceremonies and the VFW Drum and Bugle Corps performed. The premiere program included “Red River” with Montgomery Clift. The last operator was Standard Theaters, and when a winter wind gust caused the screen tower to list, the town of Somers issued raze-or-repair orders. Standard decided to close before the 1985 season began. On May 1, 1985, the Mid-City screen tower fell to the wrecking ball (along with the neighboring Berryville Grade School) to make way for the Villa Rosa Apartments, but the concession building remained for a few years, open to the winds.

LouRugani commented about Keno Drive-In on Oct 15, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Is this the last year for the Keno? Conversion to digital may doom drive-in (April 16, 2013, by Deneen Smith)

Rumors are swirling that the Keno Drive-In, 9102 Sheridan Road, will be sold and turned into a Walmart. No officials have verified those rumors. Rumors of the Keno Drive-in’s demise have sparked a petition drive, a Facebook page, and an outpouring of regret, but little in the way of facts.

The Keno, 9102 Sheridan Road, has been operating since 1949. It opened for its 65th season this spring. Word began to spread on Facebook Friday that this season would be the Keno’s last, and that a Walmart would soon go up in its place.

A “Save Keno Drive-in, No Walmart Here” Facebook page quickly drew 3,000 likes, and an online petition calling on Pleasant Prairie to reject the Walmart had more than 1,760 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.

At Pleasant Prairie Village Hall, staffers were puzzled. “We’ve been getting calls. Apparently something went on Facebook?” said Thomas Shircel, assistant village administrator. “I think there’s a lot of rumors going around.”

Jeff Rey, president of Cinema Management Corp., which has leased Keno for the past seven years, said he was told by the property owner last fall that this year would likely be the last for the drive-in. He said he doesn’t know for sure what plans are for the property — the property owners have not told him — but he said there have been crews doing soil tests and other work. “We’ll see what happens,” Rey said. “We’ve got to keep our fingers crossed, but it doesn’t look good.”

Shircel said that while he cannot comment on informal inquires about the property, he said there has been no paperwork filed by Walmart or any other development on the property. “We have not received any formal application” for any development on the property, Shircel said. He said the land is slated in the village’s comprehensive plan for commercial use, but said “the land is not zoned or planned for a big box user.”

Kenosha County records do not show any recent property sale. According to those records, the drive-in’s owner is Berwick Properties Inc., which is owned by developer and real estate investor Steve Mills. He has owned the property since 1996. Mills could not be reached for comment.

A statement from Walmart said did not indicate plans for the property. “While we don’t have any new projects to announce at this time, Walmart is always looking for opportunities to better serve our southeast Wisconsin customers,” a company spokesman said in an email.

“Right now what I’m doing is more cautionary,” said Shanon Molina, who launched the anti-Walmart petition drive. Molina said there is “talk around town” that the drive-in property is one of several Walmart is looking to develop. “For me personally, I live on 90th and Sheridan and obviously, I don’t want a Walmart on that corner.” She said she also wants to block another Walmart development in the area, saying the company creates low-wage jobs and “is a proven local business killer.”

However Mills did indicate last fall that the drive-in’s days could be numbered. Movie studios are phasing out film in favor of digital projection technology, and old-fashioned theaters like the Keno would have to replace their film equipment with more expensive digital. Mills said last fall it was not clear if he would invest in the digital upgrade. “The decision hasn’t been made at this point in time. Just by the very nature of a drive-in theater, the season is very short. With the circumstances, we’re still going to research on what it’s going to be,” Mills said then. “It’s a bridge we haven’t crossed as yet.”

Rey said he operates another drive-in in West Chicago, Ill. He said the company invested $100,000 installing digital projection equipment there, saying the new projector will go online at the end of the month. “We could have worked out digital if that was their goal,” Rey said, although he said he believed about half the 366 drive-ins left in the country will likely go out of business this year because of the digital conversion costs.

Meanwhile, he said the drive-in will be open as usual this weekend, showing a double feature — the new Tom Cruise science fiction movie “Oblivion” and the comedy “Identity Thief.”

Despite rainy, cold weather this spring, business at the drive-in has been good, Rey said.

“I think people are wanting to get out there because this might be their last chance,” he said. “Unless something unexpected happens, it looks like it will be the end.”

LouRugani commented about BELLE CITY OPERA HOUSE (RACINE, REX) Theatre; Racine, Wisconsin. on Sep 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm

1902 program.

LouRugani commented about Hollywood Theatre on Sep 28, 2014 at 5:54 am

The temple was offering to donate it to any viable theatre about two years ago. Contact Rabbi Dena Feingold there for more details. Thanks.

LouRugani commented about Grand Opera House on Sep 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm

(Dec. 14, 1914, Charleston Daily Courier) The Grand Opera House was destroyed, telephone, light and street car service was crippled, and residences were endangered by fire which started in the theatre last night. Damage is estimated at $25,000 covered partially in the case of the theatre, by insurance.

Little is known regarding the origin of the fire. Two theories are advanced, one blaming defective wiring and the other a discarded cigar or cigarette.
                Owing to the fact that the fire was not discovered until it had gained great headway, the firemen were unable to cope with the flames within the theatre and were forced to devote their attention to buildings in the vicinity which threatened numerous times to burst into flames because of the intense heat thrown out by the burning structure.

Difficulty was added to the work of the firemen by a stiff breeze from the northwest, which fanned the conflagration into fury and carried burning brands through the air for nearly a block. Many of these brands fell on the roofs of nearby houses, and but for the coat of snow would have started other fires.

Fire was discovered by persons living near the theatre about 9:10 o'clock. At that time flames were shooting from the south end of the scenery loft and from the windows in the rear of the theatre. Within ten minutes the whole interior of the building was a seething furnace, so quickly did the fire spread. Firemen arriving found their entrance to the theatre barred by tongues of flame. They were able to save a desk, a typewriter and papers.
                Working in the intense cold in water-soaked clothing, the firemen remained near the blazing theatre until 2:30 o'clock this morning. At that time the ruins were still smouldering.
                After the fire had practically gutted the theatre, the brick walls at the rear and side began to fall inward. The rear wall was the first to go. It carried with it a portion of the north wall, and nearly all of the south wall. Workmen this morning finished the work of the fire by pulling down the front wall and what remained of the north and south walls.
                Heat thrown off by the blazing theatre building melted two telephone cables in front, thus cutting off 500 telephones. When the cable fell it swung against a pole bearing electric wires and the guy wire to the street car trolley wire. To reduce danger from live wires, the current in the electric was cut off, and the wires were cut near the corner of Van Buren and Sixth Streets.
                Light from the big blaze was seen by farmers living three miles from Charleston. One of these said that the light was bright as that of the moon. He declared it to nearly approximate daylight. Those who did not learn of the fire by the sounding of the alarm bell were in many instances informed of it by the great light.
                News of the fire reached Mattoon soon after the breaking out of the flames, and nearly 100 persons from that city came to Charleston on interurban cars to see the blaze.

The telephone exchange was hit hard by the fire. As soon as the alarm was sounded, calls began to come in to the exchange by the hundred. Although the operators worked at top speed for over two hours, they were scarcely able to give service at all. It is estimated that 1,600 connections were made immediately after the breaking out of the fire. Weather conditions added to the difficulties of the exchange.

Announcement was made this morning by H. E. Hayworth, local manager for the Central Illinois Public Service Company, that the loss of his company would be in the neighborhood of $500. A force of workmen repaired the damage done to the wires of the public service corporation today, and the current was turned on this afternoon.
                The work of the telephone company will not be so quickly done. Hill Moss, local manager for the Coles County Telephone and Telegraph Company, said this morning that he did not expect to have repairs made before Friday. New cables have been ordered from St. Louis. According to Mr. Moss, 275 telephones were put out of commission by the melting of the cables. The loss to his company, he said, was in the neighborhood of $800.00.
                No figures on the amount of insurance carried on the Grand Opera House could be obtained today because of failure to get into communication with J. E. Osborne of Decatur, owner of the theatre. William Quayle Setliffe, manager of the playhouse, said today that he did not feel at liberty to state the amount of insurance carried, although he admitted he knew the figure.
                It is expected that the owner of the theatre will arrive in Charleston tomorrow to be present when adjustment of his claim is taken up by the insurance companies.
                Because of the fire, seven dates for shows will be canceled by Manager Setliffe. Two of these dates were for this week, "The Girl and the Tramp," and the Belgian war pictures. The latter will be given in the Moose hall in the Richter building, while the former company will be notified of the disaster and instructed not to come to Charleston.

Manager Setliffe said today that he had no definite plans for himself in the future, but that he expected to remain in Charleston. He denied rumors to the effect that the plans were already underway for the construction of another playhouse.

An investigation of the circumstances surrounding the origin of the fire is being made by Oakley Hopkins, chief of the fire department. Information has reached the Chief which indicates that someone was in the theatre when the blaze broke out, he said today. The Chief would not state what he believed started the fire.
                The Grand Opera House was built in 1903, when it was known as the Charleston Opera House. The builders were J. A. Parker, George Muchmore and T.G. Chambers. The dedication of the playhouse was on August 12, 1903. the estimated cost of the structure was $25,000.
                Later the theatre was taken over by George Chambers, and later still was purchased by J. A. Parker, one of the builders. Within a few months of purchasing, Mr. Parker sold the theatre to J.E. Osborne of Decatur, the present owner. The last sale was made about four years ago.
LouRugani commented about RIVOLI Theatre; Two Rivers, Wisconsin. on Sep 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm

The Rivoli Theater at 1816-20 Washington Street in Two Rivers, Wisconsin announces that the film “Hitlers Children” starring Bonita Granville and Tim Holt is playing. Barely visible above the theater doors is “Make Hitler Mad. Buy a War Bond Here.” Trees with early spring foliage line the street. The anti-Nazi “Hitler’s Children” was released in January, 1943 and played in both Two Rivers and Manitowoc that spring. This photograph was previously published in the Spring 2004 issue of the “Two Rivers Historical Society Quarterly Newsletter” under the title “World War II at Rivoli.”

LouRugani commented about ORPHEUM Theatre; Kansas City, Missouri. on Aug 25, 2014 at 10:29 pm

The Kansas City Star, 19 November 1961, Page 96

LouRugani commented about Oshkosh Theatre on Aug 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm

(THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN, SATURDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 5, 1927) “At 6:OO p.m. Oshkosh starts its triumphal celebration. On the hour the doors of this new palace of wonders swings open and this city takes its rightful place among the other cities of the world, theatrically. Your new theater is a credit to Oshkosh, a monument to civic growth, a mark of firm faith in your future. Come to the opening tonight! It will be an occasion of delightful memory that will live with you always. 2,000 seats assure comfort in surroundings of unmatched splendor. A program of highest entertainment value awaits you. Look — Unit No. 1 "The Voice of the Theater”, A Unique Screen Welcome & Unit No. 2, Overture “Bits of Hits” Introducing the Saxonians, Art Hastings, Directing. Unit No. 3, Stage and Screen Novella “The Blue Boy”, An Epic in Color Film With Guila Bustabo, Wonder Child Violinist. Unit No. 4, “Here, There and Everywhere” with the Saxe Cameraman. Unit No. 5, Jack McConnell."

LouRugani commented about Fond du Lac 8 Theatres on Jul 31, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Plans are in the works to expand Fond du Lac Theatre on West Scott Street in light of the closing last week of Forest Mall Cinema. “"The trend now is for mega-screens or a small, plush deluxe theater and the mall just isn’t conducive to that,” said co-owner Dennis Frank who said the work could take place within the next couple of years. Options include adding a mega screen or a plush cozy theater to the existing eight-screen complex. The screen in theater No. 1 on Scott Street is about 40 feet across and nearly classifies as a mega-screen, which is typically 50 to 60 feet across. Frank and his brother Paul Frank also owned (since 1987) the 1973 FOREST MALL Cinema that closed last weekend and the RETLAW, which closed when the FOND DU LAC opened.

LouRugani commented about Genesee Theatre on Jul 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Genesee unveils grandeur of past; Cosby will open Waukegan theater (October 13, 2004, Chicago Tribune) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Comedian Bill Cosby will open the newly restored Genesee Theatre on Dec. 3, kicking off what officials hope will be a new era for Waukegan.

With its massive crystal chandeliers, lushly painted decorative plaster and state-of-the-art sound system, the Genesee was restored—at a cost of $23 million—to attract visitors to downtown.

“This will make people believe Waukegan is on its way back,” Mayor Richard Hyde said Tuesday.

And Cosby as an opening act “is like coming out of the starting blocks,” Hyde said.

City officials are banking on the 2,500-seat Genesee drawing people—and their entertainment dollars—to Waukegan and its lakefront, which the city wants to transform with shops, restaurants and homes. So far, a parking deck and some housing are under construction downtown.

“Things are happening all over the place, and it is an exciting time for Waukegan,” said city spokesman David Motley. “We’re looking at it as a catalyst for change in downtown.”

City officials gave tours Tuesday to reporters and other guests as workers installed red velvet seats and technicians tested the sound system.

“It is a first-class facility,” said David Rovine, general manager of the Genesee for SMG, the Philadelphia arena, theater and convention center manager recently hired to run the Genesee. “There are no limitations because it is so grand.”

Rovine declined to name other acts to follow Cosby or to say how many he expects to book a year.

He said the Genesee will bring something for everyone, from Broadway-style shows to concerts to comedians.

“We will really match the makeup and temperament of the people here,” he said.

In many ways the Genesee, opened in 1927 and closed in 1982, harks back to downtown Waukegan’s heyday when it was a bustling host to several grand theaters and their many patrons.

“There were lines down to Sheridan Road,” said Hyde, remembering the Genesee of the 1930s. “And it cost 15 cents to get in.”

Waukegan native Jack Benny premiered movies at the Genesee, which also put on circuses and musical acts.

But the restoration of the theater has not been without controversy. The project’s cost originally was pegged at $15 million, and it’s also opening a year later than planned.

And some residents still bring up the messy departure of Ray Shepardson, a national theater restoration expert who oversaw the project. Shepardson left earlier this year after quarreling with Friends of the Historic Genesee Theatre, a non-profit group formed to help raise funds for its operation.

Among other things, Shepardson and the non-profit disagreed on his programming strategy, which called for 200 to 300 shows a year. Some city officials and members of the Friends board called that plan unrealistic.

Illinois Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), a member of the board, acknowledged the acrimony.

“We’ve had a lot of bumps in the road, and we have had a lot of peaks and valleys,” Link said. “But the only thing that matters is the peak of Dec. 3.”

Calling the Genesee one of the finest theaters in the country, Shepardson said he was heartbroken over what happened.

“I just think it’s very unfortunate that my approach to programming and operation of the theater has been abandoned,” he said. “Mark my words. Start counting the shows and you won’t need all of your fingers and all of your toes.”

But those thoughts were far from the minds of many who waited outside the Genesee on Tuesday afternoon for the announcement of the opening act. Tickets for Cosby will go on sale at 10 a.m. Oct. 22 through Ticketmaster. Prices haven’t been announced yet.

“Contrary to what Chicago thinks,” said Mike Pasiewicz, a local native with memories of the Genesee before it closed, “there is a Waukegan, and we are moving on up.”

LouRugani commented about Orpheum Theatre on Jul 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

(From )

The vintage Orpheum Theater, with its once-regal presence on State Street, is getting a facelift from the inside out. New co-owner Gus Paras is sprucing up the long-neglected auditorium. Interior artwork and stenciling are being restored with painstaking care. New front doors, resembling those that first swung open in 1927, are coming soon.

So are veiny black granite panels, meant to replace the blond brick that was put on the theater’s facade when it was “remuddled” in the 1960s.

“Remuddled” is the term of architect Arlan Kay, who has restored many a historic building and is overseeing changes to the Orpheum. Those changes are meant to undo alterations made to the movie palace half a century ago in the name of modernization.

The sign we see outside the Orpheum today is from that mid-century period. But oh, you should have seen what she looked like in her glory days.

Lights raced up and down the original sign, crowned with an Art Deco flair. The theater, designed by Chicago architects Rapp and Rapp, had cost a whopping $750,000 to build.

Now scarred with rust, the current sign stays in place because hanging a replacement over the sidewalk would violate city ordinances. City leaders are working on a solution.

It will take time — and many dollars — but one day the sparkling name Orpheum, like the theater itself, could again be a glamorous Downtown star.

LouRugani commented about Blue Mill Theatre on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:24 pm

(Motion Picture World, July-September 1911) Kenosha, Wis. — The Orpheum was damaged to the extent of $5,000 by fire. The fire started just after a crowd of people had left.