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Lou Lumenick really loves the movies, and movie theaters, and is one of the best reporters and reviewers working in New York City today.
Another long article from the News-Gazette (09/25/12)
GIBSON CITY — Mike Harroun, owner of the Harvest Moon Twin Drive In Movie Theatre, doesn’t count himself among the nation’s 1 percent.
“I’m not one of the rich. I’m a working-class guy. I’m Joe the Plumber. Unfortunately, Momma didn’t leave me a silver spoon,” he said.
He’s not complaining. He said in the past 23 years, he’s done something he enjoys: owning and operating, with the help of family, the Harvest Moon, some 30 miles north of Champaign.
He said he might not be able to do it much longer if the theater doesn’t raise $120,000 to buy digital projection equipment as the movie industry moves to all digital releases this and next year.
So far, Harvest Moon has raised $17,250, mainly by selling chances to win a 1967 Mustang. Pam Jeffries of Roberts was the lucky ticket holder.
Her name was drawn earlier this month at a fundraising event at the drive-in; it featured live music by seven bands and inflatables for the kids.
But it was not as successful as Harroun had hoped. Friends told him the reason was he didn’t sell alcohol.
So, like other hard-hit movie theaters, including the Onarga Theatre, Harvest Moon has turned to online fundraising via Kickstarter, which bills itself as the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.
Here’s how it works: People go to a Kickstarter project they support and pledge a certain amount of money. The organization trying to raise the money must set a goal. If the goal is not met by a certain deadline, Kickstarter does not charge the bank accounts or credit cards of people who made pledges.
So far, Harvest Moon has raised $37,200 in Kickstarter pledges toward the $120,000 goal. The deadline for pledges is Sept. 28.
“If we do hit the goal at that time, that’s the day the credit cards and bank accounts get charged,” said Ben Harroun, manager of Harvest Moon and Mike’s son.
“If we don’t hit the goal by that deadline, all of the $37,000 pledged disappears, and we’re back in the same boat trying to see what we can do to continue to stay open to the end of the year.”
The Onarga Theatre, which is 48 miles north of Champaign, opened its Kickstarter effort last week. So far people have pledged $2,066. The Onarga Theatre Kickstarter goal is $50,000; the deadline is Oct. 18.
Onarga Theatre co-owner Randy Lizzio estimates he needs $65,000 altogether to convert to digital projection at his single-screen movie house, which shows mainly first-run movies.
He’s already raised $9,700 through fundraisers, including free screenings of classic movies. People who show up are asked to make donations.
Among other fundraisers planned by the theater are a variety show Oct. 7 and a speakeasy in the near future. The village granted Lizzio a one-day liquor license for the speakeasy.
“If it doesn’t happen through Kickstarter, we’ll find another way. We’ll keep fighting,” he vowed.
Regarding its Kickstarter campaign, the Harrouns said all it would take to succeed would be 200 persons each pledging $500.
Harvest Moon recently doubled the rewards for moviegoers who pledge at high levels. For a $500 donation, for example, the person or family would receive eight movie passes that would allow one person per pass to go to as many movies as possible during a season at Harvest Moon.
“If you want to come out 10 times and you bring eight people, each person gets in free for those 10 times,” Ben said. “They get popcorn and pop, T-shirts, hoodies. With a few trips, you cover your pledge. You’re getting well above and beyond the value of what you’re pledging.
“It’s a way for people to pre-pay for coming to the drive-in, in a way.”
Because Harvest Moon is open only six months a year, it does not qualify for the virtual print fees that movie companies give larger theaters, Mike Harroun said. The eligibility requirements for those are stacked against drive-ins and smaller independent movie theaters, he said.
“They literally bought the equipment for big theaters,” he said. “For the little guys, they did nothing. They just left us hanging.”
When some people ask why Harvest Moon, a for-profit venture which does a brisk business, needs to ask for donations to pay for digital projection equipment, Mike Harroun said those people don’t understand his business.
He said Harvest Moon doesn’t get to keep much of its gross.
The drive-in, which shows first-run movies, has to pay the movie companies and for electricity and other expenses.
“What people don’t understand is the film companies keep most of your money anyway,” Mike Harroun said. “I have a good business; everything I have is paid for, but it’s a $120,000 minimum to put (the digital projection) equipment in.”
And because Harvest Moon is open half a year, Harroun feels he can’t ask for a bank loan.
“Banks don’t really care much for part-time businesses,” he said. “I do 90 percent of my business in probably two months.”
Harroun also owns Angel Services, an automotive repair shop in Onarga, where he lives. It donated the Mustang to the fundraiser.
Harroun used to own the Onarga Theatre but sold it a few years ago to Randy and Cheryl Lizzio, who also live in Onarga.
The Harrouns said if they don’t reach their fundraising goals, Harvest Moon won’t remain open.
“We’re hoping we can make our goals,” Mike said. “That’s all we can do. Two hundred people at $500 or 400 at $250 — if you break it down that way, it doesn’t seem that bad.
“We will throw a big party if we make it, and all of those people will be invited.”
Nice photos in your link, Nick.
Ed — link no work.
Snap some pics and post them here!
From that website posted at 12:22pm
AMC Theaters Fresh Meadows 7 Remodel
Phased remodeling of movie theaters to provide new reclining seating – renovate box office – guest services- lobby – concessions and restrooms – Phase 1 auditoriums 1 thru 4 work start late August & complete by mid October – Phase 2 auditoriums 5 thru 7 start mid October & complete mid November – Phase 2 & overall substantial completion by late November -Owner will furnish Fixtures, furniture & equipment (FF&E) materials – The installation is part of the gc’s work & must be included in the bid- bidders are to utilize preferred vendors only, see project specifications.
Good lord, moviebuff!
I just posted three photos of this theater — one from the 1920’s, one from 1939 and one from circa 1970.
Another long article, this time from Herald-Review.com out of Decatur, Ill.
CHAMPAIGN — In 2013, the small, one-room theater at 126 West Church Street in Champaign will turn 100 years old. In a century of operation, it has outlasted nearly a dozen other historical theaters in the area, with the business changing hands from one owner to another on a regular basis.
But now, just a year shy of the 100th anniversary, patrons of the theater are hoping ownership will never change again as it is rechristened as the publically operated “Art Theater Co-Op.”
The co-op model of ownership came about as a concept put forth by the business’ previous operator, Sanford Hess, who realized after several years at The Art that a new form of support would be needed to keep the theater economically viable. A new board of directors was formed, and they have chosen Urbana resident Austin McCann as new Art Theater Co-Op general manager, with all the responsibilities of choosing films and planning long-term growth. It’s his responsibility to make use of the over $100,000 that was raised through the sale of $65 shares in the business, primarily intended to pay for the theater’s transition to digital projection.
“The interview process was really good and I could tell that we had similar ideas on what a cooperatively owned cinema could be,” said McCann, a Florida native who has spent several years working in the arts in Central Illinois. “I’ve been involved in the fiscal sides of art projects in Champaign-Urbana for the last few years and I needed to know all the aspects of putting together a successful arts project to get this position.”
McCann said patrons of The Art Theater Co-Op could expect a similar experience to the previous Art Theater model, with first-run independent films during the day and cult-classic late-night movie series in the evenings. He does hope to host a greater number of special events at the theater, such as the upcoming “Found Footage Festival” in mid-October.
“I hope that I offer a new level of exciting programming, but generally the theater will continue offering what it has offered,” he said. “One thing I would like to see would be more events that promote conversation between our patrons. We want them to be able to see each other as members of a film-based community that is serious about its support of the co-op and its love of film.”
Other factors, such as ticket prices, look to remain the same for the conceivable future. The theater’s website will undergo an overhaul to promote conversation about events online, and the digital projection system paid for through co-op shares will be installed sometime in 2013.
“We are trying to push back that installation somewhat because when we switch, we will have to move out our film projector because it’s too big,” McCann said. “We want to continue to be able to screen movies on film as well and we’re in the process of determining if that will be possible.”
More than anything, McCann wants to use his first days as the theater’s new general manager to thank those that made the co-op a possibility. He stresses that purchasing a share in the theater conveys “ownership, not membership,” and says the business is working on developing more perks for owners who want to invest in the future of the business. He believes the theater is an important part of the community that deserved to be saved.
“If the public didn’t step up and say ‘we want to keep this art-house cinema in Central Illinois,’ then we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I think it’s important that there be a place like this here. Film is an important art form, and the arts themselves are an important part of a democratic society. This is a special place where members of the community can be taken out of themselves to explore new possibilities and ideas.”
I think this officiaally opened this weekend. (I heard something about it on 1010-Wins radio.)
There’s a nice story of the time Bela Luosi made a personal appearance here on December 31, 1953, recounted in the book “Hollywood Rat Race” written by none other than Ed Wood, Jr. (I borrowed a copy from my local library!)
Screen built on the former stage.
Excerpt from Village Voice article:
Speaking of “social” moviegoing—in an abandoned-looking building next to the Kosher Hut in Gravesend lurks Brooklyn’s last living porno theater, the Kings Highway Cinema (711 Kings Highway, Brooklyn). Marquees and poster displays blacked out, the only clue to the theater’s ongoing operation is a computer printout in the window that reads “Box Office Inside.”
Paying $12 in a small lobby decorated with decoy posters of art house titles, the curious pass through an ominous turnstile and into history. Thanks to the 1995 zoning law that requires purveyors of XXX to devote 60 percent of their floor space to nonpornographic material, the two larger theaters, both empty and reeking like humidors, were playing a biopic of French gangster Jacques Mesrine and a Two and a Half Men.
The big houses are flanked by two theaters of some 15 seats each, screening, respectively, gay and straight hardcore. These are linked by a back passageway that’s a hive of private booths, an intermediary zone suggesting a fluid sexuality—though given the age of most of the patronage, sex might be purely theoretical.
The most off-putting element here: the concession area, which consists of hot-water carafes, Styrofoam cups, and a sign reading “Ask Cashier for Hot Chocolate Package.” Before its Deco interior was gutted by a fire in the 1960s, the Kings Highway was—as the Jewel Theatre—one of Brooklyn’s first art houses, frequented by a young Woody Allen.
The designer for Radio City Music Hall was a consulting architect for the Purdue (Elliot) Hall of Music. Photo
With that beautiful shot of the revamped auditorium, I try to picture myself in there watching the premiere attraction of Some Like it Hot.
Must have been an unforgettable experiencce..
Those sinks and hand dryers are still there.
The Sign of the Cross was already six years old in 1938. Was the Criterion showing a revival? Then it would need the extra ballyhoo to get asses in seats. And DeMille, of all showmen, knew that sex sells!
After carefully reviewing fred1’s response, I cannot make heads or tails out of where the four theaters were actually located!
(There’s no mention of #3, and from the photos #4 seems to be opposite the concession stand…)
After carefully reviewing the photo section, I cannot make heads or tails out of where the four theaters were actually located!
Boxoffice “deplored” the type of ballyhoo used to sell this doc. Ha! If they could only see what lay down the road…
Article with plenty of photos in NY Daily News on 8/24/12 by Lore Croghan Link
The last of Coney Island’s movie palaces has been locked up tight for four decades – but flapper-era glamour flourishes within, shining through peeling plaster.
Historian Charles Denson got a rare glimpse inside the Shore Theater, and is sharing what he saw in a photo exhibit at the Coney Island History Project.
“They don’t build ‘em like this anymore,” said Denson, 59, whose visit to the Surf Ave. landmark took his breath away.
“It was constructed during the Roaring Twenties, the last time there were grand plans for Coney Island,” he said. “My hope is the Shore is part of Coney Island’s future, too.”
When the Shore’s caretaker Andy Badalamenti let him take photos in 2006, the theater’s seats were torn out and there was rubble underfoot. But the electricity worked perfectly – Badalamenti had rewired the building.
“I went into the balcony with flashlights,” Denson remembered. “Andy said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and flipped a switch, and it all lit up. I was awestruck.”
The golden glow lit up a mix of neo-Renaissance grandeur and nautical fantasy he had never noticed when he went to the movies there as a teen.
Graceful arches flanked the stage where celebs like Al Jolson and Jerry Lewis had performed, and the soaring ceiling was crowned by a 150-foot-in-diameter dome.
In the mezzanine, a dramatic semicircle of pillars stood before walls painted glowing red. Overhead, plaster mermaids set in sea-green diamonds danced.
Henry Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon, sailed above the sea sirens.
What he saw gave him hope: “Theaters in much worse shape have been brought back to life,” he said.
Denson promised Badalamenti, who died last year, that he wouldn’t go public with his pix to avoid provoking break-ins by scavengers.
But this year, a photographer with a blog about abandoned theaters, Matt Lambros, figured out a way into the Shore. His pictures are all over the Internet, with pickup up by Gothamist and Huffington Post. The Shore’s secrets are secrets no longer – and security has been beefed up at the building to foil copycats.
The theater – a Loew’s for much of its five-decade run and a porn palace right at the end – was long vacant when Horace Bullard bought it in the late 1970s.
It won’t sit idle much longer, he said – he’s putting it up for sale by year’s end after he repairs the building exteriors, which he has permits to work on.
“Somebody will come along and know what to do with it,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place. It has a name. It has a history.”
He has been widely criticized for letting the Shore languish, most recently by Coney Island’s unofficial mayor Dick Zigun – who said city officials should take it over through eminent domain.
Bullard shrugged off the salvo: “Dick Zigun is not the city,” he said.
The man who mothballed the famous movie palace has at least one defender, though.
“He installed a new roof and stopped water damage – it cost a fortune,” Denson said. “He’s a controversial figure, but whatever you think of him, he preserved our theater.”
The photos stay up through Oct. 14 at CIHP on W. 12th St. See www.coneyislandhistory.org
I guess you meant on 42nd Street.
Which grindhouses? They’re often among my favorite cinema treasures.
It seems this house is still closed. Any word or info on reopening?