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Larry Widen, author of the 1986 book MILW. MOVIE PALACES, told me that he can’t find the last owner of record whose tax bill address was bogus! So, I guess the city owns the place in reality, but probably awaits a court action to seize it. Of course, they don’t want to do that since then they will be responsible for the many thousands for demolition —but which they will be responsible for eventually anyway. Often cities wait in “benign neglect” for some part of the building to collapse into public view as a hazard before they reluctantly pay for demolition (especially when no one is likely to buy the cleared land!) We can but wait, unless someone knows someone in city government, since Tim is right: even a cop doesn’t have the right to enter private property without Warrent or Probable Cause.
The photo Warren links to is the one I spoke of in my post above. Looking at it there again, I couldn’t help but wonder at the enormous job of replacing the light bulbs!! There must have been THOUSANDS of them in there!! This would have been one of those cases where by the time a man got done replacing bulbs at one end of the theatre, it was time to start again at the other!
PCino— I know I would also like to get in there with a cop as escort if your invitation extends to me. There is, however, no Contact data for you on your Profile page; you can update that by clicking on Profile in the upper right corner. If you click on my name in blue below, you will be taken to my Profile page and my Contact info there.
I usually avoid the telecast due to length and boredom with it, but with this news, I just may tune in! I recall that back in ‘88 or '89 they had a 'traditional’ draperies decor a la a movie palace and it was quite grand! I wonder if there is anywhere to find images of that year?
While I’m on the subject of one of my very favorite theatres, the B.P., let me excerpt a small portion of a MARQUEE article on the business practices of the B.P. which did NOT deal with business:
“In the lower lounge the architects had planned the installation of a huge fish tank to be stocked with exotic fish. There were large colored spotlights on both sides of the tank, red, blue, and amber, …. The tank was approximately ten feet in height and fifteen feet in width…. On the night before the opening of the theatre the workmen began filling the tank with water, slowly…. The water had reached perhaps three quarters of the tank’s capacity , representing thousands of gallons…. Suddenly there was a tremendous crash; the glass gave way and an enormous cascade of water came pouring into the lounge, engulfing everything, including us.
“Need I say that the lounge had been completely furnished with magnificent carpeting, furniture, artworks, bric-a-brac, etc. Bedlam reigned….
“We toiled all night [to clean up.] Everyone was exhausted. We could not remove the soaked carpet, but managed to bail out most of the water…. It tooks weeks to restore the lounge to its intended beautiful state, minus the fish tank. Architects make mistakes too.” —-by Ben Rosenberg on page 26 of MARQUEE of 3rd Qtr. 1999 (Vol 31#3)
Let me speculate here that it was not the architects' fault at all. An architect is also an engineer and can easily calculate the strength of glass and framework needed for so much water, unless all details were up to a negligent contractor, as this would have legally been a ‘furnishing’ and thefore not part of an architect’s contract. Likely what happened was that those lamps warmed the glass just as the workmen put in the hose from the nearest cold water spigot. Cold water on warm glass would have created so much thermal stress that failure of the glass was a forgone conclusion to any engineer, and no doubt none were present that night. Large aquariums were successful in many other theatres, so the concept was not at fault; the installation was. One wonders what replaced so large a furnishing.
Patsy: Ed Solero’s post above mine came in while mine was being written, so now I know where you got the quote from: that organ page. Let us all hope that the organ —and what remains of the theatre— survives this transition to new use or new ownership! Any ‘angels’ out there who care to fund a multi-million dollar restoration?!!!!
Patsy puts quotation marks around the wonderful description but forgot to list the source! You know: Speaker, Title, Date, etc. Come on Patsy; I know you can do it. Any more of the description that can be copied?
As to views of the original interior, do look up the article I listed above where there are 4 views in b&w, of course, one of which is not seen elsewhere. That elsewhere includes the Theatre Historical Society’s MARQUEE magazine of 3rd Qtr. 1998 (Vol 30 #3) wherein there are 11 photos (including a gorgeous two-page spread) as well as the cover, all vintage b&w. This can be obtained for a few dollars under the BACK ISSUES link on their site: www.historictheatres.org They also have color snap shots of the interior pre- and post gymnasium conversion, not published. All these can be made for you as photo prints for a fee; see their link there: ARCHIVE. Send them a photocopy of the view you want from the magazines and the appropriate fees as listed on their ARCHIVE page, and in a few weeks you will have a photo print worthy of framing. I know; I have an 8x10 of that glorious proscenium! I sometimes use a magnifier and put it and the photo close to my nose and then slowly back it away, and the sensation is as though one is right in the room. Of course, once you get a photo, nothing prevents you from blowing it up to mural size if you really want to be able to ‘walk into’ it!
Yes, ‘importantthings’ is right that cell phone annoyances are just that and hardly rate among the Important Things of life that are discussed daily in the media. But most people are well aware of those problems but can do little or nothing about them. Rest assured that God is well aware of our problems and has already set in motion His purpose by which to eliminate them according to His timetable. But here most people complain about this annoyance which they feel that people can do something about. This annoyance may indeed be just a ‘tempest in a teapot’ compared to the ills of the world, but that is the ‘teapot’ they have chosen to enter and let off some steam in, on this web site. For that relevant carping they should NOT be criticized, for this site is about theatres and what happens in them.
Thanks for a wonderful Comment, Mr. Zimmerman. It is the first-hand reports such as yours which bring alive the vibrant history of our theatres. If you are still in the Milw. area and would like me to add your E-mail address to my list of those receiving occasional bulletins about local theatres, just click on my name in blue below and you will be taken to my profile page where under Contact you will find my address; just send off a message and all will be set. And welcome to this CT forum. If you click on “MILWAUKEE” in brown above you will see all the MKE theatres now listed here, and we would welcome your comments on any of them. Don’t see a name listed? Feel freeb to add the theatre/cinema yourself (due to peripheral neuropathy destroying the use of my hands, I will not be writing any more long descriptions/histories). Perhaps you can take over.
I’m afraid that it is “more easily said than done.” When a promoter wants to use a theatre, he first seeks a contract that will both get him enough profit to warrant the rent of the stage, as well as security for his personnel and equipment brought in. If a place is in legal limbo, or the owner/operator appears not sufficiently solvent to come against in court to regain anything lost under a performance contract, then any promenter or film distributor will think twice about that venue. What they need at this point is an “angel” who will financially guarantee any contract they sign, even if meantime the city is found to be the authority of record and kicks the Friends out in the midst of a contract. The promoter or film distributor would then know that they would be compensated for their losses. Any contract is only as good as one’s ability to enforce it, and if the theatre has no money to attach as compensation, then any judgement in the plaintif’s favor would not be worth the time and bother. A theatre is first a business and must operate as such, regardless of how beautiful it is. Any “angels” out there?
It is wonderful to hear that the ORIENTAL is back and flourishing again. It is a pity that they didn’t have the original House Curtain restored along with the rest of the auditorium draperies, for they contributed so much to the “hashish dream decor” as it was called by the late Ben Hall in his Landmark book of 1961, “The Best Remaining Seats.” Of course, the estimated cost of over a million dollars in today’s dollars was probably enough to put that idea to rest!
Bryan, I get upon clicking:
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Mr. Fortini’s final sentance statement above is corroborated by the illustrated page forming the inside back cover of the PARADISE Annual nentioned above. A sad but true account there.
And as one of the “greatest theatre designers of all time,” his works have been fittingly represented in the publications of The Theatre Historical Society of America ( www.historictheatres.org ); are you aware of them? If not, you would certainly do well to contact their Ex. Director via the E-mail address given on the bottom of their first page. Use T.L.’s name as a search term here, and you should come up with dozens of referrences. Welcome to the forum.
The best repository of information is the Theatre Historical Society in the Chicago area; contact their Ex. Dir. via the E-mail address given on their site at: www.historictheatres.org Look on the page there: Archive for details.
Of course you will already have contacted Long Island Univresity, the owner of the former theatre for what they have, but a historic source you may not be aware of is the well illustrated magazine article “Theatre Lighting, Its Tragedies, Its Virtues — The Brooklyn Paramount” by Frank Cambria in The Illuminating Engineering Society’s journal TRANSACTIONS of Nov., 1929 (24:810—907) to be found in larger libraries or the Library of Congress.
Please keep bus up to date on the progress of the book, which I am sure many of us will buy.
Sad to say, the only thing that will save the JERSEY from the greed of developers is money — BIG MONEY! You must always cultivate a Friend on the city council who will keep his ear to the ground and advise you as to which politician is getting how much money under the table, then you must discretely approach him vote in your favor. If he is getting a hundred thousand for his “progressive” vote, you must come up with $250.000 for his “more progressive” vote; if he is getting a million, you must present him $250 million, plus swear to turn all your volunteers into his campaign volunteers next voting year. To do anything less than this is simply naieve as to how politics works, and quite futile. Once Big Money wants a site, consider that site SOLD unless you can out bid that money. This is a fact of life in America today, and I have only pity for those unable to see that reality. Remember that there is really no such thing as morals in politics, which is defined as the acqusition of power through money. If you can’t furnish lots of money to a politician, then he will see you and your cause as part of the problem and not the solution (to HIS problem which is always Money). Now if you can ASSUREDLY get overwhelming numbers of voters lined up against him, that may get him to favor your cause even if you don’t have Big Money, unless he is a ‘Lame Duck’ in which case his attitude wll be: “The public (voters) be damned!” In such cases, only Lots of Money will help you with him. You respond to this by saying: ‘But bribery is illegal.’ Then I say as the French do: ‘It is to laugh.’
By all means, photograph more of the JERSEY, and arrange now to salvage artifacts, but don’t break your heart by trying to resist BIG MONEY; it is the ultimate ruler everywhere in our society in this nation, and in most all others. The wonderful JERSEY is but another ‘pebble’ in the on-rushing ocean of Big Money.
There are some demolition photos in the Theatre Historical Society’s ANNUAL for 1977 “The Paradise in Chicago” still available as a Back Issue under that heading from them at: www.historictheatres.org It is also quite likely that they have other such photos for sale; contact them for a list of the demolition views, or any other views desired.
Ed: I finally got my computer to enlarge that demolition photo, and now I must agree that it is not looking out upon Times Square as I had thought. My apology is extended to any who may have been misled. The photo may well be of the areas you posit, but I guess we will never be able to prove which, since I doubt the photographer is still around to advise us, if indeed he could recal.
You are also quite right about the “circular lobby” view except that it was actually semi-circular, which I have a hunch is what you meant. They referred to it as the “Ticket Lobby.” In the 1976 Annual about the theatre, published by the Theatre Historical Society ( www.historictheatres.org ) are floor plans and many photos which make all areas clear, but they show no demolition photos. In 2001 two issues of their MARQUEE magazine show photos of the original facade and its lesser reproduction, as well as other changes to the interior. Columbia Univ. library as well as N.Y. Public should have copies of these that you may enjoy.
In Ed’s links above, the “circular lobby/vestibule” photo is virtually the same view as the Times' demolition view except that the Times' photo is from the ground floor level. The wall that appears to be windows in the 1926 view is actually two “lunettes” (mock windows) that are really mirrors heavily draped. In the demolition view the bare structural wall is the wall that the ‘mirror windows’ were hung on, and to the right in the demolition photo is the daylight pouring through the place where the great window with the stained glass ‘medallion’ was. A man I know was there during demolition and described the huge stained glass circle as “smashed,” so probably nothing of it remains. The same logo ‘medallion’ is seen in the 1926 view as parts of the ornate railing between the columns, and a section of that railing with medallion was for sale on eBay a while back, for those still looking for a souvenier of the theatre — see the comment about it above.
Thank you for the update, Timothy. This implies that at least part of the seating still remains.
The theatre and surrounding massive office building are still owned by Long Island University, so one would have to consult them as to the future of the former theatre space, which, one must remember, it has not been since 1961. So don’t expect anyone there to remember it as the Brooklyn Paramount. It is still to them their old gymnasium/classroom space. I suggest a New Yorker approach them in writing to get a preferably written response; but don’t hold your breath waiting for a response, since they are a private business that is NOT responsible to you. No one can demand that they respond, or do this or that with their own property. Gentle, respectful inquiries and encouragement to preserve what is left of the theatre are the best that any outsiders can do.
Given the economics of today’s exhibition, it barely makes it as a three screen, so it is highly unlikely that it will be returned to single screen status. In the ORIENTAL’s case, the splitting to three screens involved only the insertion of two screening rooms under the balcony, so the major portions of the theatre have been retained in the front area of seating along with the original stage and virtually all decor. Whether or not they will turn on all those light bulbs not burned out, and let you see all the glory that was original, is another matter. The theatre is a principal showhouse for the Landmark chain, but got a new owner a couple of years ago, and it remains to be seen what he will do with it, since he is an investor, not a showman.
P.S.: If you have a car, you can still get a nice Theatre Pipe Organ experience here, but not in a theatre (the ORIENTAL’s had a major failure of its electronic switching, I’m told, and the RIVERSIDE’s and the PABST’s are very rarely played), but in a unique restaurant: The Organ Piper at 4353 S. 108th St., (414) 529-1177; the hours that the organ is played vary, so phone ahead to confirm. It is a long drive from Marquette, but possibly worth it to you. The organ there is a 27-rank (voice) of three manuals and quite capable of major music; they take requests and sell CDs/DVDs of the organ. The restaurant is casual and is owned by the local heads of the Dairyland Theatre Organ Society.
Sad to say, we have only one remaining movie palace still operating: the ORIENTAL, and from the views shown at another site
( http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=4035 ) of it, you may well conclude that it is worth your time and trouble. It is on the northeast side of the city quite a ways away from your friend at Marquette University, but if he doesn’t want to drive as far as the ORINETAL, he can always show you an almost forgotten palace right there on his campus: the former VARSITY, which now serves the same purpose as “Malthusen Hall.”
Just a few blocks eastward on the same street is what remains of the old downtown theatre row, and the RIVERSIDE is still open there but only for live action shows. It has just been brought under the aegis of local millionaire Michael Cudahy who also controls the PABST, where tours are given on Saturdays at noon, and this is a National Historic Landmark which one should not miss! The RIVERSIDE has been refurbished and will be aglow in its rosy baroque way, though there are no tours of it. Sometime in 2007 the AVALON on the far southeast side is supposed to open, and if it does, it will be with a full restoration or adaptation depending upon what the recent new owner decides to do there, but one hopes this charming Spanish atmospheric will be restored to the cozy jewel he promises.
While you are downtown at the RIVERSIDE, I wish your friend could somehow get you into the GRAND, the former WARNER, which was our most opulent palace up until it was split in ‘73, but it was unsplit a couple of years ago but still stands dark as it has since 1995. There is no way to get in there, and all the textiles have been removed, so it is now more to be longed for from photos showing it in ornate 'French palatial—French Art Deco’ styling that it revealed in 1931. The symphony wanted to make it its second concert hall, but they got into financial trouble and now the building stands idle waiting for a rescuer. Photos of it in its prime are over at the Central Public Library, six blocks west of it, or during business hours you both could go to the Library of the County Historical Society in a charming three sided building on 3rd st. just a few blocks north of the theatre. Also at these libraries is the 1986 book “Milwaukee Movie Palaces” which will give you a much better idea of what we have and all that we have lost. Enjoy your trip.
For well over 50 years, the name of this street and its theater was pronounced BUR-li, as it is today and probably was when the English name originated centuries ago, but recent evidence comes to light suggesting that in the mid-nineteenth century the name was pronounced ‘BUR-lee’, whether accurately or not. Kind of reminds one of the “Burlies” of that era, the word being a bastardized version of “Burlesque”, the more unsavory version of vaudeville. Milwaukee did have a few ‘Burlies’ around the turn of the century, but there is no evidence that this ‘photoplay parlor’ ever showed such very live action, nor any films of ill repute.