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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?
But they do give out photocopied reviews of every movie playing, and they have a weekly email newsletter one may subscribe to.
Speaking of which, please note this item in this week’s email:
“Please note the curtailed schedule while we transition to all digital from 35mm projection. We are proud to say that process is now complete at our Bellmore Cinema. We’ll always love film; however, digital is the wave of the future. Some people say it’s the tsunami of the future in the industry.”
I don’t see a listing for the Embassy here.
This theater was the site of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s disastrous 1930 first out-of-town tryout for their eventual smash hit comedy Once in a Lifetime, their first collaboration.
Well, you know for sure they’re not taking it down!
“New plastic-molded seats” at the Cine 42. Wow! My backside is aching just at the memory of them.
Direct link to Roxy marquee photo
I wonder if the Woodbay Construction Co. is still in business. The did so many theater conversions, I’d love to see their files.