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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.
Tinseltoes, you are a cinema treasure!
Saw Vertigo here in 2005; auditorium is lovely. And took a peek at the mini-cinema, which is wildy decorated like an outdoor garden (I think). It was great to a see a 100 seat “atmospheric.”
George Burns mentions this theater many times — on his TV show, in his books, in his act. Apparently there was a real tough crowd in this house.
Scan and post those pics, please.
Link to Berserk ad
Article from News-Gazette.com 7/19/12
CHAMPAIGN — It’s believed that the seats in the Virginia Theatre have been playing an integral role to performances and movies in downtown Champaign since about 1939.
And while the seats will be replaced as a part of the ongoing renovation at the theater (it’s closed until spring of next year), the seats will live on, both through residents who purchase them and when they’re refurbished and resold.
The Champaign Park District is hosting a sale of about 100 seats from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday in front of the building. Seats will sell for $50 each. Park district spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said it’s a cash-and-carry sale, so make sure you have a way to take your seats home.
She said residents have expressed interest in owning a piece of local history.
“It’s all being done as a fundraiser for the Virginia Theatre,” Auteberry said. “All of the money is going right back into the restoration effort.”
The rest of the seats will be salvaged and picked up by the Discount Seating Co., based in Jackson, Tenn.
Owner Austin Fongers said he’ll pick up about 1,300 seats in Champaign. While he doesn’t yet have a buyer for them, he plans to restore them to have them ready for sale when someone needs them. It’s possible they could be sold as a lot, or some could be sent to little theaters around the country.
“It’s a good, old, quality chair,” Fongers said of the seats from the Virginia.
Jim Lopez, vice president and partner at Broeren Russo, which is the project’s general contractor, said giving the seats to Fongers' company keeps them out of the landfill and provides an immediate solution for what to do with them.
“We really didn’t want to throw them away if we could do something else with them,” Lopez said, calling it a “win-win.”
Lopez said the restoration will include sandblasting the chairs' metal backs and repainting them, stripping the existing foam and cloth and adding new seats.
Fongers said his company picks up seats all over the country and has been in business for 10 years. It also specializes in restoring seats on-site.
Part of the Virginia’s renovation will be the installation of new seats. Although the park district hasn’t yet finalized exactly what they’ll look like, Auteberry said, they will look historically accurate.
The park district is working with architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, which specialize in theater restoration. She said many times when people are restoring theaters, they put in new seats.
“Eventually, you either have to refurbish them or put new seats in,” she said.
The new seats, like the entire remodel, will be chosen “with a strong effort to maintain historical integrity,” Auteberry said.
She believes they’ll have a rich color palette, perhaps with deep red or maroon, blacks and golds, she said.
“People jump to the conclusion that we’re making everything new and modern,” Auteberry said. “While codes and materials have changed (since the theater was built), we’ve always been very mindful of maintaining the historic integrity of the building.”
However, when the theater reopens, you can expect to be comfortable in the new seats.
“They definitely will be more comfortable just because they haven’t had people sitting in them for the last 60-some years,” she said.
Article from News-Gazette.com (IL) 7/22/12
Onarga Theater owner Randy Lizzio needs $65,000 to buy a digital projection system to keep his movie house going. But he wouldn’t think of asking a bank for a loan.
After all, the Onarga Theater, which shows first-run movies, barely breaks even.
So like the owner of the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre in Gibson City, Lizzio has turned to raising money for a digital fund.
So far, he has brought in $7,700, with about $2,500 of that coming from a taco dinner and a silent auction of donated and new items at the community center in Onarga.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re hoping in the process prices will come down a little bit, and hopefully, we’ll be able to meet our goal,” Lizzio said.
Mike Harroun, owner of the Harvest Moon, needs to raise even more, roughly $165,000, for digital projection systems for his two screens as the film industry moves permanently from film to all-digital releases.
So far, his digital fund is about $7,000 — and nearly $80 of that came from three Bloomington girls who gave Harvest Moon the profits from the lemonade stands they put up twice in their town.
“They wanted to keep the drive-in there because they really love coming there,” Harroun said.
Sanford Hess, operator of the Art Theater in Champaign, which turns a profit, but not a big one, knew he couldn’t afford an $80,000 digital projection system. (The costs of the systems vary according to the size of the theater, distance from the screen to projection booth and other factors.)
So last year, he recommended that a community cooperative form and take over the Art. An interim board of directors was established and set a goal of raising $100,000.
The elected co-op board recently reported that it has unofficially reached its goal — unofficial because shares ($68 each) purchased since July 4 have not yet been counted. The board is now taking applicants for a manager and expects to take over the theater in mid-August, four months earlier than expected.
The Art is among a few smaller indie theaters that apparently have survived the digital tsunami. Others haven’t been so lucky.
“It’s like a train that’s been rolling down the tracks for six years,” Hess said. “Everybody saw it coming, and finally it’s here. A lot of theaters will close. It’s unfortunate.”
Indeed, the National Association of Theatre Owners predicts that 20 percent of North American theaters, representing some 10,000 screens, will not convert to digital and will likely disappear from the American landscape.
Already, two area movie houses have shut down: the double-screen Gem in Villa Grove last year and Hoopeston’s Lorraine Theatre in April. Both buildings are for sale.
Soon after the closing of the Lorraine — an art-deco house built in the 1920s for stage events and movies — a Hoopeston resident named Scooter (his legal name) established the Friends of the Historic Lorraine Theatre Facebook page, mainly to gather ideas from the “Cornjerker Nation” on how to preserve it.
Why does saving small-town and indie movie houses matter? Michael Hurley, an owner of two independent theaters in Maine that have already undergone digital conversion, gave an answer to that in a commentary he wrote for Indiewire, published in February:
“I think of the millions of dreams and careers that have taken flight in a movie theater. I know that the economic development power of movie theaters has been profound. People want to live where there are theaters. For the same reasons that every successful city center, mall and downtown works to attract and keep a movie theater, small towns all over the world stand to lose a foundation that has kept them connected to the world. I believe the loss is unacceptable.”
And contrary to what some believe, the U.S. government, unlike some other countries, does not offer grants to help movie houses with digital conversion. Historic theaters in the United States don’t even qualify for tax credits for purchasing digital projection equipment, Hurley wrote.
Hess said people on both coasts are making the decisions that hurt small-town movie houses and drive-ins, mainly by arranging digital-projection system financing agreements that are available to only certain types of theaters.
The Art, Onarga and Harvest Moon do not qualify.
Via the agreements, Hess said, a third party basically buys the digital equipment on behalf of the theater. The third party is paid back by the movie studios over a period of time. The agreements don’t always finance all the costs of digital conversion and carry restrictions and requirements.
So Harroun, Lizzio and Hess have been forced to be creative to try to continue to provide services they feel are important to their communities.
Harroun, for example, believes there is nothing more American than going to a drive-in movie. So far, though, only six of the nearly 400 drive-ins nationwide have been able to convert to digital, he said.
“A lot of mom-and-pop ones — they’re going to close,” he said. “They can’t afford to convert; the money’s not there. I have a tremendous business and can’t afford it.”
While Hess tells people to go to Harvest Moon now because it might not be around much longer, Harroun believes he will raise the money for the digital conversion at the theater he has owned for 23 years.
“I’m positive I’ll keep the drive-in open. I just got to keep everybody on course,” said Harroun, who also owns Angel Services, an automotive repair and sales shop in Onarga, where he lives.
For its digital fund, the Harvest Moon so far has sold T-shirts, and purses and wallets made of film. Harroun also plans a family-friendly concert with various acts, including a headliner, on Sept. 8 at his drive-in 30 miles north of Champaign.
He’s selling $10 chances to win a 1967 Mustang he donated to the cause. The name of the winner will be drawn at the September event.
Like the Onarga and Art, Harvest Moon shows first-run movies seven nights a week. Admission is $6 a head with kids younger than 4 admitted free.
All three theaters also pride themselves on selling concessions at lower prices than the multiplexes; the Onarga Theater even sells fresh, homemade caramel corn.
Lizzio, who with his wife, Cheryl, bought the 215-seat Onarga four years ago, has been taking cues from the JEM Theatre in Harmony, Minn., when it comes to raising money for digital conversion.
The JEM turned to the community; it responded, donating more than $40,000 to the theater’s digital fund.
Lizzio points out that Harmony and Onarga are around the same size. Harmony has 1,020 residents; Onarga, 1,368.
“They’re like a success story; they were trying to raise the money, and they actually did it,” he said. “It’s very possible to do this because it’s been done by other places. Even in this economy.”
However, Lizzio realizes he and others in the same ship are running out of time. Though he’s upgraded his movie house, including the addition of digital-ready sound, he needs a digital projection system. Fox Movies has said it will not produce any 35mm films in 2013 and beyond; theater owners believe other movie studios are roughly on the same track.
So Lizzio, who also owns a sign shop in Onarga and recently started a promotional go-kart business, plans to step up fund-raising efforts in September. One will be the screening of the 1949 Gene Autry movie “Loaded Pistols.”
The single-screen Onarga Theater, which shows first-run movies seven days a week and charges $5 admission with kids 3 and younger admitted free, also sells T-shirts and on-screen advertising. All the profits from those sales go into the theater’s digital fund.
Lizzio said the majority of his fund-raising efforts will continue to be geared toward giving people something for their money, though the theater has received some no-strings-attached donations.
“I’m still positive,” he said. “I guess you have to go out, you can’t just sit back and wait and hope that people will donate. You have to be constantly out there to make more people aware of what you’re trying to do and educate them on what’s going on. A lot of people don’t know.”
Article from News-Gazette (IL) 7/22/12
There is the Great Escape IMAX 14 now open in Dickson City, which I’ve been to several times and really enjoy. Link
I always thought this theater was a bit of a pain in the neck, and that BoxOffice article reminded me why — short lobby, steps down into lounge, entrance in the back, frosted white glass here and there — I never got its supposed charm.