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Soon to Be Reborn
The single-screen theater in Jenkintown has been redone almost every decade for nearly a century. Neighbors formed a nonprofit to operate it and are renovating it once again. Known again as the Hiway, it’ll reopen in January, again as an arthouse.
I wrote that listing in today’s Philadelphia Weekly:
Worst Remolding Job
Once one of the few remaining golden age of Hollywood single-screen theaters, the Narberth met a fate worse than the wrecking ball when the owner twinned the house and â€œimprovedâ€ the setting but charmlessly destroyed, removed or covered up all the original ornate decoration. Now called the Narberth Stadium 2, the theater gives local residents of the sleepy village of Narberth the awful megaplex experience without the drive.
In Philadelphia Weekly today:
Most in Need of Improvement
With a lot of hype but no attention paid to projection, a lackadaisical staff and two screens carved from what was once a single house, the admittedly still-under-redevelopment Bryn Mawr Film Institute has miles to go before it reaches its goal of being the center of cinema outside the city. Midnight Movies, which is generally projected in 35 mm, can’t make up for a totally unsatisfying visual experience and inconsistent sound. A grave letdown made all the more ignominious by its promise.
in Philadelphia Weekly today:
Doylestown’s County Theater boasts a handsomely produced calendar but screens the size of postage stamps. Its excellently stocked concession stand would be even better if not for the slightly indifferent staff who simply shuffle though their duties when not under the manager’s watchful eye.
from Philadelphia Weekly today:
Opened in 1928 and now a triplex forged from a single-screen theater (which, in its most recent previous life, featured Evangelical Christian propaganda), the Ambler shows indies, and art and foreign films, along with some repertory and loads of special events. Handsomely designedâ€"but sadly with its largest screening room unfinishedâ€"the Ambler is poised as the place to catch a movie of quality in the sticks.
When’s the last time you saw a picture show from a balcony? Flawless, finicky projection on a giant screen in a classic but newly and intelligently refurbished theater built in 1903 make the Colonial Theater far and away the preeminent local moviegoing experience. Excellently (if somewhat obviously) programmed, their Classic Sundays repertory screenings offer legendary films as they were meant to be experienced. The theater anchors the burgeoning Phoenixville community by booking first-run features of note and hosting live events on its vaudeville-era stage the rest of the time.
from today’s Philadelphia Weekly article:
why do you think it wasn’t digital projection? I suppose somebody can call or visit the Ziegfeld and ask them, but I will assume that it was. I was there Saturday. Merely because there’s a ray of light from the booth doesn’t mean it isn’t digital- there still needs to be projection.
as to sound, yes, it would’ve been digital too, no matter the ad.
To answer a question above, a giant seating chart is in the Ticket Lobby, so people can select their Dreamgirls “Roadshow” seats.
1 PM Casino Royale show had at least a few hundred in the (opening weekend) audience yesterday (Saturday). That was good to see, since there haven’t been enough crowds since the megaplexes opened on 42nd Street. The movie was also playing at the AMC Empire. One ticket taker put on quite a show welcoming people to the theater. Such showmanship was appreciated. Agreed that the digital version looked great, and that Daniel Craig is an excellent James Bond.
There’s plenty of marquee single screens left in LA for Dreamgirls to run, but they’ve been vanishing in San Francisco. Where there? the Castro? (assuming “single theaters” means single screens, otherwise could be the Metreon if they put seat numbers on)
I’m not providing legal advice in stating this, but I will note that shopping malls often exclude teenagers.
I wish the balcony was open more often than only 1st shows on Monday to Friday. I sat there once, and greatly enjoyed the view.
That’s a great photo of the tower. V for Vendetta was great on the huge screen, and on the exterior. My photo from April:
My photo from April:
OOH LOOK DEAR
AN INDEPENDENT CINEMA!
My photo from April:
My closeups of the exterior sculptural decoration:
My photo from April 2006:
Already posted above was my photo from 2005:
From the above comments, it doesn’t sound like this theater can survive as is, with the huge auditorium. That would leave the Odeon Leicester Square is the one huge theater in the area.
My photo from April of this year:
This website indicates the movie theater appears to be doomed.
It says the following:
Odeon West End Leicester Square WC2H 7LP Odeon Web Site Seats: 1:500 2:832 [Sold February 2006 for redevelopment; cinema use to continue while plans agreed]
I had in mind people keeping quiet and their cell phones and other gadgets off.
What do you mean “dressed formally”? White tie? Black tie? Jackets & ties?
How about if all the major exhibitors provide the same lecture, and issue ID cards good at any movie theater, FOR ALL PEOPLE INCLUDING ADULTS who wish to see movies?
Wonderful! What will become of the posters? Will they be framed and displayed in the premises of the movie theater? or a community center? or lent or donated to the Free Library of Philadelphia or the Atwater Kent museum?
Perhaps somebody could photograph the posters, post the photos to a site like flickr, and link here. I’d be glad to photo them and might even supply some friends as volunteer searchers. www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org))
Courtesy of Vince Young, here’s the seat count for the other side of the theatre. Please post these seat counts for other theaters, for convenience (do you want to see the movie in the 84 seat auditorium?) and history’s sake.
Aud 15 – 187
Aud 16 – 188
Aud 17 – 188
Aud 18 – 188
Aud 19 – 84
Aud 20 – 188
Aud 21 – 188
Aud 22 – 300
Aud 23 – 487
Aud 24 – 382
Maybe other movie theater exhibitors could send their staff down to the Rheem for training in being “always properly dressed and professional” That would make a nice difference nationwide in moviegoing!
The Hiway’s website has numerous photos of the renovation, including discoveries made.
There’s also a pending sale of ornate sconces, the 1985 stained glass, and modern light fixtures.
Some exhibitors like AMC place a “1” after any single screen they operate. Especially with the merger, AMC is operating other singles like the Tower East (72nd Street) in NYC.
The magnficience of the Uptown is its huge screen and its balcony. It won’t be chopped up.
Whether AMC cares or not, the Uptown is still viable for movies, mainstream issues as well as classics. Whether under AMC operation, or another operator, let’s hope the Uptown survives so the people who want to see a movie on a huge screen in a movie house with a real presence can do so!
I meant to write October, 2006. The balcony is open, the curtain is used before features, don’t miss this wonderful movie theater if you are in Prague! and enjoy the large bar that’s upstairs after the lobby and before the auditorium.
Photos I took in August 2006,
I am copying below from the “News” section Gary Parks comments. He mailed me a CD and with his consent, I have posted photos on my flickr gallery so everyone can see the TWO layers of movie theater history present at the Metro. The auditorium has the 1941 murals on view, and the 1924 columns hidden. Apparently, in 1998, the rehab did the reverse with the lobby, bringing it back to original 1924 design rather than the 1941 decoration. The photos show what you don’t see.
Being in Philadelphia, I haven’t visited since 1997, so if I am incorrect, Gary or others can advise. Ok, here’s the first of the photos that Gary sent me, the others follow:
Firstoff, a little historic correction: The theatre was designed by James and Merrit Reid. The office of Timothy Pflueger did the 1941 remodel, which is mainly what one sees today in the auditorium. The vertical sign dates from this time, but the marquee dates from an earlier and more lighthanded redecoration, as does the deco sunburst pattern you see today on the inner lobby ceiling once you enter.
The plasterwork in the outer and inner lobbies is mostly from 1924. The paintwork on the outer lobby ceiling is 1924, save for some minor embellishments by artist Kelly Cool during the 1998 refurbishing. She also did the arched murals which are on either side as you proceed from the outer to inner lobby.
The lobby as remodeled by Pflueger no longer exists, having been totally removed during the 1998 refurbishing, at which time the original 1924 lobby was largely restored, with some sympathetic updating.
The auditorium features murals by the Heinsbergen decorating firm. These date from Pflueger’s remodeling. The ceiling, save for the 1998 acoustical panels, chandeliers and 1941 paint, is from 1924.
Behind the draped and plastered angled walls on either side of the screen are hidden extensive intact remnants if the 1924 auditorium. These include large Ionic columns surmounted by eagles clutching shields, and arched niches containing urns and long-disconnected cove lighting. The organ chambers, though empty, are intact, and their openwork grilles, though slightly damaged, are largely extant.
I was one of the historical advisors to the 1998 renovation, and was a guest at the subsequent Grand Reopening. I would love to see the Metro escape demolition, even if it meant only a partial retention of the building. While preserving the building intact would be my first choice, even a reuse of the building’s shell, with a restoration of the facade’s key decorative elements is preferable to complete demolition, which will likely give birth to yet another example of slavish, tired devotion to the long-outdated and academically-loved but (usually) publically-loathed Bauhaus style, or worse, a poorly proportioned attempt at historicism such as is so common today—a style best described as “Lego Mediterranean.”
All this being said, I am not currently in a position to actively help in the fight to save the Metro—professional and preexisting volunteer obligations preclude this—but I would be more than happy to share copies of the photos I took in 1998 of the 1924 architectural features which exist behind the 1941 walls, as well as extensive knowledge of theatres designed by Reid Bros., having been closely involved with the ongoing preservation and restoration efforts at the Reid-designed Golden State Theatre in Monterey, as well as a little aid in the efforts to save San Francisco’s Harding Theatre.
posted by Gary Parks on Sep 19, 2006 at 1:12pm