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“The building in these 1986 photos look a lot like this theater.”
It is the same theater. Those photos are from the mid-1980s when it was the Allison Theater before it went belly up and was converted to a church.
Here’s what it looked like when it opened in 1921:
The Rialto Theater and Moriarty’s Buildings in the 1920s
The Palace Theater marquee in October 2009.
Poli’s Palace Theatre marquee sometime in the 1920s.
A 1950 Loew’s Poli ad in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald
See a 1955 newspaper ad for the Southington Drive-In with its “giant curved Cinemascope screen” at View link
Lou – The only rock performers/groups that I know for sure appeared at the Palace are:
Quicksilver Messenger Service (1972)
Pink Floyd (1973)
Genesis – The Lamb Descends on Waterbury (1974) View link
Bob Dylan (1975) View link
Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention (1975)
You can see a photo of the old Palace Theater marquee in the 1970s when Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review appeared there at www.freewebs.com/crosby-high-school-class-of-1975/ROLLING%20THUNDER%2040.jpg
Lou Belloisy: Adding your up to date marquee photo to your other gorgeous photos of the renovated Palace Theater at http://www.shutterfreaks.com/gallery2/album208 is the easiest way to get it on this site. Let us know when you do.
The Watertown Drive-In may have opened in 1956 or 1957 because there is an April 1957 Watertown Drive-In ad in the Waterbury Republican proclaiming that it was “New England’s Newest and Finest” that can be seen at View link
Ticket for a benefit showing of Carolina starring Lionel Barrymore at the Lyric Theatre in 1934 >> View link
Waterbury disk jockey “Wildman Steve” Gallon hosted live shows featuring prominent black recording artists at the Carroll in the late 1950s. His Sportsmen’s Club bar/nightclub was at 196 North Main St.
1955 Pine Theater ad in the Waterbury American newspaper
Junkyard Bird: The Drive-In site is on Winsted Road near Burr Pond State Park. Map: View link
A quarry excavation company has bought the site of the former Torrington Drive-In theater for $2.5 million. Haynes Aggregates-Torrington on Dec. 19 paid N & L Associates of Torrington for 18.19 acres of vacant land along Winsted Road that last served as home to the theater around the early 1980s. Until a couple years ago, the site was where upwards of 20,000 motorcyclists landed for the semi-annual Connecticut Bike Week.
Haynes, with a corporate office in Seymour, owns and operates a quarry excavation site that abuts the theater property to the north, at 3217 Winsted Road. It was unclear Thursday the company’s plans for the land.The company, which blasts earth and crushes rock, also owns land at 3237 Winsted Road and 260 Burr Mountain Road. In August, Haynes leaders won a permit that allows them to keep the business running through 2008.
N&L Associates is a part of C.H. Nickerson & Co., a general contracting firm based on Hayden Hill Road. City records don’t specify how long the company has owned the land, last appraised at $196,400.
The theater opened along Winsted Road on Aug. 15, 1950, and was operated by the Lockwood and Gordon Enterprises. It featured a giant white screen 70 feet off the ground, room for hundreds of vehicles, a concession stand with bathrooms, and a large playground. Today, that screen stands behind a row of tall trees. The field before it is full of weeds, metalwork, and a pile of tires. The marquee and foundations for the concession stand and projection booth remain.
In 1989 and into 1990, the site was considered for Litchfield County Courthouse. The court will ultimately end up in the Timken Co. property on Field and Clark streets in Torrington.
Sue McKitis-Perillo of Barkhamsted, head of museum education at the Torrington Historical Society, has fond memories of her family’s ventures to see a movie at the theater, which showed “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” in 1967 and cartoons including Bugs Bunny. “My mom would cook up hamburgers, wrap them in newspaper, we’d get in our jammies and go to the drive-in,” she said.
Walking down a set of marble steps in the refurbished Palace Theater two weeks ago, 71-year-old Ada Solomiti recalled how she used to dress up to attend events at the East Main Street institution. “You wouldn’t dream of wearing slacks,” the Waterbury resident said. “You wore a dress and spike [heels].” Solomiti has traded her spikes in for more practical shoes, but she fondly remembers the times she spent nestled in the velvet seats. In fact, she was there that day to record one particular memory: watching “The African Queen” with her good friend and erupting into giggles. “We got a lot of dirty looks,” she said to the Waterbury Arts Magnet School students wielding the camera.
Solomiti’s memory was one of 12 chosen from the Palace’s Marquee Moments contest. The theater, in honor of its new digital marquee and the third anniversary of its reopening after a major renovation, asked community members to share their memories of the theater. Thirty-five people responded, and 12 were chosen to be filmed. The WAMS students will edit the clips down to a 5-to-7-minute film that will be shown the night of the marquee unveiling. “It’s been pretty cool,” said Rebecca Bradshaw, a WAMS senior and Southbury resident. “It will be a lot of editing, but we’ll be proud of what we do.”
Cathy C. Christiano of Thomaston came to the filming clutching a folder filled with black-and-white pictures, including autographed glossies of big-band leader Tommy Dorsey and actor Rory Calhoun. Christiano, 75, got a job as an usherette at the Palace when she was 17. For the showing of “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1950, she dressed up as Annie Oakley and toured downtown Waterbury on a float. Christiano worked at the Palace for 2Â½ years and went on to have nine children. Her hair is now white, but her vibrant blue eyes teared up when she remembered that her son, Paul, who died recently in a car accident, was on the restoration committee for the Palace. “He would have been overjoyed to see the new marquee,” she said.
Louis Belloisy, a Morris resident, also got his start at the Palace as an usher. “It was my first job when I was 16,” Belloisy said. “And at that time, it was a great honor.” Belloisy also worked at the Palace as a doorman and ticket taker. After he retired from his career as a corporate pilot, he returned to the Palace. He now is the theater’s official photographer. “I almost cried the first time I walked in here,” he said. “The restoration is even better than I remembered it.”
Joanne Hasemann shared her memories of Mr. Peanut. Planter’s Peanuts had a store next door to the theater and one of the workers would dress up in a nine-foot peanut costume. “He would stand out there,” Hasemann, a 70-year-old Waterbury resident said, motioning toward the lobby doors, “and say, ‘get your fresh roasted peanuts.’ We’d be a little scared of him, but we’d always get a bag of peanuts and go back in to see a movie.” About five years ago, Hasemann said she uncovered the identity of the boy inside the costume, but she won’t divulge his name. She’d rather talk about how excited she is return to the Palace. “That marquee made this street,” she said. “It was the brightest, most beautiful thing. I can’t wait to see the new one.”
She remembers hopping on the bus — fare was 15 cents — from her family’s restaurant in Watertown and catching a movie at the Palace. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” was her favorite. Now she’s hoping to see “Cats” when it comes to town next year. Hasemann noticed that there is less velvet in the theater now than there used to be, but she’s still happy to be back. “It will always be the grand lady of East Main Street,” she said.
From the Naugatuck Historical Society:
The Salem Playhouse opened in 1945 and operated for 34 years. It closed in 1979, perhaps because the rubber industry closed its doors in Naugatuck that same year. The theater was converted into a roller skating rink in 1980. In Sept. 1982, it reopened as Studio 60, a Young Adult Night Club. After that closed, the theater stood empty for a number of years, until the Rock Church took it over. They later relocated to a larger facility, and the building now houses the Lighthouse Christian Church.
Photo of the Hamilton Theater in 1924
Waterbury Republican-American Online, 10/11/06:
The movies are stale, but the popcorn’s fresh. Second-run theaters show blockbusters after other theaters tire of them, but pushing a slightly used product for $2 to $4 a ticket doesn’t always pay the rent.
While many old theaters in Connecticut have been closing, others like the Strand Theater in Seymour stay open because people keep coming back for the atmosphere and the familiar faces. “It’s nice. You get to know the people,” said Jeri Swinik, who has been the manager at the Strand for 11 years. “They come like clockwork. This is their thing to do on a Friday or Saturday.” The regulars — seniors, families, couples — vary, but Swinik knows them all by name or story.
At the Strand, the red velvet curtains drawn back to reveal the screen make the theater seem like an old playhouse. The three regular employees — Swinik, the concession operator Amanda Dezolt, and the projectionist John Jelasko — make the outing seem like visiting a friend’s house.
Even the popcorn, soda and candy don’t feel like another movie theater: They only cost $2.50 each, less than half the cost of concessions at other theaters. “I don’t want to gouge the people,” Swinik said.
But that’s where these theaters make their money: the concessions. Film distributors can take anywhere from 50 percent of ticket sales upward, the number depending on which company the film comes from. On a night when Swinik rents out the theater to a private party, she said she will still open the concession stand to try to make a profit. It’s important, she said, that she can keep the theater self-sustaining.
If the money brought in from birthday parties, theater rentals, ticket stubs and concessions isn’t enough to pay the rising utility and rent bills, the town chips in the rest of the cost. Some years the town doesn’t pay toward the theater. Some years it gives as much as $20,000, according to the town budget.
But Swinik likes to be able to pay those bills. It’s often a battle, though, with movies playing in the first-run places longer, creating fewer crowds when the Strand finally gets the show. On a good night, Swinik said she can get 150 people. An average show brings about 75.
The customers said they hoped the Strand will remain open for more reasons than the cheap tickets and fun atmosphere. It’s the memories that keep some of them coming back. “It reminds me of the theater I used to go to as a kid,” said regular Strand customer Susan Grobnagger. “And I like that it’s trying to revitalize the downtown area. It’s nice.”
The woman who refurbished the original auditorium and opened the Cameo in Watertown also owned and operated the Cameo Theatre at 314 Baldwin Street in Waterbury, not one of the big theatres like the State or Strand. The Cameo in Waterbury became the Win Theater sometime in the 1950s.
Waterburyâ€™s rehabilitated Palace Theater will trade its unpretentious, one-dimensional, tin sign for a high – tech, glowing marquee in November. The new sign will offer performers that oft-sung-about indicator of legitimacy: the chance to see their names in lights.
In addition to nearly 1,000 pounds of steel, aluminum and metal composite, plans call for the marquee to be book ended by two light emitting diode, or LED, screens. All lighting on the sign incorporates LED technology, which is more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs, said Jim McMahon, of the marquee’s maker, ABC Sign Corp. of Bridgeport. Theater leaders who selected the new sign likened its sides to the famous Times Square screen near the Cup O' Noodles in Manhattan, albeit differently proportioned.
It will be unveiled Nov. 10 at a 6:30 p.m. ceremony. The current sign — initially sufficient yet simple, but now a bent and scratched sheath — was never intended to stay. Initially, plans called for the theater’s old marquee to be restored. But theater officials later asked that the marquee be modified to include some of the high-tech elements more commonly found on modern performing arts venues. The roughly $320,000 cost of the sign is covered by the state grant money that paid for the rehabilitation.
To inaugurate the new technology, theater officials have launched a contest asking people to submit stories of life events that occurred at the Palace, be they marriage proposals or first dates. The top five selected will be broadcast at the unveiling. Explain briefly, in 100 words or less, the memorable moment, and send entries to Sheree Marcucci via e-mail at marcuccipalacetheaterct.org or by U.S mail to 100 East Main Street, Waterbury, 06702. Deadline is Oct. 6.
Shirley Grey http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0336956/bio was born in Naugatuck CT and moved to Waterbury in 1917. She graduated from Wilby High School in 1919 and began her acting career with Sylvester Poli’s stock theater company, The Poli Players', shortly thereafter. While with the Poli Players, she performed in weekly stock performances throughout Poli’s chain of theaters, and performed with the Poli Players until 1924. Grey performed in more than 45 films during her brief movie career from 1930 to 1935 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0336956/
Poli’s Theater may also have been known as Fon’s Theatre, which is the sign on the side of the Poli’s building in the postcard photo at View link
There is also a small photo of a postcard showing Poli’s and the Broadway Casino at http://220.127.116.11/pixfiles/382.jpg
Poli’s Theater closed in 1928, but the building is still standing next to the Waterbury UConn campus (photo at View link )