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This opened about the same time that Walnut Mall did, I think sometime in 1966. Rode up from Wakefield, Va many times to see movies at this theatre. Some of the movies I saw here included GAMBIT, GUESS WHOSE COMING TO DINNER, CASINO ROYALE (1967 VERSION), PLANET OF THE APES, GONE WITH THE WIND, 2001, FITZWILLY, THE LOVE BUG, ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS, IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, and WHAT’S UP DOC. It was twinned in a very sloppy way which screwed up the sightlines. Before that it was a plain but well equipped theatre with a huge screen and excellent projection.
I remember skipping school with some friends one day and going to the Century to see Russ Meyer’s VIXEN… a soft core porn film which would probably look pretty mild today. This was during the last years that the Century was open.
This theater was also renovated in the late sixties by Neighborhood theaters about the same time they renovated the National in downtown Richmond and re-named it the Towne. The renovated Blue Bird often got first run fare that played in Richmond at the same time in roadshow (i.e. 2001, SOUND OF MUSIC,etc.) It was a tiny theater. Among the many movies I saw there: THE MUSIC LOVERS, HELLO DOLLY, PAINT YOUR WAGON, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, PATTON, FIVE EASY PIECES, JOHN AND MARY, OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, and TORA TORA TORA.
Saw many movies here during its run as the Towne, including FUNNY GIRL, which played with reserved seats. Other movies there included TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, LADY SINGS THE BLUES, THE REIVERS, LITTLE BIG MAN, and THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY. Recently saw Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings in concert there. It is a cool venue for music and lots of fun.
Great place for film buffs during its run as the Biograph. Initally it showed only art films and was one screen. They paid the bills by showing DEEP THROAT to huge crowds on weekends. Eventually a second screen was added which sometimes showed porn. There was a big collage of movie photos and posters in the hallway leading to the larger theater to which items were continually added… a visual history of what had been shown there. By 1987 when it closed, the advent of the vcr had taken away much of their audience.
I made my first visit to the Loews around 1960 or so for an animated version of THE SNOW QUEEN and later ADVENTURE OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. It was an eye popping experience with a huge curved screen (advertised on one of the doors as “Our panoramic Wide Screen.”) Later saw all the James Bond films there, up to DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and often in double features of same. Also the Pink Panther films, BLOW UP, BANANAS and many others. By the time I saw my last film there, MAHGONNY, the floors were sticky and the place was starting to look shabby, as indeed downtown Richmond had begun to decline. It is notable that GONE WITH THE WIND had its initial showings in Richmond at this theatre in 1940. Years later a restored version was shown around 1989 with a parade and lots of ceremony. However there was a problem with audience members who tried to take FLASH pictures of the movie during the screening. The audience had to be reminded at intermission not to do this.
I grew up seven miles down the road in Wakefield. The theatre there closed before I was old enough to go. But my first movie (Disney’s CINDERELLA)was at the Lyon. Saw lots of movies there from the late 50’s until about 1967 when it finally closed. An old gray haired woman ran the theatre and once she died, they more or less had to close the theatre, especially since a new shopping center theatre near Petersburg also took away some business. A friend looked into running the theatre in the early 70’s and got a tour. Apparently the theatre was equipped for Cinemascope 4 channel magnetic sound… not something you’d expect for a small town theatre. Too bad there are no pictures of the old place.
Envy you guys seeing OLIVER! on the big screen. Was this a newly restored print? Was this four track magnetic sound or some Dolby mix? Curious as here in Richmond the best would could hope for would be a projected dvd.
Great piece. In Richmond, Virginia, WSS played at the Willow Lawn theatre as a 70mm roadshow. Sadly this theatre was gutted, multiplexed and closed. In its time it was a beauty. Sorry to report that the early word on the WEST SIDE STORY blu ray indicates a screwup with the Saul Bass designed overture sequence. See Home Theatre forum for details. It does include the intermission which cannot be be turned off (unlike the last dvd release). If you look at the liner notes to the soundtrack lp, there is a mention that the filmmakers did not want an intermission for this film.
Actually I think the Bayne was still in business in the 60’s as I saw SHE (with Ursula Andress) and GOODBYE COLUMBUS there.
Hope you will be able to post your pix somewhere on the web. There is also a site called Cinema Tour that perhaps might be able to accomodate you. I know I would love to see the pix having been to the Memrose, the Riverview, and the Rosele, though not the Rosna when I was a kid. Good luck.
There was a short lived attempt to turn the Beach into a repertory theatre with foreign and classic films in the early 1980s. I don’t think it lasted more than a year but they did do a nice job, even if the audience just wasn’t there for it.
I agree that this is a real cinema treasure. I just hope that AMC takes care of it as some reports indicate projection quality has been compromised… or more dire that they might close the place. Probably for me the greatest visits have been for the 70mm restorations of such classics as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, MY FAIR LADY, and VERTIGO. There are few theatres left, not just in the U.S. but the world, that can present a widescreen film like the Uptown.
These were nice theatres. There were Ultravision theatres in Va Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News, Virginia and opened in the early ‘70s. I don’t think any of these had 70mm capacity, but they were impressive. Unfortunately the kind of spectacular films that would showcase the big screen were fairly rare in that era and as the theatres got older and changed hands less care was taken with lamphouses, so the image tended to be somewhat dim. The final blow was the attempt to split the theatres. Since the auditoriums were round the split was handled awkwardly and instead of re-arranging the seating, they just left it was it was, meaning the seats did not directly face the screen… I am sure plenty of patrons got sore necks.
Anyone know if AMC has gotten the new bulb or is the image still dim?Are they going to keep it open or what?
I don’t think Norfolk got that much snow, but in Richmond we had close to ten inches in places. As for the Rosna, that area is still not that great, not a place I think you’d be able to convince people to come even during the day, much less at night. It is a nice dream though…. wish it could happen.
I remember seeing THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at the Newport in 1967 where it was shown as a roadshow. I don’t recall when it finally closed.
So what is the status with AMC? A few months ago it was said the lease was expiring and the Uptown would close. Or have they decided to stick with it?
Wow…. it amazes me how often, even in the 70’s, this theatre was closed for weeks, even months, at a time.
To Rhett39 : It is indeed possible that GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH could have, at least partially, influenced the Indy costume since it is a matter of record that it was the first movie Spielberg ever saw as a child.
I agree Howard. I doubt any DLP system currently in existence can hope to match the quality of the 70mm presentations I have seen there over the years. But…. DLP may be the best we can hope for. Apparently are no plans for a 70mm run of 2001 for the 40th anniversary…. people must prefer 10000 BC. Guess that about says it all about the drop in quality of presentation as well as content and audience tastes in the last four decades.
It is odd that in my copy of BEST REMAINING SEATS, which I bought over 30 years ago, the caption says he is making “Boston Baked Paper towels”. For years I have wondered if that was a typo or what. Anyone have the same printing?
Here is an interesting item from a site concerning the Riverview area in Norfolk where the theatre was located:
“The Riverview was once a state-of-the-art movie theater. The Sound of Music opened at the Riverview theater on April 7, 1965. It ran there for nearly three years reportedly breaking all national records for the longest continuous run of this musical. Mal Vincent once reported in a Virginian-Pilot article, "The Riverview kept a lone print of the movie so long that the studio, 20th Century Fox, finally threatened court action to retrieve it.
It was common for patrons to return to see the movie many times. In the same article Mal wrote, “Lola Newton, the concession stand worker at the Riverview, told the press that she saw the movie twice a day, six days a week throughout the run—well over 990 times.”
I only saw three movies there…. the road show of HELLO DOLLY (sadly a 35mm print though it was in stereo sound—-I still have the special program that was sold there), NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA, and a reissue of PORGY AND BESS. Wish it could be restored though the odds seem to be against it.
Great article on front page today about the impending opening of the National in February 08 in todays Richmond Times Dispatch.
Here is a link:
I was there for the Saturday screening of BLADE RUNNER and the projection and sound were great. Let us hope that this theatre stays open. There is nothing like seeing a film on the giant curved screen.