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The theatre had faux art deco lighting fixtures on the side walls which were aqua tones and it had something you hardly ever see nowadays — a crying room in the rear of the orchestra. It had a balcony — probably around 150 – 200 seats. And although it was in a small town (at the time I was there that road you see in the picture was not paved — it was gravel), we still ran it with very high presentation standards. It had a main gray velour curtain that we used between the cartoons and attraction reel as well as amber curtain warmer lights. I grew up in Brooklyn so I knew how they did it in the flagship theatres in NY and we emulated that level of showmanship.
We ran first run and a lot of hold-overs — I remember we ran WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF and BLOWUP for three weeks, maybe more. To this day I can tell when a change-over is coming up without even looking for the cues. We did very good business because this, after all was BV (Before Video) so the only place the entire Texas A&M population could see a movie was at the Campus Theatre (the were “theatres” back then, not “cinemas.”)
When I was there, Doc, we were running Simplex Supers. I don’t know if you were there before me or after, but the heads definitely were Supers. Yes, Peerless Magnarcs and DC generator, but it was a single generator, not the usual two. When you struck one arc, it would light, but you would see the outgoing machine’s light dim a bit. Trick was to get that other lamphouse out as soon as possible so the incoming projector would get full power.
If you want to know scary, at that time we were still using the old Tushinski Superscope variable anamorphic lenses. However the booth was constructed in such a way that it prevented the projectors from being moved any farther back from the port windows to accommodate the very large and bulky Superscope lenses which were much larger than the standard lenses. On Projector #1, you could maneuver the Superscope lens into the projector by carefully holding it at a certain angle. But for Projector #2, you had to hold the lens with your right hand, pass it OUT OF THE BOOTH thru the view port and with your left hand thru the projector port, pull it back into the booth and into the projector. My deathly fear was that one day doing this maneuver, I would drop the very heavy cast metal contraption on some patron sitting below and kill them.
Our second projectionist who was a woman named Peggy (I am embarrassed that I can’t recall her last name) was the only woman projectionist in Texas, at least that was what I was told, so I can’t verify it for sure. She would leave me sandwiches and soup when I would come in for the night shift. It was a great place to work.
We also ran a special midnight show on most Friday nights “for the boys,” as the boss would say. It was soft porn; today it wouldn’t even be rated NC-17. They were originally skin flicks, but a company in Mexico would edit them and ship them as soft versions.
All the Aggies knew what would play Friday midnight so there was never any advertising or promotion of any kind, just an A-frame out front all day announcing “Midnight Show Tonight.” The place was always packed. These edited version were cut in such a way so that as soon as anything salacious was about to happen on the screen, —SNIP!— and the scene would jump to something less exciting. The all-male audience, at least 90% A&M lads, would hoot and holler and stomp on the floor, but would come back every Friday night. Mr. Schulman said with that one show we would made up for any other slow night.
It was a wonderful experience and working with warm, generous people and SHOWING MOVIES — what more could a kid want?!
Sometime in the early 80s, the then President of Brooklyn College and a team from the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts visited the closed theatre in the hopes that it might be acquired by CUNY to take some of the performance load off the Center’s four theatre complex. Their theatres were having a hard time servicing all the events that they hosted every year. A fifth theatre would be able to ease the bottle necks they often ran into.
This theatre would have been perfect as it is directly adjacent half a block from the large U shape building and can be seen in the aerial view to the left of the theatre building on the next corner. All at that meeting, including President Hess, agreed the theatre would be a perfect addition to the Performing Arts Center.
Unfortunately CUNY in its wisdom would not purchase the property and now, decades later when the Center is pushed beyond its physical limits, CUNY and the City are forced to spend between 75,and by the time it is done, 85 million dollars do build a theatre exactly the same size of the College Theatre. Ironically, the PAC is designed with faux art-deco elements and so the College Theatre would have been a perfect match.
Gary C. is mistaken; the theatre had some wonderful and yes very distinctive art-deco elements including the lighting fixtures and structural lines made with aluminum plating. The stand-alone external box office itself is a very unique structural design indicative of that period and almost never seen today. Many times we can look directly at things and not realize how special they are.
The College Theatre didn’t close because it was unremarkable, it closed, just like so many others, because of the slump caused by commencement of the video age. Also because Century Theatres by this time had become nothing but a real estate company with little interest in operating theatre; they were making profits by selling off it property holdings before dissolving their east coast operations. They were letting all of their theatre simply run into the ground. An independent operator who knew (and loved) the theatre business could easily have made this or any of the other Century Theatres operate profitably.
Why didn’t anyone else take up the gauntlet on these theatres with great locations? Because Century had in its sale contract an encumber that stated the property could not be used as a movie theatre. This lovely, modest theatre should not be faulted because of the stupidity of greedy corporate types.
The closeing of this dive was a mercy killing. The place was a horrid place to see a film. The lobby was dark and dank; the auditoria were even more forboding. The film presentation was beyond bad. In a day and age of 6 channel digital sound, this place was still sporting a mono system in both rooms.
It was a scouting exhibition just to find a seat that wasn’t broken, and even those that were in decent shape were very uncomfortable.
The screens were placed much too high making the viewing angle very hard on the neck muscles. Because it was twined, the rooms were long and narrow, giving you the feeling that you were in a tunnel. This shape was detrimental to speech intelligibility, which sank to near zero; it was a good thing they ran lots of foreign films so you could read the dialogue.
This abomination is an example of just how terrible a movie theatre can be when it is tortured into more than one screen, even though it was designed as a single — a sorry practice in the rush to multiplex. It is no wonder it drove patrons away.
Sadly, there are many, many theatres that should have been saved; this is not one of them.