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Jeff, as the advertising director for Neighborhood Theatres from 1975 to 1996 (as well as a promoter of many midnight movies), I enjoyed your post tremendously. Always glad to know someone notices all the little nuances that went into title logos, sig cuts, etc.
In the 1976 film ONE SUMMER LOVE (originally titled DRAGONFLY) Susan Sarandon plays a candy/popcorn girl at the Palace and the marquee, lobby, mezzanine, auditorium and even manager’s office are shown. A hard to find film that popped up on TV today here in Richmond, VA. Hope all get to see it.
In the summer of 1973, Blue Oyster Cult and Peter Frampton played a live concert here because all the venues in Philly were booked. I was sitting in for the manager that week, and Frampton used my office for a dressing room. Two weeks later we held Wilmington’s first All Night Movie Horrorthon, including Night of the Living Dead and 3 other horror films. Started at midnight and lasted all night. But the biggest hit we had was when Tom Laughlin rented the theatre for his four-wall reissue of BILLY JACK which sold out almost every show. What a summer that was!
The Rialto held the world premiere, for who knows what reason, of 20th Century Fox’s “Sodom and Gommorah”
One of the biggest crowds we ever drew here were to see a New York rapper live in person. She was “The Real Roxanne” and rapped on top of a flatbed truck bunted like a stage. We showed rap films BEAT STREET, etc. after the performance and the crowd was so large the hotels complained about the noise.
The Sunset often played 4 features and was a great little ozoner. One of kids from Huguenot’s Class of 1970 brought the marquee sign to his High Reunion this past September. How cool was that!!!
I was manager of the Westover in 1971-1972, and when CABARET was released, we tried playing it exclusively at the Westover. The area was beginning to gentrify and we hoped we could put the theatre back on the map (even though it was 20 years old) by playing this much anticipated musical. It played only four weeks, and then moved to the Westhampton where it ran to overflow crowds. It broke my heart to fail with this effort.
When the Willow Lawn opened THE SOUND OF MUSIC in March of 1965, it held the Virginia state premiere, and one of the kids from the cast came for the benefit opening. It played for more than a year and one little nun came every Saturday to see it. We she didn’t, Tom Connell, the manager, would call the rectory to make sure she was OK
In the summer of 1968 we played 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm and six track stereo with all seats reserved. I was in Huguenot High School and got a job as an usher and was always surprised to see all the hippies reserve the first two rows. My buddy Mark Albert told me they were dropping acid and waiting for the light show at the end to truly space out. The next summer, when we played WOODSTOCK, we had to discontinue our no shirts/no shoes/no admission policy because all the flower kids were coming that hot hot sumer with neither. In 1975, the Westhampton played the first run showing of JAWS. Now it plays strictly art and foreign fare, but in the 1970’s it was a big player and it was where I launched the midnight movie series with brother Terry Young. We moved them to the Ridge because the kids kept screwing with the chandeliers and artwork.
In the summer of 1996 we showed THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW at midnight at the Plaza. 20th Century Fox didn’t want to give us a good print of the film because it had never shown in a drive-in before, but when we outgrossed every theatre playing it in the US they agreed to strike us a new one. We played it 4 weekends and only took it off because the kids kept setting fire to their matresses to make it smokey and the fire department kept getting calls.
John, you were the best little poster groupie we ever had. Email me sometime at
John, what a great story. Ray Bentley
In the summer of 1968, I was an usher at the Westhampton Theatre in Richmond (VA) and we were scheduled to open 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in 70mm reserved seats that July. I went to New York with my dad in June so I made a point of going to see it at the CAPITOL on their curved Cinerama screen. The marquee, as pictured on the site, was incredible. It looked like the theatre was dedicated to this film forever. When we opened in Richmond, MGM actually gave us large plastic signs to replace to marquee but nothing as elaborate as the Capitol. The curved screen was great. It was a phenomonenal experience.
In the summer of 1968, my dad took me to New York and I went to several movies on Broadway. One was “WILD IN THE STREETS” at the Embassy. I remember the admission was $3 which was more than twice what theatres were charging in Virginia, but it was a matinee and there were over 100 people in attendance.