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A short article on Patch.com last September says Davio’s will open up a 250-seat Italian restaurant to be attached to the new National Amusements cinema at Chestnut Hill. There will be entrances both from the lobby and from outside. By the way, WS Development is rebuilding the mall. The company was behind Dedham’s Legacy Place, which also explains the partnership with National Amusements.
After more than a three-year moratorium, I visited the cinema this weekend because a family friend was visiting and really wanted to go to a movie.
Some things had changed. The first thing I noticed was the piano was gone and the lobby now featured some curved couches which made the expansive area look more like a hotel lobby. There were also some eating areas with tables and chairs tucked into open rooms at both ends of the concession stands for a food court-like atmosphere that I had not noticed before.
There was still a lack of signage telling people which theaters are playing what movies. The only way you know is by buying a ticket. I guess this is to keep people from slipping into multiple movies, but I saw people doing just that anyway. And there’s no signage directing you to the de Lux area, which has been a complaint since it opened. You have to just know where the stairs are to go up there.
This time I saw a movie in the other half of the theater and was able to look into auditoriums 8-15. As Joe had said previously, the auditoriums were larger, ranging in size from 139 seats to 420. But they suffered the same problem as the auditoriums on the other size: a third of the seats are on a non-raked floor where the seat backs are so high, someone who’s short has trouble looking over them to see the full screen. The auditorium-style seating starts a fair distance back from the screen, further back than I prefer.
All of the projection has been converted to Sony 4K digital projectors a year or so ago. I hope the two-year-old film projectors found a good home. The image quality I saw in auditorium 12 was fairly film-like. The sound was clear, but I honestly don’t remember hearing any stereo separation or surround effects from the bleacher seats.
An interesting note: the video projector used to display the ads before the show was low resolution and blurred by circuitry problems. If I were an advertiser, I would be angry.
The bottom line is that watching movies in the bigger auditoriums is a little more tolerable because the screens are wider and being further back is less of a problem, but not knowing which showings are in the bigger theaters beforehand is frustrating. But what I think doesn’t matter much because reviews on Yelp.com say the place is insanely crowded weekend nights despite its high food and ticket prices.
As a postscript, the plot of land in back of the cinema where National Amusements was to going to build its headquarters on is now just a field of mud.
Well, the last picture I saw of the theater interior in the 1990s, the ceiling plaster had collapsed from water damage. Looks like the owners have stabilized it, but it’s a long way off from being restored, and, quite frankly, it’s out of the way with no nearby parking in a congested neighborhood, so future use would be limited.
Showcase Live! has announced that it will be closing on December 31st. No explanation was given. The Boston Globe reported that musicians received an e-mail canceling all bookings after Dec. 31 and asking if they would like to reschedule their dates before the end of the year.
Actually, Michael Redstone bought the land in 1948 and built the drive-in on it. Redstone Management evolved into National Amusements, run by granddaughter Shari Redstone, and the family still owns the land that Legacy Place is built on.
I visited this delightful little theater during Damariscotta’s Pumpkin Fest to see the film “Frank and the Robot.” There were only six people at the Saturday evening presentation. Earlier in the day, it gave a free showing of “Rango” and the next day it was broadcasting the Pumpkin Regatta for free. The auditorium itself is on the second floor of the building and it is accessed through an addition in back that added an office, an elevator and handicap-accessible rest rooms. I was told that the theater had been a work-in-progress until recently, slowly adding reproduction wall treatments, Dolby Surround Sound, video projection and brand-new movie seats replacing folding chairs. It currently looks pretty much completed. The floor is flat composed of wooden floorboards that look very much like those used in old gyms. It was supposedly used for roller skating in the early 1900s. The screen is built into a stage that’s wide but not very deep. The theater website lists capacity at 231 seats. Its schedule consists of films, opera broadcasts from the Met, theatrical broadcasts from the National Theatre, and live performances of plays and concerts. It has one to two showings a day, an early evening show at 7 pm and a matinee some days around 1 pm or 2 pm. Films only play from one to three days. The official website is: Lincoln Theater and it is operated as a 501©3 nonprofit organization.
Just a short note to say that AMC has finally fixed (or replaced) the scrolling video sign below the marque. It had been broken for several years. It still doesn’t give you much information about what’s playing inside, however.
The picture above should display this location: Charles River Plaza. If you look down the driveway, the theater was around the corner in back with the two smaller screens at ground level and the big screen upstairs. The front building is sitting on what was once just an open parking lot.
I think a lot of people are remembering just pieces of the theater’s history. As for sound, Sack upgraded the sound system just before Star Wars, placing two big sub-woofers in front of the screen, and the sound was pretty spectacular in the late 1970s-early ‘80s. Francis Ford Coppola wanted “Apocalypse Now” to play there because of its sound system, but the Charles played Fox films then and Sack upgraded the sound in one of the 57’s auditoriums to satisfy him. The sound probably did deteriorate after this time.
As for 70mm, Sack regularly featured 70mm prints at many of their theaters in Boston during that time period when 70mm prints were being used to provide upgraded 4-track Dolby Stereo. 35mm could only do 2-track matrixed soundtracks. After Star Wars, the Charles hosted 70mm runs of Alien, Empire, ET, and others.
When Star Wars opened May 25, 1977, there were only 8 70mm prints in circulation out of the 43 theaters that played the film. As Fox made more prints available, many theaters switched over, including the Charles on Sept 21, 1977. I don’t think Sack was purposely keeping 70mm prints out of its theaters.
As for screen size, Sack’s old-time vaudeville theaters such as the Astor, Saxon, Savoy, etc. all closed in the ‘80s which left the Charles the largest screen in Boston until it closed in the 1990s.
There’s a short YouTube video of what the theater currently looks like here. And there’s a Facebook page here.
The Modern is showing The Jazz Singer (original 1929 version) on October 18th at 7 pm. Tickets are $5 or free if you’re a Suffolk student or contributor. I assume it will be a digital projection.
Hmm. I don’t think any companies are opening singles or twins anymore. The film industry is set up to discriminate against such theaters. For example, with the last Batman movie, you had to take it for five weeks. Admissions typically decline 50% a week, so by the third week, you’re not seeing much business. The larger theaters will simply move a movie to a smaller auditorium and fill their larger screens with the latest release.
And, you’re right, the overhead costs of opening a new theater are huge. But film brokers can get you films. It’s up to you, however, whether you make money on them or not.
There is a much more revealing article about the realities of running a small-town theater at the York Weekend website.
When only 20 people showed up for GI Joe, the Hunts switched to classic films where only 10 people showed up for the Exorcist, 32 people showed up for The Wizard of OZ, and no one showed up for the Pebble and the Penguin even for $1 admission price!
This is a more revealing article about what went wrong. Read it at
It certainly was the decade of taking comic book super heroes SERIOUSLY! Director Richard Donner many times has told of his fight with his producers to make a “serious” Superman movie, and how they fired him and proceeded to make Superman silly and slapstick in Superman 3. Michael Uslan, who bought the rights to Batman in 1979 for a song, has told of his 10-year fight to get a serious Batman movie made because studio execs could only see the character from the campy 1960s TV show perspective. Eventually Warner Bros. made Batman sillier and sillier in the third and fourth movies after director Tim Burton left.
Finally, in the 2000s, we have Hollywood execs who have grown up reading comics who no longer look at super heroes as silly or funny. In fact, directors may be taking super heroes TOO SERIOUSLY! Certainly the two Batman reboots by Chris Nolan are grim affairs bordering on the sadistic. “Superman Returns” is extremely humorless, lacking the sparkle Chris Reeve gave to the character. “Watchmen” is downright depressing. The Hulk reboot was not a lot of fun either, and Spiderman 3 went off the rails by being too self-indulgent.
Maybe producers and directors can ratchet things back a little in the future and just treat super heroes as they would treat any serious movie character and not go too overboard with angst!
Couple loses life’s savings on old single-screen downtown theater after 18 months. This is such a recurring news story, it should have its own category!
There’s a good reason why that quaint, old movie theater in your town has been closed for 20 years after the multiplex opened on the outskirts of town. Time has passed it by.
A lot of people have the fantasy of running an old movie theater, but the reality of the situation is about 99% of the job is not about movies. And gone are the days when people came downtown to shop or walk around, so your job of attracting people into your theater is even more difficult. In fact, you might wind up bearing the entire responsibility of trying to revitalize a town’s forgotten downtown area!
To succeed in running a single-screen theater, you have to be a pro-active promoter supreme handing out flyers, making deals with local merchants, and so forth. And you have to go beyond simply showing movies, probably getting a license to put on concerts and live entertainment and selling food, beer and wine. And after paying all your bills, you might have to be content with only clearing $20k, $30k, or $40k a year.
My advice is to do a heck of a lot of research before sinking your life savings into a theater, and then do even more research, because from the stories that come in through CT, it seems about 90% of these ventures fail within 12 to 18 months
The news media doesn’t report it most of the time, but the $1.5 billion debt came from Sumner having to pay an extremely expensive divorce settlement, not borrowing the money on behalf of the theater chain. National Amusements is extremely healthy, but losing some of its crown jewels like the Bridge isn’t going to help it long-term.
Sumner has also stated he doesn’t believe in the theater business anymore and had threatened to sell off all but NA 15 theaters, but there were no takers until now.
Non-profits can accept donations, which can subsidize the bills. Businesses cannot. So non-profits can generate additional income in this way and not have to just rely on ticket and concession sales.
Non-profits can have fund-raising events, get grants from local government or other non-profits, get special pricing from equipment dealers, and so on. Also people who donate get a tax deduction, so that’s helpful to them too.
The drawback to being a non-profit is the former owner becomes an employee of the non-profit entity with usually a board of directors who oversee things. The former owner therefore can be replaced by the board during a power struggle or a change of direction.
Well, AMC actually starts the movies 15 minutes after its published start times, so there’s an attempt to get you seated so you can watch the ads.
When Screenvision went from slide ads to video ads, I think it did cheapen the experience. It made movie viewing more like watching TV. Also the sound is usually pumped up pretty loud for the ads to try to get your attention. It’s annoying. And the digital projectors are usually commercial-grade LCDs with lousy color and quality.
But the theater owners just can’t resist being given “free money,” basically to show the ads, especially these days. But it’s interesting that Bowtie’s press release tried to put a positive spin to showing ads.
I heard a concession worker at a big chain say not to buy popcorn on the weekdays, especially earlier in the week. The popcorn is left over from the weekend.
This article didn’t elaborate, but when did theaters actually “allow” food in? For the last 40 years, I was always under the impression that was a no-no and you had to sneak snacks in. The Denver Business makes it sound like this is something new. But have people been openly walking in with pizzas and McDonald’s bags? I’ve read posts about the AMC-Loews Boston Common theater where people are constantly eating Chinese food in the auditoriums.
The theater looks like a high school auditorium, complete with the hard, wood-backed chairs. Ugh!
I saw Oz with a primarily gay audience at the Wang in Boston some years ago and the whole movie took on an entirely different flavor. “Surrender Dorothy” indeed!
Yeah, I’m worried about the marketing of the film. I’m a Cameron fan, so I want to see it, but Fox doesn’t seem capable of generating a “must-see” buzz around it. Other than a “look at the pretty pictures” ad campaign, they don’t have a handle on the picture. The tagline they came up with, “An All New World Awaits,” is pretty wimpy. It’s going to have to depend on word-of-mouth for its ultimate success or failure.
I think $250 million worldwide is pretty easy to attain because of Cameron’s reputation, but the film is rumored to have cost $500 million, which means it needs to make $1 billion just to break even (in Hollywood accounting terms). It’s going to be considered a flop if it generates anything less.
Wow! It’s beautiful! However, Inglewood is a very tough city with gangs moving in from LA and an 83% minority population. It’s going to be difficult to find an economic model to save the place.
I think, as theater buffs, we just like having details as to what kind of equipment was installed and what the theater is doing to be viable. For example, do you go out and spend $50,000 on projector and sound equipment just for 10 showings a year?
Also, we see 2-3 stories a day about theaters reopening, and 90% of them are closed 11-18 months later after sucking out the life savings of some well-meaning family. So we’re interested in what the business model is and whether it has a chance of succeeding.
Additionally, I’m critical of the non-profit model because those theaters don’t have to make a profit and often schedule things like Mongolian film festivals that don’t really serve the community, just the elites. And they sometimes have state-of-the-art equipment just going to waste.