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The property and theater are currently listed for sale with an asking price of $2.5 million.
I opened this theater as Managing Director for GCC in March of 1989. That summer was unimaginably busy, with Batman and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids selling out in two auditoriums each for weeks, along with other A track films. As the largest and most modern theater in New Orleans, we were awarded most of the big titles for the first year. THX Dolby Stereo in #4. One silver screen for 3D in #6. We had an office above the concession stand, from which we could view the lobby and service areas. A huge (for back then) concession stand with six or seven serving stations and fifteen people working during peak periods did phenomenal business, giving us one of the highest “per person” concession sales averages in the GCC chain, at around $1.50. Our team won General Cinema’s “Platinum Award” as the theater rated highest (out of 300+ locations) in a secret shopper program rating customer service and cleanliness during 1989.
The theater was not part of the mall, but sat across the ring-road to the west on a separate property. To build the theater, soil was brought into the swampy site, and the theater was built on numerous pilings. As time went by, subsidence caused the parking lot and sidewalks to sink, while the theater sat solid on the pilings. Metal ramps had to be added as the gap between sidewalk and theater ramps increased. A water main broke, causing flooding in #6, and later an electrical main broke leaving the theater without power until repairs were made. All that in just the first few years. Maintenance bills resulting from the subsidence kept mounting after I left in 1992, from what I later heard. As happens, this theater was eventually outclassed by newer and larger theaters opening in the New Orleans market.
Oceantracks, you’ve got a good memory. I remember seeing Paper Moon there as a kid with my family, along with most of the others you mentioned. I think “The Sting” ran for about a year.
Topeka Boulevard Cinema was originally a twin,as stated, but it was the larger auditorium that was split to make a tri-plex. I managed it for a couple years around 1985-86. The theater did very well competing against the Gage 4. Back to the Future (1985) sold out for weeks. Topeka Blvd was a major drag for teenagers on Fri/Sat nights, and we ran a very successful midnight film series during the summer, with Rocky Horror every weekend plus a mixture of rock and horror films.
Needy and Kyle, the theater was at the top of the sloped parking lot on the west end of the shopping center. It faced west toward the parking lot, with the entrance approximately here: 38.55348,-90.413517
The bank has been there forever. We had to walk a whole twenty feet from the front doors of the theatre to drop the deposits in the night drop. The restaurant (macaroni grill, if I remember correctly from my last drive past) is actually on the site where the theatre stood.
Thanks, Bob! (best supervisor I ever had, folks)
Is AMC paying out on GCC pensions? I figured some day I’d get enough to buy a cup of coffee each month.
Hope you are well!
Forgot to mention the location…I believe the theatres stood at the NW corner of Lakeside Shopping center, between a parking garage and a grocery.
The following is all from (hazy) memory, and is only offered because no one else has posted any info. Corrections welcome…
GCC Lakeside 1 & 2 opened in about 1968. 1000+ seats in each. One of the houses was twinned at some point, probably in early seventies. A second building was subsequently erected immediately next door, with two more screens of maybe 500 seats each. Sometimes the theatres operated with dual management teams, sometimes with a joint team. I believe that a single projectionist walked back and forth between the buildings, but I could be wrong on that also.
Cinema 1 had 70mm THX Dolby surround, and played exclusive New Orleans engagements for many films, including ‘90s rereleases of Fantasia, Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, and others.
GCC operated the theatres until the mid/late 90’s, and they sat empty for several years. I saw a wrecking ball doing the last of the dirty work on Cinema 4 & 5 during a visit around 2002.
A minor correction…I’m pretty darn sure the refreshment stand is/was directly behind the box office, in the center of the lobby…not to the left. Behind the refreshment stand is a hallway connecting the two wings of the V shape. The restrooms were centered behind the refreshment stand.
If this property is empty and available for lease, it could make a good dollar cinema or art house. I imagine the entire facility is still in pretty good repair.
The correct and advertised name for this GCC location was, I believe, Northwest Plaza Cinema, and it was located at the western-most side of the shopping center.
If I remember correctly, the original auditoriums were not twinned by adding walls down the center from rear to front. Rather, they were split from side to side. Because they were very steeply graded, this created two upper houses and two lower houses, with two separate projection booths – the original booth at the top of the upper auditoriums and the new lower booth essentially behind the screens of the upper auditoriums. Unusual. The projectionists walked countless miles up and down the aisle stairs from booth to booth many times each day.
Northwest Plaza Cinema was a strong performer for GCC in it’s day, with a very strong manager, Dave McCann, in charge during the ‘80s. He ran a very clean theatre, with a friendly and helpful staff.
During the run of “The Million Dollar Duck”, someone climbed up onto the Lindbergh Blvd pylon sign one night, removed an “F” from another title, and used it to replace the “D” in the last word. It had a lot of passing motorists laughing the next morning.
I believe the original opening date was 1964. Cinema 1 was twinned in the early 70’s, with the two new screens given the numbers 2 and 3, and the original screen 2 renamed to 1. The theatre operated as Cinema 1,2 & 3 until about 1982 when the orignal screen 2 was twinned, making a 4-plex. GCC was unable to finalize agreements with the landlord to add a wing for additional screens, and the theatre was doomed as the mega-plexes began to proliferate.
Ian, it was and probably still is a fun business for a lot of people. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I left because I found I could no longer support the overall direction of the film industry (ever-increasing violence, sex, drug use, etc). I still miss it, as evidenced by my finding this site.
I remember when GCC sent out a memo to all theatres (around 1979) with a dollar bill attached, celebrating the chain’s average “per person” concession average reaching that lofty plateau. What is it in theatres now, about $4?
Theatre cleaning varied from market to market and theatre to theatre, as it does now. Some managers didn’t clean at all, and others picked up trash, swept and even spot mopped. In some you would lose your shoes walking down an aisle because the floors were so sticky, and in others I’d have eaten off the floor because they were so clean.
Overall operations improved when GCC’s new (about 1987) President, Paul Del Rossi began the “Reel Excellence” program. It detailed 108 operating standards, including cleanliness, maintenance, customer service, picture and sound quality, popcorn and drink quality, etc. Theatres were evaluated by secret shoppers, area managers, and home office personnel, and theatre teams could reach Bronze, Silver, or Gold award levels.
You want advice? Keep the auditorium temperatures comfortable, the popcorn fresh, the auditoriums clean, the spitwads off the screen, the babies crying in the LOBBY, the concession lines moving FAST, the major showtimes separated to spread out guest arrival, etc, etc. You know it all already, I’m sure. Hire good people, spend as much time training them on what you expect as you can, show them you appreciate their efforts, and have a good time!