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Is there any information or pictures on the Vista Theater in Phoenix? I know Fox West Coast turned it into the first 70mm Roadshow house in Phoenix in the mid 1950’s. It closed after the Bethany, Kachina and Cine Capri opened in the mid 1960’s. Was it a first run theatre before it was converted to 70mm? Was it downtown? How many seats did it have?
In answer to TC’s question. Karl Hoblitzelle was the CEO of Interstate Theaters Inc out of Dallas. He and his partner, Robert O'Donnell ran 85% of the theaters in the larger cities of Texas (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Ft Worth, Austin etc) from the 1920’s thru the 1960’s. Interstate was the largest theater circuit in Texas during that time period and also one of the most powerful.
This theatre was built and operated by independent theater owner Jack Grossman from the time it opened until it closed in the 1980’s.
When I visited Houston several years back, I noticed that the smaller marquee on the Alabama tower is gone. I believe it’s been gone for years and years. You can still see the tracks on the tower where the marquee use to be. When I worked there, back in the 1950’s, I use to have to change that thing every week rain or shine. A lot of fond memories.
The Santa Rosa Theater was built and operated by the Interstate Circuit Inc. theater chain out of Dallas. TX. I believe it was the last new indoor theater that the old Interstate Circuit opened in the Houston area. It opened in the late 1940’s. It played sub run films 28 days after downtown Houston came off. Every Saturday morning, they would run a kid show conplete with (5) cartoons, a serial, and a feature film. It was one of the best kid houses in Houston.
I remember THE TEN COMMANDMENTS playing first run Houston at the Metropolitan downtown. It played grind during the day and hard ticket for the 8PM showing. After which, it moved over to the Village in West University where it continued it’s Houston exclusive run. The picture was shot in the Paramount vistaVision process, not Cinemascope. I never remember it playing the Bellaire unless it was after the Village run.
After the first Cinemascope picture THE ROBE opened at the Metropolitan in early 54', the majority of the Houston sub run theaters were forced to buy the anamorphic lens and in some cases put in new screens so they could move over the Cinemascope films off the Metropolitan, Majestic and Loews State.
By the mid 1950’s the Yale and the Broadway were operated by (I believe) Rowley United or some other chain out of Dallas. I believe Interstate had to give up those two theaters in 49' or 50' as part of the Paramount decree. A gentleman by the name of Guggenheimer (mispelled) was the city manager and worked out of the Yale. I remember BEN-HUR played both theaters after it played it’s exclusive 70mm reserved seat run at the Tower in 1960. By that time, the Yale had seen its better days.
Does anyone have any information on the Garden Oaks, Alameda, Santa Rosa or Bellaire in the Houston area?
As I remember, this was a subrun theater in San Antonio til 1956, when Interstate Theaters Inc renovated the house and made it the reserved seat 70 MM venue for San Antonio. Didn’t it open OKLAHOMA and AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS? I saw 80 DAYS there and what a presentation. I also think it opened BEN HUR.
Didn’t the DeMille open SPARATACUS on October 7, 1960 and run it for almost 2 years?
The Cine Capri was built in 1965 and 66' as a roadshow hard ticket theatre. It opened in the spring of 1966 with THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY(20th-Fox)
I attended many a movie there when I was a high school student at Schreiner during the middle to late 1950’s. In those days, the Arcadia would change 3 and 4 times a week. The best new shows always played Sunday and Monday. I think the admission price was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The bathrooms were clean, the popcorn fresh and the film presentation outstanding. The operator never missed a change over. I saw all three James Dean pictures there. EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT. I have lot of good memories of Kerrville.
I stand corrected
“Bwana Devil” was the first 3-D movie and it opened at the Kirby in the first part of 1953, having premiered in New York on 11/26/52. I WAS a lousy movie. I was told by my parents that the Kirby theater became part of the Houston Neiman Marcus. I do remember the long narrow entrance, but the same thing applied to the Metropolitan and Loews State.
In the early 1950’s, Interstate changed the policy of the River Oaks from neighborhood sub-run to art, foreign langange. It was very successful for many years having the exclusive Houston engagement. I don’t think Houston had another art theater in those days. John Smith was the manager. I was the assistant at the Alabama in 1961 when Interstate transferred me to the River Oaks. The theater was playing SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON exclusive. After that, we followed with 101 DALMATIONS, THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR and THE PARENT TRAP. What a six months that was.
This theater was a great 3 strip Cinerama house. Saw “Search For Paradise there in 57' or 58'. What a presentation. Clearview should sell it to someone who would restore it back to Cinerama.
I think every theater manager in Houston says he had a hand in the design of that “upside down” curtain. I worked with John Smith at the River Oaks and Howard Skelton at the Alabama and they both take credit for that design. I also worked with the city manager, Al Lever and his assistant and they too take credit. If my memory serves me, Ross Vallone was the manager of the Majestic in the middle 50’s and didn’t go to the Tower until the Majestic closed in the middle 60’s.
I’ve been told that Henry Fonda built and ran the Westwood Theatre for a period of time.
In 1955, Interstate Circuit Inc., who owned the Tower, spent almost $50,000 to refurbish the theatre putting in 70mm and the Todd-AO system. Before that, the Tower, along with the Alabama, Village, Garden Oaks etc, was a 28 day sub-run house that played after downtown Houston. “Oklahoma” in 55' was followed by “Around the World in 80 Days” in 56'. Both were seem in the Todd-AO process with a deep curved 60 ft. screen which gave the audience the same sensation as the old 3 strip Cinerama. There was one major draw back in projecting the picture on this curved screen. The projectionest could never keep the picture totally focused. So after the run of “Around the World” was finished, Interstate opted to go to a standard flat screen. Here is a bit of nostalgia concerning the new curtain in front of the 60 ft. screen. When the new screen was installed, the width went from side wall to side wall which meant there was no room for a side drawn curtain. There was also not enough room at the top of the screen to put in a water fall curtain. So Interstate came up with the idea of having a curtain that opened and closed from the floor. I believe the Tower was the only theatre in the country with this style curtain. Other roadshow pictures that played the Tower in the 50’s included “GiGi', "The Big Fisherman”, Porgy & Bess" “Sleeping Beauty”, “Ben-Hur”. “The Alamo”, and “Exodus”.