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Shirley Marquez might have been thinking of the Pi Alley, a good single screen that opened in 1969 that was twinned down the middle less than a decade later, resulting in two long narrow auditoriums with postage stamp screens. Watching a film from the back rows of the twinned Pi Alley was an exercise in frustration. The 57 was better, but not by much. While the 57 auditoriums were fairly wide (I wouldn’t characterize either 57 auditorium as a bowling alley), they were also long, with screens that were surprisingly small, especially in the bigger of the two auditoriums. The large auditorium at the Charles was certainly superior to either the 57 or Pi Alley.
I attended tonight’s 7:00 screening of “Force Awakens.” Decent crowd for the penultimate night; I would estimate about 60% capacity. As soon as the end credits began to roll, the cameras came out as many audience members took photos. Most of the audience remained until the curtains closed. One more thing: there were two women identically dressed in Ziegfeld Girl-style costumes greeting people after they passed the ticket-taker and were posing for photos. Moonlighting Rockettes hired by Cablevision for the occasion?
While I am very sorry to hear this news, the closure of the Ziegfeld as a film theater has been in the cards for years, if not decades. It’s amazing that the Ziegfeld lasted for as long as it did; even in the 1970s the theater closed for weeks or months at a time due to lack of product.
It would be wonderful if the Ziegfeld came to a close with a reprise of its greatest hits, such as screenings of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “That’s Entertainment!,” “Ryan’s Daughter,” and “Gandhi” each in 70MM, “Tommy” in “Quintaphonic Sound,” “Cabaret,” “Barry Lyndon,” and “A Passage to India.” And don’t forget the restored “Lawrence of Arabia” (a huge hit that ran for months in 1989), “Vertigo” and “My Fair Lady” each in 70MM (kudos to the estimable Robert Harris and his colleagues for each of those restorations).
Ain’t gonna happen, of course. Thanks for the wonderful memories.
I attended a screening of “Blue Jasmine” during its opening weekend here. The film was showing in Cinemas I and II, and my screening was in Cinema I. I hadn’t been here in at least a decade, and was sorry to see how far one of the premier theaters in NYC had fallen. Old and uncomfortable seats and threadbare carpeting (held together in numerous areas by duct tape). The audience in the nearly sold out house (at an early afternoon screening,no less) appeared to love the film, and it was fun to see the proverbial line around the block when leaving the theater. “Blue Jasmine” will be shown on all three screens beginning tomorrow, which might be a first in the history of this venerable theater.
I checked the listings for the Loews 84th this weekend and noticed a drop in the number of films playing there. Based on the listings for the weekend (and into the following week), it seems that films are only being shown on three of the six screens. I haven’t had the chance to walk by the theater to inquire, but my hunch is that the auditoriums are being renovated. If so, an overdue development, to put it mildly.
The split of Cinema I occurred no earlier than 1976. I remember seeing “Jaws” in the non-subdivided Cinema I in the summer of 1975 and “Murder By Death” in the same auditorium in the summer of 1976. The auditoriums that were initially named Cinemas III and IV opened before Cinema I was twinned—-I think those auditoriums opened in mid-1974. I recall seeing “Godfather II” in the larger of those two auditoriums in late 1974—you would have thought that “Godfather II” would have been screened in the (much larger) Cinema I at at that time, but “Earthquake”(with its expensive Sensurround equipment) was still playing in Cinema I. In early 1975, I saw “Murder on the Orient Express” in Cinema II and “Earthquake” was still rumbling along in Cinema I.
Cinema II wasn’t subdivided until the early 1980s. The last film I saw in the non-subdivided Cinema II was “Annie” in the summer of 1982.
“Titanic” is currently being shown in the Lincoln Square IMAX auditorium in what the NY Times advertisements refer to as a “Special 70MM Engagement” (the “Titanic” reissue is being exhibited at other local IMAX theaters but apparently not in this format). I went last night and was highly impressed; 70MM IMAX 3D was a truly immersive experience. The film was presented with a 15 minute intermission; the break occurred shortly after the iceberg collision. Music from the film played during the intermission—-just like the old roadshow days. I assume the reason for the intermission was technical —– the maximum running time for films projected in IMAX is 170 minutes and “Titanic” exceeds 3 hours.
I was browsing in the Globe’s online archives and came across a few interesting facts about the Gary’s run of hits in the 1960s.
Only three films played at the Gary between October 1964 and May 1967, and each featured the same lead actress: “Mary Poppins” (October 22, 1964 to March 16, 1965; general admission); “The Sound of Music” (March 18, 1965 to October 18, 1966; roadshow); and “Hawaii” (October 20, 1966 to May 8, 1967; roadshow).
During the final months of the Gary run of “Music,” the Globe ads indicate that “Music” was being shown in two other area theaters, also on a roadshow basis (the GC Brockton and Showcase Lawrence). Apparently GC and Showcase were not permitted to include the title in their respective ads during the Gary run; instead, the ads referred to “Best Picture of 1965, starring Julie Andrews.” As soon as “Music” closed at the Gary, the GC and Showcase ads began to use the title.
The Gary’s string of Julie Andrews hits ended with “Star!” which opened its roadshow run on November 6, 1968 and closed on January 4, 1969. Surprising to see that the renamed and substantially edited version of “Star!” called “Those Were the Happy Times” played the Music Hall exclusively (and, presumably, disastrously) for several weeks in the fall of 1969—-I would have expected a much more low-profile release than an exclusive run at the largest theater in Boston.
The Waltham Cinema opened on May 26, 1971. The initial attractions were second run engagements of the Disney film “The Barefoot Executive” and the Dick Van Dyke comedy “Cold Turkey.” Source: The Boston Globe.
Another Westonian here and I knew that family as well—-the Spencers. A lot of good memories from seeing films there in the 70s and 80s. I remember being impressed when the Spencers invested in a Dolby stereo system around 1980 (and my recollection was that the investment was substantial). It was highly unusual for a second run theater in those days to invest in a stereo system; most first run theaters in Boston and the suburbs were not equipped for Dolby,yet the Playhouse was.
This former Westonian paid many visits to the Waltham Cinema growing up as well—-it was always a buck house. On rare occasions the cinema would show first run films, which were invariably “B” movies that had bypassed nearby first run houses such as the GC Shoppers World or Loews Natick.
According to the March 31, 1971 edition of Variety, the Plaza theater was scheduled to open on April 8, 1971. The article noted that the Plaza would be the second Walter Reade theater to open in Boston (the other being the Charles).
Clarifying a few previous posts (mine included): the Sack Cinema 57 opened in late December 1971 with the long-forgotten “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” on one screen. The second screen opened about a month later with “The Hospital.” Source: back issues of Variety (now online).
Following up on some of the previous comments about the opening of the Cheri. The first screen opened in February 1966 with “The Chase.” The second screen opened in November of the same year with “The Fortune Cookie.” The third screen (i.e., the smaller auditorium on the upper level with the separate box office) opened in July 1967 with “A Guide to the Married Man.” The source for this info is Variety (back issues are now available online).
The Walter Reade featured a 75th anniversary tribute to 20th Century Fox over Labor Day weekend, including screenings of “MASH” (with a Q&A including Elliot Gould and Sally Kellerman), the director’s cut of “Alien” and 70MM screenings of “Cleopatra” and “Patton.” I attended the “Cleopatra” screening—-I estimate that the auditorium was about 75-80% full. A treat to see it in 70MM on the big screen, with all of the roadshow trappings (overture, intermission, etc.)—-and the quality of the print was stellar. I hope the solid turnout will encourage the Walter Reade to schedule more 70MM showings, as it is one of the few theaters in NYC that remains equipped for 70MM. The only other Walter Reade 70MM screenings that I recall from the last few years are “El Cid” and “Playtime.” More, please!
While reviewing the postings for the old Astor Plaza tonight, I had two comments. First, the summary for the theater states that the final Astor Plaza attraction was “Spiderman 2.” As many pointed out at the time of the closing in 2004 (can’t believe it’s been almost exactly 6 years already), the final attraction was an abbreviated run of “The Village.” Second, and not germane to the Astor Plaza but in response to a series of above postings from 2004 about the 1983 re-release of “Around the World in 80 Days” and whether the re-release was shown in NYC. The re-release played briefly at the Loews 83rd Street on the Upper West Side. It was not screened in 70MM; I don’t believe that any of the auditoriums at the 83rd were equipped for 70MM. BTW, “80 Days” was shown at MOMA earlier this year as part of a tribute to David Niven. I didn’t attend the screening, but saw the MOMA brochure for the Niven retrospective—-no mention of 70MM for the “80 Days” print.
The Clearview site now includes “Funny Girl.” BTW, a restored print of “Funny Girl” was shown at the Ziegfeld in September 2001—-I think the engagement was to help promote the imminent DVD release. I attended a screening on the weekend before 9/11. The 35MM print looked terrific, and the Ziegfeld gave it the full roadshow treatment (overture, intermission including entracte music, etc.). Surprising that Clearview decided to book “Funny Girl” again, as I don’t think that the brief reissue in 2001 attracted much of an audience.
According to the Clearview website, the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog” opens exclusively at the Ziegfeld on November 25. Tickets for the reserved seat “Royal” sections: $50 each. General admission: $30. No, those prices are not typos. “Royal” and general admission tickets include admission to the “Ultimate Disney Experience” at Roseland. The number of “Royal” vs. general admission seats vary by performance. Tickets are on sale through December 13.
During the early 1970s the Loews/Sack Natick probably had its share of simultaneous engagements with Boston first-run houses (it wasn’t unusual for B pictures or Disney releases to open day-and-date in Boston and the top suburban cinemas), but “The Way We Were” wasn’t one of them. “The Way We Were” had an exclusive run at the Circle in Brookline during the fall of 1973, which is where I saw it. “The Way We Were” wasn’t a Christmas release; IMDB states that the film opened in October 1973.
I wouldn’t be too concerned about “WSS” ticket prices and ticket availability. Most productions are heavily discounting tickets (check out some of the B'way websites for discount codes). Unless “WSS” gets outstanding reviews and word of mouth (and the buzz from the DC tryout was mixed, apart from raves for the actress playing Maria), discounts should be available soon after the opening. The Palace is a large house, so there’ll be many seats to fill. As to ticket availability—-the producers of “WSS” have been withholding many seats from sale at regular prices. When “WSS” tickets first went on sale last fall, the best seats I could find for March through May (other than premium seats at $300 each) were in the last four rows of the orchestra. And in this economy, I doubt those premium seats are selling well—-eventually they will be repriced.
Back to something more on topic. The current edition of Weekly Variety has an article about a series of 70MM screenings at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival, including a new 70MM print of “Ben Hur.” The article notes that it had been very difficult to track down a quality 70MM print, “…after considerable inquiries, and a number of false leads, a brand new restoration was uncovered that was recently struck by a small distrib in Melbourne.” Other 70MM screenings in Berlin include “2001,” “Lord Jim,” “Cheyenne Autumn,” “Cleopatra,” and of course “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Contact info for John Rigas: Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. According to Wikipedia, his release date is 09-04-2017.
Interesting comments MPol; I wasn’t aware of those problems. During the 1970s, I would often bicycle over to the cinema with friends to catch a weekend matinee or go to an evening show with family (with dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the same building as the cinema either before or after the movie). Never felt unsafe.
Not sure I would agree, though, that the Waltham cinema failed for reasons of location or the type of films that played there (unless you are referring to second run films in general). While the cinema was located in a commercial/industrial area, its location by the Winter Street exit off of Route 128 meant that it was easily accessible by car. During the 1970s, sellouts on weekends were not uncommon. I remember that “The Sting” played there for many weeks during the summer of 1974—-more than six months after the film had opened in first run. “Jaws” and “Star Wars” also had extended runs there—-many months (and in the case of “Star Wars,” probably more than a year) after they had debuted in first run.
What caused the Waltham cinema to close probably had more to do with industry trends, such as the sharp reduction in the second run market due to the exponential growth of home video in the 1980s. And theaters with a single screen or few screens were on the decline as well, due to the economics. The placement of the Waltham cinema within that office/retail building made expansion impossible, and the cinema’s two small auditoriums were clearly unsuitable for subdivision into additional screens.
I only went to the old Embassy on Moody Street once (I think the film was “With Six You Get Eggroll”), and remember it as very atmospheric—-it could not have been more different from the mundane cinema by Route 128.
Well, it depends upon how one defines “porn.” The Circle did, on occasion, show soft core X-rated fare. In its single screen days, the Circle had the exclusive Boston run of “Emmanuelle.” Another soft core booking from the 1970s was the X-rated “Alice in Wonderland.”
From the Boston Globe:
Curtain will close on two cinemas
Brookline, Lawrence theaters called not financially viable
By Angel Jennings, Globe Correspondent | August 26, 2008
National Amusements Inc. said yesterday that it will shutter two theaters in the Boston area in September because the locations are no longer financially viable.
The Dedham-based movie chain plans to close the Showcase Cinemas Lawrence 1-6 on Monday and the Circle Cinemas in Brookline will close for business after the last show on Sept. 7. The private company said it would try to find positions at its other locations for the 51 employees affected by the closings.
“We watch all of our theaters closely,” Wanda Whitson, the company’s spokeswoman, told the Globe yesterday, “and make every effort to keep them as viable operating businesses. Once they are no longer viable, we make the decision to close them.”
The closings come at a time when many Massachusetts movie theaters are hurting as a result of competition from DVDs and the rise of home movie theater systems. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, there were 112 movie theaters in Massachusetts last year, down from 117 locations in 2005.
To attract moviegoers, some theaters are adding more amenities. For its part, National Amusements is trying to turn some if its theaters into entertainment complexes where people come to do more than just watch movies.
Earlier this month, National Amusements opened the Showcase Cinema de Lux at Patriot Place, a 14-screen upscale theater in Foxborough that offers a lounge with a full bar and in-seat dining. Another theater following this same concept is being built in Dedham at Legacy Place and is slated to open next year. And a 12-screen theater is being built at the vacated Macy’s building at the Westgate Mall in Brockton.
National Amusements, which operates more than 1,500 theaters worldwide, including 15 locations in Massachusetts, also plans to expand overseas.
Employees at the two theaters that are closing received a short, four-sentence memo Friday about the closings. In the memo passed out at Circle Cinemas, Jose M. Perez, the theater’s managing director, wrote with a “heavy heart” about the closing of Circle Cinemas.
“Please note that this decision is in no way a reflection of the hard work and dedication you have all shown over the years,” Perez wrote.
The six-screen Showcase Cinemas Lawrence 1-6 opened in June 1965, and is located a short distance from its counterpart, Showcase Cinemas Lawrence 7-14. The larger, eight-screen theater will remain open. Circle Cinemas, which has seven screens, opened in November 1965.
Circle Cinemas employs 21 workers and Showcase Cinemas Lawrence 1-6 has 30 employees.
“Our employees are very important to us, and this is not a decision we make lightly,” Whitson said.
Even though I lived less than 10 miles away from the Showcase Dedham in the 70s and 80s, I typically bypassed it in favor of more comfortable multiplexes such as the GC Chestnut Hill or GC Shoppers World.
One of my rare visits to the Showcase Dedham was in January 1982 for a sneak preview of “Victor/Victoria.” This was a true old-style sneak preview—-for example, the newspaper advertisement didn’t reveal the title (if memory serves, the ad mentioned a sneak preview of the new film from the director of “10”). The sneak was only at the Showcase Dedham—-not in Boston or at any other suburban location. The audience response seemed favorable, but nothing compared to when I saw the film again a couple of months later early in its exclusive run at the Ziegfeld in NYC.