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Speaking of mementos, my new avatar is my one and only memento from the Lans. It’s a letter from the marquee. One day the manager (Her name will not be mentioned in an effort to protect her family) walks up to me and my friend Rob, and she asks if we want to earn some extra hours by painting the marquee letters. In all honesty they looked mostly fine to us. They were black and had an array of chips, dings, and rust speckles. Rob and I were both confused when our manager showed us the many cans of red paint she had purchased. The color change would only be noticeable to people driving past the sign during the day. Once it got dark enough for the lights to come on, they were essentially silhouettes. Painting the metal letters was going to be a tough job but we were being paid by the hour. In reality, we had no idea of what we were doing, but we tried. Rob dipped the face of the letters in the red paint while I quickly painted the sides. There wasn’t much elbow room down the the basement so could only do 20 letters or so at a time. While the paint dried we went across the street and stuffed our faces with pie. When we got back the letters looked pretty good with only a few touch ups to do. It was when we were picking up the painted letters that we noticed that enough red paint had profusely dripped off the letters.
So, being the clever fellows we were, we went around to gather up as much old newspaper we could. After spreading out a bed of newspaper, we tried painting another batch of letters, unfortunately to mixed results. The red paint had slowly dripped onto the newspaper, but then it soaked through the newspaper down to the basement floor. So, we were stuck with a bunch of red marquee letters with a halo of newspaper scraps on them. As time went on we found we could paint the letters with only a modicum of waste and mess. It’s been almost forty minutes to notice since the letter painting took place, but I’m betting if I could somehow get down to the basement of the pizza place, the outline of those two sets of letters would still be there.
I actually took four of the marquee letters: FRED, but over time enough people had pestered me for the letter to their name. There went R and D. The E is probably in a box buried under a pile of Black Widow spiders. I really only wanted the F, so if it’s gone forever, I hope the new owners are enjoying theirs. During the years that passed I kept the F on my office wall. It was getting a bit dull and full of dings, so I decided to paint it myself. I wasn’t happy with black or gold, so I used a sparkly gold paint. It looks so good I’m tempted to try and track down the RED to make a set.
Anywho, I just thought I’d share.
Thanks for the note, Mike.
Hey, DaveZorning, you’ve been talking about photos of the Lans for a while, but were you aware there was a glass etching of photo INSIDE the ticket taker’s booth. I think at one time they would tape the current show schedule to it, but in ‘76 when I started there is was just this black window in the red battered ticket box. Is this old news to you? I wonder what happened to that ticket box.
In the beginning there was the River Oaks theater. Then the much smaller River Oaks 2&3 theaters were built across the street. After that, a small theater was built attached to the original River Oaks. That made River Oaks 4 and that’s when I moved on. What was build after that and where in the mall is unknown to me. Hope this helped. —Fred
During December in the late 1970s a local charity rented out what used to be called #1 (back when there were only three theaters) and they played the 1970 musical Scrooge which starred Albert Finney. I had never seen it before so I watched and danced along as much as I could. Watching that film has become a holiday event in my house. The DVD gets a workout. I’m glad I got to see it in the big theater in all its glory. That’s a very fond River Oaks memory.
Thanks for the feedback and mental picture, CinemarkFan.
What is River Oaks, both theater #1 and the rest of the mall look like these days? My sister was there a few years ago and said it was a battlefield. Does anyone know where there might be some photos posted? How about the K&B bookstore. True story—I put in applications at a couple of stores in the mall and on the same day I got an offer from Plitt and from the bookstore to be manager. I still wonder if I made the right choice by picking the theater.
You’re lucky to be alive, PopcornFan, and to have had so little contact with Cos. Just thinking about the man gives me a tummy ache.
And there would be no need to mistrust theater folk if they were paid a fair wage from the getgo.
I thought I’d be dead and buried before hearing that name again. What a total slug of a human being (IMHO) along with this security lapdog Phil Grant. Blech. I feel unclean just thinking about the two of them.
When I worked at RO #1 and then after #4 was built on, there was no ice cream sold behind the counter. The only ice cream sold in the building was vending machine next to the woman’s bathroom. This was in 1976-8. Perhaps RO 1 sold ice cream behind the counter when it first opened, but I think it went away in a hurry.
I have a funny memory of working as manager at RO #1 and eventually #1 & #4 on the weekends. Management downtown got so concerned about the crowds that we used to have to hire Calumet City police to work as security. The great part was that they were half drunk when they finally showed up and they continued drinking throughout the night. I recall having to lock up a couple of cop’s gun in the safe until they were sober enough to hold them. How secure I felt. I always carried a sap in my back pocket for troublemakers, but the only movie I felt the slightest bit in danger during was The Warriors. There was plenty of violence and a couple of shootings at other theaters showing the film, so that one time i was happy to have a couple of rent-a-cops on duty.
I have a vague memory of a contest that took place to celebrate the opening of two and three. I was working across the street at one at the time. I think the contest was to guess how many bricks were used in building the two theaters. Does anyone else remember this? I can’t recall what the prize was, but I’m guessing it involved free movie tickets.
Just curious—how many former employees are reading/posting on this board? It would be nice to trade a long distance how-you-doin'?
Getting the job managing at R O One was a fluke. I got called with offers from the K&B Bookstore in the mall and River Oaks within a half hour of each other. I really wanted to manage the bookstore but already knew some people at the theater from having worked at the Lans Theater.
What if I had turned left instead or right? Taken that road instead of this road? Where would I be today? Hmmm.
The movie Magic played for an entire month before Superman? Hmm. I was working there at the time and I don’t recall it doing so well.
Speaking of which, the opening credits for Superman were great. Nice and long. We had a lot of packed houses and we had to train the ushers to ask everyone to move to the center of their row so we could seat people on the ends.
I was thinking of this when I saw the recent Superman movie in the theater. The old one may have been a little crude and rough around the edges at times, but it had lots more magic than the recent one. IMHO
I say we nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
This was THE theater to see a movie at when I was young. With its giant screen, movies like King Kong and Logans Run seemed to pull you in. I started working there in 1977 when Star Wars was playing. What a great time that was. I don’t know what it looks like today, and I don’t want to know. In the 70s it had grace and class and that’s how I want to remember it.
My first job was working as an usher at the Lans from 1976 to 78. What a great experience. We did show a heck of a lot of Disneys, but we also showed some 3rd run classics like Jaws, The Sting, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Thursday nights were always a thrill ride because after the last show started for the night we had to go out and change the marquee. The ladder was barely tall enough to reach the top row of letters, and you had to pray for good weather because if the wind started blowing there was nothing to grab onto except lightbulbs. The terror factor went up during the winter months. We didn’t top our popcorn with the motor oil they use in theaters today, our butter came in plastic kegs. The stuff was solid until we floated the kegs in a bucket of hot water. Then we could pour it into the dispenser. It made the popcorn a little mushy, because of the water content in the butter, but it tasted oh-so good. There was no soda dispenser behind the candy counter but we did have a soda vending machine. My duties included keeping the machine full of syrup and cups. It cost a quarter for a cup of so-so soda. I learned a trick that used to puzzle the boss. Through hours of practice I figured out how to zing a penny into the coin slot to fool the machine into thinking it was getting a quarter. Soda for a penny! Woo hoo! Whenever the boss would empty out the coin bucket from the machine she used to blame all the pennies on those darned kids.
The Lans wasn’t the greatest theater in the world but it meant the world to me back then.
I worked for a short time at the Paramount in the late 70s. I remember showing Coma. After closing I used to spend hours exploring the theater. There were a lot of leftovers from when the theater was in her prime. There were underground dressing rooms and call boards for the live acts. I spent so much time exploring because I had been told that Al Capone had once owned the theater and had used it as a distribution hub for liquor during prohibition. There were tunnels running under Hohman Ave that ran to storefronts where the booze was supposed to have been sold out of. This was around the time that Geraldo was cracking open Capone’s vault in downtown Chicago, so I had it in my mind that I might find some of Capones lost money. I found nothing but a lot of mold and spider webs. It was fun exploring though. The Paramount was a beauty, though, and I wish I had seen her in her prime.