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Another Frank abomination (the Town Twin and later Town 16 weren’t that bad) was the Point Four which was a bowling ally converted into a four screener. No masking, mono sound, incredibly austere interior….cheap, cheap, cheap.
The Franks destroyed the beautiful Strand Theater in Ocean City. It’s a shame, I wish I could find more pictures of the old AC theaters, especially shots of the interiors. Wish I would have thought of doing that myself back in the day.
I worked one summer at what had been the Roxy when they turned it into an indoor kiddie ride park called “The Land of Oz”. The Franks basically turned the Embassy into a Blaxploitation/Kung Fu flick house. The Apollo really went to seed under Frank management. After a fire they never even repaired the screen which had been damaged (it literally had been burned down to 1.85 to 1). Back in the 60’s/early 70’s the Hamid theaters primarily showed films from Fox, Universal and Warners. The Apollo Circuit had MGM and Paramount and the Beach always seemed to show a lot of United Artists product.The Charles in its heyday was actually considered an “Art House” with foreign films and more high brow and prestige US films like the Godfather. The only theaters I was never in was The Capital (I was too young to get in to the summer Burlesque and skin flicks in the winter) and the Astor which was more of a neighborhood house with second runs, double features, grindhouse type films, etc. The Franks apparently even ruined the Astor turning it into the “Town Cinema” and covered the marquee with a cardboard sign which literally turned to mush from the rain.
The Franks built the Town Twin (later expanded to 4 and then 16) from the ground up at the Shore Mall next to the Atlantic Drive-In. For a Twin built from the ground up it was mediocre at best. One decently sized room and one smaller room with what my Father termed “A postage stamp screen”. After growing up with the big AC palaces it was a bit of a shock for me. However the real issue was the too frequent presentation issues: out of focus projection, poor framing, films breaking or burning up in the projector and while there was side masking, its use was inconsistent to say the least. Welcome to the world of Frank Theaters. Everything done on the cheap, indifferent quality control, etc, etc. In fairness, apparently the current state of the Frank chain has improved. I actually went to Jr and Sr High School with Bruce Frank who is now the CEO and he might have done some things to change that bad old Frank Theater culture.
Actually born and raised in AC and Ventnor. Had lot’s of extended family in Philly though and eventually migrated there myself. You’re memory is better than mine when it comes to dates. I’m pretty good with remembering which theater I saw the films. One thing I do recall, out of focus, film breaking and burning in the projectors, etc seemed to start happening at the Frank Theater’s brand new Town Twin.
I specifically recall seeing Patton at the Shore with my father but I don’t recall it being a roadshow…it certainly wasn’t being presented in D150, 70mm, etc. I wish I could recall more about the roadshows in AC. The one’s I saw, The Sand Pebbles and The Blue Max were in the summer. Dr. Doolittle in 70mm at the Hollywood was not in the summer. One thing I do remember about those theaters in AC was never seeing anything out of focus or looking dim like the projector light was turned down or worn out. I would assume all those old theaters were still using carbon arc lamps and experienced union projectionists to run them. The last film I saw at the Shore was the Bruce Lee film “The Chinese Connection”. It already had a run at the Beach and while the print had more than a bit of wear/damage (like most Hong Kong “Chop Socky” flicks of that era) it still looked very good. I don’t have any problem with today’s digital projection (it’s seems a bit more idiot proof) but if you didn’t get to see a new 35mm film print (much less 70mm) projected properly through a well maintained carbon arc lamp projector onto a 50 ft screen you really missed out.
Just a guess on my part but one reason why they stopped using the curtains at some of these theaters is because they were running “continuous showings” or “grind” where once the main feature ended (and back in those days there was little or no end title crawl, just “The End” and the film company logo) the trailers, cartoon (remember those?), etc would start up immediately and run that way all day and night like a continuous loop through the two projectors. Some believe that once the monopoly of the film companies owning the first run theaters was broken up that it was the beginning of the decline of great film presentation. Those film companies had strict rules for proper presentation. Curtains were to be used before and after the main feature, trailers, cartoons and short subjects and screen masking adjusted behind the closed curtain (an empty screen was never to be seen).
Am I crazy or confused…but is the screen larger in the smaller auditorium #2 ?
I think that the question regarding the Center and the Hollywood is not whether they had curtains and masking but if at some point they just stopped using them. I have always wondered if by the mid 70’s they just started the bad practice of showing everything at 2.0 to 1. Apparently this was not uncommon at that time. I do recall ‘scope films at the Roxy always looking to be every bit of 2.39 to 1. When I saw the French Connection in '71 (actually New Years Eve) at the Hollywood I do recall the film being 1.85 to 1 without any empty screen being exposed so there must have either been black masking or the curtain used to mask off the ends of the screen. Most of the films that I have any real memory of at the Center were 'scope and that theater was very wide and that curved screen went almost wall to wall (my guess is it was constructed in front of the original proscenium arch or the arch was busted out when the theater was converted to 'scope and 70mm in the 50’s).
If they were showing non-scope in the Casino at 1.66 to 1 on what was probably a 50 foot wide 2.40 to 1 screen with the side masking retracted it would certainly appear square. I agree with you 100% regarding the Virginia vs the Roxy. But what was more of an issue to me is that the Virginia just wasn’t up to the standards of a “Roadshow” house. The screen needed to be bigger and have proper masking and a curtain and the truth is, the theater in general was more than a bit plain, drab and run down looking. My guess is the owners just didn’t want to invest the money into a very large, old theater like the Roxy…but it sure would have been something if they had. The use of the regular screen curtains as masking in the Hamid theaters probably explains why I never noticed masking in the Center, Hollywood, etc. The Center (which had a great huge curved screen) and the Hollywood did have 70mm and roadshows and were certainly worthy of doing them. It is also just beyond me why the dumpy Shore Theater was chosen for the roadshows of Cleopatra and Patton. Again, not a question of the size of the theater but no masking or curtain and a generally uninspiring theater interior. I would also guess no multi-channel sound either.
I was so young when I went to Steel Pier that some memories are very vivid and some things are very cloudy to say the least. I recall the screen in the Music Hall not being the width of the entire stage but still a pretty good size screen. You never got to see them hoist up that screen because all the curtains and drapes would close first. With regards to the Casino, back in the 60’s it always impressed me as being definitely purpose built to be a movie theater and with its squarish shape and wide proscenium arch well suited to the ‘scope and widescreen era. I don’t recall anything unusual about how 1.85 films were shown in the Casino. I saw “Help”, which was probably shot 1.66 to 1 but my recollection is that it was shown 1.85 to 1 in the Casino as it most likely was in most theaters in the US. I don’t recall the film appearing to be overly square or “window boxed” on the Casino screen. I do specifically remember going to a midnight screening of “Pink Flamingos” at the Strand theater which was almost across from the Pier and that was definitely a window boxed 1.66 to 1 16mm print shown in the center of the screen. Is it possible that Steel Pier snuck in some 16mm prints sometimes? It might explain the square look.
Thanks for the clarification. As I recall, before its conversion to the “Music Hall” the Casino had a decent sized ‘scope screen. Even if they needed to go to a “flying screen”
there was no reason except being cheap for installing something that looked like it belonged in an elementary school auditorium.
So it sounds like the Midway Theater was what I knew as the Tony Grant Theater. I am a little confused regarding “The screen they put in the Casino when they changed it to the Music Hall was horrible. It literally was a screen about the size of a screen you would use at home for home movies.” The last time I was in the Casino Theater was in the early/mid 70’s to see some closed circuit boxing and the screen seemed to be normal for a theater of that size. Do you mean the screen in the Music Hall?
It doesn’t surprise me that the Casino Theater had masking, etc. as it was used exclusively for movies (at least back in the heyday before it was used for boxing matches, etc). I do recall that the Casino was a relatively wide theater while the Music Hall was longer and had the orchestra pit and big stage.
I just don’t have any memory of the Ocean/Midway Theater. My Dad was the manager of Trilling Paint Store on Atlantic Ave and the Hamid Family, owners of the Pier, were customers so we always had free tickets to the Pier. One summer in the mid 60’s my older brother worked at one of the Pier food stands and on more than a couple occasions basically walked in with him and had the run of the Pier for the day. It was a different world back then and the Pier was a family business and the Hamids were very nice people.
I was born and raised in Atlantic City and virtually grew up on Steel Pier in the 60’s. In fact, one of the apartments in the building I grew up in was shared by a couple of musicians from the Steel Pier Orchestra. I actually saw my first two movies in the theaters on Steel Pier in ‘62. The films were “The Underwater City” in the Music Hall and “The 300 Spartans” in the Casino. As I recall, the “A” pictures typically played in the Casino Theater, which was generally only used for movies. The Music Hall, had the vaudeville style stage show which was typically followed by a lesser “B” film. I don’t recall the Ocean/Midway Theater on the Pier but it’s been a long, long, time. Many of the popular rock, R&B and Motown acts that played the Pier in the summer performed their many 25-30 minute sets in the Marine Ballroom which also held the televised Ed Hurst Record Hop/Dance Show “Summertime on The Pier”. The Marine Ballroom was standing room only except (if I remember correctly) for a small elevated area of bleachers in the back. I do recall the “Little Theater” which by the 60’s if I’m not mistaken was called the “Tony Grant Theater” after the gentleman who ran the “Tony Grant Stars of Tomorrow Show” that played there. Tony Grant also hosted the show and ran a performing arts/dance school that produced most of the kid performers who appeared on the show. He also ran a weekly talent show on nearby Garden Pier in the summer. I also recall “Cowboy Fridays” at the Pier. During the daytime on “Cowboy Fridays” cowboy films were shown non-stop all day. Without a doubt Steel Pier was a very unique place (even beyond the Diving Horse) and I’m really surprised that it has not been commented on more in Cinema Treasures
Never have been to this theater. But if the IMAX still has the 15/70 projector and the 1.45 to 1 screen this would definitly be the place to see Dunkirk in June.
Thanks for the update. At least they aren’t doing the old 70’s slice and dice. From a business point of view, it does make sense. From what I have read, Neshaminy is one of AMC’s top grossing mulitplexes. Theater #24 is perfect for Dolby Cinema with its' 60ft wide screen and 500 plus seating capacity. From what I understand, Dolby Cinema includes dual 4k Laser Projection along with Dolby’s vaunted Atmos Sound System. So now you can demand a premium ticket price for your other big flagship auditorium. I am guessing that because of the addition of Dolby Cinema, the IMAX would need to be upgraded to Laser Projection and the sound enhancements that go along with that so as not to be viewed as “inferior”. I would also assume that recliners (and reserve seating) would also be part of the “upgrades” for both auditoriums.
Never been to an AMC with recliners. The only AMC theaters with recliners in the Philly area that I am aware of is AMC Woodhaven and the Marleton 8 and Deptford 8 over in South Jersey. Soemthing is going on at the AMC Neshaminy 24 as the IMAX and theater #24 have been shut down for the next 12 weeks….but that’s a mystery at this time.
I really hope they are not cutting up those two big auditoriums into more screens…that would be an absolute travesty. One would hope that at a big grossing location like Neshaminy they would be upgrading the IMAX to Laser Projection and theater #24 to “Dolby Cinema”. I don’t see what the advantage of converting existing auditoriums into more smaller screens accomplishes and I wouldn’t think they would get rid of the IMAX. Again it is troubling that they are so silent about what is going on.
Yeah, I do get a bit too deeply into this stuff sometimes. At least it keeps me out of trouble…..
My daughter did a semester at University of Amsterdam and came away learning about 5 words of Dutch because just about everybody in Amsterdam speaks excellent English (and many speak French and German also). In fact, I actually noticed many Dutch folks there lapsing back and forth between Dutch and English when speaking with each other, especially parents speaking with their children. It truly is an international city and a wonderful place. My only regret while in Amsterdam is not knowing that a 70mm Ultra Panavision print of The Hateful 8 was still playing on a properly masked 40' screen at the Eye Film Museum while I was there and I missed it.
Have started seeing some films at Grant Plaza once again. The auditoriums have literally all been reduced to half the original seating capacity with the conversion to the big recliners. Even without stadium seating, you now get an unobstructed view of the screen, even with someone sitting directly in front of you because of the unusually large space between rows needed to accomodate the recliners…which is a good thing for my short self. Aud 2 & 8 which are the smallest have definately benefited from a change in seating configuration, eliminating the isle that devided the seats down the middle has created much improved site lines which also make the screen appear larger. Little bit disappointed by the redone decor; it’s clean as a pin but a bit too “blackbox” sterile. The original decor had a nice hint of old time movie theater style and warmth with the stylized wall lighting fixtures and color scheme. Good 4k Digital projection and decent sound. The best auditoriums are still the two big ones, #3 and #7 with their 40' wide ‘scope screens and excellent sight lines improved by the reduced seating.
Hmm….12 weeks is a long time. The only thing I can think of would be an upgrade to laser projection, new sound system, and a general sprucing up (new seats, etc)? I don’t know if a different screen is needed for laser projection but that is possible. The present IMAX screen at Neshaminy is one of the larger screens in a converted theater (I’m guessing around 64' wide) and I don’t see how they could go any larger in the existing space unless the auditorium was completely gutted and reconstructed with a new screen constructed on what would be one of the side walls in the present configuration along with raising the roof height. Whatever is being done, you would think that they would publicize any kind of renovations or improvements.
Was on vacation in Amsterdam last week and made sure that I saw a film in this amazing theater. It is truly a sight to behold. Beyond the obvious beauty of the theater I was very impressed by the excellent sight lines in the main auditorium. The auditorium is almost as wide as it is long putting the viewer closer to the screen and creating a more intimate feel. The generous width of the theater also works very well with modern widescreen. Presentation was first class also. The projection was 4k Digital annd the digital sound was excellent. The theater Manager actually told me they are working on the sound to find the optimal system and balance in the large auditorium. There’s nothing like watching the curtains part to reveal the screen….a very rare treat these days. Another small but impressive detail was that the appropriate screen masking was even used for the previews. Wonderful experience. It’s unfortunate that all the great theaters in my own City have either been demolished or turned into Rite Aids.
Was visiting London this past week and had the opportunity to see Batman V Superman at the BFI IMAX. Great experience all around. Was pleasantly surprised to find the film being shown on 70mm IMAX film. This is a fabulous IMAX venue with a 20mx26m screen. Better yet, when I asked the theater manager a few questions about the presentation he invited me to visit the projection booth and spend a few moments with the projectionist. The projectionist was incredibly generous answering my questions and explaining the equipment which is very impressive to say the least. He was also quite interested that I was old enough to have experienced real Cinerama, 70mm, and Ultra Panavision. Just a real treat.