Comments from JimRankin

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JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Zenith Theatre on Dec 31, 2006 at 1:43 am

I have been told that a FULL COLOR antique rendering/painting of the auditorium has appeared, for sale, at Riverview Antiques shop here, at 175 S Water Street. It is said to be “absolutely breathtaking” by Hugh Swofford, so not only are such renderings rare, but in this case, beautiful as well, but at an asking proce of $680 it should be. Of course, no price is cast in stone, so one might get it for a lot less. It is already framed, but dimensions were not known. It may have made an excellent color cover photo (or 2-page spread, or foldout) for Larry Widen’s new book about Milw. theatres: “Silver Screens,” but perhaps he hadn’t seen this. If you’ve always wanted a genuine antique architectural painting for your wall, don’t pass up this rare opportunity! (Then someday you could photograph it and post that image here!)

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Cinema advertising breaks new barriers on Dec 28, 2006 at 9:09 pm

Re schmadrian’s remark about decades of commercials on TV, it should be pointed out that that was an entirely different ball game. Nobody may have liked commercials, but everyone knew they paid the way, and most Americans were not eager to go the way of the British and others and have to pay a yearly license fee to turn on your own TV legally. But with cinemas, one has already paid admission, so commercials there — or anything like them — is annoying even before you have to live with them in the audience.

Unsolicited communications and cell phones right in the cinema? Get used to it, for unless you turn off the power to your device, the cell system’s computer always knows who you are and where you are! Soon, every chain’s cinemas will have hidden antennas installed that will scan all phones or devices in the audience and will ‘ring’ them all or just select ones to deliver ads, games or whatever the promoters think will turn you on to their products. ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.’ I read that another outfit is designing invisible laser scanners to search the eyes of the audience when the lights go down, rather like the recent Tom Cruise movie. Don’t you think the chains are rocking back in their corporate chairs salivating at the idea of so many access fees from these ‘communicators’? You bet your boots they are, and as the Robber Barons said a century ago: “The public good be damned!”

Yes, of course the whole thing is a terrible idea, but that is the nature of free enterprise without morals: the profits of a few always outweigh the good of the many, and you will be denounced for being anti-enterprise if you oppose the latest wrinkle to steal the show from the showman. (Or is the showman now the advertiser??)

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Oriental Theatre on Dec 24, 2006 at 4:42 am

Life: Thank You for taking the time to detail all of this. Now I can see the arrows and the image you originally mentioned is the last on your list.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Oriental Theatre on Dec 23, 2006 at 1:52 am

Life: is this the photo you intended? It looks toward the stage front, not the two little auditoriums. And “arrows at the top”? I see none.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Wisconsin Cinemas I & II on Dec 21, 2006 at 5:20 am

Well, ‘Life,’ there are no 8x10 glossies as far as I have ever found out. The library of the county historical society has a copy of the Inaugural programme which has 1-inch square photos bordering the text, and there is a full page magazine photo in sepia showing just the left auditorium wall, but this is all I know of. That low resolution magazine photo has no date or identity on it since it was clipped and glued to pasteboard as part of the photos vertical file in originally childrens' dept. I brought the singular image to the attention of a senior librarian before the day when they liquidated the collection, and she said it would be transferred to the Local History Collection. Even in Larry Widen’s new book about Milw. theatre history, “Silver Screens,” he represents the WISCONSIN by means of an opening ad’s artwork from an unidentified source. Without good photos it, it is hard to judge just how accurate the artist’s rendition was. Likely good photos were taken for Rapp & Rapp, but as chance would have it, little appears to survive —that we have yet discovered that I know of.

I wish I had seen the WISCONSIN before it was split, but what I saw was a terrible hack job that only suggested the glamour that may have been. I try not to think of what I saw after 1963 when I started taking my own bus trips downtown from my parents' home 10 miles south in theatreless Greenfield. By the time I got there in my teen years, the chandeliers, draperies, and much plaster was gone. The era of aluminum and plate glass had taken over! The mezzanine was draped over, but I managed to creep into its very dusty seats that hadn’t been used in years; it was depressing. When demolition finally came, I actually felt better for it since the ignominy of slow decay left by United Artists was over. I took a last tour before the wrecking ball swung, and recall going back stage and finding a little room above the stage entrance where hanks of rope still hung on hooks, recalling its lively stage days so many years ago. I took one each of the three stained glass indicator lights from the switchboard (white, red and blue) and later donated them to the museum of the Theatre Historical Society ( www.historictheatres.org ) and am glad I did, since that long switchboard joined the rubble that was carted away. A tiny memory of R&R’s local ‘flagship’ house, but at least there is one.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Oriental Theatre on Dec 18, 2006 at 10:00 pm

A small point: the ORIENTAL is not owned by Landmark, but operated by them under a lease. So, the long term welfare of the theatre is more in the hands of its owner (a group of local business investors heretofore specializing in housing), rather than its operator. To be sure, if Landmark should somehow leave the theatre, its future would be more in doubt, since investors buy to increase their investment returns, not out of nostalgia for any property.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Juneau Theatre on Dec 18, 2006 at 12:48 am

Mr. Samuel: The only color image I know of is a hand tinted post card of the auditorium in 1910, but I doubt you are restoring the auditorium.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Kings Theatre on Dec 16, 2006 at 12:54 am

It would probably be almost impossible to locate all the original parts, much less get them back to the KINGS, but getting the only visible part, the console, might someday be possible for enough money; almost anything is ‘For Sale’ for enough money. As for the pipes and relay parts, etc., those could always be fabricated, if need be, if enough money and time are available. The chambers are still there; they have but to be filled, and a number of firms exist that could do the work for a hefty fee.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Piano/organ accompanists for silent films on Dec 11, 2006 at 1:50 pm

Aside from local newspaper ads and articles back in the day, your best bet would be to contact the Theatre Historical Society of America via their Ex. Director’s E-mail given on their web site: www.historictheatres.org

The trade publications of the day, such as “Exhibitors' Hearld”, sometimes had profiles of such performers, and back issues of such as this defunct title may be on microfilm which can be sent to your local library for you to view; speak with the periodicals librarian there to order such.

The people who publish “Theatre Organ” magazine ( www.atos.org ) may have done retrospectives that would be helpful. They can also connect you with one of their members in the vicinity.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Theater parking lots and you on Dec 9, 2006 at 1:30 am

Ah, if only it were simply ‘Build more parking and they will come’ but as most everyone here knows, there are many factors to making a theatre/cinema sucessful these days. For the most part, compared to the 1930s, we today have many more choices in entertainment and nature of entertainment sites than our predecessors did back then. Today it is as much a choice of whether one wants at-home our out-of-home entertainment as it is any consideration of parking amenities. Michael is right, however, that when out-of-home entertainment is chosen, parking nearness and ease as well as possible cost are high on the film-goers subconscious list of priorities.

Yet, other factors also hold sway, as in the nature of the venue itself: Quality of projection and Sound, Comfort of seats and available cup holders, Quality and variety of Refreshmants, Mode of Service (through traditional snack bars or at-your-table service dining in a ‘Brew Pub’ or Dinner Theatre), Ambiance (from Movie Palace grandeur getting difficult to find, to razz-ma-tazz neon extravaganzas), and such mundane things as Quality and temperature of air circulation and whether or not a visit to the restrooms reminds one of the proverbial ‘Black Hole of Calcutta"! Read the Forums at www.bigscreenbiz.com to see how these factors are routinely analized as to draw or discouragement potential.

So, in addition to selecting a cinema based upon what is showing —and exhibitors have little or no control over that quality— parking is really only one of a plethora of influences that form the total choice of ‘Should we go out tonight?’ and if so ‘Where should we go?’

I wish it were so easy as ‘knock down something nearby for parking’ and that will revive a movie house, as in the case of the no-parking GRAND ( http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=4027 ) or the AVALON ( www.theavalontheatre.com ) here in Mileaukee, but that is not the case. Ever since the 1920s, the ‘car culture’ has dominated Americans, and while Manhattan and central Boston may be exceptions where people are willing to take public transportation, the rest of the country is firmly attached to their cars —regardless of the high price of gasoline! Let the parking lots sprawl to the limits of sight, but don’t bet the store on them to save a cinema.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Wang Theatre on Dec 8, 2006 at 10:38 am

Anyone who thinks that a corporation bought these theatres ‘for the public good’ is simply naive; the only good a corporation or conglomerate can envision is its own. Granted, I am glad that they chose these theatres as the vehicle of their advertising themselves — if that means the maintenance of the theatres continues. But make no mistake about it: the purpose was the enhancement of their public image which is thought to translate to greater dividends to stockholders, and higher salaries to the officers. CitiBank will get its ‘pound of flesh’ out of these buildings in every way they can, and any statements to the contrary are strictly ‘for public consumption’ = a standard lie.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Patio Theatre on Dec 6, 2006 at 11:00 am

There is a discussion of this farther up the Comments, but, no, she was not correct. PAT-ee-o is the proper pronunciation of this Spanish word meaning ‘courtyard,’ in English context.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Historic Stage in Northwest Iowa free to the right entity on Dec 5, 2006 at 11:06 am

Mr Metten: I wish I could tell you that your quest will be an easy one, but likely it will not be. The entertainment industry is going through major changes now with the costs of live performances and even movies being far greater than the increasing variety of in-home entertainments which means that they are losing ground in all but the larger cities as the public stays home, and investors mostly look elsewhere for quicker returns on their investments. That said, there is still hope if you can keep the place heated and dry for the years that it may take to find a reputable, experienced operator. You might try listing your venue with basic statistics and maybe a photo in the trade classifieds in such as “Variety” and “Boxoffice” magazines; both have web sites. Also, you may want to list it with the data on the “Lobby” FORUM of Big Screen Biz at: View link
There are dozens of other properties listed there, but it is possible that someone will be looking for just what you have —IF your announcement is detailed enough in a theatrical sense. You must go beyond just listing such basic realtor’s stats as Date Built, Construction materials, Square Footage and Terms of Sale. You must get a man familiar with theatre/cinema design to tour it and write up a technical description; it need not be lengthy, but must fully describe any stage and auditorium so that a potential investor can judge whether or not it is worth his time to drive there. He would have to gauge the locale, business and governmental climate (are there tax incentives available or outright grants?), as well as such as available parking and adequate infrastructure. Do you have a Statistical Abstract prepared about the site and community? You might contact the Theatre Historical Soc. of America for a member that is willing to come there and do a Description gratis: www.historictheatres.org You would E-mail or write to their Ex. Dir., Richard Sklenar, for such a recommendation. Likewise, also contact the League of Historic American Theatres at: www.lhat.org but be prepared to pay for their recommending a professional theatres architect. Both groups will also accept ads in their Newsletters.

If you are serious about other uses and could bear to see the building gutted for them, then statewide or national business property realtors would likely be your best bet.

By the way, when I cliked on your link above, I got a ‘Not Found’ page; you may want to review that. Best Wishes.
Jim Rankin, member THSA since 1976.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Historic Stage in Northwest Iowa free to the right entity on Dec 5, 2006 at 12:57 am

Isn’t a “Crow’s Nest” a platform high up on the mast of a ship? How does a would-be theatre come to have such? Your explaination and some photos may make your offer a lot more credible.

Also, where is this hall and just who is the “I” referred to? Name and connection to the place, please.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Kings Theatre on Dec 4, 2006 at 4:28 am

That last photo of Warren’s is from page 94 of the 1980 book “Movie Palaces, Survivors Of An Elegant Era” by Ave Pildas. It is doubtful that the draperies have survived as seen there in the intervening 26 years, sad to say. But ‘Bway’ is right; the place is restorable.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Update on site performance on Nov 30, 2006 at 10:49 am

Good work, Patrick; now about dividing long pages of Comments into multiple Pages ….

It is a testimony to the success of CT that the number of Comments for some theatres approaches 100, but this mass of verbiage is also slowing down the complete loading of a theatre’s page! Maybe if a colored line could appear at the top of Comments saying something like: “Page 4 of Comments; For earlier Comments click on Page: 3, 2, 1, or PREVIOUS” Whenever a theatre is called for, only the Most Recent page of Comments would display, with the server fetching the previous pages only if called for as shown above. It would be your definition as to what length constitutes a ‘Page’ of Comments. I think that such a provision would make it faster and easier to navigate the site, especially for those of us who cannot use broadband.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Update on site performance on Nov 22, 2006 at 12:52 am

Call me naive, but I never quite figured out just why we have a “Who’s On-Line” section anyway. Would someone care to enlighten me? We know who is participating by means of the “Recent Comments” feature; all others are ‘lurkers’ and what bearing on enjoying CT do they have? It is not as though one can click on their name and engage in a private chat session. If the goal is to impress visitors with totals of participants, then likely only posting a current total will satisfy that (though there are likely some who will always consider any large number to be ‘optomistic.’) By all means, if the “Who’s …” feature slows down operation, I say eliminate it entirely.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Loew's Jersey Theatre on Nov 10, 2006 at 9:58 am

Yes, the 1950s version of The Thing was a fine achievement, and EdSolero’s advocacy of “2001” is eloquent and deserved, BUT, gentlemen, this CT site is about CINEMAS, not cinema. There is ample room at www.IMDB.com to praise film, but that is little help here since almost all movie houses eventually played everything, so there is no historical note to these buildings and no cachet that any title played here or there. Now, if there were a peculiar live performance in a show house that required it to use special equipment, THAT might be of historical note. If we take up space here to engage in the ‘ad infinitum’ of discussion of films, we dilute the value of this site and cause serious architectural historians to turn off message bulletins from CT, as they then come to regard the Comments on the site as too trivial and Off-Topic to bother with (it does take time to go to each bulletin, often to find them to be only ‘me too’ comments agreeing with a previous post). I don’t think that that is the vision of CT’s founders.

I know how it is; we all have favorite movies that we once saw or wish to see in a favorite venue, and, also, there is precious little to speak of after some years now of comments about the structural aspects having been made, but it is this and the UNIQUE aspects of any one cinema that drew us here and still others every day. Let us respect that unique purpose to record the uniqueness of individual cinemas/theatres lest this generously provided board degenerate into just another random gab fest as have so many other sites on the Net.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Venetian Theatre on Oct 27, 2006 at 11:29 am

Ah yes, Tim is so right about the expensive and dicey job the demolition of a movie palace is! A friend is an engineer and was utterly amazed at the heavy steel work I showed him inside the balcony of our Riverside theatre. He remarked that such today only occurs on larger bridges! This is why, of course, thr the city has sat on this decaying hulk for so long: they didn’t want to pay for demolition and possible ‘brown fields’ cleanup costs. Yes, it will be risky for the residence next door, and they would be wise to demand that the city put them up at a hotel during razing.

One has but to read the story of the man who owned the wrecking company contracted to take down the Chicago PARADISE in 1956 to see how expensive it is. He went bankrupt doing it long after the specified fee was exhaused, and then committed suicide. Most contractors will now do these only on a cost plus basis — ironic, because that is the basis they were often built upon.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Venetian Theatre on Oct 27, 2006 at 1:24 am

“Life’s too short” is right, of course. But up to now, one could at least drive by and admire the polychrome terra cotta panels of the cornice and coping, if nothing else of the boarded-up, dark brown brick facade. Yes, the Venetian is but a memory —and not even my own, since I grew up in Greenfield on the far south side after 1956— but I feel cheated at its loss, since I do not remember it operating as one of the major movie palaces in my own home town! Thank goodness Tim R. posts those three little vintage photos I supplied him, in his Dec. 2005 links above. They aren’t much to create a memory with, but they are all the originals we have.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Venetian Theatre on Oct 26, 2006 at 1:58 pm

I agree with Paul, Tim; you have filled a number of gaps in our knowledge. I don’t know how you got those city people to find the original documents, since they had told ne that ALL paper was converted to microfiche and then the paper was said to be destroyed. I guess it depends upon whom you talk to.

It was nice reading on the 2nd page you linked to that there was apparently a fountain in the balcony promenade (corridor) as a display fountain and not a drinkiung fountain, since they separately list “bubblers” (Milwaukeese for Drinking Fountsin.) Something tells me that the fountain is long gone! Those drawings were also unavailable to me, since City Records said that there was only a seating plan on their microfilm. Your dilligent efforts are ironically bringing to life what will soon be only a ghostly memory.

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about New Cinema Treasures volunteer on Oct 20, 2006 at 2:44 am

It is nice to have some background and photos behind these names that have already served so well. Keep up the good work, fellows!

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Venetian Theatre on Oct 20, 2006 at 2:32 am

It is my sad duty to report that the city has ordered the demolition of the Venetian, as listed on the city’s web site at: http://tinyurl.com/yyornk I don’t know how long that information will remain there, nor how long one of these “tiny URLs” will last, but if you want to see the city’s microfiched permits and other such records of it, I suggest you go to the Building Permits archive next to city hall soon, since they sometimes destroy all records of a demolished building as a space saving measure.

A local man is trying to get a small group together to go inside the boarded-up building before the wreckers arrive (date of that unknown), so if you want to chance the crumbling roof, the unpredictable neighbors, and the police, send me an E-mail at the address listed on my profile page here (click on my name in blue below) and mention Venetian in your subject line, and I will send you his E-mail address by which you can make private arrangements. My health will not permit me to go, but I send my Best Wishes to all concerned. I suggest you read above Comments first. Good-Bye Venetian!

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Theater carpet help on Oct 18, 2006 at 5:47 am

This subject has been discussed at www.bigscreenbiz.com Go to their FORUMS and read the topics in the Archives for relevant forums. Set the time span to widest to view the most topics. You will find that web master “Mike” there is very favorable to one firm!

JimRankin
JimRankin commented about Fox Oakland Theater on Oct 16, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Thanks For The Memories, Jack, even if we can’t recreate those golden days of the ‘Roaring 'Twenties.’ For you and those wanting a nostalgic journey down our memory lane of theatres, there is no better book than the 1961 title: “The Best Remaining Seats, The Story of The Golden Age of the Movie Palace” by the late Ben M. Hall. It also had two later softbound editions, but these omitted the color plates. It can still be found at many libraries or sent to your library at their request via Inter-Library Loan. It is also often for sale at such as www.amazon.com It is a landmark publication and gave rise to www.historictheatres.org in 1969. This heavily illustrated volume will also be an eye-opener to those of us unfortunate enough to have been born too late to have witnessed this glorious chapter of history firsthand.