Comments from John Simmers

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John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Lion Theatre on Aug 7, 2013 at 4:46 am

The Lion was reportedly as large and ornate as the co-owned Strand in York. Warner Bros, later RKO Stanley Warner, operated four theaters in downtown York in the 1930s and 40s (Strand, Capitol, Ritz and Rialto) and the Lion in Red Lion. I don’t know if this story is true, as it was only heard in passing, but the story goes that in the late 1960s the Red Lion town council passed a resolution banning the theater from playing anything but G-rated movies. (Red Lion is by and large a conservative, religious community, even to this day.) RKO Stanley Warner responded by closing the Lion the following day.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Strinestown Drive-In on Jul 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

While the good people of Strinestown may have fervently prayed that a strong wind causing the old wooden screen to collapse(an act of God, perhaps?) would put an end to the drive-in, it didn’t. The screen was replaced and the drive-in stayed in business at least another decade.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Strinestown Drive-In on Jul 21, 2013 at 8:21 am

Correct street name is Conewago Creek Road. This little drive-in became infamous in the 1970s and 80s for screening XXX fare 365 nights a year. On Saturday nights traffic would back up all the way to I-83. A Saturday night robbery in the early 1980s resulted in the shooting death of a woman working the ticket booth.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Mt. Wolf Theatre on Feb 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

The Mt. Wolf Theater was built in the 1940s by Mark Rubinsky, who operated a chain of nine small second-run houses throughout South Central Pennsylvania, including the Capitol in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill neighborhood, the Lyric in Dallastown and the Newville Theater, among others. In 1949 Rubinsky sold his theaters in order to build the Uptown Theater in Harrisburg. From 1949 until it was closed and demolished in 1972, the Uptown was one of the Capital City’s classiest film venues.

The Mt. Wolf Theater served the adjacent communities of Mt. Wolf and Manchester, north of the city of York, and was located on a corner in a tree-lined residential neighborhood. The interior, as I recall, was mostly green with contrasting vinyl seating for about 500, I’d guess. Nothing fancy. As years of neglect took their toll, the Mt. Wolf was closed in the 1980s and sat vacant for several years.

In the 90s it got a new lease on life when it was renovated and turned into a gospel music dinner theater. It was also used for other forms of dinner theater and concerts and today houses the Mt. Wolf Community Church. I don’t believe the dinner theater is still active as I haven’t heard anything about it in years. The marquee and façade are still as they were in the 1940s. Too bad movies are gone, as these communities could support a well-run local theater, but at least the Mt.Wolf is being maintained and is an attractive part of its neighborhood.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about West Shore Theatre on Aug 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently did an extensive article about how local independent theaters are handling the switch from 35mm to digital projection. The article centered on the three-screen Midtown in Harrisburg, the non-profit Majestic in Gettysburg and another small theater upstate. No mention was made of the West Shore (or the Elks in Middletown for that matter) and I’m wondering what plans the owner of this very popular suburban theater has for the day when 35mm goes away. Many, many people would be saddened to see this little gem of a theater go away too.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Regal Cinemas on Jul 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Actually, the screens in the auditoriums we were in had large screens and good sound. Gotta have that so you can subject your patrons to six trailers for movies they would never want to see plus 4 or 5 commercials. Two things annoyed me: The showtime was 7 o'clock, but the actual movie didn’t start until 7:20, thanks to the trailers and commercials. Second: We went to see one of the Star Trek movies two weeks after the theater opened, brand-new. And guess what. The entire print was scratched from start to finish. There’s just no excuse for that. None.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Queensgate Cinemas on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Went to the Queensgate 10 a few times. Smallest screens I’ve ever seen in a first-run theater. Each time we went we were in auditoriums that were about the size of screening rooms, not full size theaters. And I recall they had a problem with cleanliness there too. Bathrooms not working. No running water. For newly-built theaters they were really poor. Can’t remember the name of the company responsible for it but not one of the bigger names in theater ownership.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about York AMC 4 on Jul 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Dennis is correct. This was a large single-screen theater operated by Budco that was twinned in 1976. They split the main auditorium down the middle and operated as a twin for a time (both much longer than they were wide), then constructed two smaller theaters perpendicular to the others on the left-hand side. The newer auditoriums were much smaller, maybe only 200 or so seats each, and were the most hideously decorated theaters I’ve ever seen. It was like they were designed by a color-blind decorator with really bad taste. The name at the time was the Budco York Cinema 4. When Budco twinned the York Cinema, they closed the 1930s-era Hiway Theater on West Market Street.

AMC bought-out Budco in 1988 (approximately) and renamed it the AMC York 4. AMC also acquired but declined to reopen the adjacent Stonybrook Drive-in. An AMC regional manager told me at the time that they had no experience or interest in drive-ins, and in any event didn’t want to compete with themselves. AMC closed the York 4 in the late 1990s and it sat vacant for quite some time before the York 4 and the Stonybrook D-I were both demolished to make way for a strip mall, hotel and townhouses.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Rialto Theatre on Jul 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I didn’t know the old Hippodrome and the Rialto were one and the same. The Rialto was one of the theaters Warners Bros. operated in York (along with the Strand, Capitol and the Ritz, and the Lion in Red Lion). The Ritz showed Westerns, I’ve been told, and the Rialto was what was called an “Action House,” specializing in low-budget detective, mystery and horror movies and whatnot. The Strand and capitol were the Warner’s prestige theaters. The Rialto closed sometime in the 1950s when those kind of movies dried up.

Now here’s an interesting story and I’ve always wondered if it was true. When the Rialto closed a finance company took up residence in the lobby, and a false wall was constructed between the lobby and the former auditorium. I’ve heard that as recently as the 1990s, you could open a door and walk into the Rialto’s auditorium, frozen in time as it had been when the theater closed. I think by now the entire building has been taken over for bank offices, but who knows if any of the Rialto still exists.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about York Mall Theatre on Jul 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

The above address is incorrect. 130 North Duke Street is a state office building in the city of York. These theaters were located in the 2800 block of East Market Street at Northern Way in Springettsbury Township.

This theater began as a new single-screen Trans-Lux venue, probably in 1966 or 67. Trans-Lux also built brand-new theaters in Harrisburg and Lebanon around that time. If it was anything like the Harrisburg theater, it was tastefully decorated with state of the art projection and sound. Trans-Lux twinned their theaters in 1975, renaming them the Trans-Lux “Blue” and “Gold” theaters. They were re-seated and redecorated, and while all of that was nicely done, they practically became bowling alley theaters, extremely long but not very wide, with small screens and mono sound. If you were near the back you may as well have brought binoculars.

They were leased to UA before the decade was out and became “The Movies 1 @ 2.” By the mid-90s the York Mall had become another “ghost mall,” and the theaters were demolished with much of the rest of the mall around 2001 or thereabouts. These were first-run theaters throughout their existence and we saw many films there. Wish I could have seen this theater before it was twinned.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Delco Plaza 5 on Jul 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I don’t know when the UA Cinemas opened originally but I would guess around 1972 or 73, when UA was opening other theaters in the South Central PA area. This was a 3-screen until 1975 or 76 when two screens were added perpendicular to the others. UA closed it around 2000, as 57thst indicated, and began dismantling it. One or two days into the process a bargain theater owner from the Reading PA area heard about the closing and made a deal with UA for what was left, then re-equipped it as a 5-screen bargain house. It operated this way until the Delco Plaza Mall (which had become a ghost mall by that point) was entirely demolished. That may have been around 2006.

There was nothing remarkable about these theaters even when they were new. The auditoriums were about 250 or 300 seats. Not uncomfortable or unattractive, just typical of shoebox theaters of the time. Enjoyed many films there over the years.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Paducah Cinemas I & II on May 26, 2012 at 4:22 am

Attended this theater many times in the year we lived in Paducah, 1974-75. The upstairs theater was very small as I remember it, perhaps only a couple hundred seats. The main auditorium was very large with a big screen. However, I don’t think they had 70mm capability or stereophonic sound, which I found unusual for a modern theater that large. We saw a reissue of “2001: A Space Odyssey” there, and while impressive on their big screen, it was definitely not 70mm and the sound was in mono. The manager was a guy named Ron Ruggles, a real showman. I was a DJ on a local radio station (WKYX) and we often did promotions with the cinema.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Columbia Drive-In on Feb 25, 2012 at 4:37 am

Nothing exists of this drive-in. If you didn’t know where it was you would never know it had been there. Street-side marquee, screen, concession and projection building were all demolished years ago. The entrance and exit roads are mostly grown over, and the land is a grass-covered expanse that an adjacent dairy farmer uses for grazing. The land is for sale, however. The sign went up fairly recently. Apparently the landowner’s plan to building a shopping center there didn’t pan out, so ultimately this little gem was demolished for nothing. That’s really a shame, because the last owners of the drive-in did a great job of renovating and running it, and it was packed every night. Reportedly they had the opportunity to buy the land but had come off a rainy season and were short on cash and had to take a pass.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Colonial Theatre on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

I don’t know all the details and I am telling this based on a few details I recall from 25 years ago. There was an organization, probably called “Friends of the Academy,” which was formed to save the Academy of Music further down the street. A friend of mine had some involvement in it. The Academy was in wretched condition. He told me that when they toured the Academy there were some areas which they couldn’t see because the floor was so weak it would have given way. When the Colonial became available there was discussion of shifting the preservation efforts to the Colonial because it was in better overall condition. He told me there was a founding member of the committee who had enough clout to completely squash the idea. It was the Academy or nothing, he told me, and the remaining members couldn’t get enough traction to move on the Colonial idea themselves.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Paxtang Theater on Aug 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

Joe, I know who you are and you may remember me also. Your older brother worked for Doc too and was there when the Paxtang first closed. I also have the articles from when the State closed and you being the last manager. You must have some stories to tell about the Paxtang. I for one would love to hear them! As you can tell from my write-up, it was one of my favorite childhood haunts.

John Simmers
John Simmers commented about Elmwood Theatre on Jul 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

The Elmwood Theater was at 27 S. Belmont St. in East York. The neighborhood is called Elmwood and is on either side of I-83 off of Market St. The theater is about a half-block south of Market and is in Springettsbury Township. The Elmwood Theatre still exists, as the home of York Little Theatre, as it has been since the movie theater closed in the early 1950s. The building has since been expanded and remodeled, and any exterior similarity to the old movie house was eradicated long ago.

I don’t know much about the Elmwood, other than it was an art/foreign film theater and lasted only a few years, probably not more than a decade if that, in the late 40s and 50s. York was not then and still is not a market for art/foreign films. Why they didn’t switch to a more mainstream format I don’t know, but perhaps the competition from bigger theaters and TV was just too great. Judging by the auditorium at YLT, the Elmwood might have had 600 seats or so. That’s about all I know about it. I’ve never even seen a picture of it.