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I really don’t know what was there before, I just always remember that parking lot being there. I used to park there at night if I went to see a movie at the Salem in the 1970’s or if I was going to Jerry’s Army and Navy store. The Salem charged $1.00 admission on monday nights back then and they attracted a pretty good crowd. I’ll make a prediction for you. I went to see a film at Loews (now AMC-Loews Cineplex) at Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, MA this past weekend. I don’t go there very often but every time I have gone there recently it was “no waiting” at the box office in the Mall. That wasn’t always the case. When it first opened about 10 years ago, it was always packed and I always called ahead to see if the film I wanted to see was sold out or not. The Cineplex is a BIG movie house with about 20 screens, stadium seating and very elaborate 1930’s style themed theater with a huge lobby area. If business doesn’t pick up I’m afraid it will end up soon as just another memory. I also don’t think Liberty Tree Mall is doing that well these days which may be part of the problem. The Hollywood Hits theater across the street (Route 128) not elaborate in any sense of the word, is a big brick oblong box cut up into a lot of very small theaters and their movies are all second run features but yet they always seem very busy judging by the cars I see parked there. Also, its very easy access into those theaters, just park and go in. At the AMC Loews Cineplex, you have to park and then physically walk through the Mall which can be kind of a pain in the neck.
The Strand Theater building in downtown Peabody is still there but it now houses a storage facility and some other business. It is relatively easy to spot because the side of the building still shows fire escapes and the back of the building rises up sharply to where the stage must have been.
No, I am familiar with the parking lot that you mean though. If you were standing on Essex St. looking down Crombie St. towards Holyoke Square (Norman St.), CF Tompkins Furniture would be on the left corner of Essex and Crombie St. and the parking lot that you are referring to would be on the right corner. The Plaza Theater was the next building down Essex St. on that left directly after CF Tompkins Furniture. The Salem Theater building was to the right directly after the parking lot your thinking of.
The Salem and The Plaza never abutted one another. The Salem and The Empire may have been next to one another or in basically the same location but the Plaza was abutted by the CF Tompkins furniture store in fact, it was a block over from the locations of The Salem and The Empire on the other side of Crombie st. I never remember a fire occuring at The Salem, only that they finally tore it down after it had been vacant for a long while.
I checked with my mother who grew up in Salem. She says the Empire and Salem Theaters were practically in the same location (directly across from the YMCA) in fact she believes that the Empire was torn down to make way for the Salem. The Plaza was further down Essex St. next to the old CF Tompkins Furniture store. I watched them tear down The Plaza in the 1970’s, you could smell the musty air from across the street. The few times I was in there watching horror films I swear you could see mice running around. They didn’t take very good care of it. I never remember the Plaza’s marquee saying “New Plaza”. It only said Plaza in yellow neon letters and the “Always 2 Big Hits” on the letter board below. It was a very small triangular marquee.
As far as I know, after the Plaza Theater was demolished it was left as just a parking lot. The site that the Salem Theater and Mary’s Lunch once occupied is now a condo complex called “289 Essex St”. Flint St. is no where near this area, it is a street connecting Mason St. in north Salem to Dalton Parkway.
In the 1970’s when it was the “Fine Arts” they used to play some pretty good XXX rated movies in there. It was in a perfect spot for adult entertainment because it was fairly hidden on a side street off the downtown area. They occasionally snuck in some really hard core porn but not too often because they were afraid of being raided by the police. I was there a few times and the theater was always packed. Have to admit, it was very well maintained and always kept in great shape for a porn theater. I havn’t been there since it changed back to its original name and returned to stage entertainment.
I remember taking dates to this theater in the 1960’s. I was sorry to see it go but I guess the property it was on became more valuable than theater operations could ever be. Anyway, it was a very beautiful, very modernistic, clean and well maintained theater with a classy 1950’s styling right by the ocean. I may be wrong here but I think it was owned and operated by American Theaters Corp (ATC). I think the stand alone marquee outside had a very small “ATC” written above the big “Surf” letters. I have a picture from 1966 I will see if I can find. I’m standing in the Surf parking lot with my girlfriend (now my wife) next to my 1965 Mustang ragtop.
Went to the Capitol many times as a kid in the late 50’s and early 60’s. My mom would drop us off and pick us up after the movies were over. The theater was old looking inside with lightbulbs everywhere but always well kept and painted. It was almost under the huge B & M railroad trestle and station so when a train came over, it made the theater vibrate. I remember when I was older it became an X-rated movie house.
I remember going to the Pilgrim in the 1970’s to see Chesty Morgan perform live. So crowded that me and a friend (in our late 20’s at the time) had to go up to the balcony! Had to use the mens room way down in the basement on the way out. Biggest mens room I’d ever seen but man, it was GROSS and dirty and dimly lit. It stank so bad of urine that you practically had to hold your nose. The whole theater smelled a bit musty too. Only time in there but remember it well.
The Salem Theater did not directly abut the Plaza at all. Abutting the Salem on the left side was the Nancy Lee coffee shop later to become Mary’s Lunch. Next to this still going left was a parking lot followed by Crombie St. The next building after that (on the corner of Essex and Crombie) housed Thomkins Furniture. The Plaza was the next thing after that. I should know because I walked downtown nearly everyday. The Plaza was opposite Bowman’s bakery. The Salem was opposite the YMCA.
Hi Dave1, You are absoulutely correct about “Midnight Cowboy” being the last film ever shown at the Paramount because thats where I saw it. I also remember that there were only a handful of people in the theater at the time. Kind of sad when you think about it. I remember the admission price was very cheap at the time (probably an attempt to entice more patrons but it didnt work). All I could think of was how sad it was that this movie was the theaters swan song as it closed for good after this run. I can remember that night it was raining heavily and there were buckets in a few spots where the ceiling was leaking. We knew James Fields was the manager because if you remember, his office was opposite the candy counter and his name was on the door with a bronze plate. Also, I can remember going to the Paramount on saturdays during the day when they played horror movies. I can remember watching classics like “The Horror of Dracula” with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing or “The Premature Burial” or “Black Sunday”, stuff like that. The 3 theaters in Salem at the time seem to compete for the best horror movies.
I worked as an usher in this theater for a short time in 1968 and it was beautifully maintained (at least then.I dated one of the candy counter girls, her name was Liz Wright. The Cinema always attracted a large well dressed (seems funny now) crowd, especially on the weekends and the management was very strict back then that we wear a clean uniform (they checked) and have our hair combed off our faces (I had a crew cut) and did not permit long hair on male ushers. If a movie was playing and there was nothing to do inbetween shows then we swept the carpets or cleaned the glass. The manager at that time was a Mr. Frissell and he kept a watchful eye on things. We also lugged the movies up to the projection booths when they came in on Tuesday nights for the following weeks. I remember that I thought it was funny that they came by armored car and were in big metal cases with handles and they weighed a ton! I only worked there for about 8 months until I got a job at Stop & Shop which paid better. I remember that one of the movies that played there was “Shalako” starring Sean Connery and a re-release of “Gone With The Wind” in the large theater and they packed it on weekends!
The last time I attended a movie at the Plaza in Salem was in 1967. I was 16 at the time and lived in Salem, just a short walk away from the downtown area. On Saturdays, my cousin and I would go to the Y to go swimming and run the track and then pick a movie to see at one of the 3 theaters, The Salem, The Plaza or The Paramount. On Saturdays all 3 theaters played horror movies and the Plaza also played 3 Stooges reels. I remember the Plaza being the smallest and also the most run-down but if the movie was right, we went there. The marquee was never changed and as I recall it said “Always 2 Big Hits”. I worked in downtown Salem in my 20’s and I remember watching them tear it down on my lunch hour. I think that was around 1975.