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Have you heard any updates in regards to the Norwalk Theatre? From reading your updates, it sounds like the current owner has fixed or is fixing the roof. That is a plus. But I am curious to hear more about anything new. I am hoping the new owner is going to care for this building. Unlike the prior owners which nearly destroyed the place.
To other’s reading: I can concur with Coriolanus as being one of the persons interested in the theatre when Towne And Country was selling the theater. When I looked at the building in 2006, it was pretty much turn-key. The building did need work, but it was very much usable and in good condition. When I was there the building only needed the ceiling repainted, the balcony carpet redone and some update work needed in the dressing room areas. Everything else was fine. What more is that the projection booth had two original carbon arc projectors in excellent running condition.
The sign did need some minor work, but let me tell you when the owners (Towne And Country) lit that marquee up for me it was like a scene from the movie “The Majestic”. I was just floored. They simply don’t make marquee’s like that of the Norwalk anymore. In fact that night as people drove by, they slowed down to get a good look thinking perhaps something was going on.
I really hope to God that something is done with this place as it would be a tremendous loss if it is let go to waste. It truly is a beautiful place and a snapshot from history as the building still contained many original fixtures (at lest when I visited in 2006).
I don’t know. I know there are quite a few small theatre outfits on the island as well such as the Arena Players, The Airport Theatres. I do gather that they must be hurting now big time with the recession. Gateway, one of the more well known theatre groups seems to still be doing OK. I have seen a few of their shows at the Patchogue. That is a nice place BTW. Too bad that more theatres like that didn’t survive on LI. After I saw pictures of the Bayshore theatre, that would have been a nice candidate for restoration. But in the case of the Regent, the place was a hole so I did welcome the idea that Hollyrock presented. It certainly did breathe some life into the place. It was a good idea while it lasted. It was just poorly managed. It’s a shame as the place nicely lit up main street too as it had quite a bit of neon on the facade.
Echoing Robboehm, I clearly remember the Regent being Hollyrock in the early 90’s. At the time I was a DJ / Sound system installer and I did clubs in that area. While I never did any work, nor DJ'ed at Hollyrock, I was inside there twice. The place was done up very nicely in an art deco style. They nicely restored the outside and marquee and even had the name “Hollyrock” on the vertical. Inside, the orchestra section had all the seats removed and in the day time they operated the place as a luncheonette complete with 50’s style car’s as seats that faced the movie screen that played old movies, trailers and cartoons. At night they removed the “car” seats and that area became the dance floor. They had railings around the dance floor area with tall tables and stools to sit at. The balcony was semi converted and still had some theatre seats in place towards the front. The extreme front/center of the balcony is where the DJ booth was. The back of the balcony is where the bar was along with a few more tables to sit at. Food was prepared downstairs behind where the ticket booths were. All in all, they didn’t do a bad job at making something of the place, considering the porn hole it was prior. However, the business was poorly run and was pretty expensive compared to other clubs in the area. The owners made people wait outside to make the line long so the place looked packed…even though it was nearly empty inside. This tactic pissed many people off. Overall, Hollyrock didn’t last very long. I think it was only open for about 4 years and then shut down. A couple of friends and myself tried to get a hold of the place in receivership, but as it turned out, the owners owed so much money on the place that everything inside was liquidated and sold off. So in the end, the building was once again an empty shell. I don’t know what it looks like now as the Boulton Center For The Performing Arts, but I must say the whole repurposing the theatre as a nightclub was interesting in the least and I really did think Hollyrock was going to be around for a long time. I was sadly mistaken…but I think it could have worked with the right management.
I took a look at some pictures of the Bay Shore Theatre (a couple blocks down from Boulton) and THAT place really looked nice. It SHOULD have been restored as a performing arts venue.
So the theatre was bought? By whom? I sure hope that it is someone that will do good and perhaps bring some business to the theatre. I am amazed that it was sold for just $30,000. Back when I was interested in the place, I was looking at another ‘0’ attached to that figure.
Sorry to hear that the prior owners didn’t do much to fix the place up. I was aware that ceiling needing repairing, when I looked at the place, but there weren’t any leaks.
I am crossing my fingers that whomever bought the place will do right and fix it up properly and finally get some good acts there.
I tell you, I wish the bottom didn’t fall out on my end (financially). I think I could have worked wonders with this place.
The link Bway posted is bad. Here is what the auditorium of the Babylon used to look like:
Even though not in color, you can see how impressive this theatre was.
I also have to point out that the theatre had side curtains that moved in and out so that it could handle a wide variety of aspect ratios.
It is a pity that we had to loose the beautiful large screens such as this. I really do miss this screen very much.
Ahhh, the good ‘ole Babylon Theatre. This theatre and I go way back…way back to 1982. The first movie I saw here was “Conan: The Barbarian”. Back then the theatre was a HUGE single curved screen with a gorgeous proscenium arch. The theatre had a balcony too. In the lobby there was a huge art deco type chandelier and a beautiful stairway up to the balcony (which already had partial stadium seating). That same year (1982) “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” was released to this theatre. This was the first movie I viewed multiple times here. While E.T. is in my top 3 favorite movie list, the first time seeing it at Babylon was perhaps the single best theatre experience I ever had.
Then in 1984/5 tragedy struck the Babylon and it was divided two three screens. The large auditorium was divided into two and the balcony became the third screen. Much of the beautiful ornamentation in the theatre was gone. The chandelier still remained though. Gone was the large curved screen and it’s beautiful proscenium. Instead you had just simple rectangular screens on a simple black background.
The first movie I saw after the conversion was “Cocoon” (1985). It was shown on the balcony screen. However, the conversion wasn’t completed and the air condition wasn’t running yet…it was mid summer! Needless to say, my first viewing after the new conversion wasn’t a pleasant one.
Afterwards I have seen many more movies at this theatre which include: “Alien 3”, “Back To the Future II & III”, and many others. The balcony screen is the best of the three.
When the movie theatre changed hands from UA to Clearview, I pretty much stopped going there.
As Bway pointed out above, the outside of the theatre hasn’t changed much since 1983 despite the drastic changes inside. One major plus though, is that the theatre has retained it’s large neon vertical sign on the front.
For those visiting the theatre, there is a small parking lot to the right of the building, but it fills up fast. Street parking is metered, so you would have to use a municipal lot across the street, behind the Main St. buildings.
It is still a good visit to check out, but it definitely has lost quite a bit of it’s luster from when it was a single screen. I only enjoyed this large screen for 3 years, but still to this day the single screen version of this theatre was my favorite.
Couple changes to my post: I meant to say “not in operation” in the 5th line down. Also it was “Towne And Country”, forgot the ‘e’. Finally the nice gentleman I was referring too was Ronn. Sorry about that, it just took a while for me to jar my memory banks as I am somewhat flustered about the news of this theatre closing.
Status: CLOSED??? When did this happen? I visited the theatre back in 2006 when I was thinking about buying it for live performances. Town & Country was the company that had it at the time. The guy who ran the theatre (back then) was an extremely nice gentleman and gave me a tour of the whole building. Sheesh I really hate to see this theatre in in operation or looked after. I don’t want to see this place fall into disrepair. It is such a charming, well preserved Art Deco theatre.
Sadly though, I feel powerless to help as now I have financial troubles of my own.
This is very sad news.
Yes, for me it was a vision of pure genius at work there and at that point I had not seen it before. It was something so simple yet almost always overlooked. Nowadays I always use the Latchis as a reference for anyone that wants to restore an old theatre that has a balcony, but they need more functional space to make the project a worthwhile (meaning profitable) venture.
I know the purists would disagree and most want to have a theatre bolt for bolt nut for nut restored. But what many purists do not realize is that any theatre project MUST function as a business or else it will cease to exist. And that is the story for most of the glorious picture palaces that were lost.
So it is a constant war going on between historical accuracy, restoration and operation as a business.
Going multi-functional is always a sure fire way to keep an old theatre in business, but extra space is always a major consideration.
The idea behind the Latchis and it’s under balcony theatre is pure genius at work, by more so it proved that the Latchis family was thinking about the historical significance of their theatre and everything they possibly could to keep it running while maintaining it’s historical integrity.
So this is a message that goes out to all “would be” theatre restorers. Go to Brattleboro Vermont and closely examine the Latchis Theatre. There are many many many construction ideas there that can be put in a classic structure while still maintaining much of it’s historic integrity.
It does go without saying the Latchis is one of my favorite theatre buildings. Outside of it’s unique design it also has a very unique auditorium. The wall murals and structures are asymetric and the ceiling depicts constellations as opposed to just stars. Sadly, when I was there the ceiling wasn’t operational, but they do intend to make it as such as the theatre is slowly undergoing a restoration.
I had the “Grand Tour” of this theatre when I was first up in Vermont. It is a very unique theatre and it was one that always stuck in my mind. First the unique atmospheric design and second in the placement of the 2nd and 3rd screens.
The Latchis theatre also had a ballroom at one time (when it was just a single screen. The ballroom was upstairs and across from the theatre. This is what is now theatre 2 and explains the odd positioning of that theatre.
The Latchis family obviously love their theatre and strived to keep it’s beauty intact. So they took a unique approach to dividing the theatre’s space. The result of their efforts is remarkable and it is something I will ALWAYS keep in my mind for a way to split a theatre while retaining much of it’s historic integrity.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s when theatres realized that they had to split them to show two (or more) movies at once to cover costs, they did anything to attain that goal. So many old theatre’s were tastelessly split down the middle, or at the balcony level (or both). This method utterly destroys the original integrity of the theatre. But the Latchis family was VERY smart. They figured that they could reduce the main theatre’s excessive seating, gain functional additional space (in the form of another screen), AND still keep 85% of the theatre still intact. The result, make use of the otherwise dead space below the balcony. Now that was just one facet, but how the plan was implemented was sheer genius at work. If you were not told that the Latchis was split, you would come to the quick conclusion that the theatre was designed that way. That is how seamless the division is and it doesn’t hurt the main space as the grandeur of the full balcony and the atmospheric theatre’s ceiling remain fully intact.
Listen up to all you theatre restoration experts. If you need space THIS is the RIGHT way to divide a theatre.
For this reason alone the Latchis will always remain in my mind as a prime example of a very smart decision on a balance between obtaining more usable space without botching the historic appearance of a classic theatre.
So the Latchis theatre will always get a double thumbs up for this move.
Seems like you are very much familiar with Long Island. I am a Long Island person myself. I am very familiar with the Patchogue Theatre project. That theatre had a huge push behind it, which was the theatrical company “Gateway Playhouse”…of which they do have their own facility but pushed to restore the Patchogue Theatre’s restoration to have a larger venue. While Gateway no longer has financial control over the Patchogue Theatre, they do continue to host events there. The Patchogue is very successful due to Gateway because Gateway is a professional theatrical company and they mostly do Broadway shows and musicals. There aren’t many companies that do that here on the island. Anyway, there is a need for theatres on Long Island. The sad thing is that most of the larger movie houses that could be converted to live theatre, have long since been either destroyed or ‘absorbed’ into shopping centers. Due to the suburban nature of Long Island, many older theatres were part of strip malls, shopping centers and main street thoroughfares. Needless to say, just about all were sitting on valuable property. Once the theatre wasn’t profitable anymore, it closed and it was either demolished or transformed into a retail outlet. Ironically, by me the old RKO Theatre and the North Babylon Theatre both have become Blockbuster Video stores.
I would agree. But if you follow my posts you can easily see that the space could be reconfigured and still keep at least 85% of the building’s originality and grandeur intact.
From what I also understand the Kings has a very large basement and that could reconfigured for alternative functions or could even expand the backstage dressing areas and storage areas.
I can also see putting in TV feeds as well for broadcasting live events…but that is a given anyway.
There are many ways a building this size could be transformed into a very functional community arts center and if it is planned carefully, not much has to be altered to deter from the building’s original appearance. So the grand lobby, the nice balcony seating, the ceilings and proscenium areas can all remain intact and be fully restored.
The basement, lounges, and other areas of less importance could be altered for other functions as I illustrated above.
It is a very big project and beyond my capability in both planning and finances.
What amazes me is that even though this building hasn’t been in use for 30 years, the structure overall faired much better than I thought. It is a very good example of a Rapp & Rapp designed structure (of whom also designed Chicago’s famous Uptown theatre which is also still standing, but not in operation).
Anyway, I do hope the Kings gets a new life and is restored. It would be a testament to theatre history that all of the Loew’s 5 Wonder Theatres remain intact for future generations to enjoy.
Keeping that in mind, a nice historical theatre tour could be planned to visit all 5 theatres (since they are all roughly located in the same area). That right there is another way to drum up business for the 5 theatres as a whole.
The situation for the other theatres were different. One of the large pluses regarding the Paradise (which is in a not so good neighborhood) is that they DO up the security in the area when an event is taking place. Thusfar I have not heard of any incidents at the theatre during an event.
I am a bit disconnected from news on the Jersey City Theatre apart from it’s background. But the point I am making is that every location is different and any problems in that particular area must be overcome whether it be dealing with a low income clientel, poor parking conditions, and filling a very large place with enough people to keep the doors open.
In short, a business plan that works for one area (even though similar) will not necessarily mean it will work in the next. Some types of companies it is very easy to work off of a “model” plan..such as you can with a movie theatre, but a theatre like this is a different ball game even though it is similar in history and size as both the Jersey City and Bronx locations.
I can say that if you been to a dinner theatre where they actually served you the main course while you are trying to watch the show, then you attended a dinner theatre that was not really run well.
I would NEVER serve an entree during the main event. What I would probably do is have alternate entertainment during dinner and once dinner is done, everything is cleared away and then the main show starts. As for more comfortable seating, that can be arranged so when people are done eating they can kick back and relax. Obviously a standard banquet chair is no good.
Also keep in mind, I am depicting ONE of many uses for the space. The point I am making is that it is probably not a good idea to with a standard chair “bolted to the floor” scenario. Thus one evening you can have a dinner theatre event and the following evening rearrange the space with ‘normal’ theatre seating.
Here is another scenario: What if you want to host a fashion show? Normal theatres are not good for this because of the runway…which runs lengthwise and people have to crane their heads over in one turned direction all the time. Can one say neck-ache??? With a flexible seating plan, the seats can be arranged around the runway.
This stems to the next scenario. What about a dance show? You want the people to get as close to the performers as possible. So you extend the stage into the ‘normal’ seating area. Put your orchestra in the back of the real stage and then seat your guest in a ‘U’ shape around the stage. I am sure you have seen “Dancing with the Stars”. That is what I am talking about.
There are many many many options to alternate seating and increasing the programming flexibility can ensure the theatre survives.
Like I said, it is going to take a really really really smart business person with a really really good plan. Then comes the money to pull the project off.
Hmmm, the marquee still looks pretty nice. Perhaps something could be made of this place if it wasn’t for the politics involved. The owner simply will NOT sell it if it is to be used as a theatre. I mean really, I for one am NOT interested in his movie business and wouldn’t interfere with it. I am interested in live theatre. This building is a theatre so it just seems like the owner wants to let this piece of history fade away until A) it will be converted to stores in which case he will have no problem selling it B) it will be in such bad shape the town will tear it down. That would be a shape. The building does have a very nice Deco marquee.
Thanks for that tidbit of information. Apparently someone is already thinking in Brooklyn and the bus/trolley already exists.
So there is your answer JF Lundy. Since the transportation in question already exists, creating a stop for the theater is made just that much easier.
Conditions were different in Jersey and in the Bronx. I don’t know if the same rules would apply here.
Anyway, the nice thing about the flexible seating is just that…it is flexible and you are not boxed into a corner. You could very well, set up standard rows. But if you permanently bolt chairs to the floor, you could never reorganize the space to use it for other functions. As for operation, usually the dinner theatres I been too they serve the meal first and perhaps they have some other form of entertainment going on prior to the show. I would run a dinner theatre that way too. I would never have a main entree being served while doing the main performance. That would be distracting. What I would do is perhaps have someone play the organ during dinner…or perhaps the orchestra (or band) could play.
I do hear what you are saying about the lounges and yes, that would also be further space to use. I guess I was trying to drive home that just because the place has 3200 seats doesn’t mean it has to use them all for one function. The greater the theatre capacity, the harder the seats are to fill. That is of course unless you have a headliner, and that cost big bucks and you would be excluding your local clientele. They wouldn’t be too happy about that.
But it is true that the entertainment could be varied, but you do want to have a good amount of shows the local people can enjoy. They would be opt to support the theatre that way too.
I never said forget about public transportation. In fact it is a must. Given the number of parkings spaces around the theatre, there still wouldn’t be enough to rely on automotive transportation alone. That is the one beautiful thing about the NYC mass transit system…it is very comprehensive. There is a lot to choose from. You like the train? No problem. You want to bus? Got it covered. You want a taxi? Ditto. Given that there is parking too, you have the choice of driving and the locals could even walk or bike.
I will say that the Kings is in a much better position for access then some of the other theatres I have seen.
Some theatres…such as that one I saw in PA, are hopeless when it comes to transportation. There is NOTHING around. That isn’t going to help a bit for that theatre.
This is a very serious project though and it is way out of my league. I have ideas, but it really is going to take some big bucks to pull a miracle off with the Kings. But I do see it’s potential and it did seem to fair much better than I originally thought after seeing those pictures.
I think it would be best to draw some attention to those pictures. You never know, you may find someone that has as much interest in this building as we do here, but yet has the pocketbook that could help fund a project of this size.
Again, it boils down to money, good planning and access. I think the access part looks good and there were quite a few good ideas thrown around here. The only thing really missing is someone or a few someones with deep pockets. And of course a great plan would help too.
Tony M. Yes, the basement is one huge area that could be sectioned off for other functions. It could even be expanded for use as updated dressing room areas. In terms of patron usage, guess where you could cut down the number of seats AND still at least retain 85% of the original look of the theatre?
Remember what I said about the Latchis.
I agree with everything you said except for movies. While I would agree not to pull out the projection equipment, the only thing that you could do with movies is just have something as a ‘filler’ or if you had another event.
For example, years ago when I saw shows at Radio City Music Hall, they had a movie first. Granted the live show wasn’t over 2 hours long as a live performance is today, but that could be a good think in a case of having a movie/live package. You could have a live show that is a little over an hour long and then have a movie preceding that.
I think another thing that would help is if some kind of organ is put into the theatre. Usually a theatre like this had an organ to begin with. The organ prelude at Radio City is always a treat. The theatre in Ohio that I wanted to buy also had an organ (not pipe mind you it was electronic).
As you can see really for little extra cost you could create a nice show for people.
It does boil down with who is doing the programming. Having multiple events during a theatrical event will give the people a good sense that they are getting a good bang for the buck. Plus if they are in the theatre longer, they will want to get something larger to eat or drink at the concession stand.
But really, that is the only way I can see how you can incorporate movies. Remember, the movie companies are hogs and they just take way too much of the percentage that bring in at the front door. Movies simply do not make money. Since you don’t have quantity working for you in a case like this (meaning a mulitplex), the best you can do is increase the quality or value.
Hello JF Lundy,
Expanding the stage out would also be a way to increase the performance space while reducing the extra seating. This would be a good idea if I were to go with a variable or cabaret seating plan. This way it would give you the option to expand the stage out into the audience space and this is what is well liked for dance shows as it would put more people closer to the stage area.
I can see that you are also following my thinking about having flexibility enough to have the theater double as a catering facility as well.
You do have to face it that theatre seating is expensive and if an alternative approach is taken, you lessen the seating costs (if you only redo the balcony), but if put tables and chairs in the main orchestra area and of course have cooking facilities the number of opportunities presented for use are tremendous. Catering, dinner theatre, dance hall, even presentations and exhibitions. All of these are tremendous money makers that would only require about a 15% to 20% physical restructuring of the building outside of it’s original design. Everything that makes the theatre grand would stay intact. The proscenium, the ceiling, the balcony, the grand entryways the beautiful views of the lobby ceiling, and just about all of the decorative fixtures could very well be restored.
There would be one major alteration and if done tastefully, most wouldn’t even know it.
Just check out the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro Vt and everything will become clear.
As for your transportation ideas…they would be good IF the theatre was located in an upper class area. If so then it would be possible to work things around…but remember you are talking about a lower-mid working class area. Putting a traditional trolley line in running down a major road in Brooklyn will most certainly require tons of paperwork and red tape to go through. I personally don’t think it will. However, it is very possible to have old time buses that look like trolleys service the area from the train station to the theatre. The town could help foot the bill for this service as it would benefit the theatre and any other business that would open as a direct result of the renovation of the theatre. Personally I think the city would approve of the buses more than an actual trolley line. The buses also wouldn’t require alterations to the street either. So in that aspect you get your “trolley” line without all the major to do about having a real trolley installed. Believe me, I would prefer an electric railway, but I don’t think that is going to fly anymore in the city of NY. If the theatre was in an upscale area of town then things may be different.
You know the more I think of it, there are many people here that do have great ideas and if only some private investors would be lending an ear here I am sure that some good ideas could come forth that could potentially save this wonderful structure. Sure some compromises must be made, but there are ways to increase the revenue capabilities of this building. Tony M says the building has a huge basement and that definitely can work to the theatre’s advantage.
Anyway, I would love to talk more…but I have to run.
The point that I was making is that as a theatre alone it probably will not be successful as a business. If you are one of those nut for nut bolt for bolt restoration enthusiasts, I can tell you right now, the theatre would fail. There is a reason why you don’t see 3200 seat theatres any more. Even for live shows that is a tough order to fill.
There is a way to restructure the space, still keep much of the building intact AND still use the bulk of it as a theatre. However, other profitable entities must be incorporated into the renovation if it is to survive.
Don’t forget with rising gas prices you more then ever have to consider the local populace and as was pointed out earlier that populace is lower to middle class. So we are talking about people with not much residual income. So the only way to take up the slack on an expensive renovation the Kings requires is to restructure the space.
By restructuring, I don’t mean tearing out everything that made the building special and create offices. God knows we have enough confounded office space already. But a full entertainment facility…an arts center. Now that is what I would be shooting for. So you can have your theatre in the main part of the building, but also have other space that could be utilized for other arts interests. The more you have going on, the more people you have coming in your front door. When dealing with people with lower residual income, we are talking a case of QUANTITY. What you can’t make in terms of price you have to make in another form.
To put it in a simpler form. Say for example the costs of renovation and operation dictates a charge of $40 per head. Now if your market research tells you that your paying public will want to see a show that is $20. What are you going to do? Yeah, you have to take up the slack elsewhere or else you will not have a business to run and I am telling you now that a bolt for bolt restoration on a 3200 seat theatre is going to be a very tough order to fill.
Ok, so where do you take up the slack? Well for one, you can get rid of the less profitable seating, cut your expenses and use that space for something else. So this way you have a theatre that has all good seats and you can re-utilize the newly aquired space for something else.
Think about that for a while. If you wanted to keep as much of the theatre original as possible, but need to make extra space to create a multi-functional facility, where would you do it?
The trouble is that many people put their hearts out on the line and want to see a beautiful building like this be restored bolt for bolt, and even be used for movies. But many of these same people don’t understand the business side of things. I too was once a bolt for bolt restoration type person…but when I wanted to buy my own theatre, I realized quickly that there is a business side to things that must be addressed and planned for properly and that is where the fine line is drawn and I continually ask myself, how much of the building can I restore to original v.s. the need to run a business out of that space.
Yes, I do want to see the Kings run as a theatre again, but I can tell you that it cannot have anywhere near it’s original capacity. Dealing with local demographics I can pretty much say right off the bat the only way the Kings will survive is if it is a multi-functional facility, but yes, being first and foremost, a theatre (mostly for live performances).
Yeah, this is going to be a big one. While some of my ideas may be good and could be a solution. The truth is it is going to take someone not only with a vision, but also with a very deep pocket.
The thing that a business plan reveals is that there are so many things that you don’t think about in terms of expenses. Just thinking off the top of ones head is impossible. Once you get all those figures down on paper you realize how expensive things are going to be.
My perspective building was an art deco theatre in Ohio. The building was selling for around $365k and at that time I knew I could easily sell my home and profit from that sale and then purchase the theatre. The trouble is that after fixing up the place, and prepping it for my needs, the project quickly bloomed to $500k and it would have been another $75k needed just to operate comfortably until break even. Needless to say, I was going to end up borrowing more than I could front.
The market was better then and the theatre didn’t need much work (as it was in current operation). But the problem was that my house didn’t sell for my asking price. So I was forced to abandon the project.
Could you imagine trying that now in today’s economy? Lenders are really tight now with their money.
Here in NY things are much worse than Ohio. Property values have fallen a bit, but you still have the problem of very high taxes. Think about what the property tax is on the Kings. More than through the roof.
Unlike the theatre I was looking into which didn’t need much work, the Kings is over three times the size AND it needs a full restoration. This will run into the millions just factoring the size of the building alone.
What the Kings really needs is a good benefactor and someone that would buy into a very good plan. It comes down to three things…if you have the plan, you have the money and you have the market, then you are good to go. That is no different if you are talking about a small 100 person theatre or one that holds 5000 people. It’s just that everything you need just gets bigger as the building gets bigger.
I wasn’t aware the entire structure was torn down. I was told that the back part…the theatre auditorium was torn down, but the front part which was the original lobby and facade were original.
Actually before I became more business involved with theatres, I was one of those die hard people who believed in keeping these magnificent structures pretty much all original. But I do realize now after doing much homework for the project I was working on that you do have to make some changes in order to make better use of the space to generate more income. There is a way to tastefully do that and keep much of the building as original as possible.
Now a dinner/theatre restaurant is a good idea. As I said, I have even seen a theatre that had standard seating in the balcony and then the orchestra seating was replaced with more like a Cabaret seating. This area could indeed be reconfigured as well. The point is that it makes the space more flexible. In this manner, you could even cater out parties…another great source of income.
It boils down to balancing the project out with what you can do to make money with the building and how much can be preserved and kept intact (which you want to be as much as possible).
Sounds like you left off on an empty thought about your plans to buy a theatre. You ended with a “but”. So what happened? Business plan told you something you didn’t like?
That is usually the case. It is also a reason why many people hate business plans because they sure can kill a dream real fast. But on the upside a business plan is just that, a plan. Without one would be a disaster in the making.
Anyway, the pictures I posted of the Paramount in NY is an extreme case of reuse and in that instance, most of the original theatre was demolished. But it does seem to be a nice use for what was left of the Paramount.
In this case you have a whole building and outside of disrepair, it still is intact. Having already established that the building is too large, it can be restructured in a manner to allow more use of the space but at the same time doing it in a tasteful manner that most of the building’s historic integrity remains intact.
With some of the space restructured, you could have space for other use within the theatre. You could have an area that is a dance studio and another area that you can expand on the concession area, or even have a small cafe. As you probably know from movie theatres, most of the money is to be made in concessions and people LOVE to eat. The lobby is huge…massive…big! Make use of that space. Put in a small store that sells related materials to your programs or events you plan in the theatre. Probably another area could be sectioned off to create a small art gallery.
So there you have it, that is four additional uses within the same area. That is five different things going on at the same time. That is making good use of the space.
So sacrificing some originality to preserve the rest of the building and its existence goes a very long way.
In the example I mentioned above, you now not only have a theatre, but an arts center.
This is just one idea I have running around in my head.
BTW, have you ever heard of the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro Vermont?
If so, then you probably have a good idea of what I am talking about.
Multi-purpose is the way to go. I am NOT saying get rid of projection capability as that is still another use, but yeah, for something this size you are going to be looking at more live oriented programming. Going along the lines of good inexpensive entertainment would do it.
I am a bit indifferent on non-profits. Some work out fine, but many do not. Many ‘just hang in there’. Renovation would be a slow process as grants and such take time to go through. Non-profit is a constant on-going ‘beg for the buck’. Decisions take much longer because everything needs to be done in a committee. Again, it does depend on marketing and support. But I can say that going for profit with a huge benefactor funding the project would probably be the best and probably the fastest way to go. However, once again, it is the size of the building that is working against it.
A smaller building is easier to restore, maintain and has lower operating costs, so for a small local community theatre, non-profit shows it’s strong points.
The formation of a dual operation could also be possible in that the owners of the theatre is a separate company than the company operating it.
There are many different ways to go about it. But the biggest issue is still what are you going to put in the the theatre that is going to bring in enough income to cover the costs of renovation and thereafter the continued operation of the theatre? Also, will the required revenue be obtainable based on the fact of the income of the local populace?
It isn’t easy. I wanted to buy a theatre…I still do. There is WAY more involved than you think. Also on paper you are probably going to need much more starting capital than you think. It is this realization where most ‘start up’ restoration projects fail.
This isn’t a small town theatre here. This theatre is larger than most theatres on Broadway. Two to three times larger in fact. This is a tall order to fill.
You really really really need a good solid plan and you really really need good financial backers.
Probably if I were to set up a group to undertake a project like this, the first thing you need to do is gather information…lots of information. A purpose has to be created for the building, and that starts with market studies. Once you have a purpose then you have to address how people are going to get to your theatre. Finally you have to determine the condition of the building and what it will cost to renovate it.
Finally a business plan has to be put together with all of that information in addition to the costs of operation vs revenue. Only THEN could you go to prospective lenders or benefactors.
The bad economy isn’t helping things either because lenders are not so easy to part with their cash especially for a special function building.
Still if you can prove that a large entertainment venue will help the local economy in terms of job offerings and potential outside visitors, the town may give you MUCH information you need to put together a plan. Furthermore I have seen ENTIRE downtown areas become revitalized because of a good theatre project.
A big plus you do have in your favor is that this is a historic structure and unlike any other historic theatre, this one is part of a group of 5 unique structures that represented a dominant player in theatre history. While that in itself is not majoy, what IS a major deal is that all 5 Loews Wonder Theatres are standing, but only this one is not in operation. That is saying quite a bit for a cause to save the building.
But you have to think outside of the box in terms of planning a use for the building and in some cases some changes or sacrifices must be made.
Case in point:
Granted, this is an extreme scenario…but see what I am getting at?
DFC: Distance from the train station does pose a problem and obviously if the area isn’t that great (or safe), then that is double jeopardy. Even in a good area on a sunny day, many people do not want to walk far to a theatre. Now if the area has a regular bus or shuttle that would go from subways and trains in the vicinity of the theatre, then that would be a good thing. But I do agree that you do want to have good local programming to take advantage of the local populace and it does make things more difficult when working with a lower income group because they simply have less money to spend. As I said above, due to changing times and the expense required to restore the building, it could be well priced out of it’s market.
Much does depend on the surrounding population and how they take pride in their town (if they do) and how they view the theatre’s future. Even if the neighborhood is a lower/middle class, if they are a strong force, then just about anything is possible.
However, there are variables that are working against the Kings otherwise it would have been restored already like it’s sister theatre in the Bronx.
Your proposition of “fix it” is much easier said than done. I too want to see the building restored, but I see that you are thinking movies already by your interest in the projection booth. I can assure you that a single screen movie theatre that seats over 3000 people will never survive in todays economy. In my area alone there isn’t a single theatre with less than 10 screens. The Loews Paradise was divided into FOUR screens and it didn’t make it. Even if reconfigured for I-Max (which I doubt is possible), it is just too large. So movies are out of the question for this grand lady. You need something with much larger profit margins to work with. Obviously live entertainment would be a first choice.
You are correct. Given the number of years the building stood, I thought it was in much worse condition myself. In fact prior to a couple of years ago, I thought the building was long gone. So I was amazed to learn that all five of the Loews Wonder Theatres are still standing AND on top of everything, the Kings wasn’t divided down the middle like most theatres of this size were.
I would say that if the building was configured for multi-use, it could stand a greater chance of survival after restoration. One thing I have seen done in a classic theatre was that the entire ornamentation was restored to original and only the balcony seats were replaced. The entire orchestra section of seats were ripped out
and hardwood flooring put in. Tables and chairs were put in much like a cabaret. The stage was greatly extended into the area and the space was used for dancing competitions. Then I have seen for a different show a regular seating pattern.
Granted, it worked well for the theatre I mentioned because the floor had a very shallow slope. To me it was very unusual, but I mention it here because it shows some ingenuity in the restoration vision to allow the space to be reconfigured. A higher flexibility means a wider variety of uses. More uses means more money.
So I know that many gun-ho restorers want to see every nut and bolt restored in a building like this. Believe me, I like to see that too, but that is thinking blindly and it just can’t happen…especially in today’s economy. Keep in mind, beauty aside, do you know what it would cost to heat/cool a building that size?
It is a tough call and it is something I always run through in my mind as I said above. On one hand you want to see the place restored to its original splendor, but it wouldn’t be successful that way today. So the business side takes over and many times you sit there and wonder what the building could be used for to generate enough money to cover it’s restoration costs and operating costs.
Apparently a solution hasn’t presented itself or else the theatre would have been restored already.
But as for the pro-restoration people out there…I do very much agree. I love to see this building saved.
Bruce C. It is funny that you mention the Uptown in Chicago as it is made by the same designers. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Kings is the MOST magnificent theatre in NYC. That would be open for debate. It certainly isn’t as nice as the Loews Paradise. BUT it nevertheless is a gorgeous theatre and it is worthy of restoration. I actually thought the theatre was in worse shape, but looking at exterior and interior pictures of the building, it looks to have faired pretty well given the number of years it was not in operation. Granted it will cost booku bucks to restore, but if a good application could be created for the theatre and you do have a good customer base you are marketing the theatre too, then something can be done. This is a rare case in which you DO have parking around the theatre and access to public transportation. This is a problem the Uptown faces in Chicago.
Another situation is that if the surrounding area dictates lower/middle working class (as C-Dan pointed out above), would the people in the area be able to afford the entertainment? Or on the opposite side of the coin, would the income be enough to support the renovations and restoration of the theatre. If you market outside of the neighborhood (which you will have to do with a building this size), then you have to take the quality of the neighborhood into consideration as well. In simple terms would your people feel safe in the surrounding neighborhood?
It does sound like from the information C-Dan presented that Kings seems to face a similar situation as the Loews Paradise did. It is in a predominantly hispanic area and the theatre did overcome quite a few obstacles.
Given the amount of people in the area, there is parking, and mass transit access there is a very good possibility something could be done here. Following the Caribbean programming is a good idea to cater to the local populace. But there is much to take into consideration in regards to local demographics and what they have to spend in terms of residual income. As it is times are hard now and more and more people are having less and less to spend.
Community programs could be a good way to generate some good local programming that people can afford. If the neighborhood is good, then you could every so often market larger events.
Mostly you have to look into what kind of money you can bring in the front door v.s. the renovation and continued operating costs of the theatre. If your projected figures having you running in the black and you recoup your renovation costs in a few years…then it would be a go.
Much business planning goes into an operation like this. It isn’t easy. But in a nutshell, you need to find something to put in the theatre that is going to generate a good profit and yet be classified to something the people can afford. That something has to generate a profit to cover renovation and operating costs. Finally, you need to get people to the theatre and if people are predominately coming by cars you need a place for them to park.
Given the nature of the area this theatre is in and the size of the building. You would need quite a few heads in on a project like this. This is something that goes well beyond the simple desire to restore a beautiful building.
All the beauty and meticulous detailing any restoration project would have on this majestic structure will not mean a thing if you can’t put people in those 3192 seats. It does take much time, money and careful planning if the theatre is to have a successful future.
Jezz this really was an awesome theater:
I does irk me very much that even in a metropolis such as NYC that a use for this magnificent structure (that preserves its integrity) can’t be found. It is a constant battle I go through in my mind every time I see a beautiful theatre like this. One side is the preservationist, but on the other side is that all important business aspect.
It is hard to believe that through time it is the very size and grandeur of these old picture palaces is what is working against it today.
I don’t know if someone is working on something in regards to this theater. I certainly would hope so.
I don’t know the demographics surrounding this particular area. But I am very well aware that a theatre is a business and certain elements must be in place for it to succeed as such. First thing I look at is the parking and mass transit. People have to get to the place and if parking or transit is a problem…then it would make saving an old theatre a very hard proposition. Second issue is the building’s use. Strangely enough, most die hard preservationists overlook this very important detail. It is obvious that something this size wouldn’t work as a movie house any longer. But it could as a live venue. Key things to look for are other competing theatres in the area. Sometimes searching for an alternative use that perserves much of the building’s past could be looked into. As it is, two of the other Wonder Theatres have new life as a church. A different performance venue, such as a dance hall or dinner theatre could be explored. Brooklyn’s proximity to Manhattan and the transit system should support the numbers. But again, without knowing the demographics of the area, it is hard to tell. Many good heads are needed to come together on something like this. It would be a terrible loss if this building just continues to sit and deteriorate.