Comments from JohnRice

Showing 1 - 25 of 152 comments

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about What about the curtains? on Sep 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm

The curtain definitely added to the movie theater experience in the old days. I loved the way it closed at the end of the shorts program (news, cartoon, trailers, etc.) and then opened again at the beginning of the main feature and closed again at the end, perfectly timed thanks to an added curtain cue at the bottom right side of screen. A nice bit of showmanship that helped in a small way to make going to the movies a special experience.

Proper curtain opening and closing seems to be mostly a lost art in the few theaters that still have curtains. Projectionists in the old days were trained never to let the audience see the white screen. You dimmed the lights, started the projector, opened the dowser and then opened the curtains on the first images to hit them. Some theatre owners and projectionists preferred opening after the studio logo faded out. Same thing when the movie ended, curtain closing timed to end with final fade out, again no white screen visible to your audience!

Nowadays common practice seems to be open curtains all the way and then start the show on the naked screen. Same thing when the movie ends, curtains close after the final fadeout (although now with the amazing amount of credits nobody is usually left in auditorium to even notice!) The only theater in the San Francisco Bay Area where I see it done the old way (and I think the right way) consistently is at David Packard’s great Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto.

Showmanship in theaters has been generally been dead for decades though and there is no reason to believe it will return. That totally annoying 20 minute pre-show commercial marathon masquerading as entertainment was the final nail in the coffin I think.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Century 16 Hilltop on Jun 23, 2014 at 7:03 pm

This familiar looking by now Century/Cinemark big box multiplex is Richmond’s one and only mainstream movie theatre in 2014, not an impressive statistic for a city of 100,000+ people. Reviews on Yelp (3 out of 5 stars) indicate that it’s had more than its share of the same problems that plagued the now long closed Hilltop Mall theaters nearby, mainly rowdy and inconsiderate patrons. A local told me to avoid Friday and Saturday nights for sure.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Magick Lantern Theatre on Jun 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Recent news stories indicate that after about a year and a half of operation this cozy little cinema is struggling. That’s too bad because it’s the only place in the area to see non mainstream product. Classic films (DVD I suspect) are featured on Thursdays (with free admission!) and newer independent and foreign product Friday through Sundays.

The Magic Lantern’s website is http://themagicklantern.com

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Pablo Theatre on May 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

The Pablo had it’s grand opening on July 2, 1943. Popular Republic cowboy star Wild Bill Elliott appeared at the opening in person as well on the screen in “King of Dodge City”. The Pablo was the fifth and final Robert L. Lippert theatre opening in the Richmond area in the previous year and a half. Prior Lippert openings in the area were the Grand, Studio, Times and V (formerly the Point in Point Richmond).

The Pablo changed hands at least twice, in 1949 and 1952. I believe it closed not too long after the final change of ownership in 1952. I vaguely remember reading an article in the Richmond Independent about that time regarding the final owners, a couple from Oregon as I recall, who felt they had been deceived by the previous owners regarding the condition of the theatre and it’s revenue potential. I believe they sued to recover damages.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about San Pablo Auto Movies on May 3, 2014 at 11:16 am

The San Pablo Auto Movies opened on July 29, 1953 with a dual projector 3-D presentation of Paramount’s “Sangaree” with “Roar of the Crowd” (in flat 2-D) as the second feature.

This was a very nice drive in with nice facilities and a big wide CinemaScope screen, easily the best in the Richmond-San Pablo-El Cerrito area when it opened.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Ken Cinema to close? on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Regarding the SF Embarcadero they apparently now do have a counter to buy a ticket from a live person. It’s just to the just to the right of the bar as I recall. I’m not sure if it’s been there since re-opening after the remodel or not as I was just there for the first time recently.

I had mixed impressions of the remodeled theatre. The deluxe recliners with power footrests in the smaller “screening rooms” are very nice as are the leather seats & spacious leg room in the other auditoriums. What I didn’t like was there was not only no screen curtains (admittedly not unusual nowadays!) but no screen masking either. In one of the auditoriums there was blank screen space on all four sides of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio film! That’s unacceptable for a premium ticket prices and reserved seats policy I think.

I’m also NOT a proponent of reserved seats in movie theaters and I doubt I’ll be back unless there is something playing there that I really want to see and it’s not playing anywhere else. Frankly I liked the old Embarcadero with unreserved seating much better.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Colfax Theater on Mar 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Here is a paraphrased summary of news about the Colfax Theatre as reported in several articles from the Colfax Record dated between January 2013 through January 2014.

“The Colfax Theatre stopped showing movies in August 2008 and with rare exceptions was dark until the end of December 2012. It was still owned during this time by Wendell Jacob who had purchased, renovated and operated the theatre starting in 1986. Jacob later gifted the Colfax to his granddaughter, Emma Mae Jacob, on her 13th birthday. with a provision that she could take over the business when she turned 18. Declining business caused the cessation of mainstream film showings in 2008.

On December 31, 2012 Jacob sold the theatre to Gary Tomsic, a former TV cameraman and film producer with 40 years experience in his field. Tomsic’s plans for the Colfax included a mix of independent films and live performances as well as expanded concessions. He spent most of the year 2013 doing renovations and preparing for the grand re-opening.

Ironically on December 31, 2013, a year to the day after taking over ownership of the Colfax, 64 year old Mr. Tomsic was found unresponsive and pronounced dead in his Colfax residence. Police reported there was no evidence of foul play."

The theatre’s website in reporting Mr. Tomsic’s death currently states “Details about the future of the Colfax Theater will be posted here soon.”

Only time will tell if the community and/or another entrepreneur will step in to fulfill Mr. Tomsic’s vision or come up with another viable plan for re-lighting the Colfax. A realtor’s sign was posted on the front of the vacant structure when I passed through town and stopped to take a few pictures yesterday (March 14, 2014).

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Shorter trailers coming soon on Feb 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

It’s not only the trailers! That 20-30 minute pre-trailers parade of commercials masquerading as entertainment (“First Look”, etc.) that the major chains run drives me nuts! We like to get to the theatre early for good seats but by the time the actual trailers start I’ve been commercially hyped to death already and impatient for the feature to start. The number of trailers needs to be addressed too. Four is plenty, six or seven is torture, at least for me! Blu-rays rented from Redbox on my HDTV look more appealing every day!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about *** Comments and Behavior On This Site *** on Dec 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I was unaware of the recent flaming but like the great majority of us here I think fully support guidelines and civility on discussion boards. Good for you Ross for putting the violators on notice!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Tower Theatre on Oct 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I first moved to Sacramento in 1962 and have many fond memories of the single screen Tower where I enjoyed such first run attractions as “Charade”, “Lilies of the Field”, “The Great Escape” and “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Like so many other once grand theatres, separating it into 3 theatres pretty much destroyed the interior charm of the Tower but at least it still stands and looks pretty much the same from the outside. The dreary interior could use a major overhaul but I don’t expect to see that anytime soon. Since the Crest stopped regular film programming it’s the only place in town to see indie and foreign films nowadays which is pretty pathetic for such a big metropolitan area as Sacramento.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about State Theater on Sep 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

From a September 2013 press release from the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center (formerly State Theater):

“Tear Down the Wall, Bring Up the Arts! Donate and Celebrate on October 5, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.”

“Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center (APPAC) has launched a fundraising campaign to expand and upgrade the State Theatre at 985 Lincoln Way, in downtown Auburn. This work will include removing the center wall that currently divides the theater, increasing seating capacity from its current 130 seats to 275 seats, reopening and upgrading the original proscenium and stage, rebuilding the green room beneath the stage, and making American Disability Act (ADA) improvements to a restroom and stage access. A very exciting aspect of this project is the cost: an estimated $300,000.

“Upon completion in mid year-2014, we will be able to provide an expanded and improved facility that will serve our community far better than our current theater does” said Paul Ogden, President of APPAC. “This will allow us to attract entertainers who require a larger venue and to provide more variety to our audiences. This is the next logical step to build upon the solid foundation we’ve built. We believe this is a needed community project with significant cultural and economic benefits”.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Keeping It Cool on Jul 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm

The evidence is clear that the majority of moviegoers prefer, even demand stadium seating. Sloped floors in modern theaters have about as much chance of returning as 35mm reel to reel carbon arc projection or double features with an added newsreel and color cartoon on the program.

I’m one of those who prefer stadium seating and I say that as someone who has been going to movies for over 60 years. Much easier to see over people’s heads! I always headed for the stadium section if the theatre had one. The balcony worked well too but that is almost identical to stadium in design.

Nothing wrong with being anti-stadium of course but you’re among a small minority of modern moviegoers.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about 70mm Film Series Returns to the AFI Silver Theatre on Jun 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Note that about half of these presentations aren’t even on 70mm film, digital (DCP) instead. Of course they were originally shot on 65mm a and printed on 70mm but does DCP look as good as 70mm? Does this theatre have 4K projection? Wish I didn’t live across the country so I could find out for myself! REAL 70mm. film presentations seem to be almost as endangered as 35mm presentations though. Will there be any at all in a few years? I sort of doubt it!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Spielberg and Lucas discuss claim more expensive movies are coming on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I suspect there is just a very small minority that will pay $50 or more to see a movie. People are already starting to balk at the extra $3.50 for 3-D! With streaming, Redbox, pay per view, DVD, Blu-ray you have way too many alternatives to catch movies if you are just willing to wait for a short while. I don’t even agree with Spielberg’s prediction that the next “Iron Man” flick will cost $25. “Iron Man 2” was the same admission price as “Iron Man 1”. Why should the cost to see “Iron Man 3” rise astronomically? Wishful thinking by Hollywood Greedmasters!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about CinemaCon showcases movie theater advances on Apr 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Well those “Shake ‘n Share” popcorn containers ought to add a buck or two more to the already outrageous price of popcorn. Then there is that 500,000 watt Dolby Atmos sound system which according to the writer of the article is best experienced with ear plugs. I can hardly wait! Looking at movies at home is looking (and sounding!) better every day!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Military movie theaters going digital on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Quite a change since I was in the Army 1959-1962. Back then every medium sized base had at least one 35mm theatre. The larger posts had 2-4 theaters, many of them quite nice. Very small posts usually had at least 16mm facilities. There were 5 program changes a week, all single features (mostly recent releases with a scattering of reissues) accompanied by shorts & previews. Admission was only 25 cents.The theatres were then operated by the AAFMPS (Army Air Force Motion Picture Service).

You really appreciated these theatres when you were overseas and the post theatres were the only place you could get your fix of the American movies which of course were a connection to home. The post theatre at Camp Kaiser, Korea was my home away from home during my year long stint in that country and made that tour of duty much more bearable for sure!

My only negative recollection of those post theatres was at Fort Bliss, Texas when the bone-headed post commander, a general I think, decided that we had to wear uniforms or coat and tie to attend the 25 cent flicks. Not what we wanted to hear! Most of us boycotted the post theatres and got our movie fix in downtown El Paso or at the numerous drive-ins in the area after that. I heard attendance dropped 75 per cent but the policy was still in effect when I got discharged in 1962.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Crest Theatre on Mar 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm

As mentioned in the post above, the closing of the two basement theatres attached to the Crest has apparently taken place in early March 2013. Even worse news for the independent/foreign/alternative film scene in Sacramento it has been announced by the Crest that the main auditorium will not be showing films 7 days a week any more. There are no films at all on the schedule for the last half of March and very little lined up for April. Looks like it will be mostly performing arts and dark days for the Crest for the foreseeable future! Not good news at all for downtown or us regional alternative to mainstream film fans. Now all we have left for that fare is the rather shabby Tower!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Going to the movies has changed for the better since '80s on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Movie theaters did indeed reach bottom in the 1970’s & 1980’s with those 2-4 screen shoebox theaters that seemed to be springing up everywhere in the malls and suburbs while at the same time putting the remaining downtown first run houses out of business or forcing them to turn to porn or schlock to survive. Small auditoriums, compromised aspect ratio screens, no screen curtains, mono sound, all big negatives when compared to the movie palaces and even neighborhood houses in my humble opinion! When the VCR’s arrived many of us realized we might as well just stay home and wait for the video.

There was no way to go but up and admittedly today’s stadium multiplexes are an improvement with comfortable stadium seats, good leg room and generally good sound and picture. Not that everything is now perfect with nobody up in the booth to oversee the frequently imperfect presentation and concession stands that make you take out a second mortgage for a small popcorn and Coke. Don’t get me started on cell phone talkers & texters & other barbarians in the audience…but yeah I have to say that things are better theater wise than they were back in the those dark days.

Now with HDTV, satellite, pay per view, Blu-ray, Netflix, Red Box, etc. it again be comes a question as to whether it’s worth it to brave today’s admittedly improved but still lacking multiplexes or just stay home and enjoy your home theater. You’re just looking at blown up video in most theaters nowadays anyway! Now if you want to bring back 70mm and give me a “Lawrence of Arabia” type experience I might get more excited about going to the movies again. As a realist I of course fully realize that ain’t gonna' happen!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Theater Historian David Naylor Passes Away on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Sorry to hear of Mr. Naylor’s passing. His books will always have a prominent and valued place in my library!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Theaters raise revenue and tensions by charging to show trailers on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:13 pm

It’s not only the trailers! That fairly recent innovation, the pre-show 20 minute cavalcade of commercials masquerading as entertainment adds to my annoyance factor as much as the parade of trailers for movies most of which you couldn’t pay me to see. I prefer to get to our multiplex early to get good seats so there is no away to avoid that mammoth advertising bombardment.

By the time the feature FINALLY starts I’m starting to wish I’d waited for this flick to show up on Redbox so I can watch it in non commercial comfort on my HDTV at home! I mean did I pay $10.50 and another $10 for a SMALL popcorn and Coke for THIS?

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Fairfield Cinema 1 on Jan 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm

A six alarm fire, thought to be electrically caused, pretty much totally destroyed Pepper Belly’s (formerly the Solano Theatre) on the night of January 25, 2013. The inside of the structure is totally gutted and the roof is gone. Only the four walls remain and it’s unclear at this point if they are structurally sound.

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Trio floats plan to reopen MET Cinema on Dec 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Hmmm…they want to offer subscriptions where you pay one monthly price and you get to see as many of movies you want…or all of them! They say it’s “just like Netflix”! I’d be surprised if the distributors would go for that. Good luck anyway guys! The MET Cinema’s closing leaves the whole Oakhurst-Mariposa area without a cinema so anyway you can open up the MET again I’m all for it! Not a good sign that the previous owner was losing money big time though!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Fox Theater on Dec 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Growing up in Richmond I remember the conversion of the Costa into the Fox as well as the old Fox into the UA. I saw lots of movies at the Fox and even though I preferred the UA the Fox was always a pleasant experience. I remember seeing the first CinemaScope film “The Robe” there as well as my first 3-D film “Sangaree”. Sometime around 1957-58 both the UA and Fox closed for a short time due to lack of business, leaving downtown Richmond with the run-down Rio as the only game in town! Fortunately both reopened (with a new one man in the booth agreement from the projectionists union as I recall) and lasted a few more years. Hard to believe that in 1950 there were 8 theatres on McDonald Avenue, from the Rio to the Uptown…and then in just a few years there were none!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about United Artists Theater on Dec 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Growing up in Richmond, the UA was the only local theatre that seemed to me like a movie palace, although certainly not a grand one like found in nearby Oakland or San Francisco. It had a balcony (closed much of the time) and when CinemaScope came along the Scope films with four channel magnetic stereo sound were pretty impressive in that big auditorium. I suppose it was my favorite theatre in Richmond, not that we had much to choose from by the mid 1950’s. A nice middle aged woman behind the concession counter would save 8 x 10 stills for me and sometimes even allow me to slip in to see a free show. Fond memories of the UA!

JohnRice
JohnRice commented about Rancho Drive-In on Dec 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

The Rancho did big business in the early 1950’s, before the arrival of the nicer, more modern San Pablo Auto Movies. Before then it’s closest drive in competition in the Richmond area was the El Cerrito Motor Movies. I liked the Dusk-to-Dawn movie marathons on holiday weekends, 4 or 5 features with free coffee and donuts if you managed to stay awake until closing.