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THE GREEN CLOCK! – I had forgotten about that. What a nice touch! To this day I have never seen a clock inside a cinema auditorium. Thanks for your memories.
I do recall an occasional trailer at the Clark, but very rare.
Some movies at the Clark were trimmed, but not very often. I recall one showing of Yankee Doodle Dandy where the whole opening was cut, Right after the titles we cut to George M. Cohan narrating about when he has born on the 4th of July in the flashback scene of his birth. The rest of the film was intact.
BUT then came a surprise – a spliced-in scene following the end titles. Somehow they added a scene of Cagney dancing as Cohan taken from “The Seven Little Foys” with Bob Hope. I guess they felt that the 5-minute sequence deserved special recognition. Another nice touch.
There’s a fantastic little cult film called “The Smallest Show on Earth”, about a couple who inherit a run-down cinema in England. I always think of the Clark when watching that hilarious film.
(Just a short note to get me back on the notification list)
Here is the picture KenC referred to.
This theater used to show IMAX and 3-D IMAX. But lately I haven’t seen them advertised. Does anyone know if they still show IMAX films?
You are right, “Life’s too short”, I confused the ceiling and courtyard decor with the neighboring Varsity Theater two blocka away. But I’m pretty sure of my recollections of the balcony, screen and King Kong.
When we first moved to Wilmette in 1955 we lived near 4th & Linden. The streetcar you speak of had already stopped running by then but the tracks remained embedded in the brick streets for years. I don’t recall another theater being around the corner from the Wilmette, but I do recall the EBF offices on Wilmette Avenue. My first job was across the street from it at the now-defunct Smithfield’s Grocery, a tiny grocery store which provided home delivery of phoned-in grocery orders! (After all, it WAS the North Shore.)
My neighbor, the film director for Encyclopedia Britannica Films, was the late William Kay who worked out of the EBF offices in the former Wilmette Theater. I appeared in one classroom film he made called “The Digestive System” which was filmed on a Saturday morning in the teacher’s lounge of New Trier (east) High School in 1964. A one-second clip of me from that film appears in Terry Zwigoff’s 1994 documentary “Crumb”. My earnings for the day – twenty bucks, and that was under the table!
Here is a picture of the Teatro from back in the early days.
I do recall the Cinerama’s Russian Adventure being shown at the McVickers in the mid 1960s, although I was away at college and unable to see it during its run there. I remember the newspaper advertising which mentioned Bing Crosby’s narrating the film. Whether or not it played anywhere else in the US, I’ll let someone else investigate.
I found this web site which confirms my recollection of the Chicago engagement:
My only visit to the Al Ringling Theater was in 1964 as I was passing through on business. I stopped for the night and saw an odd double bill of Kubrick’s “Dr Strangelove” and Hammer’s “Evil of Frankenstein” along with some shorts and a newsreel (made for a long evening.) However I do recall the sleeping grandeur of the theater itself. It was in need of some careful renovation and I secretly hoped that someday it would be done. I’m happy to hear that much has been accomplished since those days.
I did notice that the theater had opted for a one-size-fits-all screen which many theaters of that era did. The shape of the screen was 2:1, width being twice the height. It fit the proscenium well, but this meant that all projected images would have been “formatted to fit the screen” (as they say on videos these days.) Cinemascope films would have their left and right edges clipped, while standard films had the tops and bottoms lopped off, approximating the 1.85:1 desired ratio.
I’d like to return someday to see what they’ve done to restore the theater.
I saw “Cleopatra” in 1963 (or ‘64?) at the State Lake during the first week of its 70mm road show engagement. Aside from being a rather long and boring story the image was very sharp and impressive with great sound coming from the screen, but I noticed there was no surround track (or maybe the projectionist failed to throw a switch.) There were plenty of crowd scenes, parades, storms, etc. that looked as though they might have benefited from the surround effect, but it just wasn’t there.
The theater itself was impressive in size and accommodation. It was obviously a grand old dramatic/vaudeville theater at one time and looked as though it could be used for live shows again if needed.
I did see Mary Poppins at the State Lake Theater when it first came out back in 1964. I recall a strange audio problem. The film was one of the first standard 35mm frame (not ‘Scope) movies to be presented in stereo sound. So the left and right channel speakers, behind the screen, were covered by the screen’s black masks and stage curtain which muffled the sound. The dialog volume (center speaker) seemed fine but the music level seemed way too low. Funny effect. Maybe they corrected it later in the run.
My one and only visit to this marvelous venue was to see the touring company stage production of “Les Miserables” back in the 1980s while I was in New Orleans on business. I was impressed by its charm and comfort and imagined that it would have been a great movie palace in earlier days.
I think that in recent years (2000 or 2001?) there was a live broadcast from the New Orleans Saenger of Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” radio show when they took the show on the road.
I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” three times at the Cinestage in 1962 or ‘63 when it was first released (before the film was shortened by about 25 minutes). I remember all the stir it created because many film fans did not want to see the shortened version. Finally, a “restored” version came out many years later.
The theater being plain and simple but classy. There were no ornate decorative walls or lobby. The screen was partially curved (not deep like Cinerama or Todd-AO). I was quite impressed by the sound system as well as the bright, sharp picture. I think the curtain was gold and I don’t remember a “stage” at the Cinestage (unless it was behind the floor-to-ceilng screen).
I seem to recall that Hal Holbrook performed his road show version of “Mark Twain Tonight” at the Cinestage sometime in the sixties. I didn’t see it, but I remember thinking how odd that a one-man live show would be at the Cinestage.
I remember seeing “The Bubble” at the Woods in 1966. Although the plot was weak and the acting horrible, I was impressed by the 3-D effects. It would start me on my lifelong hobby as a 3-D photographer and filmgoer.
I’d love to get back to Seattle someday and see a Cinerama revival. (I had seen several Cinerama shows back home in Chicago in the 1950s and early ‘60s)
My only experience with the Seattle Cinerama theater was in early 1969, while stationed at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma. I wanted so much to see Kubrick’s “2001:A Space Odyssey” and this seemed the perfect place to watch it. I was not disappointed.
Although “2001” was shot in “Super-Panavision 70”, MGM (or Technicolor) did make special prints just for Cinerama type theater showings (cf: imdb.com)) It projected very impressively on Seattle’s deep-curved screen. I had seen a matinee showing – went to dinner and came back to watch it again, I was so impressed. Happy to hear the theater still stands and is supported by local fans.
I attended the B&K Valencia double features back in the mid-1950s to late-1960s. They frequently ran Hollywood reissue, Hammer horror, Tarzan adventure, and Japanese sci-fi films. I don’t recall them ever having first-run blockbuster shows – those would shown two blocks away at the B&K Varsity.
The auditorium was relatively small compared to other local venues, but it did have a balcony. The auditorium was decorated as a European (Spanish?) courtyard. The ceiling was dark blue and its lights resembled a starry night. The lobby was small but adequate. I remember noting at the time that the Valencia must have had a history of stage shows or vaudeville due to the nature of its stage front and steps leading up to the stage.
The projection angle must have been very steep (above the balcony) because I remember the semi-wide screen having a slight tilt backwards at the top, which was not very noticeable once the show started, unless one sat very close to the front.
This is where I saw the original “King Kong” during a 1958 reissue. I think it was double billed with something called “The Collossus of New York”. I saw many a Saturday program at the Valencia but King Kong stands out.
I saw several Cinerama films at Eitel’s Palace, “Cinerama Holiday”, “Seven Wonders of the World” and “South Seas Adventure”.
I recall it being very impressive and got me started in my appreciation of large format cinema.
We sometimes would dine next door at the Bismarck. My grandfather had retired after working fifty years at the Bismarck Hotel (the Eitel family owned both the Bismarck Hotel and the Palace Theater.)
I’m happy to hear the theater still stands. I’ll have to visit it next time I’m in Chicago.
The McVickers I remember was showing Cinerama films in the sixties. I saw “How the West Was Won” there three times. My sister recalls seeing the 70mm, Todd-AO road show of “South Pacific” there in the late 1950s (I still have her program book from the show.)
I did see “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” at the McVickers when the theater had converted to 70mm, single projector Cinerama.
I lived in Wilmette from 1955 to the late 1960s. Our closest theater was the Teatro del Lago at the north end of Wilmette. The Wilmette theater at that time was closed and being used as one of the facilities for Encyclopedia Britannica Films, which headquartered in Wilmette, using various office spaces. My neighbor was a film director for EBF and even had me appear in one of his educational films – but that’s another story.
On weekends my kid brother and I sometimes rummaged through their trash behind the Wilmette Theater building and found reels of 16mm films, mostly junk but sometimes parts of feature films. (EBF was associated with Films Incorporated, a distributor of Hollywood films on 16mm.)
By the time the Wilmette theater was reopened and I finally got to see a movie there I had been off to college and Vietnam. It’s probably changed hands a few times since I was there.
I remember going to the Varsity back in the sixties when I was a student at SIU. It was very convenient for students. We could walk there from campus. The theater was very old and had only a standard size screen of 1.85:1 .
Whenever a wide screen film was shown they lowered a black mask which draped across the top of the screen in order to create a 2.35:1 ratio screen – letterboxing in the sixties! So the wide screen films were actually smaller than the standard size images. I have a feeling a lot of minimal budget theaters of the era resorted to similar riggings in order to accommodate wide-screen movies.
There wasn’t really a balcony, just the back fourth of the seating resembled “stadium” seating – a steep climb up to the seats. I remember hearing that in the days of the 1950s and earlier that back section was for “colored only”, but that wasn’t the case when I was there.
I owe my film history education to the Clark. Since there were no VCRs back in the sixties there was absoultely no way have access to many classic and foreign films other than at the Clark.
My friends and I relied on (and even began some) college and school film series with rented 16mm copies of classic movies, often inspired by films we saw at the Clark. Here is where I saw double features of Hitchcock or Welles or Fellini – and on the big screen! Even today with the plethora of DVDs available, often with valuable bonus extras on board and on a big screen TV, it’s just not the same as seeing the movie in a theater.
And I so wish I had kept the “Hark, Hark, the Clark” bulletins – those one-line rhyming summaries were brilliant! Would someone be willing to scan a few to share online?
We lived within walking distance of the Teatro del Lago so we often went to matinees and evening shows there (1955-1970). The Teatro ran first run films right after their Chicago downtown premieres. It had a huge screen and good stereo sound system. There was no balcony but plenty of seating in its big auditorium.
The Teatro never ran double features (which the downtown Evanston theaters did), but they had plenty of shorts, cartoons and newsreels to make it a full show.
We too went through the Wilmette school system: Central, Wilmette Jr High and New Trier and many a kids' birthday party wound up at the Teatro for a Danny Kaye or Disney movie.)
I remember the Evanston Theater of the late fifties and early sixties. It was one of the only theaters on the North Shore that would show blockbuster movies in stereo sound, just like downtown Chicago theaters.
The Evanston had a single, large, wide screen and was proud of its sound system, so much so that they would be sure their newspaper ads stressed “in Stereophonic Sound”. Although I often went down to the loop to catch first run films, I knew I could catch another look at those films a few months later (and a few dollars cheaper) at the Evanston. Specifically, I remember South Pacific, Carousel, Oklahoma, Around the World in 80 Days, Ben-Hur, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and more.
They also ran a successful cartoon carnival every Saturday afternoon for years. Sometimes it would be an all Mighty Mouse program or an all Looney Tunes or all Popeye, etc.
Northwestern University also used the theater occasionally for film criticism seminars, held on weekday mornings so as not to interfere with afternoon feature films. (I remember attending a couple while I was attending New Trier High School.)