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The Chester Theatre was a very nice theatre for a city of this size (about 7000). The seating of 712 seems about right. The aisles were steep, giving it somewhat the feel to today’s stadium seating. The screen was larger than most theatres in cities of this size. I lived about 30 miles away in the early 1960’s, and attended this theatre two or three times. I am not sure that the above address is correct. If you Google 109 Hwy 9 Business (Main St.), I thought it was on the vacant lot beside Kimbrell’s Furniture.
When it opened, this was Huntsville’s best theatre. It was built to the same plan as Martin’s Georgia Cinerama in Atlanta, with 686 seats. Both of those theatres were disasterously twinned down the middle. Each seat was aligned toward the front corner of the dividing wall. It was not unusual to come out of a movie with a pain in your neck. A couple of months after this opened, Martin closed the Center theatre on Triana Blvd.
When I came to Huntsville in 1966, the Grand had been closed for a few years, but the building still stood. What a shame that it was torn down, to create another parking lot. It had a high arch, nickelodeon-type entrance. On a wall at the Parkway Place Mall in Huntsville, there is a mural created from an old photograph. It shows a late 1930’s view of Jefferson Street, and the Grand is promenently shown.
The Martin was across the street from the Lyric. It was not fancy, but it did have the biggest screen in Huntsville until the Madison and the Cinerama opened. In 1966, the admission for first run was $1.00. It was a good place to watch a movie, and it booked some good ones; I especially remember “Patton.”
Martin Theatres opened the Alabama shortly after I came to work in Huntsville in 1966. A shopping center, strangely called just “The Mall” was located at the intersection of University and Parkway. The theatre was behind the mall, on Country Club Drive. The Vista Vue screen masking was fixed, so the ends were cut of off Cinemascope projections. After several years, Martin did a down-the-middle twinning, which was disasterous. It was like watching a movie in a six-lane bowling alley. The Martin in Albertville, AL also had a Vista Vue screen.
I grew up 55 miles from Columbia, but the Ritz is the only Columbia theatre that I attended. I saw “The Bridges at Toko-ri” in the early 1950’s, and “The Hanging Tree” in 1959 as a high school senior. Between those two movies, the theatre had been given the “Skouras treatment” with new thickly padded seats, and light green curtains covering all the walls. I belive the admission in 1959 was 85 cents.
In 1964 – ‘65, I saw “The Pumpkin Eater” and “A Stranger Knocks”, while it was known as the Fine Art. The parking was somewhat isolated, behind the theatre. The admission was $1.50, like other Atlanta first runs at the time. The back 1/3 of the theatre had a different aisle/seat arrangement than the front 2/3. The screen was adequate, but the layout would have allowed it to be larger. This theatre had the highest seat-to-screen upward viewing angle than any other I have seen.
Laurens is about 10,000 population, but the county is 70,000. I grew up 26 miles away, but I had left home before The Oaks opened. I went here once with my wife around 1968 or so. Inside, it was a nice theatre then. The exterior appeared to be of a Butler type construction. I would have guessed it had more than 322 seats. Carmike later did a twinning which I never saw. If it was down-the-middle, it would have been the usual disaster, long and narrow with a tiny screen.
The Burt Lancaster film, “The Train” (1964) was the only film I saw here. It was a single-screen theatre then. Though in black and white, “The Train” was an exciting film on the nearly wall-to-wall screen. The memory is 49 years old, but I am pretty sure that we entered from inside the mall, which was open-air back then.
The Peachtree Art was a very nice theatre in the 1964 – ‘65 time frame. Its atmosphere enhanced the films it presented. I saw “Woman in the Dunes”, “He Who Must Die”,“Seance on a Wet Afternoon” and several others. Most, except for “Seance” had subtitles. It had a good sized screen (my guess 40 feet) and always flawless projection. Admission was $1.50, same as Fox, Roxy, etc. Around 1970 or '71, the Weiss chain tried to turn it into a first run theatre, but it soon succumbed to the hotel and office building boom.
In 1964 and ‘65,I went to this theatre a few times. The marquee was gone, only the small “Always Paramount” sign remained. Past the boxoffice, through a door, it was not more than ten feet to the curtained entryway into the auditorium. There was no concessions stand, and the bathrooms were down in the basement, a place you would go only one time. Admission was $1.00. One typical feature would be “Great Escape” almost two years after release; the second would be a Russ Meyer film or similar.
The Rhodes was not as elaborate as the Fox, Roxy, Grand, or Rialto, but there was something about this theatre that made it special. “Zorba the Greek” had a long run there, and I saw it three times. Also saw “Joy in the Morning” and “Those Calloways” there; both average films but the Rhodes made them special. The auditorium was at 90 degrees right to the entryway and rather small lobby and concession area. An unusual feature was what appeared to be windows down both sides of the auditorium. I do not remember a single projection error or other glitch in ten or so visits. The theatre has been stripped to the bare walls, but it still stands, at least in the latest Google views.
On a one-week trip to Atlanta in 1970 to take a short course, I went down past the Fox to check out the Coronet. The Baronet had not been added at that time. The film playing was “The Watermelon Man.” I remember being disappointed in the theatre, but I realize now that it was a forerunner of things to come over the next 20 years. It was long and narrow, compared to the other downtown theatres. There was one section of seats, with aisles down the left and right, between the seats and the walls.
During my 16 month stay in Atlanta (1964 and 65) I was able to attend this theatre only once. I saw a black and white film, “The Hill”, a good one, directed by Lumet and starring Sean Connery just after “Dr. No”, and Harry Andrews. It was not one of the movie palaces but it was a nice neighborhood theatre, just around the corner from the Plaza theatre.
It is very sad that this theatre was not saved; the 1978 fire conveniently ended the battle for preservation. I attended several times in 1964 and 65, the words that come to mind are “faded splendor.” The carpets and usher’s uniforms were somewhat threadbare, but there was a nice display of GWTW memorabilia on the mazzanine level. Some of the staff could be a little short with patrons. I remember getting caught in a downpour, and being told off for dripping a little water just inside the front door. Black and white movies played well here; I saw “Guns at Batasi”, “Lady in a Cage”, “The Visit”, and several others. “The Yellow Rolls Royce” played only one week and advanced the $1.50 ticket numbers by less than 1000.
I spent 9/64 to 12/65 in Atlanta. This theatre was fairly new and was a great place to get lost in a movie. You bought your ticket at the street level box office, went into a spacious first floor lobby area, up an escalator, down a short hallway, and you came out halfway down the auditorium. The seats in front were conventional, the back half was very close to stadium style. The total seating in 1964 was about 1200. Admission was $1.50. The movie “The Great Race” played to near-capacity here for several weeks. They usually booked light-hearted fare like that, and some Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Pamela Tiffin, etc films played here.
I attended Georgia Tech from 9/64 to 12/65, and frequently attended the Techwood. It was a part of the Storey chain, usually second run, with admission of 75 cents (first run was $1.50 in Atlanta at the time). By then it was somewhat run down, with water stains on the ceilings and side walls. There was no balcony; the rest rooms were upstairs, and you could see into the projection room, which was also furnished as an efficiency apartment. There were frequent projection errors, with the screen going blindingly white, and the flap-flap-flap as a rewinding reel went untended. Going by ticket numbers, they were doing about 900 to 1000 75cent admissions per week in late 1965. The theatre, Jr’s grill, laundry, and the Tech Motel on that block were all demolished and Google street level shows Ga. Tech offices there now.