Comments from Roger James Smith

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Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Community Theater on May 29, 2019 at 1:20 pm

The Community is reopening!

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Loew's Majestic Theatre on Sep 1, 2018 at 8:13 am

From the Connecticut Post: BRIDGEPORT — Even as City Hall has launched a search for developers for properties along Main and Congress streets, ground has yet to be broken on the renovation of a pair of historic theaters nearby — a project offered up as a selling point to prospective downtown investors.

Related Stories New commercial and residential projects touted as reanimating Bridgeport Developer promises late 2018 groundbreaking for Bridgeport… Bridgeport City Council approves theater redevelopment deal Unions to Ganim: Include us in theaters project Zoning board OKs sale of theaters, hotel Bridgeport’s Office of Planning and Economic Development recently issued requests for proposals (RFPs) for the nearly two-acre Davidson’s Fabrics site, also known as the Middle Street Boys Club property, and for a 35,000 square foot surface parking lot used for police vehicles.

The city wants a mix of retail and market-rate housing on the parking lot, but has placed fewer restrictions on ideas for the Davidson’s building. Ideally that historic structure would be restored with “proposals that will draw patrons, dollars and activity into downtown (and) encourage overnight hotel stays” while also serving current and future downtown residents, according to the RFP.

Both RFPs promote a $400 million plan by New York-based Exact Capital, approved last September by the City Council, to restore the Poli Palace and Majestic theaters and Savoy Hotel to the north of Davidson’s Fabric and the cops’ parking lot. Residential towers — one 18 stories high — were also part of Exact’s winning pitch, selected from three responses.

Late last November, Craig Livingston, managing partner at Exact, had said the developer planned to break ground in “the back half” of 2018.

But as of this week, Exact, according to the city, is still piecing together the $50 million in financing needed for Phase 1 — rehabilitating the theaters and Savoy into a hotel with retail and performance/assembly space.

”We talk on a bi-weekly basis as to Exact’s progress on financing and tenancy on Phase 1,” wrote William Coleman, deputy director of planning and economic development, in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media.

Exact’s vision was frequently touted by Mayor Joe Ganim during his unsuccessful bid to win August’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. At one point, the mayor called the proposal “the most exciting urban development project anywhere in this state.”

Under the terms of the city’s deal with Exact, the developer had a year to assemble financing for Phase 1. Coleman said that the time period ends with the 2018 calendar year, not with September’s anniversary of the council’s approval.

Livingston, when reached by phone this week by Hearst, said he was on a conference call and asked that the reporter call back. He did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.

Coleman said Exact, beside working on financing and pursuing tenants, has also done market analysis and environmental assessment of the old buildings.

Coleman also noted that, regardless of what happens with the theaters, there is interest in the Davidson’s Fabrics and police parking sites nearby and “we believe they can go forward.”

Though there has been no visible progress on Exact’s Bridgeport project, the company and its partners have, according to coverage by some Realty websites, broken ground on a similar redevelopment of Harlem’s Victoria Theater — Exact’s first experience with old historic performance spaces.

Michael Jordan, president of Jordan Electric, in mid-April attended a job fair the city and Exact held to promote the planned work on Bridgeport’s theaters and the potential opportunities for local and minority contractors. Unlike some other development deals, Ganim and the City Council did not insist Exact employ union labor — a move proponents said could provide more work for residents and minorities.

Jordan said he has not been contacted since the fair about any work but was still hopeful: “These wheels roll slow. Things move slow.”

”Will I be around for it is the big question,” added Jordan, 63. “I got a couple more years and probably going to hand it (his business) over to someone else.”

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Loew's Majestic Theatre on Sep 1, 2018 at 8:10 am

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about State Cinema on Jun 10, 2018 at 7:50 am

Better version of the Advocate article:

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about State Cinema on Jun 10, 2018 at 7:41 am

FADE TO BLACK Since opening in 1927, the landmark movie theater in Springdale has fought hard to keep up with the competition, but after years of lost revenue, will soon show its last film. By Barry Lytton

Picture Picture Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media The State Cinema movie theater, which opened in 1927, will screen its final film on Labor Day weekend.

Contributed image

State Cinema movie theater will have its last screening on Labor Day weekend. Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

Picture State Cinema owner Richard Freedman talks about closing the theater in one of the two screening rooms. At right: A poster that hangs in Freedman’s office showing State Cinema ticket prices from the 1970s. Below left: A Stamford Advocate newspaper article on the cinema’s opening in 1927. Below right: An Advocate article from 1988 on Freedman’s father, Joel, investing $300,000 to renovate the theater.

Picture STAMFORD — The storied brick movie house on Hope Street was never meant to be — its history a tale of reinvention and adaptation in fiscal crises as the village around it morphed into a part of the city, and its clientele shifted from men in bowler hats to those in fedoras to children sneaking an impromptu matinee.

The State Cinema has screened thousands of movies since its projector first flickered light through nitrate film in 1927 for a much-awaited screening of “Tell it to the Marines” after a failed launch as a vaudeville theater. Its last film, now through a digital projector, will hit screens this Labor Day weekend, and the cinema will shutter due to another — this time fatal — dip below the bottom line.

The Freedman family, owners of the cinema since the 1970s and operators since 1987, are shutting down the cinema’s two screens after nearly a decade of annual losses. The past four years have been even deeper in the red, said Richard Freedman, manager of the family’s real estate firm, Garden Homes Management.

“It started to lose a lot of money, and not for a short period of time,” Freedman said. “At a certain point, you start to ask, ‘How long will it be? Can we sustain this?’ ”

The answer, he said, was reached with great difficulty this spring.

Bad timing

In the early days of cinema when the silent art form was just turning to feature narratives, films were often parts of vaudeville shows, which remained a big night-out draw. A slow shift to longer films started taking a toll on old vaudeville, and poached its talent such as Charlie Chaplin, around World War I.

“In the grand sweep of time since it opened, it had only a brief window of unadulterated success, from 1988 to 1995.” Richard Freedman, owner of State Cinema

But the shows still drew crowds, and a Springdale vaudeville theater seemed a prudent investment, until Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer,” broke into song — the same year the theater opened its doors.

That film, the first “talkie” couldn’t have come at a worse time for the founders of the theater, led by local builder Ernest Kiesel, according to city land records. The building, with seating for 1,000 and bowling alleys in the basement, was worth between $110,000 and $140,000 — about $1.7 million now, according to “Springdale Remembered,” a book chronicling the neighborhood’s history.

“Within two years, the owners of the building … were in financial trouble,” author Rosemary Burns wrote. “The theater was ordered to be sold in order to satisfy creditors. The business was reorganized, and ‘the new owners hoped for profit by installing a new projector for talking pictures.’ ”

Called the “Springdale” or “Sterling” Theatre — depending on which historical account you read — the place was a hit with its massive painted ceiling depicting a cloudy day framed by gold-leaf paint. It had a good run until again falling prey to creditors. It was purchased years later, records show, and its name changed to the State Theatre.

Oddly, the theater building’s first tenant was someone the Freedmans later learned they knew: Richard’s great-grandfather, Gilbert.

In the 1950s, the State was closed for several years and the bowling alley became an ice rink, until that also closed. It is unclear what prompted the closures or when the theater reopened for good. In the ensuing decades, it bounced between owners and operators, each trying to turn a profit to no avail.

Back to the Freedmans

By the 1970s, the cinema was open but struggling. It was always a second-run theater, known for lower prices than downtown’s first screenings, but attendance waned and the building fell into disrepair.

Freedman’s father, Joel, bought the building as an investment in 1976. For the next 10 years, the cinema was operated by a projectionist, who was Joel’s tenant until 1987 when “he up and left, leaving us holding the bag,” Freedman said.

Joel Freedman “was faced with tearing the theater down or drastically upgrading its facilities,” according to a 1988 edition of the Stamford Advocate.

He chose the latter, sinking $300,000 into the then one-screen movie house.

“You could call it a labor of love, I suppose,” Joel Freedman told the paper at the time. “Anyway, that’s how I wound up in the movie business.”

The business worked for the Freedmans for the next seven years, Richard said.

“In the grand sweep of time since it opened, it had only a brief window of unadulterated success, from 1988 to 1995,” Freedman said. “That period began after my father’s renovations and ended when the Landmark expanded from three screens to nine screens. … The Majestic, six more screens, opened in 1997. That was also a major blow.”

Again facing a setback, the family added a second screen, which was tricky because neither Joel nor Richard would ever split the main amphitheater with its historic ceiling.

“That’s just my thing and my father’s thing,” Richard said. “We just don’t want to see the main auditorium cut up.”

The second theater, tucked behind the main screen on what was the vaudeville stage, opened in 2004. The second screen gave the business a boost, and a year later, lengthy court fights came to fruition for Freedman, who successfully won the right to have a first-run theater.

He hoped that would turn things around.

The last picture show

But then came another major investment, a switch to digital projection propelled by distributors who didn’t want to pay for film prints.

In 2011, Freedman converted the theater to digital and then renovated the lobby in 2015.

But the improvements didn’t stave off the inevitable, and 2017 marked a 25-year-low in national movie attendance.

And the cinema, far from downtown, with little parking and only two screens, starting losing more money than the Freedmans could sustain.

So Labor Day weekend, the State’s main projector will dim for the final time after a screening of “Replicas,” a Keanu Reeves vehicle about a scientist obsessed with bringing family members back to life.

The Freedman real-estate firm is now hearing proposals for the space, but one thing is non-negotiable. The family will only entertain proposals that maintain the historic integrity of the main auditorium, he said.

Freedman’s firm, which deals mostly in housing, will not put in apartments.

Freedman would prefer it remain a movie theater, but doubts a new owner could make it work.

If it worked, he said, “we would have done it.” ; 203-964-2263; @bglytton

“It started to lose a lot of money, and not for a short period of time. At a certain point, you start to ask, ‘How long will it be?’ ” Richard Freedman

m1 SLIDESHOW: To see more photos from State Cinema’s last days, visit our website at:

See this article in the e-Edition Here

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about State Cinema on Jun 10, 2018 at 7:40 am


Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Garden Cinemas on Jun 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The Globe/Roxy was located in the former Norwalk Theatre, on Wall Street.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Capitol Theatre on Jun 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

The Capitol is BACK!

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Ridgeway Theatre on Nov 23, 2006 at 6:56 pm

I remember those mobiles. They were removed when Trans-Lux renovated.
The Ridgeway is now L.A. Fitness

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Palace Theatre on Nov 15, 2005 at 7:52 am

Yes I am aware of the expired links. Unfortunately I have no control over The Advocate taking down a story. I will try to paste stories in the future.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Palace Theatre on Oct 26, 2003 at 8:02 am

Sponsored by

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Community celebrates grand re-opening of renovated Palace

By Michael Dinan
Special Correspondent

October 26, 2003

STAMFORD — Joan Rivers looked up from her Palace Theatre dressing-room chair at a woman who entered the small room carrying the gold mesh jacket Rivers planned to wear before 1,580 people on stage one hour later.

“The great thing about that jacket is it doesn’t wrinkle,” Rivers said in the deadpan tone that has been the comedian’s trademark since her breakthrough on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in 1965. “It rusts.”

Rivers headlined the bill at last night’s “A Night at the Palace” gala, celebrating the theater’s much-anticipated 10-year, $15 million renovation. The event, whose title sponsors were Pitney Bowes and Xerox Foundation, benefits the Stamford Center for the Arts, the Stamford Symphony Orchestra and Arts in Education, a new program designed to bring the arts to Stamford public school students.

Patrons arriving in black-tie attire and gowns approached the red carpet under the theater’s restored terra-cotta facade, passing under a luminous 54-foot red-letter marquee and through a glass atrium to enter the new, fully equipped 18,000-square-foot multilevel lobby, where Rivers' look-alikes and costumed Broadway musical characters sang numbers amidst the crowd before the show.

“This is a great night,” Mayor Dannel Malloy said. “Cultural icing on the cake.”

News anchor Chuck Scarborogh, a Stamford resident, was master of ceremonies of the musical, comedy and song-and-dance program, which included performances by two-time Tony Award winner James Naughton, Tony Award nominee Louise Pitre, Red Hot and Broadway, Greenwich Choral Society, and maestros Skitch Henderson and Roger Nierenberg of the Stamford Symphony.

“We’ve taken as our model an awards show like the Academy Awards or the old-time ‘Night of 100 Stars,’ where no one is asked to do more than five minutes of work at one time, but the entertainment keeps coming fast and furious,” said SCA executive director George Moredock III. “The eclectic group was my own choice, so that everyone gets a taste of something.”

In addition to the show, everyone got a taste of the new Palace Theatre, whose grand re-opening will stimulate Stamford’s vibrant downtown scene, said event co-chairwoman Sandra Goldstein.

“It’s terribly exciting because it’s a big auditorium and now it has a magnificently beautiful lobby area,” she said. “In terms of the city, this is fabulous.”

Rivers, who last played the Palace seven years ago, praised the renovation.

“It’s so nice here,” she said. “It’s gorgeous, really beautiful. Thank God they didn’t go for modern — they kept it a classic look.”

Henderson, a New Milford resident who founded The New York Pops in 1983 after a successful run heading the Stamford Symphony Orchestra, said he “believes in these houses.”

“I’m probably the only one here who worked in vaudeville,” said Henderson, 85, recalling that the Palace was a vaudeville theater when it opened in 1927. “Now here I am. I played Carnegie Hall last night and, aesthetically, coming here is a step in equilibrium from Carnegie.”

Barbara Soroca, the symphony’s executive director, said she looked forward to the future in the renovated theater.

“This is totally amazing, that we now have a home that is truly spectactular,” Soroca said. “I think the audience will be amazed by the beauty and size of it.”

In his dressing room before the show, Scarborough downplayed his ability to perform emcee duties.

“We just did the dress rehearsal, and it went tremendously well,” said Scarborough, who has won 24 Emmys. “All these people are professional and know what they’re doing, which relieves me of the same duties.”

Scarborough was drawn to participate in the occasion by “a chance to support the arts in Stamford in a unique way.”

For Downtown Special Services District member and Telluride restaurant owner Mary Schaffer, supporting the renovated Palace Theater is a progressive way to support the arts.

“We looking forward to the synergy of the arts and nightlife in the city,” she said. “We’re moving into the new millenium with a fresh face on the Palace.”
Copyright © 2003, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Palace Theatre on Oct 26, 2003 at 8:00 am

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Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Palace Theatre on Oct 15, 2003 at 12:21 am

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Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Palace Theatre on Oct 15, 2003 at 12:14 am

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Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Ridgeway Theatre on Nov 7, 2001 at 2:03 pm

The Ridgeway was a TWIN theatre. It was twinned in the 80’s.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Ridgeway Theatre on Aug 30, 2001 at 6:38 pm

The Ridgeway offered free cartoons and popcorn one afternoon each year at Christmas time. The day would include a visit from Santa.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about State Cinema on Aug 30, 2001 at 6:34 pm

The State is currently a 2nd run house.

Roger James Smith
Roger James Smith commented about Ridgeway Theatre on Aug 30, 2001 at 6:32 pm