Showing 24 comments
“By the way, Mr. Rothafel’s first name was "Samuel” not “Roxy”."
That is indeed true. But as he would say on his radio program, he was known as Roxy to his friends “…and when you write, you can call me that, too.” :)
Oh yeah, the fifth floor is still unfinished and contains a bunch of old junk-like stuff. I don’t remember seeing any organ pipes, tho, cause I would’ve taken pictures like a madman.
There were some telltale cigarette butts and empty packs around an open window, though. Hooray for the rules applying only to -some- people!
One of my favorite aspects of the Colonial is the double helix staircase that provides access to the mezzanine or the balcony, depending on which set of steps you take to start. It’s a brilliant piece of architecture and just makes a trip to the Colonial that much neater.
Thank you very much for helping clear up for me when Lamb went in and did his stuff, Ron. I’ve updated my introductory text on that gallery with the information.
And I’m glad to know the Orpheum can still look good in the right light (and resolution). :)
Ron, you’re right about the ownership issue. D'oh. I misspoke there. I remember the OM giving the name of the real estate maven who owns the Orpheum building outright, but I can’t remember the name. I’ll ask when I go back.
Here’s my set of Orpheum pictures from Friday. Again, I apologize for the crummy cameraphone pictures, but I’m still learning how to use this new camera which doesn’t appear to have an auto-iris like the last one did.
I visited the Orpheum on the 19th before the big snowstorm, and had a good afternoon’s worth of climbing around the place and talking with the operations manager. The house is absolutely beautiful. Original marble furnishings, gorgeous backlit stained glass proscenium, original murals, and woodwork everywhere. The ceiling is amazing, the curves a treat to view, the acoustics pretty damn impressive (I was hearing regular spoken conversations onstage from the front mezz) and the columns that help separate the box seats are very dramatic. I was most intrigued by the inset wood panels on either side of the proscenium, where the vaudeville act placards used to be displayed. The cut-out ceiling in the back of the orchestra is also unique, providing a balcony for those accessing the mezzanine. It was also absolutely fascinating to stand on stage and imagine the whole auditorium facing the other way in its original configuration.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the place is falling apart. A lot of this neglect is due to the fact that the Orpheum is now primarly a rock venue, and the audience at rock shows don’t quite treat the place nicely. The (original!!) seats are a wreck, held together with duct tape and jostled off their mounts and broken in so many places, giving the front orchestra rows the appearance of a very BAD set of teeth. The lobby is trashed, given over to the sale of alcoholic beverages, and the ladies' lounge is now primarily used to hold kegs and other concessions supplies. At first glance it appears as if this theater hasn’t been used in years.
Of course, the rock crowds aren’t responsible for the peeling paint on the ceiling, the deterioration of the murals on the mezz/balcony walls, the crumbling plaster, or the fact that a lot of the original trim has been painted so many times over that the details are almost obscured in the layers of paint (now an odd shade of blue.)
I didn’t get to make it out to the alley to look at the original Music Hall walls, but I did poke around the three levels of dressing rooms backstage. Any remnants of history (names on walls, etc) have been covered over by wood panel renovations, but boy that toilet on the second floor looked original. The place is also drafty as all hell, and you can hear the birds perched outside the fire exits as plain as if they were inside. I wonder how many times those rooms have been trashed by petulant rock stars. I also wondered which rooms the Marx Bros. et al had.
I’m not sure what keeps this building from getting the same treatment the Opera House (formerly BF Keith’s) got, seeing as how both are owned and operated by LiveNation. One of my theories is that the Orpheum is the rock music venue and not a primarily theatrical one. Why put all that money into giving the place its glory back if you’ll still have to deal with drunken crowds who have to be repeatedly told not to smoke or crowd the back aisle or do anything destructive? (The warning signs are all over the place.)
The OM would love to have the place restored. She said it was her dream from the moment she stepped up into the auditorium and looked it over for the first time. She knows it can be done with the money and the inclination, and indeed the place is not Beyond Hope. But the touring theater and movie scene in Boston is low, and two nearly 3000-seat houses so close to each other must fulfill different needs and not step on each other’s toes too much if they’re going to both remain financially solvent. I’m glad the Orpheum still has a purpose and has not yet gone dark (even though if you walk into the place these days, you may not be convinced that’s the case.)
Still, my god. I’d love to see that gorgeous proscenium restored to its full glory. I’m putting my pictures up on Flickr now and will post a link to the full photo set, but I will mention that I’m using a new cameraphone for my pictures and so far its capabilities stink on ice. Still, cruddy pics are better than no pics.
I’m directing a show that’ll go up in the Orpheum on New Year’s Eve as a part of First Night, and you can bet I’m definitely interested in taking a look all around the place while we’re there for our load-in and tech runs. Hearing that it’s in sad shape kind of makes me sad, but I’m real curious about backstage more'n anything. Will bring pix.
A damn shame we lost that lovely interior — whenever we lost it. Judging from the history, we lost it a long time ago.
I’m glad to see it’ll stay open and get a lick of a paintbrush, too, and I’m glad to see community support kept it open. That is a good feeling. Interesting though that the new building owner pretty much had the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join 'em” philosophy when it came to the Amherst Cinema, but the former owner viewed them as too much competition.
Thank you for the clarification and identification! Great to know this indeed was advertising the theater at the corner of Mass Ave and Norfolk.
(Yes, I meant trulye. I’m apparently channelling the ghost of Samuel Pepys here.)
They’re currently renovating one of the stores on Mass Ave (between Central Kitchen and the Blockbuster Video) and have uncovered what must’ve been an external wall at one point. And on this wall is a trulye awesome ghost ad for one of the Central Square Theatres.
I’m not sure which of the three theaters in Central Square was part of the M&P circuit, though.
Anyway, if you’re in the area go see the ghost ad while you can, as I’m sure it won’t be part of the new store’s interior design. I really hope they cover it over again as it must’ve been before, and not tear it down. It’s actually affixed to the brick and not in a frame.
Went back into the studio this week for another recording session, Ron, and I got a picture of the advertising sign for you. The vaulted ceiling really isn’t too much to get excited over, though; just a simple white curve in a room with lower light than my cameraphone liked.
I just came back from a recording session at the studio at 2000 Mass. Ave. This building is, indeed, the former Porter Square Theatre. The studio manager confirmed it for me. He didn’t know too much about the full history, but he figured that his second-story recording space, or part of it, comprised the projectionist’s booth as well as the top of the balcony. He also has a promotional sign from the theatre, a hand-painted gem advertising a “Win This Radio!” contest (which, considering I was in the studio recording an original radio drama of mine, was pretty darn cool.)
When inside the recording space, which was not retrofit with drop ceilings, you can see the curve of the original vaulted ceiling and ex-fixtures where, presumably, house lights hung. I didn’t see any other remnants of the theatre anywhere else, except for outside door. The old theatre entrance is on the left side (south) of the building. It’s the entrance on the very very end of the building, going to one of the martial arts schools, and there are still two recessed windows which were obviously for lobby posters.
Judging from the entrance and the recording studio, the auditorium ran north-south the length of the building (parallel to Mass. Ave) with the screen at the north end. I wish I could get some time to explore the rest of the building myself, but there are too many tenants to ask permission from everyone. I was pretty happy to see the vaulted ceiling, though, and the advertising sign.
The Hadley Twins were in the Stop & Shop/Zayre plaza on Route 9, a little further up from the Mountain Farms Mall. It was a standalone building, located in the corner of the lot to the left of the strip mall. The theater itself closed in the late 70s after the Mountain Farms Four Theatres opened. It showed single-X films in its last stage of life which is why I never got to see any movies there, being an Impressionable Youth during the glorious Disco Era and all.
The theater building itself lay dormant until I believe the mid-80s, when Zayre moved out of the plaza and Stop & Shop expanded into what was one of their first “Super Stop & Shop” stores, demolishing the building in the process even though it was situated well away from the store.
A TJ Maxx retail store now stands where the Hadley Twins used to be.
2000 Massachusetts Avenue is a two-story multi-use office building, housing the aforementioned Aikido dojo as well as a recording studio, along with other small businesses. Both the dojo and recording studio are located on the second floor, and I’ve been up to the studio several times to do voicework. The interior of the office building is shabby and not very well-maintained (the studio itself is fine) and I am reasonably sure that any and all vestiges of a theater were removed long ago in the name of retrofitting. The recording studio itself was built into the retrofit second story office space, so I know it wasn’t part of any auditorium space. I’ll ask the studio manager next time I’m up there if he knows anything about the building’s history.
Thanks for archiving those pictures, Ed. They’re magnificent.
If memory serves me correctly, the drive-in closed in the early 80s, if not the late 70s. I wish I had a definitive date.
The Brattle still continues its tradition of holding Bogart retrospectives during Harvard exams. Their double feature programming during the rest of the year is diverse and enjoyable, and they sporadically have live acts on their stage, though usually as part of a fundraiser event. I attended a trailer screening in August 2003 that had a local band play in between segments, which was fun — though I kinda wished they’d had more trailers.
The first film I remember seeing at the Calvin was Annie in 1982. The last film I saw was Manhattan Murder Mystery at a “bargain” night shortly before the theatre’s temporary close. There were serious problems with the sound system and Woody and Diane often went silent in mid-sentence. This is either bad or good, depending on your opinion of the two.
I remember leaving the place feeling very bad for the venerable old movie house, as you could just tell there was a hint of grandeur left in the place but it had just been neglected for so long. I haven’t seen the place since its restoration and reopening, as most of their shows are too big-ticket for my wallet, but I’m glad to see it back in business.
The AMC Hampshire Mall theatres opened in 1978 with four screens like its next-door counterpart at the Mountain Farms Mall. The theatre expanded in the mid-80s, adding two new auditoriums to the left of the main entrance. You could tell the “new” theatres from the original ones as the new seats reclined slightly and sported cupholders in the armrests. I remember thinking the cupholder idea was an innovation whose time had come.
The theatre anchored the Cafe Square area of the mall. Extensively themed in American Town Square brick-and-gaslight, Cafe Square’s “outdoor” design was pretty unique and, as I recall, unprecedented for its time. Most of the Cafe Square theming still exists with its faux two-story storefronts, though recent additions to the court such as Media Play with its Big Box look have broken the theme heavy-handedly.
Adhering to the theme, the Hampshire 6 theaters sported a beautiful three-sided gold marquee with tracers and gilt-edged poster frames along the expansive brick walls. Cinemark’s new multiplex in the same location admittedly has a nice retro-movie palace interior, at least outside the auditoriums themselves, but it has a stark flat wall facade with only a few interesting Art Deco touches along the top corners. Sleek and “modern”, sure, but I kinda miss the ol' gold marquee.
The Academy of Music has just undergone a multi-phase renovation project, with most of the changes being structural — new roof, handicapped access, a new fire alarm system. However, there was one cosmetic casualty: the beautiful neon marquee was removed from the facade sometime around 2003, replaced by a modest kiosk-style sign on the theatre’s lawn. The original marquee still exists, thankfully, though as part of a private collection.
I grew up with this beautiful theatre, and have fond memories of, say, dozing off in a balcony seat during a holiday kid’s matinee stage performance of The Magic Flute. One of my first dates as a young, cultured, man-about-town involved a revival showing of the 1929 Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera, complete with organ accompaniment. I think I was more excited about the film and the theatre than my date. I also remember when La Cage Aux Folles in its first run was held over many weeks at the Academy, though I was too young at the time to actually go see it.
As a UMass student in the early and mid 90s, I frequented the theatre as often as I could, as the Academy would often get pictures that the two mainstream AMC theatres in Hadley wouldn’t pick up. The Academy liked taking chances with indies as much as the Pleasant Street Theatre did, thankfully. Some might find cognitive dissonance in seeing a film like Pulp Fiction in such a beautiful movie house, but that was part of the theatre’s charm to me. I miss it and still try to make a point to catch a show there whenever I’m back in the area.
As the Paramount, the theatre still had sporadic live shows between 1986 and 1999; I saw a stage version of the Rocky Horror Show there in 1991. At the time the auditorium looked a bit run-down but was still very beautiful.
The Garden had a wonderful cloud machine that puffed wisps of cloud smoke around the auditorium ceiling. I remember them even right up to the theatre’s unfortunate multiplexing. It truly was a beautiful place; the only theatre in the area now that replicates the “outdoor” feel is the Latchis in Brattleboro.