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The ABC-TV outlet in Boston, WCVB, Ch 5,has a long-time early evening program called “Chronical” which visits various places and areas in New England. On Monday Jan. 12, there was a 30-minute visit to the Boston Theatre District. However, they only covered one section of the district, centered on the Opera House on Washington Street. And somehow, after 15 minutes, the show wandered off-topic, and I actually fell asleep out of boredom during the last 5 minutes. Hey, “Chronical” staff, if you want viewers to come back, you’ve gotta do a better job than this! Some misinformation on the program: ### The Modern Theater was THE place to go for movies in Boston ### No, hardly. ### Your grandparents went to the Paramount to see the likes of Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman perform ### No, there were no stage shows there. ### There is a secret passageway from the Paramount to the Opera House ###. Pure claptrap. The only passageway between the two theaters is the sidewalk out front. Who makes up these foolish stories??
David/ DApril1 – Yes, sometimes when a theater had “New” in its name it meant that it was not to be compared with an earlier theater of the same name on the same site or different site in town. But it also could be used to indicate that the theater had been totally renovated – same theater, new renovations. I’ve come across this situation a few times!
I once saw an old photo, obviously taken from a window upstairs in Worcester City Hall, looking north. A theater facade for a “Park Theatre” could be clearly seen across the street from the side of City Hall.
I got a chance recently to look at a very nice set of b&W photos which purport to be of the Morton. The exterior shot is definitley the Morton, so I feel confident that the interior shots are, as well. It had a spacious, high-ceilinged auditorium in a classical design, with chandeliers. There was no balcony, but a raised, stadium-style rear section. 4 aisles. Elegant foyer and passageways. A very nice, classy theater.
Thorpe’s Opera House is listed under David City in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. W.B. Thorpe was Mgr; 950 seats; admission 25 cents and 35 cents. The proscenium opening was 20 feet wide X 18 feet high, the stage was 30 feet deep. The theater was on the second floor, and had electric illumination. There were 6 members of the house orchestra. There were 3 railroads serving the town, but no mention of any hotels. The 1897 population of David City was 2,000.
The Humboldt appears to be in derelict condition and closed in the photo. It definitely is the same theater as pictured in 1941 on the MGM Theatre Report. In this photo, there appears to be the “ATC” logo on the apex of the marquee. (American Theatres Corp., a spin-off from M&P Theatres.) I looked under ATC theaters in a Nov. 1951 Boston newspaper theater page which I have and the Humboldt was not listed. This suggests that the 1949 date on the photo is correct. But I don’t know for sure when it closed.
One day in mid-Sept there was a mini sidewalk fair in Wollaston which utilized the outer lobby of the Wollaton Theatre, the sidewalk in front and the parking spaces along that section of sidewalk. The theme was Where is the Wollaston business district going? There was a city planner there, some local business people and community activists. Old movie posters were on display. Many people who stopped by expressed the wish that the theater could reopen. The theater owner was also there and said that he would like to do something with the building, and that the building now is no longer in good condition.
On Fri-Sat Dec. 26-27 there will be 3 showings of the movie “Home Alone” on Symphony Hall’s “big screen”. The Boston Pops orchestra will provide music for the movie. I have no idea how they plan to integrate live music from a large orchestra into this film.
On Saturday Nov. 1, 2014 there will be the annual WCRB Classical Cartoon Festival, 10 AM – 4 PM, featuring Warner Brothers cartoons starring Bugs Bunny and other film luminaries.
In the long list of movie theater circuits in the 1942-1943 Motion Picture Almanac, the Opera House in Gardiner (they spell it “Gardner”) is listed under John Ford Theaters, an affiliate of Paramount Theaters. John Ford also ran the Coliseum in Gardiner at the time.
In the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide there is a “Murray Opera House” in Butte, John Maguire, Mgr. There are no street addresses in this guide, but I assume it’s this theater. It had 1,200 seats; the proscenium opening was 27 feet wide X 28 feet high, and the stage was 35 feet deep. The theater was on the first floor; there were 7 members of the house orchestra. There were 3 daily newspapers and 4 hotels for show folk. Railroads were the Northern Pacfic and the Union Pacific. The 1897 population of Butte was 35,000.
I walked by Hamilton Place this morning and noted that there is scaffolding all across the Orpheum facade. This facade has been kept in good condition, so I don’t know what sort of work is being performed. It’s nice to hear that the operators have spruced up the auditorium, which needed it badly. In recent years, the interior of the Orpheum had become a sleazy dump. I also went by the Paramount this morning: at 11 AM on a bright sunny day, the marquee and vertical were fully lit up with today’s version of “chase lights” in operation. A nice sight.
The print edition of the Quincy Patriot Ledger of Wed., August 27 ‘14 has a nostalgic feature article by newswriter Fred Hanson “Screen Gems – Seeing Movies at a Drive-in used to be a Summer Staple” about the two drive-ins in Braintree. He says the Quintree opened on July 19, 1950 with a Randolph Scott western “The Nevadan”. He found a man who lived across Quincy Avenue from the Quintree as a child and for whom the grounds of the Quintree were one big playground. Hanson says that other drive-ins south of Boston included those in Dorchester, Dedham, Canton, Avon, Brockton, Weymouth, Abington, Marshfield and Kingston.
He says that on August 27, 1968 3 juveniles lit some trash on fire which spread to the huge screen and badly damaged it. The screen was not repaired and the theater was closed. Last movies were “Bonnie and Clyde” & “Up the Down Staircase”. He says that the Plaza Twin Drive-in near the South Shore Plaza opened about 1960 and closed about 1985. He mentions that one screen is still standing, near the Logan Airport bus shuttle terminal. Hanson also states that there are 3 drive-ins in MA today: at Leicester, Mendon and Wellfleet.
The Cameo celebrated its 75th birthday at 10 AM on Thursday, August 14 with a free showing of “Wizard of OZ”. According to a report in yesterday’s Patriot Ledger, the theater was full. The celebration was held jointly with the Fogg branch of the Weymouth Public Library directly across the street. The Fogg Library has reopened after extensive renovations. (The fine old building can be seen in the Google Street View by rotating 180 degrees). After the movie, the audience trooped across the street for more fun events on the library lawn. The original theater license from 1939 is still posted on the projection booth wall. The article points out that the Cameo’s operators, Bret & Michelle Hardy, also operate cinemas in Scituate and East Bridgewater, and that they have wisely kept their day jobs and thus do not depend on the theaters for income.
This cinema is open. It’s listed in the Movie Guide in today’s Boston Herald. Listed as “Warwick Place Cinemas, 123 Pleasant St.” in Marblehead. There are 5 current/recent movies showing. I can’t remember for certain if I ever saw it listed in this Movie Guide before.
This theater was not a real “upstairs house”. From the street entrance there were a few steps, maybe about 6, which led up to the lobby. The front of the auditorium and the stage area were at ground level. This info is from Someone Who Was There. He nearly purchased the theater, but the deal fell through, and it went to a church instead.
The Grand Opera House in Dell Rapids is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. They show 200 seats. William Parker was Mgr. The proscenium opening was 30 feet wide X 18 feet high, and the stage was 30 feet deep. The theater was on the second floor. There were 2 hotels for show folk and 2 weekly newspapers in town. Railroad was the Milwaukee Road. The 1897 population was 1,500.
In 1932 there were 4 theaters in this area wich featured live vaudeville acts in addition to movies:This theater, the Bowdoin Square Theatre; the Scollay Square Olympia Theatre; the Old Howard Theatre on Howard Street; and the Casino Theatre on Hanover Street. The Old Howard and the Casino were both primarily Burlesque theaters and may have had age restrictions, so that Sam Brooks, age 13, would most likely have attended the Scollay Square Theatre or the Bowdoin Square Theatre, or both.
The Town Hall Theatre is mentioned in the current issue of Opera News Magazine. There is a nice exterior photo. The article says it opened in 1883 and has 232 seats. There are an average of 165 events there per season. It’s home base for the Opera Company of Middlebury which has been doing well there.
Several months ago I heard that this project was starting to unravel, unfortunately; but I don’t recall what the source of that news was. The people in charge are stalwart types and I hope that they can get back on track.
According to an item in the Quincy Patriot Ledger yesterday, the Falconi Companies hope to close on purchasing the building on June 15th. All 3 business tenants at the front of the building will remain. Falconi will form a company, Milton Theatre LLC, which will operate a restaurant in the theater space. The theater has been empty since the fire in 2007; prior to that it was used for storage.
Someone who worked at the Astor around 1960 managed to get into the old office suites in the Tremont Street building which contained the theater entrance and outer lobby. To his surprise, there were still some records left there. He found files for Fred Lieberman’s Proven Pictures circuit from the 1940s, old records for the Bijou and other nearby theaters. He also says that there was indeed a remnant of the old second balcony still in place above the rear of the main balcony. It appears that the original second balcony was cut back but not completly removed at some time during the drastic renovations in 1937 and 1947.
Listed for Millersburg in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide is a “New Opera House”. I assume it’s this theater. It had 500 seats, and a stage 32 feet deep. The population of Millersburg in 1897 was 3,000.
James- The MGM Reports for the Union Theatre and also the Bates in Attleboro are now on line. Go to the Theatre Historical Society website www.historictheatres.org ;on the Home Page, click “Research” and then click “American Theatres Architectural Archive” in the drop-down box. Next, click “Explore the collections in the on-line catalog”. Next, type “New England Special Collection” in the search box. (That’s what they call the MGM Theatre reports). The Bates is card #9, and the Union is card # 10 right at the beginning. Once you get the card, there is a button to click on to enlarge it, and then you can copy it on your printer.
The Boston Sunday Herald of April 20, 2014 has a long feature article by Jed Gottlieb “Classic Cinema” about the 100th birthday of the Somerville Theatre in May. There is a nice color photo of a vintage car passing the theater entrance while Manager Ian Judge changes letters on the marquee from a stepladder. There is a classic film festival going on there now. On the theater’s birthday, May 11, there will be a show consisting of “The Wizard of Oz”, plus classic short subjects, plus live music and 3 acts of vaudeville. (Where in this day and age does one book vaude acts?)
Proctor’s Pleasure Palace is listed under NY in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The building had 4 venues: Grand Auditorium, 2200 seats; German Concert Hall, 300 seats; Garden of Palms, 1000 seats; Roof Garden,950 seats. The Auditorium was on the ground floor.