Comments from SMEvans3

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SMEvans3 commented about Northpark West 1 & 2 on Mar 2, 2007 at 8:14 am

I never got this theatre. I have many great memories there, but it was a plain, barren General Cinemas theatre. The lobby was small and indistinct. The auditoriums were just cavernous rooms with seats. The floors were sticky. The presentations were good. I can not help but feel people confuse fond memories of the films they saw there as being fond memories of the physical facility.

SMEvans3 commented about AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 on Feb 8, 2007 at 9:19 am

Although lacking stadium seating in its upstairs auditoriums and going through periods of showing its age, this is generally a good theatre.

The intent of the Loew’s auditorium is admirable, but the execution showed that they just do not build them like the use to. When initially opened, the balcony blocked view of the top of the screen for persons sitting in the back two rows of the orchestra level, and a railing ran through the middle of the picture for persons sitting on the front row of the balcony. I have no idea how they fixed the orchestra seat problem. The railing is still a slight issue for shorter moviegoers.

SMEvans3 commented about AMC 84th Street 6 on Feb 6, 2007 at 5:23 pm

I worked there for a few months. Although high-grossing, the theatre was not architecturally interesting.

Sony Theatres made a big deal about placing a plaque in the lobby in memory of the theatre’s longtime Managing Director, the late Arthur Marks. When the lobby was remodeled, the plaque was misplaced. Some took this as a sign that the Loews Cineplex management did not care as much about the contributions of their theatre managers as the Sony Theatres management had.

The auditoriums were known by letters instead of numbers until after the most recent remodeling.

When the new seats were installed, the drapes in the auditoriums were pulled up to keep them out of the way of the workers. When the drapes were lowered, they discovered that each auditorium had seats facing the drapes and four auditoriums have seats actually located behind the drapes!

SMEvans3 commented about Loews State Theatre 4 on Jan 22, 2007 at 5:01 am

These were the actual seat counts. The certificate of occupancy was not based on the actual number of seats. I managed the theatre, and I still have the seat charts to prove these are the correct numbers.

1 422

2 375

3 318

4 247

Total = 1362

SMEvans3 commented about Loews State Theatre 4 on Jan 22, 2007 at 5:00 am

There were four tiny projection booths with virtually no air conditioning. Sound systems failed due to overheating. The projectionists were drenched in sweat. Rather than figure out how to air condition the projection booths, Sony Theatres installed some cooler amplifiers, but the projectionists would still remove glass from the windows and leave projection booth doors ajar. This resulted in projector noise in the auditoriums, which was unfortunate given the sound systems were pretty good.

Originally, the television monitors by the escalators in the Virgin Megastore and in the theatre lobby were to show tapes of movie previews. When the tapes rewound, the monitors were to switch to Virgin music videos. The acrimonious relationship between the two companies left the monitors blank while tapes rewound. Later, they switched to DVDs that did not require rewinding, and the lobby monitors were removed.

Emergency exit was through many stair wells. A particularly large one was between auditoriums two and three.

The original marquee consisted of fiber-optic ropes with a backlit Sony Theatres sign and L.E.D. panels hanging beneath showing the films playing there. The fiber-optic sign was considered to be very advanced and made the cover of some technology magazine. However, it almost never worked correctly and was nowhere near as bright as the Virgin neon sign. When Sony Theatres changed their name back to Loews, this was the last theatre to make the change because they wanted to completely replace the sign. They made the switch to the less high-tech, but more visible neon. The L.E.D. sign remained the same, and I think I was just about the only one who ever knew how to program it. After I left, it often displayed out-of-date information.

When AMC announced plans to enter the Manhattan market with the Empire 25, I think Loews decided to sabotage AMC’s plans by building a megaplex immediately across the street from the AMC. This also effectively sabotaged the State and Astor Plaza.

Once the E-Walk and Empire opened, Loews Cineplex never knew what to do with this theatre. Loews Cineplex really did not know how to successfully run a discount theatre. Also, because of the excessive screen count in Times Square, films hung around in the E-Walk and Empire too long to still have any life left in them when they reached a discount house. Sometimes in the Virgin Megastore one could purchase the DVDs of the films showing at the discount theatre.

The marquee changed a few years ago to just a plastic sign. The company did not appear to want to repair the neon, which was not fully functioning. The L.E.D. signs appeared to be covered over at that time. About half of the L.E.D. sign had ceased to work.

I do not believe Virgin still owns a theatre circuit, and therefore they probably have no interest in this theatre. Most likely, Bertlesmann is not in a position to place stronger provisions in a lease to eliminate the access and sound problems Virgin creates. Without such provisions, this probably will be a very difficult space to lease.

SMEvans3 commented about Loews State Theatre 4 on Jan 22, 2007 at 4:52 am

This theatre was a sad story of missed opportunities and mistakes. I was the Managing Director there during perhaps its most successful period. It actually was the highest-grossing theatre in the nation on rather lowbrow fare and arguably more sophisticated action films such as FACE/OFF.

When the old State was closed, Loews owned the land, and they sold it under the condition they would be allowed to build a new theatre on the site. Construction on this four-screen began in the late 80s shortly after the old theatre was demolished. I heard that discovery of an abandoned subway station necessitated the building foundation going very deep under ground, which partly accounts for the location of the cinema. There is a parking garage deeper in the ground than the theatre.

The building went bankrupt during construction, and the shell of the theatre sat for nearly eight years before Bertlesmann took over the project. The late-80s construction of the shell of the theatre is one of the reasons a larger(more screens) theatre and stadium seating were not built. The black floor in front of the box office was part of the original construction and featured a floor lighting system that was never used.

The lease ran over 500 pages. The lease was with the building, not the Virgin Megastore. Originally, Blockbuster Video was to occupy the space above the theatre. Gates were supposed to be installed in the store to isolate the escalators so that theatre patrons could enter and exit while the store was closed.

The theatre probably was part of Virgin’s attraction to the site. They operated Virgin Cinemas in Europe, and they probably thought they could acquire the partially-completed theatre and use it to introduce Virgin Cinemas to America. Sony Theatres had no desire to let a new competitor into the Manhattan market that easily, and they would not sell. As this theatre was a condition for the initial sale of the land, Sony Theatres had a pretty strong position to keep it, but Bertlesmann could have gotten a higher rent from Virgin.

Virgin appeared to want to drive Sony Theatres out of the space. Virgin did not build the gates in their store required in Loews’ lease. They attempted to bill Sony Theatres for security expenses related to the theatre being open when the store was closed. They locked theatre employees in the building late at night and sometimes attempted to frisk theatre employees to see if theatre employees were stealing Virgin merchandise.

Virgin also held in-store concerts immediately outside the theatre’s entrance. This was not an intended use of the Virgin space, and substantially was not covered in the theatre lease or anticipated in the architecture. The store often cut off access to the theatre due to overcrowding at their concerts. The sound from the concerts drowned out the movies. Effectively, the theatre could not operate during these concerts. To the best of my knowledge, Virgin only compensated Sony Theatres once for lost business.

Although the relationship improved, Virgin and Loews/Sony Theatres never worked well together.

SMEvans3 commented about Paris Theatre on Jan 21, 2007 at 6:10 am

Segregation was a bit before my time, and I never heard of the Paris actually being segregated, but I believe the theatre was designed so that it could be segregated. However, I do not know this to be fact, and I had thought my initial comment made clear it was an opinion. It was not an opinion that originated with me. I had heard it several times while I was at the theatre.

I am somewhat sorry I made the initial comment because this is a beautiful theatre, and I hate seeing its page devoted to a debate over segregation. After some time at each place where I have worked, the physical facility became mundane to me. Day in and day out, year after year, the Paris took my breath away. I would hope it is best appreciated for its beauty and usually exceptional films instead of its curious water fountain placement.

Also, I want to thank AlAlvarez for posting the list of films that played there. I used to have that list, but I had lost it.

If dave-bronx worked there when the basement café was open, I would love to hear a little more about it.

SMEvans3 commented about UA Prestonwood 5 on Jan 20, 2007 at 7:02 am

This theatre is not closed! I went by it about a month ago, and it was open as a cinema and grill. It no longer is a United Artists or Regal theatre.

Also, before becoming a cinema and grill, its correct name was UA Prestonwood Creek 5. Prestonwood Creek is the name of the shopping strip in which the theatre is located. This name helped distinguish the theatre from the nearby AMC Prestonwood 5, which I believe was technically on the property of the Prestonwood Mall, and the General Cinema Prestonwood, which I think was a quad and located in what had been called Sakowitz(sp?) Plaza.

I worked there in the late 1980s. I recall the seating capacities being a little larger. I think we declared sell-outs in auditorium one at 550 seats, auditorium two at 500 seats, and the three smaller houses were either 200 or 250.

The theatre was best known for the THX sound system in its main auditorium. It pretty much had been a “spare no expense” installation. I believe the sound system was installed by the time GHANDI opened there, but the theatre could not advertise THX until RETURN OF THE JEDI. Perhaps comparable to the GCC Northpark I & II THX sound system, UA Prestonwood Creek 5 always played films louder than the GCC. THX trailers sometimes were played at full volume, which would shake the entire theatre complex and the restaurant next door. Sometimes this left me with ringing ears and a headache, but other times, it was spectacular. People would come from all over the D/FW Metroplex to see TOP GUN in 70mm THX at this theatre.

Auditorium two got THX in 1985. Both of the main auditoriums could show 70mm. However, the long engagements and lack of desire to replace prints did take their toll on 70mm engagements. By the time RETURN OF THE JEDI ended its 70mm run, I heard Yoda no longer appeared in the movie.

The theatre was remodeled in September 1987. Although bland, the lobby looked a little classier. The three smaller auditoriums were equipped with Kintek surround sound systems. Unfortunately, the auditoriums remained covered in burlap. Literally, it looked like cut-up potato sacks were used as auditorium wall coverings.

The cinema and grill renovation is vastly nicer than the UA décor. An external tower has been built atop the theatre much like an old movie palace. Each auditorium is themed to represent a closed Dallas cinema treasure. The size of auditorium two has been drastically reduced to make room for the kitchen. At the very least, the cinema and grill is not paying THX licensing fees, but it looks like the sound systems have been replaced there. The surround sound speakers visible in the auditoriums are definitely different.

SMEvans3 commented about Movies 4 on Jan 19, 2007 at 7:47 am

This cinema was the first theatre I managed. I went on to manage some true treasures, but this was not one of them.

I believe it was built by an independent operator or a small circuit. In the late 1980s, Lee Roy Mitchell bought it and operated it as a Cinemark discount theatre.

During my brief time there in 1991, the lobby was not as described. It had been done over in red and yellow. A green and white tent covered a large arcade. In the early 1990s Cinemark experimented with renting videos in their lobbies. This cinema had a barn-like structure in its lobby from which videos were at one time rented. When the rental program ended, the barn was never removed.

A Cinemark executive once said this theatre had the ugliest lobby in the circuit.

The seats were a disaster. I believe there was capacity for nearly 1,000 seats. When I took over, 35 seats were missing, and over 370 were broken and in need of repair. However, no one made replacement parts for them.

The projection booth consisted of second-hand equipment. With much TLC, the number one auditorium actually had a really good Dolby sound system. Unfortunately, it had no spherical lens, but when an anamorphic film with a good soundtrack was in there, it was a better presentation than at the nearby first-run theatres.

The sound system in auditorium two could pick up stray radio signals.

SMEvans3 commented about Paris Theatre on Jan 18, 2007 at 8:39 am

I managed the Paris Theatre during the Sony Theatres years. I will try to answer a few questions and share a few memories.

The Paris Theatre is a labor of love for its landlord, billionaire Sheldon Solow. He expects the theatre to turn a profit, and he has shrunk the size of the theatre, but so long as he is alive, the theatre probably is safe from eviction or closure.

The original marquee for the theatre is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image. The current marquee is a reproduction.

I believe that when the theatre first opened, it included a management office which has since been rented out as office space(a Reebok design studio was in there during my time at the theatre). The basement was a large café in which theatre patrons could have coffee before the show. The landlord has attempted to rent out that space as a restaurant. As a result, the theatre essentially has no lobby. The restaurants had difficulty because there was little street access. The landlord made a larger street level restaurant entrance and further reduced the floorspace in the Paris Theatre in the process.

The popularity of the balcony seating is ironic. I believe the balcony was initially intended for “colored” audience members, and the balcony has a separate water fountain.

The theatre still uses a beautiful curtain instead of a slide show.

Someone at Miramax booked the revival of BELLE DE JOUR into the Paris allegedly against the wishes of Harvey Weinstein. The film went on to set the record for the highest gross on a single screen of a foreign language film. The single-screen Paris Theatre was one of the top ten grossing theatres in the nation, outgrossing most multiplexes. After that engagement, Harvey Weinstein often wished to play the Paris.

Merchant-Ivory usually want to play the Paris, and even their commercial disappointments usually have high grosses at the Paris.

The terms for booking a film into the Paris are tough and include costs for making a lobby display. For the right films, the grosses at the Paris are worth the difficult terms.

Celebrities can be found in almost every show. Former New York City Mayor Ed Kotch always attends the opening night show. Sylvester Stallone has seen virtually every foreign-language film at the Paris, but not the English-speaking films.

The theatre has appeared in many films.

The theatre appeared in a fashion shoot for the May 1996 MARIE CLAIRE(I am in the background of one of the photos).

I have plenty of photographs of the theatre if anyone is interested.