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Although a very popular theatre in its day, the Strand was not particularly elaborate. It had a wide entry with an exterior box office in the center. There were banks of glass-paned doors on either side of the box office flanked by poster display cases. The box office was not free-standing. It was set into the frame-work of the bank of entry doors, so that the glassed-in ticket window faced the street and the back of the box office opened directly into the lobby. The lobby just beyond the entry doors was extremely long, but very narrow, and ran the full width of the building, extending across the entire back wall of the auditorium just beyond it. This lobby was essentially a narrow hallway with a terrazzo floor. The name â€œStrandâ€ was spelled out in small black tiles set into the terrazzo in the center of the lobby floor. There was a large, ornate, cast-iron â€œticket chopperâ€ positioned at the entry door to the immediate right of the back of the box office. Set into the back lobby wall were four double doors, painted black with chrome handles, which opened directly into each of the four aisles of the single-floor auditorium. Above each of the doors were panes of amber-colored leaded glass with an oval pattern set into the center. These panes were translucent and admitted a small amount of diffused light from the lobby into the rear of the auditorium. Above each door was a small sign indicating the aisle number of that particular door — â€œAisle 1â€ â€œAisle 2â€, etc. There was a stairway from the lobby opposite the doorway to â€œAisle Fourâ€ which led upstairs to the menâ€™s room, managerâ€™s office and projection booth, all located on the second floor above the narrow lobby. At the other end of the lobby, opposite the doorway to â€œAisle One,â€ was a stairway which gave access to the second floor ladies room. Nothing was especially elaborate or ornate about the theatreâ€™s appointments. The whole atmosphere was one of a â€œno frills orderliness and efficiency.â€
The Strand had (as indicated above) four aisles which divided the auditorium into three seating sections — center, left and right. The Strandâ€™s auditiorium was long, rather than wide. The raked floor of this simple rectangular room was of wood and somewhat steeply pitched. The wooden floor of the theatre often creaked loudly during the theatreâ€™s later years, adding to the atmosphere of increasing decrepitude which was rapidly overtaking the theatre at the end of its life. The set-up of the auditorium was simple — a long, rectangle with the proscenium/stage/screen at one end, flanked on either side by red velvet draped portals which led to fire exits which opened onto an alleyway behind the theatre.
The Strandâ€™s auditorium seemed cavernous, due to the absence of a balcony, and had a high, vaulted ceiling. It was not plain and unadorned, however. The color scheme was dark with rose-colored accents and gold-leaf trimmed capitals topping columns partially inset into the walls in various places throughout. The proscenium arch carried gold and silver trim, an accent drapery treatment, and a large plaster medalion set at the apex of the arch which displayed the initial â€œSâ€ also accented in gold and silver leaf. The stage opening was relatively narrow and the stage itself not very deep. There were dressing rooms in the basement beneath the stage. There was an orchestra pit in front of the stage. For decades a lonely concert grand piano sat in the pit, drawing to mind the era of silent movies when the Strand had its own symphony orchestra. There was a massive, asbestos, house curtain which was hand-painted with various decorative themes and was raised and lowered vertically. There was also a gold â€œtravelerâ€ which opened horizontally.
In spite of the narrow stage opening, the Cinemascope screen installed in the 1950s was placed within the existing proscenium, providing a scope image that was the identical width of the regular â€œflatâ€ picture. While the â€œflatâ€ picture filled the entire screen, wide-screen features displayed an image that was flanked, top and bottom, with areas of empty screen surface, giving an effect identical with todayâ€™s experience of seeing a film â€œletterboxedâ€ for video. To my knowledge, the Strand never employed movable top and bottom masking to properly frame the anamorphic image. The result was that every film in â€œscopeâ€ looked like the image was simply â€œfloatingâ€ in the middle area of the screen. In spite of the four-track magnetic stereo sound system that was installed with the Cinemascope screen, the Strand was hardly the ideal place to experience the intended impact of the â€œscopeâ€ process. Ironically, many of the wide-screen epics of the 50s and early to mid 60s played there — â€œAround the World in 80 Daysâ€ (1956), â€œBen Hurâ€ (1959) and â€œCleopatraâ€ (1963), to name just a few. These, among others, would have been far more effective at the nearby Victory (just around the corner and a block up the hill on Suffolk Street) The Victory, due to a much wider proscenium, had a â€œpanoramicâ€ screen and the anamorphic image there gave the intended expansive effect. Neither the Strand or the Victoryâ€™s screens, however, were curved, so that part of the original Fox scope process was not present. The only Holyoke theatre to be equipped with a properly curved â€œscopeâ€ screen was the Suffolk. At the time of the installation of â€œscopeâ€ the Strand was also completely reseated, which would account for its seating capacity being reduced to slightly under 1000 during its final decades.
During the heyday of the downtown Holyoke theatres (40s, 50s and early 60s) — on Saturdays, Sundays and rainy weekdays — the line waiting to get into the Strand often extended north on Maple Street, from the Strandâ€™s entry to the corner of Suffolk Street, and then around the corner and up the hill on Suffolk Street past the Victory Theatre (across the street at Suffolk and Chestnut) and again around the corner south down along Chestnut. Essentially encircling the Strand for two thirds of a square block. The Victoryâ€™s cashier could watch the line for the Strand, waiting on the sidewalk across the street, gradually inching its way, a few people at a time, forward down the hill and around the corner to the Strandâ€™s box office. Of course the Victoryâ€™s cashier probably didnâ€™t have much time to watch the Strandâ€™s line, she was usually too busy dealing with another equally impressive line of patrons stretching north along Chestnut Street and then east down Dwight Street at the next intersection waiting to enter the Victory itself. Often there was another line of substantial length snaking east on lower Suffolk Street and stretching north on Division Street awaiting entry to the Suffolk Theatre as well. One could stand on the corner of Maple and Suffolk Streets shortly after 1:00 P.M. during these busy days for the three Holyoke first-run houses and hear the cheer from the crowd in Strandâ€™s line that went up as the cashier opened the box office window and began selling tickets, which was echoed a few minutes later by another cheer from the Victoryâ€™s line as the box office at that theatre opened. Another howl was usually heard moments later, when the line waiting at the Suffolk also slowly started to move ahead. Later, around 4:30 or 5:00 P.M., it was utter pandemonium as the three theatres exited 3000 or more people (between them) onto the city sidewalks. Off-duty Holyoke police officers were employed jointly by the three theatres to manage the crowds during the entire afternoon while they were in the theatres, and to direct auto and pedestrian traffic while the theatres were exiting the matinee patrons later in the day.
The Holyoke Daily Transcript for February 10, 1915 lists the Empire theatre (no address is in the ad) with matinees at 2:30 and evenings at 8:15. The ad promotes an “Engagement Extrordinaire!” Mrs. Leslie Carter, “America’s Finest Actress” in “Du Barry” “—A photo-dramatization of her greatest success —” Apparently this was the filmed version of a successful stage-play that had also featured Mrs. Carter. The ad also indicates that matinee admission is 10 cents and 15 cents and evening prices are 15 cents and 25 cents.
The other theatres listed on this date are the Holyoke Theatre (formerly the Holyoke Opera House and listed elsewhere on this site as E.M. Loew’s State Theatre); The Majestic, The Suffolk, the Granbd Theatrein Holyoke and the Poli’s Palace in nearby Springifield.
The Strand Theatre was, for decades, one of Holyokeâ€™s most popular first-run theatres. It was built and owned (and operated during most of its life) by The Goldstein Brothers Circuit, which later became Western Massachusetts Inc.. WMT,Inc. was for many years the regional affiliate of United Paramount Theatres, Inc.
The Holyoke Daily Transcript for Friday, April 9, 1920 is the earliest advertising record I can locate for the Strand Theatre. A rather large two-column display ad for that date shows the Strand offering â€œThe Sagebrusherâ€ with â€œan All-Star Cast Including Roy Stewart and Marguerite De La Mott.â€ The â€œBig Extra Featureâ€ is â€œMack Sennettâ€s â€˜Smashing Comedyâ€™ â€˜Yankee Doodle in Berlinâ€™ with all the Mack Sennett Comedians and Diving Beauties. Come On Kids to the Special Childrenâ€™s Show Tomorrow Morning at 10 oâ€™clock — Admission 6 cents!â€ (â€œTomorrowâ€ was a Saturday.)
Holyoke Daily Transcript Amusement Listings for February 16, 1915 do not show the Strand, so chances are it was built sometime during the World War I years, or shortly thereafter. I believe I was told many years ago that it opened in 1920, so apparently the Strand was brand-new at the time of the ad referenced above.. Other theatres advertised in the April 9, 1920 edition of â€œThe Transcriptâ€ include the Holyoke Theatre (on Dwight Street, below High Street, originally The Holyoke Opera House — listed on this site as E.M.Loewâ€™s State Theatre), The Suffolk, The Bijou, The Globe, The Majestic and The Court Square Theatre in nearby Springfield. (All of the foregoing are also listed on this site).
The Strand continued with first-run silent pictures throughout the 1920s and subsequent ads make reference to â€œThe Strand Symphony Orchestraâ€ which was in residence to provide dramatic musical scores to accompany the action on the screen. An ad which appeared in 1925 states â€œ Presented with the same elaborate music score that was used at the â€˜Geo. M. Cohan Theatreâ€™ in New York City.â€ The silent feature receiving this â€œdirect from Broadwayâ€ presentation was Lillian Gish in â€œRomola.â€
After the arrival of sound, the Strand continued into the 1930s and 1940s as one of three first-run Holyoke Theatres. Goldsteinâ€™s WMT, Inc. controlled two of the three during these decades (the other was the Victory, also listed on this site). WMT also had the second-run Bijou, located â€œdown the hillâ€ on Main Street, near the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks. During the Depression Era and the World War II years, the first-run product of most of the major studios (Paramount, MGM, 20th/Fox, Warners and RKO) was shared by the Strand and Victory. Other studios (Columbia, Universal, United Artists) played first-run at the non-Goldstein Suffolk Theatre.
In 1952, WMT, Inc. leased out several of its theatres for ten years to New England Theatres, Inc. (which also had been connected to United Paramount Theatres during the heyday of the studio-controlled system). Other WMT houses involved were the Capitol, Pittsfield (listed on this site) and the Paramount, Springfield (listed on this site as â€œThe Hippodrome.â€)
Under the control of NET, Inc. during most of the 1950s, the Strand continued as a premiere Holyoke showcase. Apparently a â€œproduct splitâ€ was arranged between WMT, Inc.â€™s Victory and the Strand, because the same sharing of first-run product between the two theatres mentioned earlier continued, even though the two houses were now operated by â€œcompetingâ€circuits.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, all three first-run Holyoke theatres (Victory, Strand and Suffolk) opened daily at 1:00 P.M.and ran continuously all afternoon and evening until 11:00 P.M. One could buy a ticket and walk into the theatres at anytime during this â€œnon-stopâ€ policy. It was possible to go to the movies at 1:00 P.M. and remain in the theatres until 11:00 P.M., seeing the two features, cartoon, short subject and newsreel over and over (during the World War II years, the theatres often started the first complete show as early as 9:00 A.M., to accommodate the major increase of workers in Holyokeâ€™s factories, which were operating on three 8-hour working shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week during wartime.) There were afternoon prices (and morning prices as well, during the 40s), which increased to evening prices after 5:00 P.M. For certain really major attractions, evening prices often prevailed from opening throughout the day and evening on Sundays and holidays (these were always peak movie-going days in Holyoke). Often, people would try to make it to the box office shortly before 5:00 P.M. in order to pay the cheaper afternoon admission and then see what was popularly termed â€œthe supper showâ€ for a bargain. Of course, one had to actually enter the theatre and surrender the ticket prior to 5:00 P.M. as well, or the afternoon admission would not be valid.
In 1962, the Strand Theatre reverted to the control of WMT, Inc., which continued to operate it as a first-run venue until 1969. However, by the late 1960s, due to the erosion created by television over the years and the opening of Redstone Showcase Cinemas in nearby West Springfield, the daily continuous shows had vanished. The Victory and Strand had gone to a policy of matinees on Wednesdays at 1:30 P.M., with shows nightly at 7:00 P.M. On Saturday, Sunday and holidays, both theatres still operated continuously from 1:30 P.M. to 10:30 or 11:00 P.M. The Herman Rifkin owned Suffolk Theatre (by the 1960s being leased by WMT, Inc and no longer first-run.) went to a drastically reduced operational policy of Friday, Saturday and Sunday only (closed Monday through Thursday) with Friday shows starting at 6:00 P.M. (which allowed two showings of the feature and one showing of the co-feature) and continuous shows Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 P.M.
In December 1969, WMT, Inc. leased the Strand to Irwin Cohen of C. & F. Theatres, Inc. (who was also leasing the Bijou Theatre in Springfield from B. & Q. Associates) The Christmas 1969 booking was the X-Rated â€œMidnight Cowboy.â€ The only reason Cohen played this picture at the Strand was due to its X-Rating. â€œCowboyâ€ was followed by a policy of soft-core porn double features which continued until March 1971. In November 1970, the City of Holyoke issued a restraining order against the Strand for presenting â€œobscene entertainmentâ€ and the theatre was closed until after Christmas. Apparently local religious leaders put pressure on the city government to insure that this kind of entertainment was not being offered to the members of their congregations during the Christmas Season.
Irwin Cohen dropped the lease on the Strand at the end of February 1971 and it again reverted to WMTâ€™s control. A mixed policy of first-run and sub-run was offered 7 days-a-week, operating weekday evenings, Friday matinees and continuous all day Saturday and Sunday. The â€œfirst-runâ€ product was increasingly double features from American International Pictures, i.e. cheap horror and science fiction or motorcycle gang movies — what was known as â€œdrive-in theatre fare.â€ â€œCount Yorga, the Vampire,â€ â€œThe Incredible Two-Headed Transplant,â€ â€œBlackulaâ€ and â€œDracula A.D. 1970â€ with Christopher Lee (actually a fairly well -done British entry from the then-popular Hammer Studios).
In early 1973, shortly before his physical demise, Samuel Goldstein leased the entire WMT, Inc. circuit to Nelson Wright (a former WMT theatre manager from Pittsfield MA, at this time a Boston-based film buyer/booker) who operated the chain under the banner of â€œWestern Massachusetts Theatre Associates.â€
In November 1976, Nelson Wright was suddenly stricken by a heart attack and died in the lobby of a Pittsfield MA hotel while there to visit the theatres he had leased from Goldstein in that town (The Palace, Capitol and Showplace). His son, Peter Wright (was still a film buyer/booker in Boston in the late 1980s) took over the operation of the circuit. He was forced (for financial reasons) to surrender the theatres and return them to WMT, Inc. As of March 1977, the WMT circuit was in the hands of the infamous Ronald Goldstein, son of Samuel and heir to the Goldstein â€œfortune.â€ This Mr. Goldstein proceeded to run his fatherâ€™s (and uncle Nathanâ€™s) circuit into the ground in a very few years, so that by the mid 80s, many of them had leaking roofs, sagging marquees, rotting stages, and inoperative heating and air conditioning plants. Back property taxes were owed to many of the towns where the theatres were located. Goldstein was increasingly cited for building code violations in numerous situations, was resulted in theatres being closed (rather than spend money to make the needed repairs to fulfill the safety codes).
Holyokeâ€™s Strand Theatre was a somewhat early casualty of Ronald Goldsteinâ€™s rampant neglect Cited for numerous code violations in 1978 and 1979, the City of Holyoke ordered it condemned as a safety hazard and forced it to close forever. A few years later the city took possession of the building (which had retail and apartment space adjacent to the theatre itself) for unpaid property taxes and ordered it razed. I donâ€™t recall whether the apartment building went down with the theatre, as I had left the Holyoke area by 1981.
The Strand had always been a well-run and well-maintained theatre until it hit the negative spiral of porn, followed by the death-blow delivered to it by Ronald Goldstein. Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. ultimately well-earned reputation for neglect of their theatres was really set in motion and perpetrated by Ronald Goldstein in the late 7os and early 80s. In the years previous, under the guidance of Sam and Nate Goldstein, the circuit had a far better reputation.
The Paramountâ€™s entryway was (and is) in the northeast corner of the Hotel Massasoit Building (ultimately converted into retail and office space), located at 1700 Main Street just south of â€œthe archâ€ (the massive stone railroad overpass which crosses over Main Street just west of Union Station.) Over the entry was a very large marquee with both a front panel and two side panels. Other than the change in name, the marquee in the current photo appears to be the same one. Ditto, as far as the vertical sign goes (in my experience, a â€œbladeâ€ sign like this was known as anâ€œuprightâ€ by those who managed and staffed these elaborate theatres).There was an exterior box office at the center of the entry with doors flanking either side. Above the entry was an additional marquee-type space on which changeable marquee letters could be hung to repeat the titles of current attractions posted on the main marquee. The Paramountâ€™s marquee also had three panels on its underside (or backside) positioned so that they could be read as patrons left the theatre and also by pedestrians on the sidewalk. These â€œsupplementary marqueesâ€ had the same black metal letters against a white glass background used on the main marquee.They were illuminated, like the main marquee, by light bulbs behind the translucent white glass. Beyond the entry doors was a somewhat long, fairly low-celinged hallway ascending at a gentle incline upwards towards two archways which opened into the main foyer. Glass-encased poster displays announcing upcoming attractions lined both side walls of the entry area. Inside the entryway, over the main doors, positioned to be seen by patrons exiting the theatre, was a large, horizontal advertising panel which displayed a colorful insert promoting whatever was the â€œnext attractionâ€ scheduled at the theatre.
The main foyer was about two stories in height and had a massive, lantern-style, wrought-iron chandelier in the center of the ceiling. I believe it had to be lowered to the floor of the foyer for relamping. The second story level of the foyer was paneled in mirrors on three sides which I believe were gold-backed (rather than the usual silver) and served to amplify the feeling of size and grandeur in this impressive area of the theatre. During its several-decade heyday as a first run film showcase, a large concession stand occupied a significant portion of the main foyer. When one entered this area, the concession was ahead towards the left center of the room, the main stairway to the mezzanine and balcony swept upwards at the right. This stairway reached a landing in full view of the foyer, then turned, ascended to the left, reached another landing, where there was a drapery-adorned archway and alcove leading to the entrance to the managerâ€™s office (actually a suite with several rooms, including a private lavatory with sink and toilet), and also a winding staircase which went all the way up to the rear of the balcony. At this landing the main stairs then again turned left and ultimately reached the mezzanine foyer, where there were railings at which one could stand and look down over the entire main foyer. The mezzanine foyer had passages to the front area of the balcony seating area and entrances to additional rest rooms running along its left side. Along the right wall was an elaborate water fountain, stairs leading to the back of the rear balcony seating area, and the entrance to a childrenâ€™s nursery, with nursery rhyme characters painted on the walls of a play area and pint-sized sinks and toilets in the kiddies rest room. In the early days, a matron was on duty to care for and entertain the kids who otherwise would have created a disturbance in the theatre during a performance.
The entry to the main floor of the auditorium was a long, low-ceilinged hallway at the far end of the main foyer. This area was lit with subdued lighting (in contrast with the brilliant illumination of the chandelier in the foyer itself) with doorways on the left side, which were the entries to the various aisles of the orchestra floor of the auditorium. The Paramount did not have a â€œstandeeâ€ area at the rear of the main floor behind the last row of seats, as was common in the majority of theatres built at the time — each entry door opened directly into one of the aisles. Running along the right side of this hallway were the accesses to the main floor rest rooms and doorways which opened into vestibules which led to the side exit doors running along Gridiron Street. The assistant managerâ€™s office and various storage rooms were located adjacent to these vestibule areas. At the end of this hallway was an additional stairway to the mezzanine and balcony levels and a large, double-doored â€œfire exit.â€ All of the exit signs, as well as many of the lighting fixtures throughout the theatre had Tiffany-style glass. The lighting fixtures on the ceiling under the balcony over the main floor area were particularly notable.
The Paramountâ€™s auditorium, to the best of my knowledge, had a seating capacity of almost 2800 (2700 â€œsomethingâ€ — I donâ€™t recall the exact figure) during its years as a great Springfield movie palace. After the orchestra floor was reseated in the late 70s, as a part of the alterations made to accommodate the Springfield Symphony Orchestra when it leased the theatre for two concert seasons while awaiting the completion of a major renovation of Symphony Hall, the capacity was reduced to about 2500 seats. It had no â€œlogeâ€ level, but its balcony was divided into a â€œmezzanineâ€ front section and a â€œbalconyâ€ rear section, separated by a wide cross-aisle.
The auditorium was ornately decorated and extensively tapestried with a very impressive curtain treatment adorning the proscenium arch. I believe there was some kind of cove-lit dome effect in the ceiling high above the balcony — memory is a little vague on this one. There was an orchestra pit and the Wurlitzer organ console rose on a lift at the left side of the pit (stage right) The organ pipes were concealed behind grilles on either side of the proscenium opening. Even though the Paramount opened with a talking picture, its Wurlitzer, of course, was equipped with the all the â€œbells and whistlesâ€ (literally) used to accompany silent films. The organ had â€œcathedral chimesâ€, â€œgalloping horsesâ€, â€œsurf soundsâ€, â€œpianoâ€, â€œboat whistleâ€ and other novel effects. The stage was quite wide, but shallow and designed to handle variety acts and musical numbers, rather than fully-mounted, Broadway-type shows. One must remember, this theatre was designed as a movie palace, not as a facility to house live productions. There was a â€œquick-changeâ€ dressing room in the wings on the stage level (stage left). The main dressing room area was a multistoried area located also on stage left. One could enter this area and climb stairs up to the dressing room floors, or down to enter the orchestra pit or to climb onto the organ lift, flip the elevator switch, and ascend to the view of the audience in the auditorium. Here there was also the entry to the many basement level â€œcatacombsâ€ — hallways that ran beneath the entire auditorium off which were the boiler room, air conditioner room (a cooling system that used ammonia and not operative at the time I was involved with the theatre) and various other subterranean places. These hallways ultimately led to the area under the main floor at the back of the theatre, where they could be exited through what appeared to be a storage closet door off the main floor menâ€™s room. The Paramountâ€™s physical plant gave the feeling of being aboard a huge ship, due to its elaborate and extensive layout.
The projection booth was at the back of the rear balcony section (about six flights above street level). The equipment was apparently changed from time to time over the years (booth equipment also got â€œrifledâ€ during the rock concert years); however, I believe it was Ashcraft carbon arc lamps with Super Simplex projector heads at the time I had contact with the theatre. The theatre used rectifiers rather than generators for the arcs. There were three machines instead of the usual two so that in case one broke down, there were still two machines working to make the reel changeovers without having to stop. There was also a carbon arc follow spot set-up for use during stage performances. Veteran operators told stories of the phonograph record turntables which were installed beside the projectors for the original Vitaphone sound-on-disc system. Apparently the Vitaphone sound system never really worked at the Paramount — the heavy vibrations of the trains passing by the back wall of the theatre on their way over the railroad arch to Union Station caused the needle to constantly jump off the record and ruin the synchronization! I canâ€™t imagine there would have been much call for them anyway, as the sound-on-film (standard optical sound) was already rapidly replacing the Vitaphone system as the industry standard by the time the Paramount opened in 1929.
A unique detail at the Paramount was an electronic system of keeping track of the available seats throughout the theatre at any given moment. This was during the years of continuous performances when the theatre opened at 10 AM and ran the entire program over and over (with no breaks or stops) until 11 PM or midnight (depending on their prevailing contract with the projectionists local) This seat tracking system had telephone-like dials mounted in the wall at the side of each aisle doorway on the orchestra floor (I donâ€™t recall where these were in the mezzanine and balcony, or if there actually were any on the second floor) The dials had numbers and apparently the number of empty seats could be dialed into the system by an usher working that section and the information registered on a large master-console like device which sat on a brass pedestal near the mezzanine foyer railing which overlooked the entry and main foyer. Apparently the head usher would monitor the console and communicate to the doormen what area of the theatre there were available seats so patrons could be directed to the proper aisle where an usher would lead them to an open seat in the darkened auditorium, while the show was in progress.
Iâ€™m sure there are many more details about this great theatre which escape my recall right now — however, suffice it to say, the Paramount was the most elaborate and well-equipped movie house in western Massachusetts. It was unsurpassed for amenities and special â€œaccourtrementsâ€ which made the film-going experience a real â€œevent.â€ It is unlikely that western Massachusetts will ever see any like it again.
Some clarification: After Disney’s Buena Vista Distribution was formed in the mid 50s, some Disney product played the Paramount; however, there were occasional Disney bookings at the Stanley Warner Capitol and Loew’s Poli. 1964’s “Mary Poppins” for instance, was one of the last big first run hits at the Capitol before it ceased operation. By the mid 60s, all the Disney first runs were across the river at Redstone Showcase.
“Gone With The Wind” actually had one engagement at a theatre other than Loew’s Poli prior to its showing to inaugurate the re/revival policy at the reincarnated Paramount of 1979-1981. This was a booking of thee widescreen version at the Arcade in the very late 60s or possibly 1970.
Springfieldâ€™s Paramount Theatre opened as a â€œpresentation houseâ€ (offering a combination film and stage policy) in September 1929 — a little more than a month prior to the stock market crash and the onset of â€œthe Great Depression.â€ The opening screen attraction was the highly forgettable early â€œtalkieâ€ THE DANCE OF LIFE with Hal Skelly and Nancy Carroll — a Paramount Picture. The opening ads touted â€œSpringfieldâ€™s newest playground of pleasure!â€
The Paramount was operated by Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. of Springfield, MA, then the regional affiliate of United Paramount Theatres with home offices in the Paramount Theatre Building, Times Square, New York City. UPT was the exhibition wing of Paramount Pictures, prior to the court decrees of the late 40s which required that film companies divest themselves of their theatre holdings. From 1929 through 1952, the Paramount Theatre was the â€œflagshipâ€ of the WMT circuit — their biggest and most opulent house located in the largest city in which they had theatres. The other two Springfield WMT houses were the Broadway and the Arcade — both downtown, and later the neighborhood Bing, as well. At this time WMT also operated the Rivoli in nearby Chicopee, the Falls in Chicopee Falls, the Strand in Westfield and the Victory, Strand and Bijou in Holyoke.
Apparently WMT did not own the Paramount at the time of its 1929 opening because Col. Samuel Goldsteinâ€™s son Ronald told me personally that his father bought the Paramount Building sometime in the 60s â€œbecause he always really loved that theatre.â€ So there must have been some kind of lease arrangement the Goldstein brothers (Samuel and Nathan) had with whomever did actually own the land and the building.
In 1952 (or thereabouts), Sam Goldstein leased several of his theatres to New England Theatres, Inc. (another Paramount-related circuit) — in the case of the Springfield Paramount, it must have been a sublease. The arrangement was for ten years (ending in 1962) and also included the Strand in Holyoke and the Capitol in Pittsfield and possibly several others. Throughout the 50s and early 60s, under the NET auspices, the Paramount remained one of Springfieldâ€™s primary showcases for first-run product, along with the Loewâ€™s Poli, Capitol and Bijou. The Paramount played Paramount and RKO product (and therefore all the Disney classics which were released through RKO because Disney had not yet formed Buena Vista, its own distribution entity). The Capitol was exclusively Warner product, the Loewâ€™s Poli, of course, played MGM and also 20th Century Fox. The Bijou had Universal, Columbia and United Artists. The Arcade was sub-run, prior to its renovation and conversion to its policy of 70mm long-run epics in the late 50s.
When the NET, Inc. (sub)lease expired in 1962, the other WMT theatres involved in the deal reverted back to Goldsteinâ€™s (WMT, Inc.) direct operation; however, NET, Inc. must have decided to extend the lease on the Springfield Paramount, as they continued to operate it until about 1966, at which time it ceased operation as a first-run movie house. The original Redstone Showcase Cinemas 1 & 2 had recently (1964 or 1965) opened across the Connecticut River in West Springfield and the â€œdeath-knellâ€ for the big downtown Springfield houses was sounding. The Poli closed in 1966, as did the Capitol, and the Arcade followed not too long after. The Bijou went to softcore porn in the late 60s. It was probably at the time that NET, Inc. finally decided to pull out of Springfield that Sam Goldstein decided to buy the building; however WMT, Inc. did not reopen the theatre and resume operating it after it was purchased. The Paramount was leased by Goldstein to occasional promoters in the late 60s (mainly rock concerts, however, I do recall a national tour of â€œHello Dollyâ€ with Yvonne DeCarlo on stage for several nights around this time). About 1970 it was briefly leased to Irwin Cohenâ€™s C & F Theatres (who also operated the Bijou in its porn house phase) Cohen tried to book whatever first run product was not being gobbled up by Redstoneâ€™s new suburban cinemas across the river and planned to bring in touring shows as well. It was after Cohenâ€™s short-lived and failed attempt to revive the theatre (after a period of again being closed and inactive) that it was leased out by Goldstein to Wally Beach,a local impresario and promoter who had been involved with the Storrowtown Music Tent summer theatre in West Springfield. It was under Beach that the Paramount was renamed the Julia Sanderson Theatre. Beach tried national tours of Broadway shows, concerts, a silent film festival with Lillian Gish making a live guest appearance and other novelties. I believe Julia Sanderson was still alive at that time and made an appearance as well. Beachâ€™s attempts at â€œrestoringâ€ the theatre resulted in decorative work being covered in white paint, spoiling the atmosphere of the auditorium and main foyer, truncating the marquee by removing the neon Paramount name and covering the blade sign with cheap-looking sheet metal with painted letters spelling out â€œJulia Sanderson Theatreâ€ and various other desecrations.
The â€œJulia Sanderson Theatreâ€ didnâ€™t last long and by 1976 (or thereabouts) the front doors and box office were completely boarded up and drunks and derelicts were sleeping in fire exit doorways along Gridiron Street. Occasionally the boards were removed and the theatre was lit for a night with a rock concert sponsored by some local promoter.
In 1977, The Springfield Symphony Orchestra approached Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. with a proposal (to Samâ€™s son, the infamous Ronald Goldstein, who had inherited WMT, Inc. at the time of his fatherâ€™s passing in 1973) to lease the theatre for several seasons while a major renovation of Symphony Hall was undertaken. New seats on the main floor were installed, along with a new house curtain (the original had been destroyed or stolen, I donâ€™t remember which. This particular desecration apparently happened during one of the â€œleased-outâ€ concert deals a few years before.). I wonâ€™t say this Springfield Symphony proposal resulted in a major restoration, because it didnâ€™t. It was a typical â€œRonald Goldsteinâ€ job. All that was done was the bare minimum demanded in the Symphony lease agreement, namely the new orchestra floor seats and the curtain. The â€œWally Beachâ€ white paint from a few years earlier remained, as did the â€œSandersonâ€ name. In 1979, with the Springfield Symphony preparing to return to Symphony Hall, it was decided by WMT, Inc. to continue operating the theatre beyond the Symphonyâ€™s time of residence. The name was returned to â€œParamountâ€ and a series of hard-ticket live shows were booked. â€œBeatlemaniaâ€, â€œDoug Henningâ€™s World of Magicâ€ (complete with a real live tiger being made to â€œmaterializeâ€ on stage), and â€œHarry Belafonte in Concertâ€ were among the many offerings. Concurrently, a â€œrep/revivalâ€ movie policy was inaugurated. This required the installation of a new screen and new speaker horns — items also missing since the â€œconcert daysâ€ a few years before. Actually the speaker horns werenâ€™t â€œnewâ€ — they came out of the very recently closed (1979) Victory Theatre in Holyoke. The Wurlitzer organ was also revived at this time and played prior to classic film showings on by a talented local organist. Local organists also rallied together to offer free restoration work on the organ. The inaugural classic film program was â€œGone With The Windâ€ (a film which had historically always played at Loewâ€™s Poli — both in its premiere engagement in 1940 and in many subsequent reissues) for a 5-day run in September to mark the theatreâ€™s anniversary.So a film released through MGM (even though made by Selznick Studios) did ultimately appear on the Paramountâ€™s screen.
Although there appeared to be much interest in the Paramountâ€™s successful revival, WMT, Inc.â€™s interest in the project waned and the theatre was again shuttered by mid 1981.Ronald Goldstein finally sold the building some time in the 1980s. I believe the more recent chronology of the Paramount has been documented above by other contributors to this page.
In separate comment Iâ€™ll send details about the physical nature of the theatre —to the best of my recollection.
Too bad this theatre had to go it was a great date theatre not much else to do on Long Island anyway
The Irving was a dump and that is being kind
Lordy child do not behave this way or you may pay
i think it will be torn down.
Strand sells tickets for $3 and any snack in the place for $2. The theatre is rarely even half full, but the screen is huge and has a large stage in front. Basically, mostly original.
The Clinton was designed by Harry Holbrook, in the Art Deco style, and had a capacity of 1500 seats. It was built by William James as part of a local chain of first run and neighborhood houses, became part of the local J. Real Neth chain in November 1927. It was sold to the Academy Theatres group in 1958, and closed in 1973, becoming a warehouse for an appliance dealer, who removed the seats and leveled the floor. Although there is some water damage, the interior decoration is mostly intact.
Some other facts:
The infamous Jane Russell film The Outlaw opened here in 1943 (in pre-censorship form).
Other films that had long engagements here include West Side Story and Lawrence of Arabia.
Theater went to porn in 1980, at first showing films, then in the mid-1980s went to live shows only, which continue today.
Here is some additional information that could be added:
Also known as:
Chateau Dodge Theater
Architect, builder, or engineer:
Heffron & Fitzgerald,et al., Elletbee Architects
Period of Significance:
I would like to know what street the Beekman Theater is locate on. What dates. If These HIP Could Talk is showing. And the cost of tickets.
I lived in Chicago in the late fifties and remember well going down to State Street to the movies in this wonderful place.
one feature of this old theatre was a balcony that was supported only from the sides and back.
when the orpheum theatre was demolished to make way for the westin hotel, the wrecking crew worked for quite some time trying to bring the balcony down. I don’t recall exactly how long, but I believe that they finally attacked the side supports, and one day during their lunch break, the balcony fell of its own accord.
The Fountain Square Theater is stillstanding and is used often for swing dances and weddings. The adjacant soda shop and 1920 duckpin lanes are all restored. AS reported above, the theater was used as a shopping/ thrift store, but has since been reclaimed.
It appears that the town of Yeadon is going to save the old theater (as of 10-2003). Especially when it was discovered that it was one of the last movie houses designed by John Eberson “the Frank Lloyd Wright of theater design”. The movie house was saved in the 11th hour, as wrecking crews were begining- local officials halted the demolition.
The main auditorium of the CineArts in Pleasant Hill (original name, Century 21) is the same layout as the Century 21 in San Jose & undivided. Enjoy that one while it’s still there!
I recall Blumenfeld theaters operating this in the 1970’s. It had been a first run theater until the late 1960’s.
This theater played a lot of kung-fu and blaxploitation films in the 1970’s.
The Coliseum opened in the mid-1960’s as a 2 screen operation, eventually expanding to 4 screens. Syufy was the only operator of this drive-in. The Oakland Coliseum is within a couple of blocks of this drive-in, now just a “swap meet”
Hey what’s up. I’m a film student at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, and we are currently trying to procure a location for an upcoming film festival we are putting on. I got your name from the post production coordinator at my work, and he said that you guys may allow us to use your facility. If you wouldnt mind e-mailing me back with more information, i would greatly appreciate it. Obviously if there are any school discounts you can give, that would help us out greatly. We can assure about 250 people in attendance, and with concessions open, im sure you wouldnt make oout to poorly on the deal. the date were shooting for is jan 30, 2004 for any 2 hour block, preferably 7-9. i look forward to hearing from you.
I am a lifelong Bay View resident and used to frequent this amazing theater weekly as a kid. As soon as I heard it was going to be turned into office space, I flipped. If anyone is interested, thier is a city hall meeting today at 2 o'clock, 809 N Broadway. The alderwoman and county executives are trying to have the Avalon made a Milwaukee county Historical site and thereby prevent any hasty sale or destruction of it untill a deal can be made. Saving the Avalon is of the utmost importance to the young and old inhabitants of Bay View. Myself and many others are very willing to voulenteer our time in any fashion needed to save the Avalon. If anyone has any ideas or their is anything we can do please call Chris Boziel (414)559-2115 or email me at