West Springfield 15
864 Riverdale Road,
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Redstone Cinemas was a pioneer in the multi-screen cinema concept from the moment they opened their first cinema, the Showcase 1&2 in Dedham, MA, in 1962. Their Showcase Cinema 1&2 in West Springfield was opened on December 31, 1964, as the first new cinema in the Springfield area since the 1930’s, and one of the first multiplexes in the entire country. The venue also has on of the most complex histories of any cinema because of the frequency of expansions, alterations and interactions with neighboring cinemas.
Located on the west side of Riverdale Road, just across the street from the Riverside Drive-In (opened in 1950), it quickly became the premiere movie venue for the city. Unlike the typical early multiplex, the auditoria were basically separate buildings sticking out 90 degrees from each other from a large two-story glass lobby featuring custom artwork, lots of glass, extensive sitting areas and large concession stands. Cinema 1 extended to the south, and Cinema 2 to the west. Cinema 1 with 700 seats, featured a curved Cinerama curtain with a flat screen behind it. (replaced by a Cinerama screen 6 months later). Screen 2, with 1,100 seats, had a flat ‘shadowbox’ screen with no curtain or masking. With their proximity to the turnpike and plentiful parking, the cinemas were a popular draw and undoubtedly hastened the decline and eventual closure of the downtown movie palaces.
The success of the venue led to a second building being built immediately to the north of the first one, opening April 19, 1967, Cinema 3 had 1,012 seats, slightly less that #2 despite being a larger auditorium. The new building boasted a large glassed in two-story lobby (as large as Auditorium #1, and connected to the old lobby via a glassed-in walkway) which carried patrons back (west) to the large north facing, spacious auditorium featuring a D150 curved screen behind a curtain. The lobby alone was as large as the 700-seat Cinema 1, and the new auditorium, although a fairly stark modern design, was comfortable as a cinema as anyone had seen. A year later, 1968, Redstone’s major regional competitor, Sack Theatres, opened the 1,000-seat Palace Cinema across the street (see separate Cinema Treasures entry). Both venues thrived, as the only first-run cinemas in the city.
The complex expanded again on June 30, 1971, with construction of a third building housing Cinemas 4 & 5. Basically a boxy rectangle, the southeast corner of this building lay approximately 75 feet to the northwest of the back of Cinema 3. A long lobby ran across the front of the structure. Beside the plentiful glass and lounging areas, the lobby featured specially commissioned artwork by Yale Art School professor Norman Ives, and the Showcase Art Gallery – a space for exhibits by local artists. The identical 762-seat auditoriums, were slightly longer and narrower than the older ones, and featured custom-designed lounging rocker chairs, ‘site-line viewing’ manifested by a partially stadium-style seating rake to the floor, and wall-to-wall surround screens.
The Complex also became at this point the first theatre in the region to accept credit cards. Box Office magazine at the time indicated this was the first multiplex of its kind in the country, perhaps referring to the number of screens. By this time, the complex had expanded beyond mere film exhibition, making the auditoriums available during off-hours to civic, club and non-profit groups for events and special screenings, holding regular children’s matinees on weekend afternoons, an annual Senior Citizens Jamboree, and the Showcase Film Group seminars for school groups.
As the 1970’s progressed, exhibitors began to favour more screens over large screens, but to save money they began splitting existing screens into two. By 1973 on of the original auditoria had been twinned down the middle, making 6 screens, and in 1975 the original Theatre #5 was also split, and by 1976 Cinema 2 had been split as well, making 8 screens. The split screens had awkward arrangements, with an unreasonably small screen somewhat off-center at the front of the oddly shaped auditoria which forced many patrons to turn to see the screen. The three buildings were now Cinema 1-2-3-4, Cinema 5, and Cinema 6-7-8 respectively. About this time the Palace Cinema (now Sack Palace) had been twinned down the middle. Around 1980, the original Cinema 5 was split and a couple of years later, the big auditorium in the middle (original Cinema 3) was split, making this a 10-plex. Unlike the other splits, this final one was front to back. In 1998, the owners bought the Sack Palace 1-2 across the street, and split the auditoria front to back, reopening them as Showcase 11-14.
The buildings eventually began to show their age, so in 2001-2002 the main complex was completely rebuilt as a state of the art megaplex with stadium seating. A few of the original auditoriums (1-3) walls (or at least their original footprint) were incorporated into the new building with opened in 2002, with the building across the street being renamed Cinemas 16-19 before closing later in the year. That building was closed down in Llate-2002 and demolished in 2006.
The current building is a state of the art complex, one of the best in the region, with auditoriums ranging in size from 165 to 410 seats, totalling 3,765 capacity, with 3D capability. There is a main lobby bisecting the middle of the building with halls to the north and south leading to the various auditoriums and a large food court in the central spine, which also has entrances to the two large screens #8 & #9. It was taken over by Rave Motion Picture Theatres in December 2009, and then by Cinemark in 2013, and is now all-digital.
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