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StanMalone on October 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm (remove)
I have learned to be careful disputing anything I see on CT based on my memory alone so I will let that one go. I don’t recall ever seeing much of a crowd at the Eastwood since I usually attended matinees, so maybe the balcony was always closed.
I would be interested in the source of the “conversion to Cinerama” note. The old downtown Ritz was the only Birmingham theatre to get the conversion to three strip Cinerama. Eastwood was built in 1964, a year after the switch to single strip 70MM Cinerama so there was really nothing to convert. Battle of the Bulge and Khartoum were the only Cinerama branded movies I recall seeing there but they probably played others. The Ritz was operated by ABC while the Eastwood was a Cobb, so they probably split the product.
As far as I know, there was no change in the layout of Eastwood from the time it opened on Christmas Day 1964 until it was twinned in the mid 70’s.
I know that those photos came from the Birmingham Rewound site and that is the way they have them captioned, but I do not think that the auditorium picture is from the Eastwood. I am going on 47 year old memory here but I do not recall this theatre having a balcony. I saw a number of movies here and if there had been one that is where I would have sat just as I did at the downtown Empire and Melba theatres. Also, I am pretty sure that the auditorium of the Eastwood was wider than the one in the picture. The seats, carpet, and drapes have the 60’s look to them so maybe I am wrong. Hopefully some of the other Birmingham posters here can help out.
Someone please find a home for this orphan, which doesn’t seem to be listed at CT:
Yes, the Eastwood Mall Theatre was a gem in its day. It is demolished now, but it had already been ruined when it was twinned in the late ‘70s. The twinning eliminated its capability to show Cinerama movies. It had the special projection equipment and curved screen for showing Cinerama movies. I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ice Station Zebra there, plus many more regular formatted movies. If you haven’t seen 2001 in Cinerama format, you’ve not seen 2001. Sadly the entire Mall is now gone, replaced by, yes, another WalMart.
To clarify my description of the picture in the above post, the theatre is in the lower left hand corner of the mall, not the picture itself. It is the small white building sticking out from the mall.
I have also noticed that some more pictures have been added. If you will click on the page 2 link and scroll about half way down, you will see a fine picture of the marquee, one of lobby and concession stand, and one of the auditorium.
The narrative states that the theatre opened on Christmas Day of 1964.
I can supply a little information for this theatre as I attended it several times while growing up in Birmingham. Eastwood Mall was the first enclosed mall in Birmingham and was located at the extreme eastern edge of Birmingham on US 78 near the Starlight Drive In and the great Golden Rule BBQ.
It was opened by the Cobb Theatre company in the early 60’s, probably around 1964. Although not unusual compared to most other theatres of its era, it marked a major change in Birmingham movie theatre history. Until it opened, 95% of first run movies opened at one of the four major downtown theatres, the Alabama, Ritz, Melba, and Empire. Eastwood was the first suburban first run theatre, and the seating capacity was probably around 600. The style was definitely the 60’s living room look with draped auditorium walls and sofas and chairs in the lobby. The lobby was open air to the Mall itself and at night was secured by a wire gate. The box office was a desk like counter at the entrance to the lobby.
Among the movies I can remember seeing at Eastwood were Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The Great Race, Khartoum, and The Battle of the Bulge. I am sure that there were others, and a look at that list shows that it booked a lot of prime movies. I remember Sound of Music and Battle of the Bulge were reserved seats. Business was so good here that Cobb soon opened a twin across the road in the new Village East Shopping Center. These were just a couple of ugly shoebox houses and perfect examples of the bland style of 1970’s era theatres. The Eastwood fell victim to the twinning plague that swept the country in those days and was split down the center in the mid 70’s.
As with so many of the early malls around the country, by the late 80’s Eastwood Mall found itself in a shabby state and far outclassed by the newer malls, Brookwood and Galleria. The mall was gutted and the wing that included the theatre was torn down and completely rebuilt, without a movie theatre presence.
The wonderful website, Birmingham Rewound, has a page on Eastwood Mall:
View link Click on this link and scroll to the last picture for an overhead view. The theatre is in the lower left and the drive in is in the upper right.