Uptown Theater

2730 Market Street,
Youngstown, OH 44507

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chief2224
chief2224 on July 2, 2012 at 2:56 am

One other thing to note: I found the Vindicator story that Wolfgirl posted and in the comments section below the article, people complained about how unsafe the Market St. area has become. What’s funny about this is that, if you go to any of the big multiplexes on a Friday or Saturday night, there is always a heavy security and police presence to handle disturbances. I have witnessed many fights at multiplexes – in the theater, the lobby and out in the parking lot. Just because the multiplexes are located in the suburbs doesn’t make the movie going experience any safer.

chief2224
chief2224 on July 2, 2012 at 2:50 am

I really hope the new owners of the Uptown Theater can bring it back to life. I went there a few times in the 80s, when I was in high school. It was a little rough but I didn’t mind…I wasn’t fond of the shiny, new CinemaSouth multiplex and once Newport Theater closed, the Uptown was the only “old school” theater left.

I know it’s probably naive to believe that an old, single screen theater can become successful in today’s market. But I believe that if the owners can offer a high quality experience that appeals to a niche audience, the Uptown can be successful. Going to the multiplex to see a movie is awful: long lines, big crowds, crying babies, unruly teens, people texting, etc. And we pay over $10 per ticket for that awful experience! If the Uptown can offer something different and better than that, people will come.

Having said that…I wonder what condition the theater is in? It’s been abandoned for close to 20 years. I imagine they’ll need to do a complete overhaul of the facility and that could be costly.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on June 3, 2012 at 6:57 am

THE FULL ARTICLE

An investment group is hoping to bring back the bright lights that once came from the Uptown Theater on Market Street — and the crowds those lights brought to the Uptown District. The Uptown Theater has sat vacant for nearly two decades with plywood covering all windows and doors. Leaves and debris have blown up against the entryway, and the adjacent building is missing windows from where vandals have thrown rocks. Shasta Shabazz, owner of Real Estate Investment Connection, is in the process of purchasing both buildings for the formation of a movie-theater/restaurant combination. She said the new name of the theater will be “Showtown Theater” with an attached restaurant called “Rudez.” “We are really just trying to revamp up Youngstown,” she said. “We are trying to bring history back. We are going to upgrade some of the stuff inside the place, but we are trying to bring it back to the way it was.” The theater does have a long history in the Uptown District. The Uptown Theater Company was incorporated in 1926 for $500, with the actual theater built that same year at a cost of $125,000. The theater switched hands several times between 1926 and 1965 when it underwent extensive remodeling. The theater changed hands several more times before closing to movie- goers in the late 1980s. Easy Street Productions did make the theater home in the early 1990s, but eventually left the theater for its current home at the DeYor Performing Arts Center. There was a final attempt to breathe new life into the theater with a gospel music show, but the theater has since sat unused. Shabazz said she and her husband, Ondrea Shabazz, have acquired the theater and the attached building next door that will ultimately become a restaurant. She plans to have the theater and restaurant up and running within the next year. Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th Ward, said she is hoping to see the theater open and flourish. She said revitalizing the Uptown District is a goal, and there has been much interest in business in that area. “The Uptown area is a goal of mine to revitalize and bring business back. I believe the only way to do it is with people who believe in the community. We need private and government funds to make these things happen,” she said. “I am hoping this is just the beginning.” Shabazz plans to turn the theater into a movie theater and live performance combination. The theater, she said, will be made to accommodate tables so patrons can have dinner while enjoying a show. The dinner served inside the theater will be provided by the planned restaurant in the attached building. She said those who do not want to eat inside the theater would be able to enjoy a meal in the restaurant, which will have a light-hearted theme where employees interact with patrons. Shabazz said she got the idea from similar businesses in the Atlanta area where she and her husband had lived for the past year. She said they wanted to start a similar business in Georgia, but decided to come back home to Youngstown and do it here. “We wanted to bring some life back to that area, bring some entertainment back to the city, and that is what we are trying to do. We are confident that we can do this,” she said.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on June 3, 2012 at 6:51 am

Actually the Uptown Theater dates back to the late 1920’s.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on June 3, 2012 at 6:49 am

The Uptown Theater to reopen.

An investment group has acquired the Uptown Theater and plans to reopen it as a dinner theater showing both movies and stage shows. “The Uptown area is a goal of mine to revitalize and bring business back. I believe the only way to do it is with people who believe in the community. We need private and government funds to make these things happen,” she said. “I am hoping this is just the beginning.” Shabazz plans to turn the theater into a movie theater and live performance combination. The theater, she said, will be made to accommodate tables so patrons can have dinner while enjoying a show. The dinner served inside the theater will be provided by the planned restaurant in the attached building. She said those who do not want to eat inside the theater would be able to enjoy a meal in the restaurant, which will have a light-hearted theme where employees interact with patrons

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on February 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I didn’t mean to double post the Dome here since it has its own page.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on February 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Here is some information that I did find but unfortunately not enough to give them their own listing:

Bijou Theater

November 11, 1908
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November 12, 1908
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Dome
Dome Theater

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Grand Opera House

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wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on February 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Thanks much Joe. I did find a large ad telling about the opemimg of the building that the Bijou was in, but no details about the theater itself other than a few ads in the theater page. There were two Bijou theaters over the course of the years, The first Bijou was on Central Square and the other on the far end of East Federal Street.

I also read somewhere that the Warners at one point owned or had intrest in a Bijou Theater here but it wasn’t clear which Bijou was meant.

I guess from what you discovered that mosst of them were nicolodians.

There were a number of strictly vaudeville houses along Federal Street during that era that came and went not being able to compete with the Park, Princess, the Hippodrome and Grand Opera House which were both Movie and Vaudeville as well as bringing in plays and concerts.

The Rex was owned by the same folks that owned the Dome Theatre, and also had an interest in Idora Park, and when the Dome was remodeled, they exibited the films that normally would run at the Dome at the Rex which was just down the street.

By the way, the Dome was the first theater in Youngstown to introduce “talkies” in Youngstown.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 15, 2011 at 11:29 am

wolfgirl500: The sources I’ve found on the Internet provide very little information about early theaters in Youngstown. Various issues of The Moving Picture World from the 1900s and 1910s have brief notices that one exhibitor or another is planning to open a new theater somewhere in town, but the theater names are rarely mentioned. A typical example is this item from the issue of October 24, 1908: “Youngstown, O.â€"James McFarlin and E. B. Blott have leased a room in the Hartzell Block to open up a moving picture house.”

Another example is this one from November 7 the same year: “Youngstown, Ohio.â€"A new moving picture show is rapidly being constructed in the building on Liberty street by Thomas Dempsey.”

However, I did manage to find the Royal mentioned in The Motion Picture World of August 21, 1915, and the item even gave the address of the house as 224 E. Federal, and gave the manager’s name as G.M. Westley.

I have come across a few other theater names for Youngstown. The Moving Picture World of August 19, 1913, had this item: “Peter G. Atsalas, owner of the Orpheum Theater, at Youngstown, Ohio, was a recent visitor in Philadelphia, looking after some big features for his theater. He claims that the censorship law in Ohio makes it impossible for exhibitors to get any kind of high class features, and that most of them must send to other cities out of that state for their supply.”

The December 13, 1913, issue of the same publication mentions a Princess Theatre in Youngstown, and the August 7, 1915, issue mentions a South Side Theatre, managed by Max Shagrin. A 1916 issue mentions a Colonial Theatre, but I couldn’t read the item as it was in one of the issues for which Google inexplicably displays only snippet views, despite it being in the public domain.

A snippet view of the 1921 edition of Wid’s Year Book lists the Bijou and the Rex, and also lists a theater called the Victory. A snippet of the 1930 Film Daily Yearbook lists the Astor, Cameo and Dome. Those lists are both incomplete due to the snippeting.

So far, Boxoffice has posted online only its issues from 1936 on, and I’ve been unable to find in those any of the Youngstown theater names you listed.

I recall reading in a biography of the Warner brothers that they chose to go to New Castle to open their first theater in 1907 because Youngstown already had so many movie houses in operation. I also recall a paper citing a Moving Picture World item that said Youngstown had twenty movie theaters operating in 1908. Many of them probably lasted less than a year, though, and most likely didn’t even get listed in the annual city directory. Movie theaters were like mayflies in those days.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on February 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Joe, In a scrapbook that I put together of theater ads for Youngstown I have representative ads for some 30 theaters just in the downtown area going back to the early 1900’s, but can’t find much information about them in the local paper.

Some were both movies and Vaudville, while others were just movies.

Examples:

Lyric Theater – West Federal St.
Bijou – There were two by this name, one on the Square and the other on East Federal St.
Alvin
Rex
Erdelic Theatre
Royal Theater – East Federal
Palace (Not the one that has its own listing on CT. this one was east of the Square and was closed by the city because it didn’t meet code in the early 1900’s.)
At one point in the early 1900’s there were no fewer than 12 downtown theaters.

Can you or anyone else find more information about these theaters?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 14, 2011 at 10:20 am

Photos of Youngstown’s Uptown Theatre before and after its 1956 remodeling were featured on the cover of Boxoffice, May 1, 1967.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Here are some Uptown related articles. Unfortunately Google doesn’t have the issue telling of the opening of the Uptown in its original opening Nov. 26, 1926.

Stephen G. Foster
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Nov. 5 1987
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July 18, 1965
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July 2, 1927
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Nov. 10, 1983
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Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 28, 2010 at 3:01 am

I noticed looking at a Youngstown paper in the early seventies they had quite a few DRive-ins.I couldn’t find many of them when i went to SEARCH on CT.Maybe Name changes.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on December 27, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Youngatown was blessed with a number of quality neighborhood theatres prior to the flight to suburbia. One one level there was the Regent, Home, Schenley and Mahoning theatres. The next level up contained Wellman’s Newport and Belmont along with the independently owned Poster and Uptown.

The uptown was owned by Stephen Foster (not the song writer) and family who maintained the Uptown as a true “shabby-chic” gem. For many years they featured the silent version of The King Of Kings at Easter time. In ‘65 it was beautifully remodeled for the opening of a long run of The Graduate. It was then billed as “Youngstown’s Luxury Theatre” and continued as a major first-run venue. Associated Theatres of Pittsburgh took over operations of the Liberty Plaza and Uptown in the early 70’s. Associated morphed into Cinemette, Under John Harper, in the mid-70'a

milanp
milanp on December 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm

The Uptown was the crown jewel of non-downtown Youngstown theaters in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Famous for their lengthy engagements (“The Graduate” played from February-October '68; “American Graffiti,” October '73-April '74; “The Sting,” April-Oct. '74; etc.), the Uptown had a deal with Universal MCA and played virtually all of their product—including the wretched, but hugely profitable “Airport” series; schlock like “Earthquake;” even roadshows (“Sweet Charity”).
They also took chances and played “arty” stuff (much of it Universal, so it may have been a contractual thing) as well. I remember a double-feature of Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie” and Peter Fonda’s “The Hired Hand” in March '72, and rarefied goodies like “Isadora,” John Cassavetes’ “Minnie and Moskowitz,” “The Lion in Winter” (a roadshow), Hitchcock’s “Topaz” and “Frenzy,” Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451”….
The theater had such prestige that even second runs could be wildly successful. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” did much better at the Uptown than it did a few months earlier when it played the
Newport.
Amusing side-note: since double-features were not uncommon back then, the Uptown brought back Clint Eastwood’s directing debut, “Play Misty for Me,” countless times as the second half of d-features.
For some reason, “Misty” was HUGE! at the Uptown. Go figure, huh?