4302 Governor Printz Boulevard,
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1968 was a big year for theaters in Wilmington, Delaware. The Branmar Cinema, in Branmar Shopping Center,(950 seats) and the Eric Theatre at Tri-State Mall (1,400 seats) were announced for 1969, but the biggest news was the opening of the Cinemart across the road from the Merchandise Mart shopping center on Governor Printz Boulevard. [boxoffice, 1/20/69 p.12]
The shopping center had been built just following WW2, and it quickly bacame the most popular shopping destination in Wilmington. What it didn’t have was a theater, although the Edgemoore Theatre was just down the road. So the ABC chain decided to build their only area theater directly across the road. It would seat 1,000 people, and since roadshows were popular, be equipped for 70mm Todd-AO with Norelco projectors. The boxoffice was designed so tickets could be sold for reserved-seat attractions through an outside window.
The auditorium was completely in gold with wide rocking chair seating. The front was deeply curved to allow for the screen, with curtains that went to the rear of the auditorium. If you’ve seen pictures of theaters like the various Cooper Cinerama locations, you’ve got the idea of what it looked like!
Incidentally, in the early days the name was spelled "Cine'Mart" in the newspaper ads. Films like "Hello Dolly" in Todd-AO played there, and it was joined by the Eric Theatre the next year as the only two Wilmington theaters equipped for 70mm.
Then, disaster. Concord Mall, in northern Wilmington had opened with an Almart department store in 1965, but was completed by 1971-72; including a theater. Merchandise Mart collapsed soon after, and so did the surrounding area-you did not want to be around there after dark! ABC sold Cinemart to Budco Theaters by the time the mall was completed, and bookings began to slip. Distributors always detested the habit of Philadelphia-area theater bookers scheduling porn along with mainstream films at many theaters-you literally could have the G-rated "Raggity Ann and Andy" one week and X the next!
Both the Edgemoore Theatre and Cinemart relied on explotation and porno bookings more and more by the later 1970’s and Budco closed both theaters in the early 1980’s. Interestingly, Budco booked "Midway" in Sensurround at Cinemart in the summer of 1977; it played for several months-the last big success for the theater.
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