Gateway Cinema I & II
8001 Dr M.L.K Jr Street North,
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Century Theatres opened Century’s Mall Theatre on June 4th, 1968 in the Gateway Mall Shopping Center. Construction was completed by the Century Theatres circuit. Ray Marshall, construction supervisor for the circuit, announced that Bernie Seiden, formerly of New York would manage the new theatre. The circuit owned and operated 38 theatres mainly in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Arizona.
Upon opening in 1968 the Gateway Mall Shopping Center was advertised as an enclosed shopping mall. In later years the mall is listed as an open air shopping center. The original mall may have either been demolished or possibly renovated as an outdoor shopping strip. Google maps the location to what appears to be a strip shopping center along with several stand alone stores and buildings.
Hopefully someone familiar with this area can verify if the original Gateway Mall Shopping Center was in fact torn down and rebuilt as an open air shopping strip. It would also be interesting to know if the theatre building was demolished or renovated for other use.
The seating for Century’s Mall Theatre was listed as 1,100. The opening day advertisements proclaimed, “St. Petersburg’s newest and most luxurious motion picture theatre, a new and exciting concept that makes going to the movies a new and exciting entertainment experience, thrillingly modern with physical features that sets new standards in movie-going comfort and convenience", although there was no mention of the theatre’s amenities.
An exhaustive search turned up no additional information such as architecture, design, decoration, screen size, projection format(s), and sound system. However, based on the year of construction and seating capacity the theatre was more than likely equipped for 70mm projection.
“Will Penny” with Charlton Heston was the opening attraction. The sold out premiere was a benefit showing sponsored by the Gateway Mall Merchants Association for the American Cancer Society. In the coming months the exclusive west coast road show engagements of “Funny Girl” and “Oliver” played here with a long six month run for “Funny Girl".
Century’s Mall Theatre continued operating as a single screen theatre into 1973. During this time the weekly program consisted of occasional double features. In May 1973 General Cinema acquired ownership and the theatre’s name was changed to Gateway Cinema.
Under General Cinema’s ownership Gateway Cinema continued to operate as a single screen theatre for three additional years before finally closing for twinning on May 2nd 1976. The new Gateway Cinema I & II reopened on May 28th 1976 with Walt Disney’s “Follow Me Boys!” and “Mother, Jugs & Speed” on the new twin screens.
An estimate for the twins capacity was probably in the range of about 500 seats for each twin considering the single screen seated 1,100. If so this would make for two fairly large twins.
Sixteen years later on August 30th 1992 Gateway Cinema I & II finally closed for good. “Housesitter” and “Batman Returns” were the closing features.
The regional marketing director for General Cinema issued a statement citing “theatre no longer economically viable” and “industry moving from twins to multitheatre operations” as reasons for the closure.
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