Bonanza Movie Palace

3645 Las Vegas Boulevard S,
Las Vegas, NV 89109

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JimPerry
JimPerry on June 23, 2018 at 9:40 pm

Unless you are a native of Las Vegas and/or lived here between 1967 & 1971, nobody really remembers this particular Vegas movie house. Here’s some info / corrections about it (and its owner / operator): The Bonanza Movie Palace was NOT located inside the Bonanza Hotel & Casino. However, to gain access to the theatre, originally, you had to go through the hotel’s main entrance.
If you look at the picture above, at the bottom of the marquee, it says “BONANZA MOVIE PALACE – Now Playing – ‘James Joyce’s ULYSSES’”, which was the theatre’s opening feature. (Sorry, David Coppock (above), but “Funny Girl” wasn’t – more on this, below.) “Ulysses” was a controversial film at the time – one of 3 films, in 1967, to feature a certain ‘F’ word. (You know, the one that rhymes with duck – the other 2 films were the Bob Dylan documentary, “Dont Look Back”, which had a first run engagement at the old Guild theatre, and “I’ll Never Forget What’s'isname”, which never played here {Vegas}.) Another thing – because of the surrounding controversy of this film, the theatre not only deemed it “off limits” to those under 18 (a.k.a. “ADULTS ONLY!”), but they were also charging something like $5.00 for admission. ($5.00 might not seem like much these days, BUT back then, that was “PRETTY OUTRAGEOUS!” (And more than what the Las Vegas Cinerama & The Fox Theatre was charging for their “roadshow” attractions, like “Dr. Zhivago” & “The Sound Of Music”, to name a couple of these.) The theatre, in the newspaper ads, also promised patrons “a roll of nickels” – the idea that, after the movie, they’ll go to the casino & “do some gambling”. But back to Walter Reade – this company, based on the east coast, really didn’t have a clue how to run this theatre, at first – after the success of “Ulysses”, they ran a “2nd run” engagement of another “ADULTS ONLY!” feature, “I, A Woman” (One of “those Swedish Sex Films!”), which wasn’t. (It already played at the Guild & did its business there.) In other words, as a “Art House” theatre, the Bonanza was, pretty much “hit or miss”. (A first run engagement of Mel Brooks' first movie, “The Producers”, was a hit, while the next attraction, “The Queen”, about drag queens, wasn’t.) It wasn’t until Columbia Pictures threw the theatre “a bone”, the Sidney Poitier hit “TO Sir, With Love” (NOT “From Sir, With Love”!) that the theatre became a somewhat “success story”. (Towards the end of “Sir’s” engagement, Walter Reade closes the theatre for a couple of days to do a remodeling job – because of the hotel’s money problem & expectation that it was eventually gonna close (which it did), a new entrance way was build. Walter Reade (the company)also had its share of controversities: In 1953, Twentieth Century-Fox came up with CinemaScope AND 4-track stereophonic sound – Walter Reade (the company)loved the widescreen process but wasn’t crazy about stereo – they “balked” at Fox’s insistence that “you needed both”. (The early Fox C'scope movies, like “The Robe”, were strictly “mag only” (film prints only had magnetic strips on them to playback the film’s soundtrack). It’s been said that Walter Reade was one of these companies that, while forced to buy penthouses (to playback the sound on these “mag only” prints, what they did was have their techs {the people who installed the equipment) “rewire” these penthouses, so that all the sound, on these mag tracks, came out of one speaker (behind a theatre’s screen). Because of this “B.S.”, Fox came up with a solution the following year (1954) – “The Mag/Optical Print”. Basically – if theatres had 4-track Stereo, no problem. But if theatres didn’t have that (Monophonic, in other words), no problem, with a catch – these theatres still had to replace their old sprockets (on their old film projectors) with new ones designed for, what Fox called “Fox-hole” sprockets on these “Mag-Optical” prints. And “what does this have to do with the Bonanza Movie Palace?”, you may be asking. Well, Walter Reade didn’t install any kind of stereo playback for this theatre – no 4-track, no 70mm,6-track Stereo – NOTHING. The theatre was strictly a mono house. For the theatre to run long engagements of “Funny Girl” & “Oliver!”, back-to-back in 1969, in mono sound AND charging “roadshow” admission prices to patrons for the privilege of seeing these films? RIP OFF! (An example: Around the time/engagement of “Oliver!”, my mother & I were gonna see it during one weekend day. (I was still a young child – about 7, at the time.) When we got to the theatre & the boxoffice, my mother got pissed off at what they were charging, admission price-wise, on the matinee. So my mom tells me “Let get outta here!” It was also the same weekend that “Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang”, with Dick Van Dyke, opened at the Huntridge theatre. Though that wasn’t a “roadshow” engagement, the Huntridge was charging special admission prices for it. HOWEVER,compared to what the Bonanza was charging for “Oliver!”, “Chitty Chitty” was a bargain. (Plus the fact that the Huntridge had & showed their film /engagement in 4-track stereo.)) Another controversy with Walter Reade: The company was totally against the Motion Picture Association Of America’s (or M.P.A.A., for short) new (at the time)“ratings system”. (Between Nov. 1st,1968 & Feb. 1st, 1970, the ratings were ‘G’ – for General Audiences. ’M' – for Mature (Parental Discretion Advised.), ‘R’ – for Restricted (No One Under 16 Admitted Without A Parent Or Adult Guardian.) And ‘X’ – NO ONE UNDER 16 ADMITTED (PERIOD). (On Feb.1st,1970, the M.P.A.A. dumped the ’M' & changed it to ‘G.P.’ – ‘G’ still meaning General Audiences, but ‘P’ meaning Parental Guidance Suggested (some folks were lead to believe that ‘G.P.’ stood for “General Patronage”.), and the age limits on both ‘R’ & ‘X’ features was moved up from 16 to 17 (and in some cities, if a film got an ‘X’, theatres wouldn’t allow anyone under 18 admittance.) But back to the point about Walter Reade – the company wouldn’t advertise a film’s M.P.A.A. rating in newspapers, including here {Vegas}, at their theatres.(Walter Reade also had its own film distribution company called “Continental”, which also refused to submit their movies to get an M.P.A.A. rating and/or its “seal of approval”. 2 examples: {1.}When “Night Of The Living Dead” had its first run engagement here {Vegas}at the Las Vegas Drive-In, back in Dec. of 1968, Walter Reade/Continental was the film’s distributor, and it was shown without a rating. (Had the film gotten a rating, it, more than likely, would’ve gotten an ‘R’.)

And

{2.} The last film to be shown at the Bonanza Movie Palace was the ‘R’-rated, “Ultra-Violent” (at the time – 1971) western “Soldier Blue”. But instead of advertising its rating, Walter Reade promotes it with the generic “No One Under 17 Admitted Without A Parent Or Adult Guardian.”

Without any special announcement, the Bonanza Movie Palace closes after the “Soldier Blue” engagement. I believe the Bonanza Hotel & Casino was also closed by this time as well.

Another “tidbit”: According to a reliable source of mine (from years ago – said source passed away (died) back in the early 90s), when Kirk Kerkorian came up with the idea to create the original MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, his original plans included reopening the Bonanza Movie Palace as the MGM Grand (Movie) Theatre. But somewhere along the lines, he either changed his mind, or someone close to him suggested that he have a new theatre built within the hotel, which he had done. According to said source, Kerkorian had the 2 35mm film projectors, that were used for the Bonanza Movie Palace (German-made – unknown on the brand)removed from there & placed in the new theatre. Kerkorian, at the time, was also “head honcho” of MGM Studios, so during the time that the hotel was “The MGM Grand”, the theatre showed strictly movies from the studio – the prints were pristine & came from the studio’s vaults. As for The Bonanza Movie Palace, it never reopened – it lay dormant for a few years before it, along with the storefronts around the building, was finally demolished to make way for “a 2nd wing” of the hotel (more rooms, in other words). As for the MGM Grand (Movie)Theatre, after Kerkorian sold the hotel to Ballys, they tried keeping it open for a couple more years – the theatre’s name was changed to Bally’s Grand Theatre. But Ballys eventually “threw in the towel” on it – after Kerkorian sold the hotel to them, the supply of pristine MGM movie prints also went “bye bye”. (Ironically, when Kerkorian created the new (current) MGM Grand Hotel, he didn’t build a new theatre within it.)Bally’s started playing movies from the other studios – a few of them I did see, including Paramount’s “The Ten Commandments”, Twentieth Century-Fox’s 1986 remake of “The Fly”, another Fox film, “The Girl Can’t Help It”, and United Artists sequel to “The Pink Panther”, “A Shot In The Dark” with Peter Sellers. The last film to be shown at Ballys Grand Theatre was “Diamonds Are Forever” with Sean Connery as James Bond. Sometime afterwards, Ballys had the theatre demolished, and in its place is the hotel’s “Race & Sports Book”.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on June 13, 2018 at 8:39 am

The neon sign on top of the pole in tne photo above could be in the Neon Graveyard(somewhere in Las Vegas, Nervada, i think?)?

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on June 13, 2018 at 7:58 am

The hotel Opened on 1st July, 1967 accoss tne road from the Dunes Hotel and Casino, and between the Three Coins and Galaxy Motels. Lorne Greene from the Bonanza tv series was there on tne opening night. The first film shown was “Funny Girl”. Name changed to New Bonanza Hotel and Casino in 1973. Date of closure and demolition unknown. The site is now the entrance for Bally’s Las Vegas(formally MGM Grand, built on the site of Three Coins Motel).