216 16th Street,
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The Centre Theatre was opened on April 29, 1954, with the World Premier of “River of No Return” starring Marilyn Monroe, with Hollywood stars who appeared ‘in person’. It was built for the Fox Inter-Mountain Theatres chain. Seating was provided on a stadium plan, with a raised stepped section at the rear, rather than a conventional overhanging balcony. It was equipped with a 60 feet wide curved CinemaScope screen. It was closed June 30, 1980 with “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” & “Alien”.
This theatre is one of some 200 that could be described as “Skouras-ized For Showmanship” which is the title of the ANNUAL of 1987 of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America. In the late-1930’s through the 1950’s, there occurred on the west coast of the United States a phenomenon known as the ‘Skouras style’ in recognition of the oversight of the Skouras brothers in their management of several cinema chains. They employed a designer by the name of Carl G. Moeller to render their cinemas/theatres in a new style best described as ‘Art Moderne meets Streamlined.’ The then new availability of aluminum sheeting at low cost was the principal material difference to this style allowing for sweeping, 3-dimensional shapes of scrolls to adorn walls and facades in an expression that would have been much more expensive and not at all the same in plaster. With the use of hand tinted and etched aluminum forms, the designers could make ornaments in mass production that allowed much greater economies of scale. The ANNUAL also show in its 44 pages how some 20 theatres were good examples of this combining of aluminum forms with sweeping draperies heavily hung with large tassels, and with box offices and facades richly treated with neon within the aluminum forms. Few of these examples survive today, but it was a glorious era while it lasted, and this collection of crisp b/w photos is a fitting epitaph by the late Preston Kaufmann.
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