Downtown Theaters

posted by kvaut8tb on December 2, 2005 at 4:01 am

I’m a Historic Preservation student working on a project about re-introducing movie theaters to downtowns and was wondering if anybody can share some case studies where this has been successful. Any help would be great!

Comments (9)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 2, 2005 at 4:14 am

For starters, check out the page here for the Loew’s Jersey in Jersey City. I’m sure there are many others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. I seem to recall one or two stories some years back where movie palace restoration was key to the revitalization of some midwestern downtown areas.

KenLayton on December 2, 2005 at 5:00 am

The single screen Chehalis Theater in downtown Chehalis, Washington is a fine example of a movie theater re-vitalizing a downtown area.

DaveWiegers on December 2, 2005 at 5:57 am

Check out Playhouse Square in Cleveland and Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, IL, The Paramount Theatre in Anderson, IN played a big part in helping anderson’s downtown area make a comeback. These projects were an instrumental part of revitalizing downtown areas. Personally, I think that a theater can start a downtown on the path to revitalization, but it is usually not the only factor.

Also, contact the Main Street Project for some background information. I believe that the MSP is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 2, 2005 at 7:30 am

Do you mean reopening old downtown theatres for movies, or building brand new downtown cinemas?

Two cities I’m very familiar with, Boston and Columbus Ohio, both have new downtown multiplex cinemas. But in both cities, these opened years after every old downtown movie theatre had closed (or been converted to live stage use.)

Lawford on December 4, 2005 at 7:56 am

Havana IL recently opened one back up, it was built as a vaudeville theater back in 1912 and converted to art deco in 1943 Jack Lemmon was even there, and the theatre bosts the picture in the lobby, Its called the Lawford and living here, its a great redo of a older theatre, they show first and second run on 500 seats, LOTS of nice rope ceramic around stage and roof.

chrisjwarden on December 4, 2005 at 12:01 pm

I recently completed my Masters of Architecture thesis on reintroducing a movie theatre into a small town downtown. The thesis and its associated info is on my web site at

For a theatre to work downtown in a large or small city the current megaplex model needs to be rethought and expanded to address the context of the street and consider how each of the mediating spaces between the street and the auditoriums gets addressed. This space is the greatest missed opportunity in the multiplex. In the palaces there was only one auditorium and now they’re are many, each needs to be recognized. The journey is key to the experience of cineagoing.

focus on December 6, 2005 at 7:48 am

The Embassy Theatre in Ft. Wayne, IN. has been restored and operates as a performing arts center. It was saved from the wrecking ball, buy a group of local citizens. The theatre has compleatly revitilized the downtown area, bringing in the Grand Wayne Convention Center, hotels and resturants. The web sit is

imrichardanton on December 12, 2005 at 12:32 pm

Well, in Chicago in the mid-90’s, the city helped to revive older movie theatres, but now they have generally live shows and concerts. The Chicago Theatre, Oriental Theatre (now Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre) and the Palace (now Cadillac Palace Theatre) have been refurbished and are thriving. (The Chicago Theatre has featured the opening film of the Chicago International Film Festival the last 2 years, and the Oriental had the world premiere of the Sing-Along Wizard of Oz. So, they ARE capable of showing movies, but generally host Broadway shows and concerts.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 12, 2005 at 3:10 pm

That’s pretty much the same story in Boston and Columbus. Both cities have several beautifully restored downtown movie palaces, but they are used largely for live shows.

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