AMC Broadens Scope to Independent Films

posted by Michael Zoldessy on July 27, 2006 at 4:21 am

In order to draw audiences away from smaller independent theaters and from home theaters, AMC has started an initiative to split its programming in some theaters between mainstream and indy flicks:

Plush stadium seats. Surround sound. Miles of movie screen. Multiplexes might seem to have it all — as long as you’re willing to watch flicks about pirates or comic book heroes.

But fans of independent film, accustomed to seeking out their favorites at art houses or on DVD, are getting a bigger welcome at mainstream movie theaters these days — led by AMC Theatres, the company that invented the two-screen multiplex in 1963 and the 24-screen “megaplex” in 1995.

For the full story, visit the Journal News article.

Comments (4)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Copy of an e-mail I sent to Julie Moran Alterio, author of the Journal News article:

[quote]Dear Ms. Alterio,

This is in regard to your Journal News article of July 23, 2006 headlined “AMC expands market for independent films.” The second paragraph contains the statement “…AMC Theatres, the company that invented the two-screen multiplex in 1963….” If AMC is making that claim, they are spreading misinformation. AMC might have opened the first purpose-built twin theatre, but by 1963 at least two theatres had long since received second screens and operated as twin cinemas.

The invention of the multiplex is most commonly mis-attributed to Nat Taylor, a Canadian who added a second auditorium to the Elgin Theatre in Ottawa as early as 1947. Taylor was later associated with the Cineplex corporation. However, there was at least one two-screen theatre that was in operation even earlier than the Elgin.

In 1941, James Edwards (founder of the Edwards Theatre Circuit, later Edwards Cinemas and now part of the Regal Entertainment Group) added a second auditorium to his 1920’s-vintage Alhambra Theatre in Alhambra, California. From 1941 until the 1950’s, the theatre operated as the Alhambra & Annex, which is how I remember it being advertised in the local newspaper, Copley Press’s Alhambra Post-Advocate. After a renovation, the second auditorium was given the name Gold Cinema, but it continued to share box office, lobby and other facilities with the Alhambra. In its final years, the complex was operated under the name Alhambra Twin Cinemas. It was demolished after being severely damaged by an earthquake in 1987, and replaced by a 10-screen Edwards cinema called the Atlantic Palace. Though the building is gone, the history of its operation as a twin theatre is documented in old newspaper articles and advertisements.

I know this is a very minor concern, but I like to correct this bit of misinformation whenever I come across it. There may have been twin cinemas even earlier than the Alhambra & Annex, but until one is discovered to have existed, credit for inventing the twin-screen multiplex should go to James Edwards, not to Nat Taylor, Cineplex, or AMC.

Joe Vogel[/quote]

Yeah, I know, I’m a bit nutty on the subject, but having grown up as a patron of the Alhambra (and being the guy who added the Alhambra Twin Cinemas to the Cinema Treasures database), I figure I’m entitled.

And by the way (speaking of obsessions): The Alhambra Twin’s successor theatre still needs its CT page updated to show the correct number of screens (10, not 14) and its correct name: Edwards Atlantic Palace 10. It’s been listed under the wrong name for more than three years now.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 28, 2006 at 3:31 am

Thanks for this Joe, I agree that this is aggravating and important. I have recently seen AMC alter this subject to say “the first purpose built twin theatre in a suburban shopping center” which is a dubious honor, but could be true.

In my book, the rooftop gardens and annex houses open in the 1910’s in Manhattan were the first twins.

By the way, I believe both Stan Durwood (AMC) and Henry Plitt (PLITT) were the first American paratrooper to land in Europe during WWII. I guess they used the same PR agency.

schmadrian on July 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Thanks for the levity.

The idea of calling a two-screen cinema a ‘multiplex’ is a bit much to me. A twin certainly isn’t what we’d refer to as a ‘multiplex’ today.

But then, I’m biased: I used to frequent the original Eaton Centre Cineplex. Now that was a multiplex.

Yours in dirty-doubles…

P.S. AlAlvarez: I would have loved to have had the chance to have been a patron of Thomas Lamb’s Toronto ‘twin’, the Elgin/Winter Garden, the latter one of the few surviving atmospherics.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 30, 2006 at 4:13 pm

The Bexley Theatre in Bexley, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) was built as a twin in 1935. Sadly, it is no longer standing.

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