$35 tickets for luxury movie theater

posted by HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 3:45 pm

REDMOND, WA — An Australian theater chain will open a Seattle-area theater this fall with auditoriums with no more than 40 seats each but $35 tickets for luxury service.

An Australian theater chain opening in Redmond this fall is betting affluent audiences will pay three times the typical ticket price for plush, reclining seats equipped with call buttons for service, allowing them to order gourmet food, wine and cocktails from the theater’s restaurant.

Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas will open at Redmond Town Center in October, replacing the AMC theater that closed earlier this year.

It will cater to people who “don’t want to go to a cavernous multiplex and be caught up with hordes of people,” said Graham Burke, managing director and CEO of Village Roadshow Limited, the parent company.

Read more in the Seattle Times.

Comments (107)

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on March 31, 2008 at 6:47 pm

You know, there was a time you could expect to go to the movies without getting caught up with hordes of people for the regular ticket admission. You expected it. Now in order to get that, we should be expected to pay three times as much???

I don’t think so. I’d rather stay away.

HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 7:25 pm

The Philadelphia Business Journal mentioned theater with 8auditoriums of 18 to 40 seats each, an Australian concept, would be included in the “American Commerce Center”, a proposed super tall skyscraper at 18th & Arch in downtown (Center City) Philadelphia.

Obviously, that theater would be from this same company.

The Philadelphia building is seeking office & other tenants, before a decision is made to build it.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on March 31, 2008 at 7:28 pm

If the ticket price of a movie today kept pace with inflation from 1975 the price would now be $26.00.

HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 7:31 pm

that might be true for 1960s Road Show flicks, but I don’t believe it would be true for 1975 or later.

Prove it! cite cost, city, and back it up with newspaper ads showing it. We will then get out our inflation calculators….

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on March 31, 2008 at 7:37 pm

What else can be said other than “absolutely fabulous.” Hopefully, this will keep the rowdy “lowlife” away. And let’s have a dress code… PLEASE!

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on March 31, 2008 at 9:51 pm

If the place ain’t stockpiled with 70 foot screens or larger in each auditorium, why even bother? I’m not paying $35 bucks to see Harry Potter on a screen the size of my PC monitor!

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on March 31, 2008 at 9:55 pm

prove it ….dont you read????

PeterApruzzese on March 31, 2008 at 10:07 pm

According to the CPI calculator, a $3 movie ticket in 1975 (which would have been on the upper end for first-run, IIRC) would be $11.80 today.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on March 31, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Whether all of these numerical facts and figures are accurate or not, it still doesn’t erase the fact that for many people, the moviegoing experience today is not worth money that has to be paid out for a night at the movies. Consider the whole picture:

  • Movie tickets
  • Concession food
  • Parking charges (if applicable)
  • Babysitter (if applicable)

All so you can spend an evening like cattle in a multiplex! I’d rather take that same money and spend it on some expensive takeout food for my family and rent a few DVDs.

HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Personally, I’ve vote for all those who do nothing but gripe about seeing movies today, drop off this website!

You cocoon yourselves at home, and don’t join a community of people.

Peter showed above that movie ticket prices aren’t $26 (so I guess I do read, Longsilandmovies- your mere saying so doesn’t make it true!!) just as his movie theater, and many others nationwide, prove that some historic cinemas can survive.

Lots of places charge too much, including restaurants, sports events, legit theater & culture, but they don’t lack for patrons.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on March 31, 2008 at 11:08 pm

I stand corrected i read that on a web site (i think this one) and should have known better to take it as fact. I stand corrected…after looking it up the number above is correct$ 11.80.

JohnRice on April 1, 2008 at 12:10 am

So what is going to stop Mr. & Mrs. Joseph P. Yuppie from paying their $35 (plus $25 for premium concessions?) each and still forgetting to turn their cell phones off and/or text messaging and talking throughout the movie? Ordering food and drinks and having them delivered and paid for during the show sounds a little disruptive to me too. Then there is the negative effect on one alcoholic drink too many on some people. From my multiplex experience it’s more than just rowdy teenagers who make for a miserable movie going experience nowadays. Rude, inconsiderate behavior seems to be spread across the whole spectrum of age and class…or maybe I’ve just been patronizing the wrong multiplexes!

RayKaufman on April 1, 2008 at 12:36 am

Check out the Village Roadshow’s Gold Class Cinemas website to see that it’s been up and going for sometime in Australia, Singapore and Greece. When in their website, view the video which step-by-step explains what’s happening. They’re not offering concessions, but a fine-dining experience, with a fixed menu pricing at $39 and kids menu at $15. I agree, a night out at these prices is steep, but check out VIP pricing for a concert in a neighborhood near you, and one begins to understand how this is successful.

HowardBHaas on April 1, 2008 at 1:25 am

In Washington D.C., AMC Mazza Gallerie 7 (formerly General Cinema) has two screening rooms that are “Club Cinema” with leather seats and a full-service bar (only patrons 21 and older).

The Washington Post information (perhaps out of date) has adult ticket at $9.50 for the regular auditoriums. $12.50 to enter the Club Cinema on weekend evenings ($8 for seniors). During the week, tickets for the Club Cinema are priced the same as regular tickets.

Now, that doesn’t include waiters bringing food to your seats or parking your auto for you, but does include the right to “spirits” at your luxury leather seat.

Sounds like a better bargain to me.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 1, 2008 at 1:52 am

Theatres chains in Britain have been running premium priced ‘premiere screens’ for years. They were first introduced by Virgin Cinemas with private bars, waiter service and deluxe seating. Very few worked and few are still operating.

JodarMovieFan on April 1, 2008 at 2:00 am

We’ve beaten the topic of how to save on admission prices to movie theater going to death haven’t we? You’ve got bargain matinees, movie chain club card memberships, discounts at both AAA and Costco, etc etc. If theater refreshments are too high, eat before/after the show, or sneak in your food and drink. I do it on those times when necessary.

I wouldn’t pay $35 for a movie ticket for a more intimate setting. Even if by some drug/drunk induced reason that I would pay that much (and, btw, I do not partake in either) I’d expect live pre-show and post-show entertainment, a seven course gourmet meal, full body massage and theater seating in a select-comfort soft leather couch. :D

TheaterBuff1 on April 1, 2008 at 5:41 am

This idea isn’t new. It’s been around for many many years now, and is called flying on airlines first class. Up in the air there are great limitations on just how good they can make the movie watching experience for passengers who seek to travel by air. And the airlines do try their best under the tremendous limitations. But now there are those who are seeking to replicate this tremendously cramped, limited movie viewing experience down here at ground level while at the same time calling it “luxury”? Geeze, what’s become of us? As P.T. Barnum said…

droben on April 1, 2008 at 10:20 am

Being a resident of the Seattle area, I have visited this theater many times in the past. It was orginally built by Loews/Cineplex and it was one of their best designed and run operations in the Puget Sound market. Screens are large and slightly curved, and the seating in the original layout ranged from about 125 to 300.

I would imagine that the 300 seat house will seat 40 patrons. That’s a lot of space per person, so I would think that a major selling point will be privacy and the abundance of space.

I think this idea will work IN THIS LOCATION. Redmond Washington is the home of Microsoft and there is a lot of disposable income just waiting to be spent at an upscale operation such as this. The theater is located in an upscale “life-style” mall, and the mall managers are looking to bring in even more of those dollars.

But for this to work, Village/Roadshow better do the following:

1) Book it smart, meaning stay away from titles such as National Treasure 2 or College Road Trip. Titles like There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men and the like will do well.

2) The food better be good. The greater Seattle restaurant scene is recognized as one of the finest in the country, so there’s plenty of competition in that area.

3) Hire union projectionists. If I’m going to pay $35 for a ticket, I want a first-class operation. Union projectionists aren’t a 100 percent guarantee, but the likelihood of a professional presentation is certainly greater.

4) No advertisements or silly slide shows. This should be a no-brainer, but one never knows…

The serious moviegoer in me can’t wait for this to open, but my wallet may have something to say about it. I’ll certainly check it out at least once and report back here. By the way, I don’t have a lot of disposable income.

In the end, I suggest that everyone keep an open mind about this concept. To compare ticket prices is grossly unfair, since we’re talking two totally different business models that both just happen to show movies.

And TheaterBuff1, not sure what you’re getting at with the comparison of this concept with watching a film in first class on an airplane. 40 people in a theater originally designed for 300 tells me there’s a lot space available, certainly a lot more than a first class airplane cabin.

schmadrian on April 1, 2008 at 11:26 am

Fascinating stuff. Both the article, and some of the responses.

Funny how we look at options outside our interests. For example, I used to regularly fly from the UK to North America to visit family. Economy. After having trawled around for a deal. I couldn’t afford to upgrade. Not to Business, and certainly not to First Class. The notion of The Concorde was ridiculous, beyond reason, beyond reckoning…even if I’d won the lottery.

Once, my gal and I got upgraded. To Business. Man…THAT was incredible. In fact, I phoned my parents, trans-Atlantic, from Heathrow, to tell them. I was that excited.

After that? I still flew Economy.

I’ve done the VIP thing at movies. In the UK and in Canada. For me, a waste of money. The added luxury added nothing to my experience. (And for me, had nothing to do with seeing a movie.) But then I was as happy to sit in the tiniest of Cineplex-Odeon’s original multiplex cinemas at the Eaton Centre as I was to see a gala at the Elgin during the Toronto International Film Festival.

I think news item…and some of the responses…most reveal how betrayed many people feel by the cinema trade. How things aren’t the same any more, and further, that some entrepreneurs want to CHARGE EXTRA for what used to be the norm. “Really, the notion of charging more for what I should be getting already!!!”

The fact is that there’s a market for everything. (And if there isn’t, then the offering will quickly disappear.) I don’t understand $200 dinners. But there’s a market. I don’t understand $5000 watches. But there’s a market. And I don’t understand the notion of paying three, four times the average ticket price for the pleasure of seeing a movie. But clearly, there’s a market for it. I may not understand it…but good for them. All of them.

bbasom on April 1, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I cant believe people would be willing to spend that much on the type of garbage that comes out of Hollywood. Im sorry, but I wouldn’t pay $3 to go see “Daddy day care” or “Bee movie”… let alone pay $35. Plus, with the inflated ticket prices, you would think they would be able to hire a contractor who actually takes care of their workers. Yes, this ritzy theater is slated to be built by contractors who exploit workers… just one more reason I will stay away from this atrocious blight on society.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 1, 2008 at 3:46 pm

On the issue of booking it right, it is impossible to keep the gourmet food fresh and justify the staff support for the cluster of upscale popular films that open during one season. After you play “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood”, the rest of the year ends up being covered by mainstream crap or empty seats.

It is impossible to justify the screen size, staff costs and spoiled food for that small “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” crowd that buys nothing.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 1, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Just as in every bsns you have your good and bad.I do believe most areas of the country have some really good theaters.FIND A GOOD THEATER AND SUPPORT THEM.

I really dont think people have an idea what it cost to run these places..My 3 screen averages $3,000 mo in electric and over $10,000 in payroll..Add in rent ,taxes ,garbage,insurance,phone,ads,repairs,fire system upkeep,cleaning crew,equipment….The average theater take on a ticket $3.50 after film rental and taxes….

The fact that ticket prices have not keept up with inflation is one reason some theaters are in trouble.

That being said there are a lot of crap theaters out there but there are a lot of good ones….

schmadrian on April 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

If you want to see a great take on an elite experience in movie-viewing, check out the Commodore in Portsmouth, VA.

Great food, great films…and great prices.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on April 1, 2008 at 9:19 pm

You know…this new “Gold Class” concept may be the thing to cause the studios to recreate “Roadshow” versions of their high level titles. If they’re smart enough to make all the screens at least 60-70 feet, get 70MM projection capability, and cut a deal with the studios to offer the big ticket titles (Iron Man, Indy 4, The Dark Knight, etc.) in extended versions presented in 70MM (and issue the standard issue 35MM versions to the megaplexes, that MIGHT justify me spending $35 bucks to come here…

HowardBHaas on April 1, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Hollywood & movie exhibitors have 3 gimmicks now and none of them are 70mm:
in no particular order:
(1) Imax
(2) 3D
(3) food & spirits

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 1, 2008 at 9:47 pm

OK, who tricked both the Seattle Times and CinemaTreasures into this April Fool’s joke?

TheaterBuff1 on April 2, 2008 at 6:37 am

Good one, Ron! But April Fool’s Joke or no, back when I was cutting my teeth on the Holme Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, which unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) did not come to fruition, I had the concept of having a special luxury section where theatergoers could have special amenities, such as more spreadout seating, call buttons for service (including electronic menus), ashtrays and so forth. But note, it was to be in combination with a full-sized theater, not a cramped little 40-seat screening room unto itself. To be positioned up next to the projection booth (a glass-enclosed balcony type of thing), the idea was to have something geared to everyones' individual liking. To the other side of the projection booth there was to be a glass enclosed crying room (another idea from Australia) but that’s another story.

But right now the way I see it, with few exceptions, we’re not going to see the great theaters again unless another Great Depression hits the U.S. — followed up with a leader with the stature of an FDR to lift us out of it once more….IF we’re lucky. For there’s so many factors that go into the great moviegoing experience, coordinations and cooperations needed at all levels regarding every aspect. And that does require good central leadership combined with many people realizing how much they’re in need of such.

schmadrian on April 2, 2008 at 9:52 am

“But right now the way I see it, with few exceptions, we’re not going to see the great theaters again unless another Great Depression hits the U.S. — followed up with a leader with the stature of an FDR to lift us out of it once more…”

…and you can remove expectations…and reduce awareness of the world and Life in general…bring back true isolation practices…and people are prepared to go backwards. Good luck with that.

Are you actually serious in this comment? That not only do you believe that were all the factors lined up as you suggest (a fantasy if I ever heard one), but that people in general would want this? Do you put so much value on ‘what used to be’ that you can envision a return to those times? Your ‘great moviegoing experience’ only existed when it did because of the contemporary context: the movie palaces, the other entertainment options available, and most importantly, in general, a much simpler Life lived.

A ‘Great Depression’ wouldn’t provide the necessary backdrop. A cataclysmic event might…but honestly, if that were to happen, I hardly think that a ‘great moviegoing experience’ is going to be anywhere on the agenda.

Oh, wait; your suggestion was a late April Fool’s Day joke, right? : )

My bad.

droben on April 2, 2008 at 11:15 am

Just to set the record straight, these theaters will not be “cramped 40 seat screening rooms” as stated by TheaterBuff1 on April 1st. As I stated earlier, the 40 seat houses will be in theaters originally designed for 300 seats, hardly what I call cramped.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 2, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I would not call Imax a gimmick no more or less 70 mm…

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 2, 2008 at 1:34 pm

But right now the way I see it, with few exceptions, we’re not going to see the great theaters again unless another Great Depression hits the U.S.

We have great theater now ….they are just different than the old days.

schmadrian on April 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Expecting people to be as awestruck by the old ‘cathedrals of cinema’ experience is about as reasonable as expecting you or your kids to have the same general perspective and priorities and Life values as your parents or grandparents.

Do you?

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on April 2, 2008 at 2:14 pm

LIM – that Cinedom looks exactly like the type of movie theater nightmare I have spent a lot of effort avoiding. Do they have a ferris wheel and merry-go-round in there, too?

schmadrian on April 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm

LMHG: From past discussions on the subject of ‘Why I hate going to multiplexes’, I think we’ve determined that what keeps you away is not the ferris wheels or the merry-go-rounds (or even the movie choices), but the behaviour of the patrons. Correct?

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on April 2, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Yes, schmadrian, you’re correct. But think of this analogy as a comparison: if you were to go to your local fast food restaurant (i.e., the multiplex) in the middle of a crowded city, you would likely find a more rowdy and inconsiderate class of people. If you were to go to a smaller, fancier restaurant (i.e., the small movie theater, or what’s left of them), you’d likely experice a better, more well-behaved class of people. So yes, for that reason, I avoid multiplexes because of the people they generally attract.

Architecturally, I don’t have an opinion on multiplexes one way or the other. The design of many of them don’t exactly blow my mind.

KenLayton on April 2, 2008 at 5:48 pm

$35 for a ticket! How much will the city take in admissions tax?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 2, 2008 at 8:57 pm

What about the film distributor?

Some cinemas in Britain split the price by including snacks. (e.i.– 6 pounds for your ticket, 4 pounds for a glass of champagne.) This way film rental percentages were limited to the ticket price.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 2, 2008 at 10:31 pm

I must live in a dream world ..Only a few times at a theater have i had these issues ..not never but rare….I see about 3 movies a week..I went to day to my competion and all was perfect..16 screen..

I think in every bsns if you look hard enough you can find something wrong.

TheaterBuff1 on April 3, 2008 at 7:36 am

My last post was written from the perspective of seeing the current U.S. economy as one of none other than pillaging, while I am of the belief that pillaging cannot be carried on forever. I believe it to be a laws of physics impossibility. It should also help to understand that that comment was written from the perspective of residing in a city — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — that’s being pillaged. And that I won’t try to argue can be carried out to full completion, and is currently in the process of happening. But the duration of what it takes for that and forever are two different things. In the face of that, with it being noted that the author of this Cinema Treasures news page is also a resident of Philadelphia, the small but luxurious 40-seat theater is the best that can be hoped for in this city for now. Either that or have your own private home theater system.

The pillaging of Philadelphia was preceded by the pillaging of the many regions that surround the city, all of which had been primarily rural before or still in their natural state; though in that case they were pillaged in a totally different way — rapidly developed in a way most becoming of a city, but not areas best suitable for farming or kept as nature preserve.

Pillaging produces wealth. There’s no arguments against that. But it cannot produce wealth indefinitely. Which is how I look at the whole matter. And I go further by saying that if it gets carried out to full completion, that marks the end of us, ALL of us. Philadelphia is such that it can be pillaged out of existence completely, and the rest of the world won’t even know it’s missing. It’s already happened to a large extent. But the pillaging of places outside of Philadelphia — where most of the rest of you are based — is a different story completely. Regarding the Cinedom, for instance — and I’d be curious to know where it is — what was there before that theater was built? Was it a brownfield development? Or a greenfield development? For before I can pass any sort of judgement on it, I have to know that first.

As for Philadelphia, if not for the way it’s currently being pillaged, it could serve as the vitally needed way out further down the road. Trouble is, Philadelphia’s not its own boss right now. Rather, it’s being bossed around by those from outside who “know better.” That is, people who cannot see their own futures relying on whatever becomes of it. They have forgotten that this is where it all began, and where their fate ends if it ends. And we’re not too far from that right now.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 3, 2008 at 7:37 am

View link

WE CAME IN #5 AS THE BEST PLACE IN CHARLESTON…..There are lots of great theaters out there ….Lets talk about some of those!

TheaterBuff1 on April 3, 2008 at 8:20 am

Charleston where? As it’s not listed in Cinema Treasures.

As for my favorite theaters in the U.S. right now, that is, in terms of theaters that are up and running as they should be or are in the process of getting properly restored, they include the Uptown in Chicago, the Avalon Theatre on Catalina Island in California, the Winter Garden in Florida, the Hershey Theatre in Hershey, PA, the State Theatre in Easton, PA, the Majestic in Gettysburg, PA, and the Roberts Orpheum in St. Louis, MO. Not in alignment with any sort of pillaging on the one hand, they all seems to be securely safeguarded from such on the other. These are the “few exceptions” I was referring to in my earlier post.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 3, 2008 at 6:54 pm

South Carolina!

No multiplex on your list?

TheaterBuff1 on April 4, 2008 at 7:41 am

Ah, THAT Charleston. But that said, it’s not the image of Charleston, SC I so like to think of, with the beautiful old antebellum architecture, Spanish moss and so forth. Meaning I sure hope this enormous Cinedom didn’t rise up in the place of that!

As for my not having any multiplexes on my list, no, of course not! I can’t stand the monsters! With me it’s single-screen theater all the way. For I reason, when a theater has several auditoriums rather than one, something has to suffer somewhere in the compromise. And me, I’m too spoiled with having grown up with single-screen theaters to make the crossover to that. And that’s still the case when I want to take in a movie, even though they’re very hard to find now. I.e., rest assured that if the 40-seat “luxury” theater idea catches on I won’t be patronizing any of them.

In your case, have you had much exposure to well-run single-screen theaters?

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 4, 2008 at 11:36 pm

My office was in the Ziegfeld theater in ny ….I come from a single screen backround…

My first theater i managed in 1982 was the york theater(CENTURY )I also ran the old Rialto theater (BROADWAY &42ND ST)when Cineplex reopened it and changed the name to WARNER.(both single screens)

I love old theater but i do love some new theaters also …I went to my competition (1 of them a 16 screen) and it was one of the nicest theater i have been to.

The theater i bought was built as a single but they added on the did not split the main house.

TheaterBuff1 on April 5, 2008 at 5:57 am

Obviously you’ve had some very good exposure to single-screen theaters, while all the ones I grew up with I clearly miss. It’s a shame now that theaters in many places have to be overwhelmingly intimidating fortresses if they hope to survive. For there’s something very unreassuring in all that with regards to the times we’re living in. You wonder, okay, so when does the other side of all this come? While others, it seems, are terrified of that other side ever making a comeback.

It’s funny, you refer to the single-screen format as “old theater,” whereby I see it as just the opposite. To me, better is in advance of that which is worse. And to be sure, I have never been to a multiplex where I felt compelled to exclaim. “Wow, the old single-screen theaters of yore were never anything as good as this!” I know that there are some theatergoers who do feel that way, who swear by the all-new stadium-style seating, the greater choice of movies to see, the elimination of the fancy decor and so forth. But I just have to look at them and say, gee, how shallow. How depressing. For it’s clearly a society going backwards, not forwards.

Take all those single-screen theaters I listed in my earlier post — the only exception being the Majestic in Gettysburg, PA which has more than one auditorium (although, thank God, the main one has been kept fully intact) — and imagine if they were to be divided up into multiplexes, would that in any way be describable as a “marked improvement,” a “betterment” of what they had been before? I know there’s the idiots who would say, “Oh yes, yes!”, but aside from them. That is, looking at the matter accurately, would it be a “marked improvement”? And I think the answer is pretty much a resounding, “Obviously not!”

I’m not against individualism, and people wanting to have their individual tastes be satisfied, which is precisely what the multiplexes are geared for. But I feel society also needs the theaters that unify people as one. For example, when the movie ROCKY came out in 1976, it came just on the heels of when Philadelphia, PA’s industrialized areas fell into a state of total collapse. At that time I went to see it in a single-screen theater in Philadelphia. And afterwards the whole audience stood up and gave a thunderous ovation. There were tears in the eyes of many, including myself, even though I personally was not cut out for the blue-collar industrial way of life. Yet I could feel in that moment a unity with those who were, but who were having that industrial way of life — which had made Philadelphia great — swept out from under them. Had I seen this film in a multiplex, no, the experience would just not have been the same. And most certainly not had I seen it in a 40-seat “luxury” theater. With the industrial collapse at that time, so went the single-screen theaters, too…

…Along with the sense of unity.

schmadrian on April 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

TheaterBuff1: I’ll admit, I’m fascinated by your polemics. Your comments such as “I’m not against individualism…”, and the such. And I appreciate that you’ve seen a city you love, decimated, changed, re-done in an image not at all desirous.

But I think perhaps the time has come to see the other side from you, given how much time and energy you’ve expended on declaiming. No, not ‘the other side’ as in ‘those responsible’. I refer to-

Well, allow me to issue this challenge, to you and anyone else bemoaning the current state of affairs regarding cinema-going: if you view today’s circumstances as ‘unsatisfactory’, tell us, in as much detail as you’re able, what ‘satisfactory’ circumstances would look like…and more importantly, provide the details as to how this would have, could have happened. Yes, I’m requesting some ‘alternative history’. Not just ‘This sucks, I wish it wasn’t like this!’ Put your money where your mouths are and provide a detailed scenario where you’re content with things not having changed the way they have.

I’m very curious about all this because much of what you say not only raises one or more eyebrows, but quite often, I’m speechless. (For example, the notion that any nation can generate ‘unity’ through watching movies in a single-screen theatre is…well…I’ll be kind and leave the space blank. To me, if that’s what it takes, the show’s over already.) I’m very much curious as to how much Those Who Frown would be willing to sacrifice in terms of what’s currently available to them in order to have preserved a bygone era…and moreover, whether they can acknowledge how interwoven everything is when discussing things-cultural, things-societal. (For example, the strident environmentalists out there who decry the used of the automobile, who maintain the need for mass transit, seem hard pressed to provide an ‘alternate history’ where the automobile was not at the center of our world, but rather, some magnificent means of moving people around ‘en masse’, wherein all urban and suburban planning was done around *this( paradigm, rather than that of the highway, road and street…and the myriad knock-on effects this shift would have had, in toto.)

I’m very much looking forward to how you might suggest we might not have reason to even be gathering at this site, our cathedrals of cinema never having gone away at all.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 5, 2008 at 4:13 pm


When i use the word old i mean age of building..

We just finished a large renovation of my theater (3 screens)My goal was to keep the feel of the way it use to be when i grew up at the movies.
The number one rule was each auditorium must have its own look.No cookie cutter look.Each theater has different seats ,wall covers carpet.
I would love to find a single screen theater that i could my part and keep open..The hard fact is 90% chance it wont make money or break even.

The overhead is so crazy to run these places…

My weak point is i am not a good writer so i get killed in my arguments on this forum.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 5, 2008 at 6:27 pm

I have recently had great experiences at the Paris, Ziegfeld, AMC Lincoln Square, Regal E-walk and AMC Empire.

Although the movies were hardly “Rocky”, the screens were clean, the staff attentive, the seats comfortable, the sound levels good and the presentations crisp.

It can be done, no matter how many screens you run, and even in notoriously sloppy Manhattan.

RayKaufman on April 5, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Schmadrian, I think the point that was being made, at least what I got out of it, was that here was a hometown story, being shown in a grand theatre, to hometown Philadelphia people. The overall effect, brought the audience to their feet giving a standing ovation to a film. I’ve seen that occur in some of my presentations, but only when the screening was accompanied by a guest, either a star or producer or director, etc., who was involved in the making of the film. This was more like applauding the story and its setting – Philadelphia.

As I’ve often said, it’s an entirely different experience seeing a film in a darkened room with 700+ strangers. Comedies are funnier, horror films are scarier and dramas are much more intense. That’s a value added benefit to seeing films in a theatre, on the BIG screen, in a near church-like, reverent setting that can’t be replicated in one’s home regardless the size of the TV screen.

Then too, as just mentioned, the setting plays into the experience, hense, art houses win out consistently. And the more the audience is there to enjoy the film, rather than talking or texting, the better.

schmadrian on April 5, 2008 at 7:43 pm

WGTRay: Oh, I understood the point. I was speaking to the much larger issues presented.

TheaterBuff1 on April 6, 2008 at 5:40 am

Longislandmovies, that sounds like a very interesting project you’re working on, a 3-screen theater with each auditorium uniquely different from the other two, while I certainly hear you when you say “The overhead is so crazy to run these places…” To help reduce this somewhat, have you switched over to a geothermal heating & cooling system or considered doing so, along with having such things as roof-mounted solar panels to help reduce energy costs further? I also believe — long term, at least — that going fully digital can help reduce overhead, not to mention having an L.E.D. marquee and movie poster display cases. In my own experience the biggest problem I had with dealing with overhead was trying to do the right thing in the wroooong place, and by that I mean the politics of that particular place. That is to say, there’s a very assured reason why the city of Philadelphia — which once could be described as “the city of theaters” — is no longer such. The only exception is Center City Philadelphia, and that’s with regards to live performance venues only. A city that once had many movie palaces in its downtown portion now has not a single one, as in politics. What more can I say?

Meantime, AlAlverez, please forgive my oversight. For clearly both the Ziegfeld and Radio City Music Hall should’ve made my favorite-theaters-at-the-present-time list, while I should make a point to familiarize myself with the other theaters you name.

And to Schmadrian, it’s uncanny, but your statement, “To me, if that’s what it takes, the show’s over already,” mirrors the very thing I told someone last week, although it not having to do with theaters per se. Rather, it was in the context of how both Donald Trump and two casino corporations are preparing to build on the Philadelphia Delaware riverfront soon and are likewise pushing to be able to build on submerged Delaware River land with their projects, while naturally environmental groups are decrying it. And right now as to whether they will be able to or not to a large extent is up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I got a form e-mail from one of the environmental activist organizations the week before last urging me and others to contact the Corps to voice our strong objections while at the same time it asked that we please be polite and respectful. And I said, if we have to be polite and respectful then the battle’s been lost before it’s even begun. For that is so naive. Could you imagine, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deciding in favor of the environmental activists over Trump and the two casino corporations because the environmental activists were polite and respectful? It just doesn’t work that way.

But now Schmadrian, in the context where you used that statement in so many words, I have to disagree. Movies shown in a well-run single-screen theater are a very effective way of unifying people to a cause, and I see nothing in the nature of “the battle’s been lost before it’s begun if that’s what it takes” in my saying that. Movies are a very effective, powerful way of clarifying a cause, and can go a long way in insuring the outcome of the battle is victorious rather than a dud. Of course movies alone cannot win the battle. But they can enflame people to rise to the challenge of achieving victory as opposed to defeat. It’s people who win battles, not movies. But movies can play a big part in peoples' achieving that goal. I have seen this happen. And I’ve also seen people give up all motivation when not having that stimulus. Ironically, I’m seeing that right now here in Philadelphia — once can-do city, but which appears to be no more.

TheaterBuff1 on April 6, 2008 at 5:49 am

Oops! I meant to say, “once a can-do city, but which appears to be no more.”

schmadrian on April 6, 2008 at 10:46 am


Is there any point in me looking forward to hearing yours, or anyone else’s propositions as to ‘How We Might Not Have Ended Up in This State, Cinema Treasures-wise’, or should I assume that people are more content to moan and sigh than to imagine a better way?

And as for what you’re referring to regarding ‘unifying people to a cause’…give me some examples. Not from the 40’s when film could -arguably- be seen as an effective way to unite nations during war, but NOW. In today’s world, with today’s values, today’s mindset, today’s isolationist, cocooning ways.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Movies are still uniting us for political causes and teaching us lessons.

“No Country For Old Men” taught us that without Mexican immigrants there would be no crime. For that lesson it was rewarded with a Best Picture Oscar.

“Atonement” taught us that a bang in the drawing room is the same as eternal love.

“Juno” taught us that pregnant little girls fully understand the dynamics they have become a part of.

“300” taught us that war is good because real people never really get hurt.

“Hannah Montana” taught us that fame is everything.

schmadrian on April 6, 2008 at 2:30 pm


Thanks for that, Al! Nicely put.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Great thing about movies there job is teach us nothing……Escape,enjoy,imagine,scare…… I only want a movie to teach me something if it is a documentary.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 6, 2008 at 6:33 pm


NO country—Imagine how scary it would be to find 2 million and enjoy spending every penny of it.
Atonement-Imagine how scary it was to pay $8.50 for this piece of crap.
300—Enjoy the nudity,imagine what it would be like to be #301..
Hannah —i imagine its every girls dream to be a super star and scary when it really happens….

schmadrian on April 6, 2008 at 7:39 pm

“Atonement-Imagine how scary it was to pay $8.50 for this piece of crap.”

Um… Actually, I paid more than that, it was well worth it, I would have paid more, I would have been happy to have seen it win Best Picture at the Academy Awards…and I’ll admit it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine for someone to be lazy and not differentiate between declaring they don’t like something and that something is ‘crap’. (I hardly think that a film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars as well as being the winner at the BAFTAs can be, in any way, categorized as ‘crap’. It might not be what you liked, but really, you should be more careful when you spew.)

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on April 6, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Atonement was one of the worst pics of 07 in my opinion……sorry..
We were offered the pic exclusive and turned it down .I just could not do it to my patrons.Also one of the worst reviews from the Ny Times.

TheaterBuff1 on April 7, 2008 at 10:39 am

The movies Hollywood is cranking out right now are custom-tailored for the venues where most people will be seeing them in — which will not be movie palaces, or small town or neighborhood single-screen movie theaters. Due to the great lack of the latter, it obviously would be rather silly and quite squanderous on Hollywood’s part to release full-blown productions such as BEN HUR, GONE WITH THE WIND, SPARTICUS, TITANIC and so forth for the sake of the piddling way most people view movies today. We’re going backwards now, not forward, and Hollywood has pretty much adjusted itself to that.

But to address Schmadrian’s point, if that’s just the way it is, and if nothing can be done about it why moan and sigh about it, Schmadrian’s totally right in saying that. For if the Titanic is going down, there really isn’t much you can do about it other than that, except one thing: Learn from it. And that’s what I’m doing here. I’m listening to and learning from the crew members of the Titanic racing back and forth on the downward-heading decks playing Monday morning quarterback as they do so. I’m learning from my own doing that, in fact. Naturally if there’s any way the Titanic can be saved it should be. Anything and everything should be tried, no matter how far out and bizarre it might seem. For heck, what’s to lose when it comes down to that? But if despite all efforts the Titanic goes down nevertheless, does that mean the absolute end of the Titanic’s glory? No. It means this only in the Titanic’s case. And for those who survive there is the learning of how to do things better.

Here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania I feel that I have done all I could’ve possibly done to try to save what was left of this city’s onetime thriving movie theaters and palaces. I didn’t succeed in my trying to do that, but I did learn a great deal from the effort. And please note, I didn’t learn such things as, if you want a movie theater to last don’t make it fancy and ornate. I didn’t learn that the only way for a movie theater to survive is by making it a multiplex. I didn’t learn that if you want a movie theater to last be careful not to offend the politicians with what you exhibit. I also didn’t learn that price gouging and total indifference towards how the customers feel is the only way a theater can hope to survive.

But I did learn that if you want a movie theater to last, either make sure not to build it in harm’s way, or if you do, make sure it has the leverage to withstand that harm.

In Philadelphia’s case it’s a very tough if not impossible place to operate quality theaters right now. This is so because in many ways Philadelphia is capsized as the present moment, a full reversal of when theaters here were strong. With Philadelphia no longer being the central hub of the region where it exists, it is getting bashed from all directions outside it which once had been entirely rural but which now are heavily developed. And while that might sound a bit like how it was with Rome in its last days, it’s not that way in this case. This is not a matter of the rural outside striking back at the big city. Rather, it is a heavily pillaged onetime rural America striking back. That is, the attackers are hardly farmers in overalls with scythes and pitchforks. I.e., the attackers are not people who can be reasoned with in any way. They are people who made their wealth by pillaging that which should’ve been kept as farmland, but nobody caught them and stopped them in time.

schmadrian on April 7, 2008 at 11:15 am

long: Don’t apologize for your opinion. However…

Seriously; if you think that ‘Atonement’ was one of the ‘worst pictures of 2007’, then I’ve got a list of about fifty flicks that were FAR ‘worse’. No…make that 100.


schmadrian on April 7, 2008 at 11:28 am

TheatreBuff1: I’m sad that you’re -seemingly- not going to take up the challenge and suggest ways we might not have ended up this way, where we are now, with movie palaces rarities. Not because I’m sure things couldn’t have ended up any other way than the way they have, but in the exercise of trying to determine what could have been done differently, you might have gained a better understanding of the contributing factors.

I accept that your focus is on Philadelphia. And honestly, I’m additonally saddened by what you’ve indicated about the past history, the unfolding of the ‘pillaging’, and the current state of affairs. But to me, you’re ignoring the big picture. You’re focusing on ‘the crime’ and ignoring why ‘the crime’ took place in the first place. In a nutshell, you’re barking up the wrong tree…but that’s understandable; it’s a familiar tree, and you’re clearly happy with the rut you’ve made underfoot, it’s a comfortable place. : )

So; instead of waiting for someone, anyone out there to accept my challenge, I’m going to present a few paradigms myself, as an exercise of wanting to fully understand and appreciate the cause-and-effect machinery that has left most North American cities with a paucity of ‘cinema treasure’ heritage. Not here, not now, because this essay deserves whatever preparation and execution I can bring to it.

But I have to tell you: your ‘Titanic’ analogy lost me entirely. First, I don’t get what the ship represents…and secondly, what does it matter what you’ve ‘learned’ if you’re going to die? There are no lessons learned that will be carried on for ‘the next time’. Instead, all there really is to do is to listen to the band play…and complain about the damned iceberg.

Ah… Now I understand… : P

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 7, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I think I know how we ended up this way…

In an inflation economy where other leisure competes with movies, the marketing noise has become so cluttered that it too expensive to get your picture noticed. The producers aim at getting the film made with the most common denominator that will attract the biggest crowd with the smallest effort. You also need to money to come in fast since the theatrical run must cash in quick before the theatre pulls the film, piracy kicks in, or the DVD comes out and kills the box office anyway . It is “high concept” as an art form. No one has time or money to nurture a film’s long run, least of all the exhibitor. The single screen palace must therefore make way for a “longer tail” of more generic products.

You do not need to work as hard on selling a Tyler Perry movie as you do “Atonement“ because the audience already knows what they will get from Tyler Perry. Since the core audience (15- 24) does not read the newspaper every day and have short attention spans, you must rely upon TV teasers, mobile phones and the internet to find them. If your audience is over 25, you also face a product drought from January to August. Consider a high concept formula movie for older people (“The Bucket List”) and you also get a mediocre movie for an audience starved for a movie with meaning.

The core movie audience, and in some cases their older counterparts, only go to the theatre four to five times a year. They bring all their electronic toys, short attention spans and the same bad habits they developed in their living rooms with them.

Of the five Oscar nominees for Best Picture I felt “Atonement” was the least deserving. It was sold as a Jane Austin novel but there was no love story or any innocence in there. I paid to see a “Ryan’s Daughter” type tragic love story but instead got a horny snobby rich girl who sleeps with the help. Their improbable eternal love gets interrupted, not by the first World War mind you, but apparently by the “c” word, which makes an unlikely appearance in the early 20th Century. Talk about marketing to the masses!

If you look at the grosses, not enough people bought it and many of those who did talked on their phones and each other while watching these reprehensible characters lives unfold. At least the characters in “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country For Old Men” announced their evil.

Keep disappointing your audience and that age group will disappear even further.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on April 7, 2008 at 7:32 pm

“Atonement” wasn’t THAT bad. Sad as all get up, but definitely not “crap.”

schmadrian on April 7, 2008 at 9:23 pm

‘Atonement’ wasn’t sold as a ‘Jane Austin’ (sic) novel', it was an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel.

And honestly, a way-too-literate piece of film for the mainstream American filmgoing audience.

It that makes me sound like a snob…I am. But then I’m also a ‘writing for the masses’ novelist, so go figure. “I calls ‘em as I sees 'em.”

schmadrian on April 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Some very cogent points you’ve made Al, I’m still digesting them.

I do have to say that your observations about exhibition are dead-on…but we’re still only looking at the situation from a modern perspective. And I suspect that most people here aren’t interested in how things are now…most of the strident opinions expressed here are made by people who are NOT die-hard cinema-goers, they’ve pretty much given up on the medium…they’re more interested in remembering a time long-past. But in order for today’s circumstances to have been created, the past sixty years need to be properly understood. Not just this time-frame’s worth of cinema-going history, but everything attached to Life over these six decades. Because nothing that’s happened to single-screen theatres, to the very basis of cinema-going has happened in a vacuum. Everything is inextricably connected.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 7, 2008 at 10:16 pm

If the Ian McEwan novel did not reach the masses I am sure the novel has better character development than the film. The movie distributor sure tried to reach the masses. At one point “Atonement” was booked into 1400 theatres in the US market to predictably poor results. I consider it “arthouse lite”. Shallow crude entertainment that looks classy.

Having spent most of my career in exhibition I have seen the changes. Theatres have been amazingly able to adapt to their audience in order to survive in the long run. Snobbery aside, consider how many palaces have been kept alive by kung fu, blaxploitation, porn, Bollywood and Mexican action movies. Thousand of others made it on popcorn and cola alone. Outside the US screen advertising is also most lucrative. Few have been able to survive by taking the high road. It is the economics of Hollywood that fail us, not the public.

I still go the movies and I like multiplexes. I also watch many movies at home. I find less interesting new ones every year at the theatres but mostly great ones I missed on DVD from before I was born. They are the ones that keep me going back to my local 25-plex looking for more. Not the food, valet parking or the prices.

schmadrian on April 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm

“Shallow crude entertainment that looks classy.”


Well, maybe that’s what the general movie-going public craves when it dresses up.

TheaterBuff1 on April 8, 2008 at 7:47 am

Schmadrian writes: “But I have to tell you: your ‘Titanic’ analogy lost me entirely. First, I don’t get what the ship represents…and secondly, what does it matter what you’ve ‘learned’ if you’re going to die? There are no lessons learned that will be carried on for ‘the next time’. Instead, all there really is to do is to listen to the band play…and complain about the damned iceberg.”

The “ship” represents Philadelphia, PA in my last post, or on the grander scale, the United States itself. And not everybody died as a result of the Titanic’s sinking, including those who were on the voyage and managed to escape. Hence how it was possible that the existence of luxury cruise liners did not end with the Titanic’s sinking. Rather, in this regard, the Titanic represented a whole new beginning rather than an ending — with great lessons having been learned from the first attempt at this as it were.

Regarding Philadelphia, yes, as a matter of fact, as it continues sinking, I am listening to the band playing, and I’m liking that much of it. And regarding the icebergs, I’m seeing them for what they really are, which is hardly the “enemy.” For it wasn’t an iceberg that sunk the Titanic; it was man’s own arrogance. A false belief in one’s own invincibility against the bigger picture — which, if you don’t know, is nature herself. And this beief in one’s own invincibility is not just a flaw here in Philadelphia at the present time, but all over the U.S. right now. Or would you have us believe that Katrina caused the New Orleans disaster? That is, who among us is barking up the wrong tree?

Philadelphia right now — as it is with many other places in the current U.S. — is being boxed into a position where it has to think that man is right and that nature is wrong. Politically speaking, Philadelphians are being given no other choice. And sorry, but I’m not going to start up a theater on those terms. But of the theaters of yore as I watch them go down here in the face of that twisted thinking, I’m taking notes constantly and salvaging what good ideas I can. Maybe for here at some future date, but for now, for elsewhere. There’s the analogous drawing of the small-size fish about to be devoured by a mid-size fish, and behind that, a big-size fish about to devour it, and that’s the way I look at things. That’s how I play my hand.

schmadrian on April 8, 2008 at 11:43 am

stares at screen

Well, then. as it appears there seem to be several different conversations going on here…tangentially connected at best…I’m going to withdraw to try to carve out my essay…which of course, as much as it will refer to a bigger picture, it will end up being a mere portion of an even bigger tableau than even that.

After all, is there a more compelling, more intoxicating, more infuriating a topic than Change (and the unwitting parts we’ve all played in it) ?

TheaterBuff1 on April 9, 2008 at 8:46 am

I don’t know if that’s true of all of us, Schmadrian. In my case, I remember when this or that strange event happened questioning it at the time, while others were just falling for it hook, line and sinker. Does that somehow make me a “guilty partner” to what happened? For I don’t quite see it that way. I can remember questioning things and also questioning why others weren’t questioning these same things. Take one of the great single-screen movie theaters I grew up attending for instance, which this link shows an interior shot of — View link

All the years I was growing up it was run tastefully and impeccably and I spent much of my childhood seeing movies there. But then weird politics entered the equation, namely, a new Philadelphia mayor by the name of Frank Rizzo, there were some major demographic shifts, and suddenly it stopped being managed the right way anymore. As in, what gives with that? And there were no answers to the question. Rather, it just started being run into the ground as if that was “right and proper,” while believe me, I DID question it. And today that once magnificent neighborhood theater is now a stupid bank in a place where there are already too many. And right before that it was a stupid drugstore in a place where there already were too many. And when this transition occurred, by golly I DID question it, the proof of that being seeable at the Cinema Treasures link, /theaters/8257_0_2_0_C/

So rather than just staring at the screen, maybe you should allow what you see when you do to register a bit.

Meantime, apologies for my not doing this sooner, but AlAlvarez, I want to commend you on the great alternative reviews you gave earlier of this year’s 2008 Oscar nominations. For you’re looking at these movies straight on and telling it like it really is, and I truly admire that. It’s very reassuring in an age when it seems so few dare to question and just echo whatever the “expert critics” say.

schmadrian on April 9, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Um…putting aside your suggestion in your third paragraph as something other than a dismissive gesture…I’ll respond by saying this: you and I are looking at the same situation, but in entirely different ways.

We’re both in front of this enormous vista.
(I won’t bother to describe it, because quite frankly, doing that just mires this whole exercise in greater rhetoric, narrows the perspective all the moreso.)
Now, while you’re addressing a particular part of this ‘mess’, concentrating on what has most intimately injured you, fussing over a particularly personal element…
…I’ve stepped a few dozen paces back and I’m more interested in the bigger picture.

Honestly, I sympathize completely with your experiences in Philly. It’s not that I don’t have my own version of that. In fact, I’m in the early stages of constructing a website that deals with the celebration and tragedies of cinema history in my neck of the woods. But really; sometimes these ‘discussions’ remind me of a guy sitting in a bar endlessly bewailing a lost love. Someone he shared something with, once upon a time. Decades ago. I question the value of railing against time and tide. I don’t think it brings the guy at the bar any relief…and I’m not sure it helps anyone here that I’ve been reading the travails of.

Bottom-line to me, as I carry on with my analysis: ‘Movie Palaces: What Went Wrong?’, is that we’ve all been complicit in things ending up this way. Directly, indirectly, actively, passively…we’re all part of the very big, very complex reason why so many of our single-screen ‘cathedrals of film’ are gone…and have been made so in such ignominious ways. To adopt an ‘Us vs Them’ mindset, to believe that all of ‘this’ happened at the hands of some bad men… I mean… Come on.

Anyway. I hope at some point you find some peace, and that out of the Philadelphia darkness, some light appears. (And that it’s not a train at the end of the tunnel that you’re finally seeing.)

TheaterBuff1 on April 10, 2008 at 8:09 am

Schmadrian, placing all the blame on dictators, or “bad men” as you call them, has always been the biggest cop-out to me. So when you say “Come on” to your perception of my placing all blame on some bad men as being responsible for the disappearance of America’s onetime great movie theaters, your perception is off, and your two-word response likewise. This is not to excuse bad men who were responsible for the demise of America’s onetime great theaters, only to say that in terms of who all needs to be blamed for what happened they were only some of the players involved. For the ultimate power lies with us, the people at large, not with them (save for things the laws of physics simply won’t allow for).

Focusing on Philadelphia’s Mayfair Theatre as an excellent example, its demise most definitely did coincide with a sudden Philadelphia political shift, and with a small handful of twits suddenly being in public office. That sudden political shift most definitely was a contributing factor to the Mayfair Theatre’s sudden demise, no question. But ah, the word “question” itself. I questioned why the Mayfair had to suddenly go downhill in the face of that new breed of politicians, but, how many others did? For that, to me, was were the biggest blame existed. For twits are twits. They don’t know how to be, are incapable of being, anything else. Meaning that the only power they have is the power we give them. And we give them that power when we don’t question them. And why didn’t we question them? I did. But who else did? For that’s where the biggest problem existed, and where the biggest finger of blame could be pointed to.

At the time of the Mayfair’s demise, the babyboomers suddenly came of age, twits were suddenly in office as the politicians, and the parents of the babyboomers were eager to get on with becoming empty nesters. So the babyboomers, who needed to question the Mayfair Theatre’s sudden demise, and who rightfully should have, were caught between doing that and being pressured to get out of their houses by their parents so eager to get on with becoming empty nesters. So the general outlook among the babyboomers became one of, “Who cares what’s happening to the Mayfair Theatre at this point? My parents at home are giving me hell, the house I’m living in has suddenly gotten too small, and I just want to get the hell out of here!” In brief, it was very much a pressure cooker type of situation, hence explaining the youth riots that took place around the Mayfair Theatre back around the time of its sudden demise. And if the Mayfair Theatre did go into a sudden state of demise at that point, in many ways it was understandable.

But fastforward to many years later, after the smoke of that crunch had fully cleared, why could not the Mayfair Theatre have been brought back as a theater at that point? I questioned this. Why didn’t anyone else? I questioned it and all I got back was a shower of nastiness in return. No rational reasons for it; just a lot of lunacy.

Many of the twits who had been in political office back when the Mayfair went under were still in office by that later point, and they’re still in office today. And today when it would make full sense to, nobody questions them, nobody. And it’s there that I place the blame on how the Mayfair Theatre building is today, not on the twits who are still in public office. At the same time I do certainly fault the twits who are still in political office today as being partially to blame for how the Mayfair Theatre building is today. And I argue that this situation could be turned around for the better if we could get real politicians back in office for a change. But nobody will dare push for that. And one person trying to — me — is not going to do it. In today’s context I could say, oh, those twits are to blame for everything, the Mayfair Theatre building no longer being this and this and that. But no, I don’t do that. At the same time, I don’t see how I can blame myself for how the Mayfair Theatre building is now. And when I blamed others for its demise, show me one instance where I was unfair — and off the mark — in my doing so. I’m all ears.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

The post WWII “white flight” to the suburbs of American cities had more to do with the demise of movie palaces than any other element. These huge theatres could not survive on “Super Fly”, Bruce Lee and Cantinflas sequels alone to satisfy their almost strictly ethnic support. (This subject should also hold some tribute for those palaces kept as money laundering porn operations and in some cases, truly profitable ones that also attracted commuter trade.)

White audiences mostly saw movies at their closest mall and politicians were hard pressed not to use public funds for movie theatres that were badly needed for poor and blighted downtown area social programs. It is a miracle any theatres survived at all.

The new downtown redevelopment programs have done a lot in some cities to help some old palaces but it is impossible for them to operate profitably without being carved up into the multiplex dynamic the current industry economics demand. It is this same model that has destroyed the next generation of suburban “palaces” that a new generation now wants restored. In some cases the rebirth of downtown areas, and even some sixties suburbs, have made the properties too valuable to keep as any kind of theatre at all.

schmadrian on April 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm

“At the same time, I don’t see how I can blame myself for how the Mayfair Theatre building is now. And when I blamed others for its demise, show me one instance where I was unfair — and off the mark — in my doing so. I’m all ears.”

Honestly, I have no frame of reference for the Mayfair. It’s not even on my radar.

As I previously stated, you’re concentrating on one particular portion of this whole situation. I don’t know how to respond to you on this level because I’m not conversant with your specifics. Additionally, my curiosity is piqued primarily by the overall set of circumstances that has led to the need and popularity of this very site. I have my own heartbreaks I could regale with…including a death during a demolition…but so what? I’m much more interested in gaining understanding as to how we got her in a larger sense.

schmadrian on April 10, 2008 at 4:02 pm

“The post WWII “white flight” to the suburbs of American cities had more to do with the demise of movie palaces than any other element.”

Well…I beg to differ…but for now, I’m going to continue preparing this much-threatened ‘essay’ of mine, an attempt to stimulate further discussion, rather than respond to your post, Al.

TheaterBuff1 on April 11, 2008 at 9:23 am

In Philadelphia’s case, and I think the same principle happened throughout a great deal of the rest of the U.S. as well, at a time when it was upon Philadelphia’s long-thriving industry to modernize so as to remain competitive in the world, the floodgates to foreign-produced goods were opened wide at that same time, most notably with Nixon’s meeting with China’s Chairman Mao in 1971. So as a matter of “smart economics,” all plans to modernize Philadelphia’s manufacturing were abandoned. And I put it to you that that was the number one reason for Philadelphia’s “white flight,” rather than anything racial. You are right, Al, that when such a sizeable portion of the population left Philadelphia the city’s palaces could not survive on the customer base that remained and which at that point was the only thing they had to work with. But rather than it being racial as you suggest, it was economic. In my own experience growing up in Philadelphia during that period, I was under pressure from my father constantly after I turned 18 to go get one of those “great paying jobs” down in the more industrialized part of the city, his not understanding that at that point he was living in the past. This was why there were the youth riots around the Mayfair Theatre the way there were. For so many others in my age group were coming under that same pressure. In my case, because I was by nature of white collar leaning, I didn’t notice so much the vanishing away of blue collar opportunities the way so many others of my age group did. Hence, when I attended the riots around the Mayfair at the time of its demise I did so as an observer rather than a participant. Plus I had the added advantages of not living in a tiny rowhouse that I suddenly had to get out of to get one of my own.

But the point is, movie theaters, whether palaces or otherwise (I myself never thought of the Mayfair as a palace) cannot survive well if people cannot afford to attend them regularly. Assuming you’ve looked at that link I provided earlier showing its interior, when Philadelphia was in its heyday, the Mayfair was at the low end of the many theaters this city once had. If you can imagine. And of the huge palaces we had downtown, I look back now and think, was that just a dream I had or what?

What must be kept in mind is that for the average person, and most particularly it’s true of those who are blue collar, the outlook is, what good is having money if you can’t spend it? So when Philadelphia’s blue collar industry was thriving, the theaters we had provided great places to spend that money at. And oh! They spent their money like it was going out of style, thinking the powerful cashflow would last forever! And the theaters thrived accordingly.

Many today seem to have this perception that theaters can exist in a vacuum, that other factors aren’t needed for this to be possible. It was the great illusion they presented, as it were. And many trying to start up theaters again today don’t seem to get that. When they try to, and then not enough people come to it so as to enable it to thrive, they think that everybody’s being overly tight with their wallets. And that’s really not the way it actually is. We’re living in an age now when we’re told that money is everything, without it we’re nobody. So against that backdrop, naturally there’s a lot of bluffing going on.

But when you look upon Philadelphia today realistically, its onetime thriving industry now long gone, if you assume there’s a lot of money out there, you have to logically ask, if so, where could all this money possibly be coming from? For it’s not money you’re seeing; it’s bluffing — not all that dissimilar to right before the last Great Depression struck. But truth be said, Philadelphia is so hard up for money now that it’s seeing dollar signs in its long existing parks and doing away with them, and money that could be made through doing away with its longstanding historic treasures — such as the empty hulk of Philadelphia’s Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia’s last still-standing movie palace, even though it’s been closed since 2002 — all to replace them with that which can generate profitability. As in, sure, liquidate everything of value we have and get rich that way; but then what? Nobody’s looking that far ahead.

For our longstanding out of relying on China to keep “moving forward” is starting to wear thin now. And with global food shortages now starting to emerge — dramatically being escalated by the fast rising cost of oil and the thirst for energy alternatives, namely ethanol — where all that onetime white flight from Philadelphia moved away to sure would come in handy right now if it was still all the open farmland the way it once was. And it could be that again, if people were to come back to the city once more. Restored theaters as theaters could help along that attraction. But there is the economics that have to be looked at, too. As in, why did the theaters all once thrive here the way they did? Certainly not because we outsourced all our blue collar job opportunities over to China.

So Schmadrian, put that in your essay if you will. While thanks, Al, for your great insights.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Just to clear up one point. I did not mean imply that the “white flight” was a racially motivated. I just happened to turn out that way for socio-economic reasons.

Where I grew up (Miami) the “white flight” included first generation Cuban immigrants (like myself)while the more recent arrivals stayed around the downtown areas. In the Western cities the same occurred with Mexican immigrants. While the remaining economically deprived downtown areas were mostly ethnic ghettos, many hispanic and African-American “yuppies” fled to the suburbs as well.

TheaterBuff1 on April 12, 2008 at 5:38 am

I hear you. But what’s interesting to note in all this, how come we seem to be the only country in the world where this pattern is practiced? Every other country in the world I can think of retains its cities as being its main population centers while safeguarding its rural and coastal areas as just that. Rural and coastal areas. Here we treat it as so “normal” that the proper thing to do the moment you get a chance, and if you can find a way to, is to up and move away from the city. And woe unto those who fail to, or who refuse to. Where does that come from?

I remember back when I was a teenager dating a girl who lived out in the suburbs, much of my attraction towards her being how much I admired the suburban neighborhood in which she resided, I was astonished to learn how much she hated the suburbs and wished she could’ve grown up in her father’s old neighborhood, which had been in Philadelphia’s inner city. Yet social pressures were such that to do that would be to go “back” rather than “forward,” it being an all-out demographic shift taboo as it were. For my father’s generation, and all the generations that came before him, it wasn’t that way. Just the opposite. The city was the place to live, if you could find a way to do it. And everyone wanted to live in the city. The great city.

And can the experience of going to a movie out in the suburbs ever be the same as going to see one in the city? I don’t think so, just as going to a mall, no matter how nice, could never match going to that big city department store. That old Petula Clark song, “Downtown,” says it all really. For could you imagine anyone singing a song with that much enthusiasm regarding the suburban excursion experience without it being a comedy recording?

When so many Philadelphians left the city they didn’t leave because they were fed up with city life. Rather, they left because the city they loved was shut down on them, whether it was the great theaters, or the great jobs, or the great churches, or the great department stores, or the great whatever else in general. Did it have to go that way? It doesn’t seem it did. Rather, it just seemed to be somebody’s twisted idea of how things should go, even though to all other countries throughout the world this demographic shift pattern is totally alien.

And your telling me of this pattern happened in Miami, too, comes as a total surprise to me. For Miami, geeze, I thought everyone wanted to live in places like Miami! Beautiful white sandy beaches! Sparkling tall highrises! Warm temperatures year round! I was there in 1976 and I thought it was fantastic. Everyone was so friendly, and I didn’t see any traces of poverty anywhere. It was just like that Martin Mull song, “Am I In Heaven, Or Am I In Miami?” So what the heck happened in Miami between then and now, as I thought it was still the great seaside city to live in, if you could. Was it FEMA that killed it, or what?

Truly, people living in foreign countries must be scratching their heads when they look at us!

schmadrian on April 12, 2008 at 10:57 am

“Every other country in the world I can think of retains its cities as being its main population centers while safeguarding its rural and coastal areas as just that.

Truly, people living in foreign countries must be scratching their heads when they look at us!"

Considering how, in this discussion initiated by an item about luxury movie houses, you’ve fixated on Philadelphia and its sad movie palace history, these portions of your last post really indicate that you need to concertedly look beyond your borders. Spending some time online Googling recent news items dealing with the -globally consistent- prejudice against cities, how increasing population densities within urban areas is a key to best utilizing all manner of resources yet is fought at ever turn, will undoubtedly disabuse you of some of your clearly parochial perceptions.

America is not that unique. Seriously.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Having lived in the U.K. for many years I can tell you how they avoided it.

The greenfield lands surrounding cities are protected from housing or shopping developments. This forces the town center(centre?)shopping areas to stay active. The theatres, however, still suffered from post war neglect and alternative entertainment so many towns had no theatres at all during the seventies and eighties. Multiplexes started booming in the nineties mostly in leisure parks chosen by the town councils. They would not allow any new suburban retail that could hurt the town center. In most cases there is only one multiplex per town and near the city center. They did this in reaction to what happened in the U.S.

Miami’s downtown area still has poverty pockets today and even had race riots during the late seventies. On the main street, Flagler, there were five movie palaces operating within four blocks when I was growing up. Only one survives as a concert hall and that one was saved by a local philanthropist, not the city.

TheaterBuff1 on April 13, 2008 at 7:25 am

Who has money readily to spend certainly determines the current state of the movie theater business, while I think we can all agree — even you, Schmadrian — that money to freely spend is not most concentrated right now in the hands of those who love going out to the movies (as we used to call it) every week. Assuming we’re all familiar with Tennessee Williams' THE GLASS MANAGERIE, when Tom’s mother asks him where he spends so much of his time when away from their lodgings, he finally admits to it’s at the movies, at least wnen he’s not working at the shoe warehouse to support himself, her and his sister. Although I don’t think Tennessee Williams quite got it right, and made it sound like spending so much time at the movies was a worthless, depressing endeavor, at least we do get some insight from this how it was in 1937, in that case, in St. Louis, Mussouri.

People of the upper class tend to feel that if they’re going to spend money on entertainment they want to see the real thing, not people on film performing, but actual people on stage. Sad to say from that, they don’t understand the great art form that film truly is; that it’s actually a much much higher art form than live performance is. This is not meant as a knock of those who are strictly into live entertainment and want to waste money on that stuff, mind you, only to say it as it really is. And that’s the huge problem ailing Philadelphia, PA’s downtown area right now movie theater-wise, and is probably true of Miami as well, going by the way you describe it as being now. That is, we can’t open up movie theaters and then get angry that people aren’t coming to them. Rather, we have to take a hard look at what is preventing people who want to from coming to them. Or, make it a philanthropic endeavor, as that one Miami theater owner did. But even then. please note, he had to make it into a concert hall — to ensure that people WITH money to spend would come to it. The same with the Roberts Orpheum Theatre out in St. Louis (ironically, the onetime setting of Tennessee Williams' play.)

And I’m not saying that blue-collar workers, when they have money to freely spend, enjoy going out to the movies regularly because they have a much keener sense of what truly is a much higher art form, but in an ironic sort of twist it does come out that way. And the past is the proof of it.

To understand what I’m saying when I say that movies are a much much higher art form than live performance is, imagine if Michelangelo or somebody were asked to freshly produce his greatest work each time those with money wanted to see it. To be sure, whatever that would be would tremendously pale to his only having to produce that work one time only. Those with a lot of money to spend right now are not the brightest people in the world, so they can’t really grasp that. And not that blue-collar people necessarily do, but blue-collar peoples' having money to freely spend was a major factor of why movie theaters and movie palaces of the past were so strong. FDR readily understood this, and when those of his echelon accused him of being a “traitor to his class” due to it, it quickly surfaced how much higher up the social ranks he was than they.

And Schmadrian, as for your saying “America is not ‘that’ unique. Seriously,” you are right. For the current pattern the U.S. has gotten itself swept up in very much has happened before. It happened in all cases of empires when they entered their states of decline, ranging from ancient Rome to what Hitler attempted to do in Nazi Germany’s case — lest we forget why he introduced the autobahn. But in my post I was referring to the here and now. Where else in the world is this happening now. Rather than leaving me to Google it, please tell us. For Al just told us what the story is in England.

schmadrian on April 13, 2008 at 10:01 am

Having lived in the UK myself for years, I can tell you that the difference between the US and UK is quite simple: they never underwent a post-WWII boom. Period. Whereas America expanded rapidly, the UK had rationing through the early 50s. So really, the notion that things were ‘protected’ from happening as they did Stateside is a bit of a misconception. More to the truth, they simply never had the ‘chance’ to make some of the bad decisions their American cousins did, because they were simply too busy re-building and recovering…and repaying their war-debts.

There is a general anti-city bias the world over; except in those countries where there is no option, the megalopolises must be mega-populated out of need. This anti-city bias means that people don’t really care all that much about the effects of rampant redevelopment or its sister, neglect. Cities in these situations are begrudged necessities. This, in the end, leads to landmark building such as those you mourn in Philadelphia being lost. When people don’t respect those centers where culture had once thrived…things die. What these people -and I’m talking about the regular populace as well as politicians- grasp too late is that cities are for people. That we were meant to live in them, thrive in them. But in our ‘cocooning’ world, people have been shirking cities. But I’ll tell ya; in the end, suburban life is a betrayal of mostly everything that we once believed Life should be about. Eventually, people come to realize that cities are not bad, in fact they drive the engine of the world we want to live in. They’re not only ‘acceptable’, they’re absolute necessities. And this realization is a real stinker when it’s finally made.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

If the UK greenfields were not protected then, they sure are now. Whether it was a result of the socialist years or anti-Thatcherism, government protection of city centers is very apparent there since the nineties, a practice that would be considered un-American here.

schmadrian on April 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Al, this is my point: there wasn’t the post-WWI surge, the wherewithal to make this ‘encroachment’ an issue. The default setting (‘Redevelopment, redevelopment, redevelopment!’) was never established. So it never became the issue it did, on these shores.


And while I know this isn’t a political forum, and I’ve had no intention of injecting into the discussion contentious conjectures, maybe we’re all adult enough to be able to venture off the safe path…if only for a moment or two. So…

America was predicated on the idea of ‘not being somewhere else’. Of ‘a new start’. Of ‘leaving everything and everybody else behind’. Of isolationism. To me, having lived there, having visited there since my childhood, having family there for decades now, my belief is that there are certain values extant at the DNA level. Most of them aren’t even discussed. They’re unconscious ‘self-evident truths’.

One of these truths is that, aside from those instances that afford chest-thumping, parade-inducing, flag-waving pride, the past is not generally revered. Heritage is not generally held in high esteem. There is far more a tendency in the US (most certainly in comparison with many European situations) to bulldoze and redevelop than there is to cherish heritage, to respect the past, to integrate it with the future. The most simplistic examples I can think of are a) movie theatres and b) sports stadiums. But here’s a very good one, one not so ‘simplistic’: Grand Central Terminal in NYC. That it was ever deemed suitable for demolition is proof-positive of this mindset…and not just on the part of myopic developers.

Take a look at media: there is so much of an emphasis placed on new tv shows. New music. New movies. Take a look at the marketplace. Everyone wants ‘New! New! New!’ There is far more value placed on ‘next year’s model’ than last year’s…unless we start to get into nostalgia…and here’s where the paradox occurs, one that brings into play the endemic American tradition of celebration. (My critical observations aside, nobody does ‘celebration’ like the US.) America is an acquisitional society. It consumes at a rate like no other. And in this consumption, it tends to look forward, not back. Honestly, if this wasn’t the case, you’d see far less of a decimation of movie palace heritage than you do. (And just to forestall any rebuttals to this suggestion, I’m not saying that in other cultures all theatres have survived. I’m merely saying that renewal has far more cachet in the US than in other cultures.)

What’s made this mindset all the more potent is the entrepreneurial spirit in the US, the ideology of innovation, of sticktoitness, of dreaming a dream and pursuing it. Given these two aspects, a general tendency to regard ‘new’ as being better than ‘old’, and a general drive to affluence…‘progress’…should what we see in American cities relating to this subject -the sad loss of cultural heritage- be so surprising?

TheaterBuff1 on April 14, 2008 at 5:54 am

Sxhmadrain, this might come as a sudden shock, but I actually fully agree with everything you’ve said in your last post, plus the previous one. But with that said, I just wish I could get a better understanding of where it’s all going — not this conversation, but the U.S. and the world in general. Perhaps it was movies that did it to me, but there’s this thing in me that has this fixed notion of what normal is, along with the natural seeming expectation of, “Okay, so when do we finally get back to it?” It’s like the long string of commercials you expect to eventually pass, yet in this case they never do. Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But that answer simply isn’t working in this case. Rather, they’re running commercials in movie theaters as well, as if we just can’t seem to get enough of them. And even the current presidential races going on is nothing other than a commercial only. So, too, so much of the media reporting of late. In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, for instance, there was a report saying the new mayor of Philadelphia’s first 100 days have been extremely successful — with as much truth behind it as all the commercials we’ve been constantly bombarded with throughout most of our adult lives now. With commercials we know it’s not true yet we accept it, because it’s just commercials after all. People willing to put up money can pretty much say whatever they want to, and we understand that and allow it to be our caveat when it comes to believing it or not. But when the media does this same thing as well, or we see the same thing happening in the arts, that’s what I mean by, when do the commercials end and we get back to the actual show again?

I want to know, for instance, what is the real cure for Philadelphia, PA? Or for the Miami, Florida of late that Al has described to us? Or the monstrous megalopolis we now see in what had been vital rural and coastal areas before? In getting a good answer to this I don’t want to see a stupid commercial, I want to hear the truth. As in, when are the commercials going to get through and when’s the movie going to come back? As in, I just wish the advertisers would notice that I’m not buying what they’re commercials are advertising. They’re sure spending an awful lot of money on airing them though, as if the “worthwhileness” of this immense expenditure is going to change when it’s not going to change.

But Schmadrian, you speak of Americans being obsessed with newness, while I have to ask, what is new right now? For yes, that very much is a trait of Americans, we do like new things, myself included. But to me, when a drug store or bank takes the place of a movie theater, what’s new about that? Who amongst us thinks a drug store or bank is something new? And as for malls, multiplexes, this year’s fashions, cars, etc., what’s “new” about any of it? For looking back to earlier in my life I can remember what new looked and felt like. And this ain’t it. “New” to me was like when the Jaguar XKE came on the market in the early ‘60s. There was nothing like that that came before it. I can remember when the first multiplex theater came to Philadelphia. And it was indeed new. And when the Rolling Stones’ “Satifaction” first hit the airwaves I had never heard anything like that ever before.

And where, I ask, is the “new” of today in comparison to that? For in terms of new, I am literally starved for it. That is, so much so that I’d even be happy just to see a new commercial that suddenly jumps out from all the rest, the one that says, okay, now this one suddenly has got my attention. As in, “What is this they’re advertising? I want to know more about it.”

We seem to be in a glut right now when it comes to anything new getting through, and that’s really what I’m complaining against. For you might be surprised that the things I’m “nostalgically pining for” are things that never got to happen. For instance, I bemoan the fact that Philadelphia’s industrial areas did not modernize when it was upon them to. That’s what I bemoan the loss of, not the vanishing away of the God-awful 19th century mills with their tall smokestacks billowing black smoke into the sky and emptying their rotten-egg smelling bile into the Delaware River. And the Philadelphia movie palaces I bemoan the loss of are not the moth-eaten seated and curtained hulks of yore but the all new and ultra-modern ones that never came to be. The ones with gigantic Cineramic digital screens, and large luxurious lobbies where you can be comfortably inside awaiting admittance into the auditorium rather than out on the sidewalk standing in the rain with your umbrella. For to be new, that which is new must be better, otherwise, what’s “new” about it?

schmadrian on April 14, 2008 at 9:55 am

Regarding my comment about the state of cities in the world, the prejudice against them, here’s a starter article; I’m sure there tons online dealing with the subject. (Google the title of the book, ‘The Endless City’) This is an interesting puzzle piece.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 14, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Interesting that London’s Ken Livingstone’s incompetent administration and failed congestion program is implied as a way forward. Having lived in Mexico City also, that city is much better tuned to handle its problems than fast deteriorating London.

Among Ken’s plans, a tax on multiplex theatre movie tickets that would finance a government run chain of new purpose built arthouses. The industry rightfully booed him off the podium for his tragic misunderstand of how the business works.

schmadrian on April 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm

The whole ‘Ken Livingstone: Boon or Bane’ is an intriguing discussion…but not germane to what I was getting at. Which was that when you disassociate yourself from urban living spaces, you end up with a mighty mess down the road, part of which is the decimation of cultural landmarks such as movie palaces.

I can think of three examples of this, from personal experience: Hamilton, ON…Norfolk, VA…and Buffalo, NY. Often this is the result of the notion that ‘Cities are Bad’. People develop the peripheries of the cities (more money to be made, everything is ‘new’) and the core dies. And to bring back a city core is a daunting prospect.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm

In an environment where fuel costs make remote living more expensive and inefficient every day, clustering around cities makes perfect sense.

The British Film Minister, an inexplicably pompous twit from a northern industrial town that had not had cinema in ten years, once told us that people did not go to movies anymore because they disliked the smell of popcorn.

schmadrian on April 14, 2008 at 5:03 pm



As the Brits would say: “What are you like?!?”

The key to making cities work is density. Only then can utilities and everything else be delivered cost-effectively.

And when you’ve got people living in cities…loss of things like movie palaces becomes less likely…because people are using them! What a concept!

TheaterBuff1 on April 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Just out of pure coincidence, I was rummaging through some of my old VHSs today and came across one which I had never labeled. So naturally I played it to find out what was on it, and it turned out to be various things I recorded from regular network TV back throughout the year of 1999. And lo and behold, in reviewing it it contained a special Friday night “Nightline” episode which focused on none other than the huge trend at that time of people moving away from the cities out into the suburbs and exurbs in droves and what to do to try to reverse it. And one of the experts interviewed at the time said the way the cities planned to get revenge on the suburbs was by overflooding them with new people to the point that all the things they had been fleeing from — namely crime and overcrowding — would become just as much a suburban norm if not moreso, which in turn would spur them to all come rushing back to the city once more. And one part of the strategy certainly turned out that way. As the suburbs, and even the exurbs now, are a total mess with crime and overcrowding. But in terms of former city dwellers flooding back to the city once more, I don’t know if it’s true of all American cities, but Philadelphia, PA is doing everything in its power to deter anyone from thinking of moving back to here again. And it’s now to the point that the suburbs are now retaliating against the city for this by throwing all their support towards any project that will destroy Philadelphia completely while at the same time blocking any projects — such as the restoration and revival of its movie theaters and last still-standing movie palace — that could enable it to begin to heal. I’d be curious to know how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defining “insanity” these days, as I believe this to be it. And the current skyrocketing price of gasoline is certainly adding a great deal of suspense regarding what comes next.

And here’s something very interesting to note: As I played back this old VHS tape which I recorded off and on back in 1999, everything had a much more new and fresh look to it. Everybody looked so much younger, happier, and even the commercials I inadvertantly recorded looked to be for products that were far more contemporary than those being advertised and marketed today. On a contrary note, though, and don’t ask me why, but I even recorded a “Nightline” interview with a former U.N. inspector (pre-Hans Blix) who kept ranting on and on about Iraq’s massive WMD build-up and how the U.S. must intervene. So in many ways it was very eerie watching that old tape now, to say the least. There was also a recording I made of Julian Lennon during one of his Philadelphia stop-overs where he sings a song that starts out with, “Daddy’s work is never done”…

schmadrian on April 15, 2008 at 10:18 am

As I tried to no avail to get this posted as a new item two days ago (the result of either a technical glitch or an editorial decision), I’m posting it here:

‘Challenge issued to those hating how things turned out’

Regular Cinema Treasures commenter schmadrian has issued a challenge to those movie palace aficionados who wish things hadn’t ended up the way they have.

“As hinted at in a recent ‘Cinema Treasures’ thread, I’d like to challenge all those who so animatedly decry ‘how bad things have gotten’ to put aside their frustrations, their habitual indignant ravings, and instead, invest these sometimes not-inconsiderable energies into suggesting how we might not have ended up here. (While ‘here’ is subjective, for the sake of this experiment, let’s say we’re referring to not only a loss of cinematic heritage by way of the wrecking ball, but also leaving us with bland, over-priced boxes-for-theatres with mannerless idjits for patrons.) Using the concept of ‘alternate history’, I’m challenging any and all to have a go at jiggling circumstances, at rearranging cause-and-heartbreaking-effect, at playing with all the contributing factors to end up with-

Well, to end up with something more resembling what you’d like to be seeing out there, rather than we have. This, in a nutshell, is a chance for some to put their money where their mouths are."

While this certainly isn’t an attempt to make fun of overzealous attitudes, it is an effort to develop some more perspective. If it turns out that there are some thoroughly creative approaches to retroactively revising circumstances so that movie palaces are the norm rather than the exception, then the time and effort involved to construct the framework for the exercise will have been worth it. If not…well…who knows what therapeutic benefits a deeper understanding, reconciliation and closure might bring?

The best suggestion provided by participants will be awarded a modest prize, the nature of which will no doubt befit a contest relating to movie-going.

The challenge can be found here.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 15, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Scmadrian, although it is an interesting challenge, you seem to have missed the thousands of posts on CT from younger people also decrying the loss of their suburban multiplex treasure.

This site stopped being about 75 year olds once any theatre could be included. You will find that among the most popular pages are those dedicated to the 1969 Ziegfeld and the 1963 Cinerama Dome & Arclight.

Many if us still still plop our dollars down for good experiences at those remaining modern day palaces but we have our own memories or long to have seen a movie at the Roxy.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 15, 2008 at 5:30 pm

“It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that many of the regular posters on ‘Cinema Treasures’ comprise a crotchety, curmudgeonly, really bad-tempered assortment of 75 year old men who bemoan ‘progress’ and bewail ‘the good old days’.”

As a regular poster, and reader, I find that this statement badly misrepresents this site. As a matter of fact, I can think of only one poster who can be described that way and he has yet to comment on this page.

schmadrian on April 15, 2008 at 6:08 pm


Well, it’s certainly been my impression, given the number of comments I’ve come across during the years I’ve been visiting. There seems to be more value placed on moaning and whining about the state of affairs, rather than any interest in understanding -and accepting- how things got this way. (And the parts we’ve all played.) As if the grumbling somehow offers up some sort of…well…perverse satisfaction. As if it somehow validates the person, being in such consistent distemper. Not only that, but there’s the typical ‘old person’s’ dismissal of different values, the likes and dislikes of a ‘younger audience’. It reminds me of my father’s diatribes about ‘Dancing With The Stars’, his self-righteous fury about how ‘THAT’S not ballroom dancing!!!’

Oh, and I wasn’t referring to you, Al, in any case.
: )

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 15, 2008 at 11:42 pm

I didn’t take it personally but I have read a lot of more posts from people bemoaning the lost era of BACK TO THE FUTURE than the palaces of the thirties. After all, how many 75 year olds are online?

Each generation waxes melancholy about their own increasingly fuzzy youth.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 16, 2008 at 4:03 am

This is the future of ‘Cinemas Treasures", Schmadrian. Not just internet tombstones as you see it…


TheaterBuff1 on April 16, 2008 at 9:14 am

The big frustration I came up against when I wanted to start up a movie theater anew but failed to, was the undaunting challenge of not only having to do all it takes to run a theater well — that part I didn’t mind and was very much looking forward to — but having to do that job plus doing politicians' jobs for them. It was the second aspect that finally led up to my saying, “Forget it!” Back when cinemas were at their height, and in the immediate years that followed, when it came to the politicians it appears there had been a lot of substance in FDR’s famous words, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” It was Roosevelt’s way of saying (to theater operators and others), “Do your job, and I’ll do my job as I’m supposed to so that you can focus all your energies on doing your job the best way you possibly can without fear that I’ll shortchange you in the process.” And with Roosevelt sticking to his end of the bargain, it’s no wonder why the cinemas of that era rose up to be so magnificent. And given the way politicians are today — failing to do their jobs but getting paid for it nonetheless — is it any wonder that our once great theaters have fallen on such hard times the way they have? For that’s a pretty big order for any theater operator to be expected to take on, running a theater well while doing politicians' jobs for them at the same time, while only getting paid for running the theater part while also having to pay the politicians out of that which they make in exchange for those politicians not doing the job that they’re supposed to do. For the way I look at it, if I’m going to be in a position where I have to do the politicians' jobs for them in addition to my operating the theater itself, then let me receive those politicians' pay atop what the theater itself makes me, and those politicians for the most part just can walk. Either that or sorry, but no deal.

When you look at all history, the Medici of Rennaisance Italy being an excellent example, in all cases where things of manmade magnificence rose up, there was that trust — you do your job right, and I’ll do mine the same. And the Medici were able to give rise to magnificent manmade things because they established a confidence that they could be trusted in that way. And FDR did the same thing. But little good can come in terms of the achievements of man if every politician takes after Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip when it comes to holding the football long enough so that Charlie Brown can kick it, shy of revolution. And putting all politicians aside, if we look to that solution, it is a bit tricky holding that football in an upright position yourself while running up to kick it at the same time. With me personally, my arms are just not that long! For trust, the great breakdown in trust, that is what the demise of the once magnificent movie palaces represents to me.

For how do you do it? How do you run a movie palace well without that mutualistic trust?

People are so weak and wavering today when it comes to trust, as if true trustworthiness is a “total impossibility.” Yet America’s great movie palaces of the past belie that. The stories told of how they were belies that. It is said of Philadelphia’s Boyd Theatre, for instance, that the man who had it built, Alexander Boyd, was so trustworthy that just his handshake alone was as good as gold. But today trust in America is so broken down and battered, that even with the strictest of written up and signed contracts it still collapses. Not that this is suddenly new. When Hitler signed the Geneva Accord with England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, thus spurring Chamberlain to return back to England declaring “Peace for our time,” Hitler then went ahead and invaded Czechoslovakia without even so much as blinking. And in today’s America with our current politicians that sort of breakdown in trust is just business as usual.

Maybe there is a way that magnificent movie palaces can somehow re-rise up in the face of this…which brings the tennis ball back to your side of the net, Schmadrian…

TheaterBuff1 on April 17, 2008 at 5:37 am

Hmmm… When you let the ball settle in the grass that way, the only thing that can follow is a new ball, new serve. So here goes.

If we don’t have the great movie palaces today like we once did it all comes down to a greatness aversion, ultimately that and nothing more.

Now watch that ball just go settle in the grass on the other side of the net as well…

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 5, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Get a load of British chain VUE’s bean bag screen….

View link

Eve on May 22, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Having lived the Gold Class experience many times in Australia – America – you dont know what you are missing! Its not beyond the reach of the average citizen, in fact middle class earning movie viewers in Australia constitute the majority of patronage, particularly in so called middle to lower earning “suburban” areas. The business has done nothing but boom here and in fact, you have to be fast off the mark to take up the opportunities to get bookings sometimes.

I think we’re ALL surprised here how slow the US has been off the mark to initiate this idea. But at the end of the day, if you dont like it, dont go. Nobody is pushing it down your throat the way McDonalds pushed their franchise down ours….

TheaterBuff1 on May 23, 2008 at 6:47 am

Just to update you, Eve, the U.S. really doesn’t have a middle class right now, at least not in the real sense. For our economy is much different than yours is at the present time, though that wasn’t always the case. In order to have a middle class you have to have fair laws that are strictly enforced, that is, laws regarding fair housing, fairness in employment, actual rather than rigged elections, taxation WITH representation as opposed to taxation without, and all that. And to have a middle class, you also cannot have a case where all things vital for a nation’s sustenance have been outsourced to foreign countries, in turn creating an extremely wealthy but very small upper class, and an extremely impoverished while at the same time massive in size lower class, which is what the United States has right now. Between the two, there really is no middle class in the United States at the present time, only those who heavily rely on credit so as to appear to be this. We lost our actual middle class quite some time ago, starting as far back as when TV’s Leave It To Beaver went off the air, in fact. That is, when that show was all new.

So anyway, I just wanted to bring you up to date on that. With that, back to what you were saying?

KarieS on November 24, 2008 at 8:15 am

I am beyond excited about this theater…I have actually thought about this concept for years. This place is beautiful and very classy. If we’re going to pay money to go to a movie we minus well pay a little more to be in comfy seats and have great food & service too. We tried to get in last Sunday but it was sold out!! These people are brilliant! Kuddos! =) and for those of you reading this and agree, Please come and see me at EL Gaucho in Bellevue we are opening this next week….Finally classy upscale places to go to on the Eastside! Cheers!!!


tietania on July 23, 2009 at 1:58 am

I’ve been to the Village Gold class theatre in suburban Melbourne Australia. Let me tell you, it’s not meant to replace the quick Friday night movie fix…. but rather it’s a great place to celebrate a special occasion with a special movie. It may cost a lot for a ticket, but their food prices are far more reasonable than you’d expect. For $43 dollars you can get into the movie and included in that is a three course meal (starter, main, and desert)or you can still order from the typical concession stand (popcorn, sodas, candy, etc.) Before the movie you can chill in their VIP lounge, and place your orders to be delivered by waitress to you at the start, middle or last quarter of the movie. They also have a full bar, and coffee setup. It’s really something. If you go out to dinner you slap down a wad of cash, but for the same amount of money here you get the good meal, but also the movie, and a luxurious experience to boot! I highly recommend it. As an American living here in Australia I can’t wait for the same thing to arrive in America!!!

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