• August 2, 2016

    South Bend, IN - Ghost hunters take over State


    From the South Bend Tribune:
    Skeptic, believer or somewhere in between — on Saturday, everyone got something out of public ghost hunts at The State theater.

    For the believers in the paranormal, it was an opportunity to try to communicate with the past. For the skeptics, it was a unique tour-by-flashlight of one of South Bend’s historical treasures. For the State itself, it was a chance to raise money for repair work to return it to it’s former glory.

    Theater manager Jackie Oberlin said she’s experienced unexplained activity throughout the historic structure, which opened in 1921 as the Blackstone Theatre Vaudeville House. It became the State in 1931 and closed in 1977. It opened later as a nightclub, and was foreclosed in 2005. In recent years, efforts have been made to restore the crumbling plaster and other issues the aging structure faces.

    “You can be in here and feel cold spots, hear noises or catch something out of the corner of your eye,” she said Saturday evening, standing in the theater’s main room. “I hope that people can get a better feel of the State, and, if people have that openness to connect, maybe experience something from the past.”

    BSR Paranormal founder Jennifer Jacobs orchestrated the event, marking her second time exploring the theater for paranormal activity. The first time she came with her Fort Wayne-based team was February. On that trip she experienced cold spots, felt touches, saw electromagnetic field readers light up and even caught voices on a recorder, she said.

    She didn’t expect to have a roomful of believers on the several public tours Saturday, but hoped that people who came out were interested in the property for one reason or another, whether that be paranormal or just to see the theater and play a part in its restoration. She said she does encounter skeptics from time to time.

  • August 1, 2016

    Colorado City, TX - Colorado City movie theater flickering back to life


    From the Abilene Reporter-News: There’s three things every teen wants. Big towns or small, they all want a place to eat, a street to cruise and a movie to watch.

    But most Big Country towns don’t have a movie theater. In Colorado City, they did have one for a time, but like Rule’s Tower Drive-In, it’s become a victim of progress.

    “I guess within the last five years they’ve been talking about us converting to digital because they were going to stop making film,” said Marcus Monroe. He and his wife, Beatrice, own the Palace Theater, which is attached to the Baker Hotel downtown.

    As movie cameras have gone digital, so too have movie studios when it comes to the distribution of finished movies on physical motion picture film.

    “We’ve gotten to that point where it’s rare that we can get a film,” Marcus said. “We open whenever we can get one, but it’s not that consistent or easy to get a film.”

    The couple bought the Palace in 2007, reopening it after nearly two decades. Both are from Colorado City and recalled being in middle school when the theater closed.

    “Oh, I was upset, I remember that feeling,” Beatrice said. “I was disappointed, we thought, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

    Marcus felt the same way, but even in eighth grade he had an idea of what to do about it.

    “When it shut down, everyone was upset and I told everybody I was going to reopen it when got older,” he said, a smile on his face. “And I did.”

    The closest movie theaters are in Big Spring or Snyder. One-way, that’s a 40- or 25-mile drive, respectively.

    “The reason that I support this is because I remember when my little sister was in high school,” Beatrice said. “Her group of friends went to Snyder to watch a movie, and one of them had an accident. She passed away; it was awful and it shook the whole town.”

    That wintertime tragedy brought home to her the need to have a cinema in Colorado City, but it wasn’t the only reason.

  • Traverse City, MI - Traverse City’s State Theatre Turns 100


    From One of our favorite Northern Michigan small town movie theaters is celebrating its centennial! Traverse City’s State Theatre turns 100 this summer, making it an even 100 years of providing unparalleled Northern Michigan events, film, and fun.

    Imagine paying 15¢ for a movie ticket. When the Lyric Theatre opened on July 4, 1916, with the silent film The Iron Strain, that’s all adult tickets cost. Since then, the theater has survived two fires, several renovations, numerous owners, and a name change to the State Theatre in 1949.

    With constant passion to honor the art of filmmaking over the years, and state-of-the-art picture and sound quality, it’s little surprise the Motion Picture Association of America named the historic State Theatre the No. 1 movie theater in the world in 2013.

    More than just “going to the movies,” here at the State, every film is a special event. This year, we celebrate the centennial of the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City. Happy 100th birthday, State Theatre! May we request an encore for another 100?!

  • Columbus, NE - Losing a piece of downtown


    From The Columbus Telegram: Onlookers gathered along 13th Street Wednesday as they watched a part of downtown Columbus disappear.

    The old Columbus Theater marquee suffered significant damage in recent storms that neighboring business owners said left it sagging.

    The theater that closed in the early 1990s has been a cornerstone in the downtown district and residents’ memories. It was hard for some to watch as the triangular, yellow sign with blue and red lettering was taken down and loaded onto a trailer.

    “It’s been there forever,” said Bryan Rockford as he watched the removal. “I remember going to the movies there. It’s just part of my life and my younger years. It saddens me to see it come down instead of restored.”

    Rockford, who lives in an apartment above a downtown shop, said he’s been watching downtown slowly fade away. A move like this makes the transformation even worse, he said.

    “I think this is the attraction downtown needs,” he said, lobbying for a restoration of the theater. “It needs it because I think downtown is drying up and this is just one more thing. The only thing missing is a tumbleweed blowing down the road.

    Mayor Mike Moser, who owns Columbus Music a few doors down from the old theater, said he was sad to see the marquee go because he has childhood memories associated with the building. But he understood the reasoning since it was damaged.

    “The renovation of the theater has been a popular topic for about 20 years,” Moser said. “There has been a lot of people who talk about it and dream about it. It was my understanding that (Mac) Hull was trying to get it together but it just never happened.”

  • July 28, 2016

    Tucson, AZ - Get to know Tucson’s historic Rialto Theatre


    From the Daily Wildcat: Vaudeville, furniture sales, pornography and Español. Much like your attention-seeking little sister, The Rialto Theatre has gone through many distinct phases.

    The iconic theater originally opened in 1920. Built in conjunction with its neighbor Hotel Congress (which opened a year earlier), had acts the likes of Ginger Rogers and the original black minstrel band to grace its stage.

    The Rialto went through several reiterations, including a stint as a pornographic theater that showed the original screening of “Deep Throat.” The 1970s really epitomized the “Dirty T” for Tucson — contrary to present day, downtown was not the place to be.

    The Rialto had a bad reputation and the theater was on the verge of being torn down to become a surface parking lot. Ironically, it took a boiler fire explosion to save the theater from being repurposed.

  • Morristown, NJ - MPAC Named Outstanding Historic Theatre 2016 by League of Historic American Theatres


    From Mayo Performing Arts Center has been named 2016 Outstanding Historic Theatre by The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT).

    Allison Larena, President and CEO, and Ed Kirchdoerffer, General Manager, accepted the award at LHAT’s annual conference on Sunday, July 17 in Chicago. The conference is the largest gathering of historic theatre professionals in North America.

    “It is an honor to be recognized by a distinguished group of peers who work to make historic theatres vital economic engines, community gathering places, and arts and educational centers in the towns we serve,” Ms Larena said.

    LHAT’s Awards Program inspires excellence by recognizing theatres and individuals for their significant accomplishments or distinguished service. The Outstanding Historic Theatre Award recognizes a theatre that demonstrates excellence through its community impact, quality of programs and services, and quality of the restoration or rehabilitation of its historic structure. An award-winning theatre will have demonstrated excellence through significant achievement, the impact of its services and breadth of populations served, and the length of time and/or intensity of its activities. Each year, one theatre and one individual are honored by LHAT at its annual conference. Former winners include the Fabulous Fox in Atlanta, New York City Center and Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

    “Mayo Performing Arts Center beat out an impressive list of nominees to claim this award this year,” said Ken Stein, LHAT President and CEO. “There are a great number of historic theatres doing great work across the country. The community of Morristown should be very proud of MPAC’s accomplishments.”

    “We share this honor with the thousands of community members who worked tirelessly, and continue to work tirelessly, to build, support and improve this venue that has brought so much joy to countless individuals for the past 80 years,” Ms Larena added. “We know that our work today will continue to inspire future generations to sustain MPAC as a vital performing arts center and the cultural center of our community.”

    MPAC, built in 1937 as The Community Theatre by Walter Reade, is recognized for its impact and leadership in the New Jersey arts community in scope and diversity of programming, community outreach and arts education. The rich history of Morristown revolves around community organizations, in which the Theatre has been central as a longstanding community gathering place since it first opened its doors. MPAC presents over 200 events annually, with over 200,000 patrons, has a robust education program that touches the lives of over 40,000 children and their families, and creates an economic impact of over $15 million in the economy (Americans for the Arts Economic Prosperity Calculator).

  • July 26, 2016

    Lakewood, NJ - Behind-the-scenes at the Strand Theater


    From The Asbury Park Press: Glenn Harrison has distinct memories of growing up in Lakewood — some fond, others a tad more awkward.

    It was 1969, and like many pre-teens, Harrison was venturing in the world of dating. He took his crush to the Strand Theater, which used to solely operate as a movie theater.

    “I probably shouldn’t even tell you this,” Harrison said, “but I remember being 13 years old and taking a girl on my first date (to the Strand). I saw the movie ‘To Sir, With Love’ with Sidney Poitier. I spent the whole time trying to get my arm around her. I was pathetic.”

    Today, Harrison is 60, and he’s reunited with his first love.

    No, not the girl. The theater.

    The Strand Theater in Lakewood is approaching its 95th anniversary, and for many the venue has an air of nostalgia. Harrison, who serves as president of the board, is one of the many people working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to keep the theater relevant and make sure it remains an arts center.


    Walking inside the theater, visitors are greeted by maroon, blue and tan colored walls and ceilings — all adorned in gold leaf accents.

    The Strand puts on about 150 shows throughout the year. There’s local and national acts, including musicals, ballets, comedy acts and live music.

  • July 20, 2016

    Stevens Point, WI - Fox Theater revival project at a standstill


    From the Stevens Point Journal: Three years after a group started raising money and pledged to reopen the historic Fox Theater in downtown Stevens Point, its members have collected around $200,000 in donations but made no progress toward restoring the crumbling building.

    Organizers say they have funds in the bank — enough to pay this year’s property taxes and insurance — after having spent $30,000 to study the building'sarchitecture, plus money on a temporary roof repair and on general building upkeep, taxes, insurance and utility bills. Organizers have collected donations including money, celebrity appearances and time from students.

  • July 19, 2016

    Lexington, KY - Kentucky Theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ will be saved, new group promises


    From the Lexington Herald Leader: The remains of Kentucky’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ can’t be played at the moment — but there is hope that within the next decade they may again ring through its original home at Lexington’s Kentucky Theatre.

    The sumptuous golden and ivory console is wrapped in plastic and sitting in a Jessamine County warehouse. The rest of the massive organ, which totals about 20,000 pounds, sits in pieces nearby. While parts of the organ have been restored during the last 20 years, there’s still a lot of work to do.

    “It is a treasure,” said Bill Webber, whose group, the Bluegrass Chapter of The American Theatre Organ Society, is now overseeing fund raising for the restoration and resettlement of the organ. “We must save it. … There are only a few original organs like this intact.”

    The organ that’s in the Kentucky Theatre is played by Webber on Wednesday nights during the Summer Classic Movie series.

    The original Kentucky Theatre organ — the theater opened in 1922 — has seen a lot, and not just during the years between 1922 and 1934 when it provided the music and sound effects for silent movies at the theater.

    Theater organs, with their distinctive horseshoe-shaped consoles and ornate decoration, once appeared all over the country. An estimated 7,000 of them were installed in movie houses from 1925 to 1933. Few of the instruments remain today, but both Cincinnati and Knoxville have restored Mighty Wurlitzers.

    Organ performers in the early days of film provided a soundtrack during silent movies. The instrument could provide simulations for everything from horse hoof beats to train whistles. The siren and antique car horn — which makes the sound “oo-ga” — are Webber’s favorites, he said.

    The Lexington organ was sold in 1977 to an organ broker, but later bought by Oscar Wilson, who put it in his home on Winchester Road and invited people to concerts.

    Wilson later donated it to the University of Kentucky. Over the years such theater organs became increasingly rare, and getting the parts and expertise to restore them more difficult.

    H. Steven Brown first came upon the organ in a “Lost Lexington” exhibit in The Central Library in 1993, and wanted to lead the charge to restore the massive instrument. For more than 20 years Brown’s group, Kentucky’s Mighty Wurlitzer, raised money toward that goal.

    But ultimately, the organ was never approved for re-installation into the Kentucky Theatre, and a flood of occasionally contentious paperwork flew between Brown and leaders representing UK, the urban county government and the Kentucky Theatre. Last month, Brown dissolved his organization.

    Brown said the problem his group faced wasn’t with raising money to restore the organ, but with raising money to complete the complex re-installation of the organ into its Kentucky Theatre home. Donors to the project over the years still need to be honored, he said.

    Brown’s organization did some good work in fundraising and providing restoration for the organ, Webber said. Donors to Brown’s group “need to know that their donations were not for nothing. They have gone toward the renovations that have happened so far,” he said.

    So far, Webber’s organization has two anonymous major donors for its organ restoration, he said. A Louisville restoration company is attached to the project and will soon start work, along with a group of volunteers.

    Restoration of the organ will cost about $200,000, Webber said.

    Like Brown’s group, Webber’s organization also wants to return the organ to the Kentucky but without altering the theater’s present structure.

    “We are going to get this done,” Webber said. “I promise you, this is going to happen.”

    Read more here (with photo gallery and video):

  • July 18, 2016

    Ridgewood, Queens, NY: Historic former Ridgewood Theatre advertises new apartment rentals for insane prices


    From New apartments at blockbuster prices will soon be the feature presentation at the former Ridgewood Theatre.

    The former moviehouse located at 55-27 Myrtle Ave. is being converted from a 2,500-seat, five-screen multiplex theater to a five-story, mixed-use building featuring a commercial space on the lower floor and 50 residential units on the upper floors.