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As an American, rest assured that we’re far enough along nowadays that we know that term has multiple meanings, just as it probably does throughout the British Isles too these days.
When people criticize the “Oscars” as being too long, it’s only in reference to portions of it which they cannot especially relate to, such as that especially God-awful segment where the MPAA’s Jack Valanti comes out and then goes on and on about the horrors of DVD piracy and how it must be stopped at all costs to secure Hollywood’s future. Unfortunately, because downloading movies has become so easy, whether legally or illegally, and college students as a general rule — the ones who download movies the most — don’t have a lot of money to spend given what tuitions are these days, it comes down to a crackdown on college students who for the most part are innocent. But Valanti’s attitude seems to be, “No, no, lock them all up if we have to!”
So I would suggest that that episode be replaced with what I’m suggesting, and that Mr. Valanti, who does have a very good PR image otherwise, be the one designated to introduce this mini documentary. A smiling and happy Jack Valanti as opposed to this soberingly serious man he is now.
As for the 1948 filmette, “Your Theatre,” which I’d very much like to see, certainly it sounds as if very good ideas could be drawn from it, but what I’m envisioning should be updatedly fresh, just as I’m sure that filmette was back in 1948.
In going forward with this proposal, we have to think in terms of future as opposed to the past, to think in terms of theaters as being things of the future rather than of the past. For ultimately there’s nothing new under the sun anyway. And now that a generation or so has grown up without theaters, aside from impersonal and generic multiplexes, it’s now very possible I believe that single-screen well-run theaters can be reintroduced to appear as if the idea is all new. And as surely as when the Beatles, Beach Boys and others reintroduced the barbershop quartet idea back in the early ‘60s in a way so fresh, so contemporary, that it appeared such had never come before.
So that’s my latest thoughts on the matter as I continue thinking on this further, and again, thank you for your great feedback!
You make excellent points all! And many of the problems you’ve cited go on behind the scenes of the Academy Awards already with regard to who they do hand out awards to. So what I’m thinking is, before it could ever be made a special Academy Award, at the very least, at some moment during the awards ceremony they could run a mini-documentary that acknowledges those who run the many theaters throughout the U.S. Or, since it’s a global economy now, throughout the world. The documentary would show flashes of this theater and that with no partcular bias, simply showing all the many different variations, and maybe with very brief interviews with various theater operators where they get to express the great honor it means to them to be able present Hollywood’s work to the public in the best possible way they can and to be a part of the over all artistry in the process. The flashes of theaters could show palaces that still are alive and well today, as well as small mom & pop (“Last Picture Show”) type theaters in small isolated towns of Wyoming or wherever. And please note, the flashes would only show theaters where love and true dedication to presenting the film is a major factor, not the callously indifferent multiplex chains. And quite frankly I think audiences watching this on the Academy Awards would love it! Especially if when watching they could say, “Hey, I know that theater!” when this or that one flashes by. Viewers would be glued to the screen in hopes they’ll see their favorite one, or that of their childhood memories. And the documentary could also quickly run through the history of theaters, starting with those of ancient Greece, to the first of the silent movie houses, to the most futuristically advanced digital or Imax theaters of today, with the message being that no matter what, there will always be this strong want in humankind where many can come out to see the movies collectively. The documentary could show the long lines of people pouring into the theaters in droves, and the many varied reactions of audiences faces as they watch the spectaculars, or the comedies, or the suspense films and so on. I.e, flashes of peoples' faces all reacting as one, at least for that very special moment at the theater, whether it be to “Ben Hur” ’s famous chariot race, or to Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot,” or the sudden invasion from the sky in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” And with all emphasis on the theater itself as making it all possible, not to mention the dedication of those who choose to run them well.
The DVD piracy you refer to is that which is being done for profit, which the movie industry has had some successes in cracking down on. But what absolutely cannot be stopped, however, is DVD piracy where profit is not a motive. And this is so obvious that for Hollywood’s sake it’s starting to get very embarassing as it keeps trying to do the impossible. “Pride cometh before a fall,” as they say. But for that dark side of digital technology, perhaps this same technology will provide something very positive as well, such as indie directors being able to create works that only the big studios right now are capable of cranking out. We’re still a long way from the latter, but if that point comes, the seemingly unsinkable Hollywood will go down faster than the Titanic, and as surely as the British invasion brought to us rock & roll as if it were a thing of its own. I hope Hollywood has enough sense not to let it come to that, for its own sake if not ours, but if it does it does…
We put up with commercials on network television because it’s free to us, and thus we accept that as part of the deal. But with movies at the theater, because we’re paying for the experience, for commercials to be shown at any time during the presentation is a total insult. It’s essentially double-charging. And let’s get real about, those responsible for the commercials shown at the theaters fully know this. The simple solution, though, is for competing theaters to be able to rise up to provide fully commercial-free entertainment at a fair price. And if this isn’t possible then it’s time to wake up to the realization that we’re living under a dictatorship. For as I see it, if I’m paying to see a movie, and then I’m forced to “pay again” by being subjected to commercials, and reputable theater operators are blocked from providing me, and other Americans such as me, better theaters to go to, that aint what I call free enterprise and democracy!
An excellent link regarding this theater in greater detail can be seen here:
Also, the theater’s official website:
I think we all can agree that if commercials shown at theaters can somehow be gotten beyond that movie theater attendence will dramatically increase accordingly.
Thank you all for your excellent feedback as I pursue this idea further! Meantime, I just want to say the idea was born from my experience as a child when my family and I saw the premiere of “Ben Hur” at the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia. It was by far the most memorable theater-going experience I ever had, and for many years I regarded “Ben Hur” as one of the best movies ever made. Many many years later I saw “Ben Hur” again, this time on TV, but as I watched I wondered why I had thought “Ben Hur” had been so great for so many years. For so much seemed to be missing that time around. And I realized then and there that when I’d seen “Ben Hur” with my family years before at the Boyd, the theater itself and the remarkable way it was run had been two-thirds of the over all experience and artistry! But how much of which Hollywood was willing to give credit for I have no idea. But if Hollywood could come to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of just how vital well-run theaters are to them, and share its profitability and fame with them accordingly, there’s no question in my mind that the motion picture industry would enter an exciting new age, bigger than it ever had been before, with the well-run theaters themselves being very much a part of the celebrity. For they most certainly are a major part of the over all artistry. Or at least that had been the case back when “Ben Hur” premiered at the Boyd. And that experience as I say can never be pirated. As for the Boyd today, it’s been closed for many years now. with activist community groups struggling to find ways to bring it back to life once more. But for this ongoing struggle the city of Philadelphia has no money, private benefactors in Philadelphia have no money, and wealthy individuals out in the suburbs who do have money are wrapped up in restoring their own suburban theaters instead, while Hollywood itself appears disconnected from it all in both cases. And then Ron Howard — who, to be sure, is one of the greatest living directors today — scratches his head wondering why his “Cinderella Man” didn’t do so hot at the theaters. And the theater operators can report back, “Well, we tried.” To which Hollywood right now might reply, “Well, what’s that got to do with anything?” So all told there’s that total disconnect I keep seeing, so unlike how it was back at the Boyd, when the stars of “Ben Hur” itself were there at the premiere.
Both movie theaters and movies are in many ways commercials in and of themselves, and it’s really no problem just so long as the theater attendees don’t feel it’s in their face and disruptive of what they came out to see. To give an analogy, it is said that make-up is applied properly only if no one can tell that the person wearing it has it on. In like fashion, advertising is at its best when the person who’s being advertised to doesn’t know that they are. For instance, if you look at old photos of the Mayfair Theatre as it was in the beginning, you’ll see these banners hanging down from just below the marquee that boldly read: “AIR CONDITIONED.” It was advertising to be sure, but hardly in a way that the theater attendees were put off by. And it all had to do with how the advertising was strategically placed. But had those theater attendees been subjected to lengthy film clips about all the great things about air conditioning prior to when the movie began there’s no question they would’ve totally hated it! But because the Mayfair Theatre did not choose to go that route — thank Gawd! — that Mayfair Theatre, because of how it was run, probably did more to step up the sale of air conditioners than anything we can think of. I call it the “lost enlightenment” in terms of how to best run a movie theater. And well composed movie can do advertising in a whole variety of ways without the viewer ever being aware of it. And I’m not talking about subliminal advertising, where a single frame in the film, too quick for the conscious eye to catch, reads: “Shop at Macy’s!” or what have you. Rather, I’m talking about such things as Sean Connery in a James Bond movie not making any special effort to hide the fact that he’s driving an Astin-Martin. Is this advertising in movies? You bet it is! And right within the movie at that. But who notices when it doesn’t throw off or cheapen the story? And anybody who thinks that Sean Connery’s driving an Astin-Martin in those James Bond movie didn’t help the sale of Astin-Martins a thousand times more than any straightforward Astin-Martin commercial ever did is totally ignoring the actual statistics. For advertising is at its absolute best when people aren’t consciously aware they’re being advertized to. And it’s at its absolute worst when they are. Among the things that has really hurt the success of movie theaters in recent years is the use of straightforward commercials in them. For I don’t know anyone at all who wants to see them, do you? So why would any theater chain in its right mind shove in peoples' faces what they don’t want to see? When it comes to theaters, there are right ways to advertise, and there are wrong ways. And the only reason why any theaters seem to be getting away with it right now is because all theaters are pressured to do the same, in many instances contractually locked in to doing the same. And this is the impasse that somebody somewhere has got to break. And if they do, it will go a long way in making going to the movies very exciting once more. Many theaters now think it’s not too bad for the attendee if the commercials are run before the movie begins. But oh, they are so wrong! At no time, before the film, after the film, between films if it’s as double-feature, or whatever, should straightforward commercials in theaters ever be shown. Simply put, straightforward commercials kill the theaters, and they kill the movies. And what customer wants to pay good money in exchange for that?
The above commentary is the same argument I’m making right now for another of William Harold Lee’s theatrical creations, the Pennypack Theatre (originally called the Holme) here in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia, PA’s Northeast. The Pennypack Theatre, built in 1929 in the Art Deco style and with the capacity to seat over 1,300, is in an excellent location to be restored as a movie theater, as it’s both alongside a major thoroughfare plus has no other movie theaters around in close proximity. Add to this that it has its own sizeable parking lot, easily sufficient to make it workable as a theater once more.
Trouble is, its current owners are insisting on converting the historic theater building to be a type of mini mall instead, which, when completed, will have a Dollar Tree Store, Pizza Hut, “upscale” coffee shop. laundromat plus some light retail. In brief, all things that Holmesburg has plenty of already. As for the consumer business stretch where the historic theater building stands, it is hurting like hell and has been ever since the Pennypack Theater stopped being a theater back in the late 1950s.
In terms of its over all size, the theater building is huge, and back in the ‘50s when it stopped serving as a theater it could easily have been upgraded so as to stay competitive, but for reasons unknown it never was. In terms of structure, it sits on high ground not prone to flooding, and its exterior walls appear to be as solid as the day it was built. At the back end it has an enormous stage house, suggesting it was also designed for live performances. Just a stone’s throw from the theater a popular upscale Italian restaurant is currently in the process of expanding. But this restaurant might be overshooting if it’s to be nearby to what the current owners have planned for that theater building. So I basically feel as I’m observing this that Norristown’s stupid mistake is being repeated all over again when it shouldn’t have to be. But with Northeast Philadelphia being the way it is right now, politically and otherwise, what more can I tell you? For I keep pointing out to people that the theater is in an easy to get to proximity from several upscale communities. But those who appear quite determined to convert Holmesburg to pure ghetto are choosing to totally ignore this fact.
Anyway. that’s the basic rundown regarding the Pennypack Theatre for now. And my prediction is that if the current plans for that historic theater building do go through it will be just another stupid Norristown repeat. Alas! Se la vie!!!
Thank you for bringing to my attention these great developments you have up there in the state of Washington — which almost has me to the brink of saying “The heck with here!” (“here” being Philadelphia, PA) and packing my bags to move there permanently, and on the next plane or train out of here at that! …Er, if not for a little something up that that way called Mount St. Helens. For given the way we just saw FEMA perform in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, can you understand my bit of hesitancy to relocate to any place that’s prone to natural disaster on a massive scale right now? Nonetheless, these excellent sounding operations you’ve brought to my attention might have a whole host of great ideas that can be introduced to here in Philadelphia (which is not prone to hurricanes, volcanoes, forest fires, tsunamis, earthquakes or other natural disasters.)
But although these operations you’ve brought to my attention are clearly proving that conventional film projection systems still have a lot of life left in them, or at least under that area’s unique set of circumstances, when McMenamins presents Monday Night Football on the big screen at its Mission Theater, if they’re not using DLP Cinema technology or something similar, how are they doing it? For clearly 35mm projectors can’t do that, no matter how top-notch they are. Unless they’re presenting other than live sportscasts.
Meantime, with regard to the historic old Northeast Philadelphia theater I’m currently focusing on at the present time, at this moment it has no projection system to speak of at all. Built in 1929, the same year as the stock market crash, although designed by one of the leading movie theater architects of the 20th century, it never really got to be the full flung theater it was originally intended to be due to the Great Depression that set in immediately afterward. Throughout the Depression years and into the 1950s it operated as a movie theater in a very watered down sort of way, but in the late 1950s, rather than its 1929 projector being replaced and other parts of the theater upgraded so as to stay competitive, it was transformed into an auction house instead, and when that failed it became a carpet outlet then a furniture & appliance store before then being boarded up completely just after the 21st century got underway. Today it’s under new ownership and its new owners are headstrong on making it a mini mall which will have a Dollar Tree Store, Pizza Hut, upscale coffee shop, laundromat plus some light retail, but just at a time when many would like to see it become a theater once more, and a real theater this time as opposed to something watered down as such. And the manufacturers of digital cinema technology are offering some fantastic financing plans to those willing to head in that direction, which from my perspective and that of others is very hard to overlook in this case. For obviously if it’s going to be made a movie theater it’s going to have to have a whole new projection system put in. So what would your own position be in a situation such as this? For the fact that digital cinema technology makes it possible to air live sportscasts in addition to first run movies is hard to overlook. Philly is a huge sports town, after all (even if the Eagles did just lose their shot at the playoffs), so to be able to offer that in addition to first run movies has more than one Philly politician showing some interest in this counterproposal for that building right now. And my feeling is that if digital cinema is ruled out in this case, and preference is shown toward film projection instead, it will never get to ever again be a theater at all. And wouldn’t that make for a sad story though?
Thank you for your very thoughtful and concise response to my enthusiasm over digital cinema! I very much appreciate your taking the time you did! And while I’m not going to say that any of the points you made aren’t valid — for I believe they’re all valid — my ultimate goal is not to promote digital cinema projection technology per se, but to bring classic old neighborhood theaters back to life once more, provided they haven’t been torn down, or so reworked as buildings that they could never hope to become theaters again. I’m currently trying to develop the concept of “gourmet theaters” as opposed to the “McTheaters” now so common place at major shopping malls throughout the U.S. My reasoning is that if in our neighborhoods we can have fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, yet also have upscale four-star restaurants in these same communities as well, why not the same principle with theaters? And the answer till now has been because reliance on conventional film projection did not make this possible or practical. In the last phases of traditional old movie theaters trying to stay afloat, not only were they faced with the challenge of attemting to lure customers to see films that were no longer at the forefront, but to make such movie fare alluring they had to really reduce ticket costs, and far more than they could afford to while staying sustainably fiscally solvent at the same time.
Yet let it be said that there’s no comparison between grabbing a quick bite to eat at a McDonald’s restaurant (where the food in question isn’t even actual food) and dining in style at a four-star restaurant. And if gourmet theaters, such as I’m proposing, were to be brought into existence, how could the McTheaters, which are now commonplace at the malls, begin to compare? I mean, it’s something you really wouldn’t even try to compare, as McTheaters are one thing and gourmet theaters — if they could be brought into being — would be something else entirely.
And it appears to me that the advent of digital cinema does make that a possibility.
Meantime, to touch on the excellent point you made about the projectionist suddenly being able to become a censor, given digital cinema’s range of flexibility, while your point is totally fair and 100% valid, that was not along the lines of what I was thinking. Rather, in my vision I’m seeing the projectionist as a DJ. A skilled DJ is one who can present music at its absolute best, and if he can’t he won’t be around very long. And the same principle in my vision would carry over to digital cinema projectionists. And I think of you as being the perfect test customer. For as the digital cinema projectionist I’m listening to you; I’m hearing your every word. I’m like a top line chef in that sense, knowing full well that if the food I cook for you is to your disliking, you’re not going to come back to my restaurant. But the challenge is convincing you that I can provide you exactly what you want to see using digital rather than film projection.
There was a long stretch of time that Gary Kasparov was the greatest chessplayer in the world. He was so great that not even the fastest, most advanced computers could beat him. But as was inevitable, a time did come when this was no longer the case. And if it hasn’t happened already, that day is inevitably coming with digital cinema technology as well. And the big positive I’m seeing in that is that it will allow the wonderful old movie theaters that still exist here and there to come back to life as movie theaters once more. For think of it this way: If a grand old mansion was standing in your neighborhood, you’d probably be upset as most people would, if it were converted to be a McDonald’s Restaurant, and with whatever history it contained being treated as neither here nor there in the process. But on the other hand, if it was taken over (as opposed to being demolished) to be made an ultra-classy four-star restaurant which played up the old mansion’s history and wonderful architecture to the hilt, I believe most people would regard that as being very positive. McDonald’s, because it is very formulaic, doesn’t have the advantage of being able to do that. And the same pretty much is true of the big theater chains right now. They’re not in position where they can take hold of a classic and totally unique old theater building and bring it back to life as it was originally intended to be. To do so would throw off the whole chain replication concept. And replication is precisely what they thrive upon. Loews has its formula, Hoyts has its, and so on. And it was the high cost of film projection that forced them to become this way. But digital cinema is changing that. Not in that theaters that make up a chain can become more individualistic; but individual theaters, rather than those of chains, suddenly have a means of coming into their own once more. And I’d be hardpressed to understand why you’d have anything against that. For a lot of Americans, not just me, want to see the unique, individualistic theaters come into being once more.
And digital cinema to me is opening the way to that, whereby conventional film is incapable of this. As has been proven over the past 25 years or so.
Sorry for my lateness in getting back to you in response to your question, while I hope you’re still tuned! (Cinema Treasures sends me e-mails letting me know somebody just replied to my commentary, but I must have accidentally deleted the one with a link to this page by mistake.)
Anyway, to get on with answering your question, the reason why someone would prefer seeing a movie at a theater as opposed to at home has to do with the movie theater going experience — that is, seeing the movie on the giant screen, in the setting of many others watching the movie at the same time, and so on. And let it be said that some movies are specifically directed to be seen in this context.
As for the difference between film projection and digital cinema projection, if you’re seated out in the audience, you couldn’t tell if what you’re seeing is being projected from a film projector or from a digital cinema projector, particularly if it’s made to look like like it’s on film. Add to this that the theater going experience is one thing that cannot be pirated.
And from the movie theater operator’s perspective, the advantages of digital cinema over conventional film projection are tremendous! And aside from overcoming high film dstribution costs. Unlike how it is with digital, film wears out. Not only that, but it can break suddenly, causing dark screen in the middle of a presentation. Furthermore, there’s very little that can be done to enhance the image that’s being projected from film, a universe away from how it is with digital cinema. With digital cinema, suddenly the projectionist has the power to increase or decrease color saturation, adjust the contrast, etc., to enable the customers to see the movie at its absolute best. In brief, the projectionist becomes part of the art making process in that sense. A luxury film projectionists never had.
Also, the advent of digital cinema makes neighborhood theaters suddenly practical once more. No longer having to wait till first run movies get done playing at the first in line theaters first, which can take up to 6 weeks, they can now present the same movie at the same time, and with the same level of quality, if not better. And this just at a time when countless Americans all over the U.S. are begging for the return of neighborhood movie theaters once more.
Finally, as you likely know, ALL movies being produced today, even though they may be shot on film initially, are transferred onto digital for editing purposes, adding special effects, etc., before then being transferred back to film just before distribution.
So hopefully that answers your question. And again, sorry in the delay!
Oops! I meant to say “Mayfair Theatre” in that second to last paragraph above, not “Pennypack.” Freudian slip I suppose.
For the Pennypack Theatre building up Frankford Avenue to Mayfair’s north east is perfectly positioned to becoming a movie theater once more, given the sizeable parking lot it has — the one critically needed thing the Mayfair Theatre building is totally lacking right now. And with no way of changing this without causing undue hardship to other businesses in close proximity — including Steck (though, given the type businessman he is, he’d never appreciate my saying this.)
It is not the consumer’s place to deal with a businessman in a business-like manner. This was a b to c relationship, not a b to b relationship. Back during Mayfair’s best days, when the Mayfair Theatre was just as it should be, just as it was designed to be, to serve as a theater, all the businessmen throughout Mayfair understood how b to c relationships are supposed to work, which is why Mayfair was such an enjoyable place to go to back then. Now, however, Mayfair is like a charity where people go to shop not because they really want to, but out of shear dread that it will become even more blighted if they don’t. And the only real reason why it’s not looking more blighted right now than it is is because it’s getting all these government bailouts (re: your and my taxdollars)so as to look halfway decent, albeit in a very propped up fashion. Don’t believe me? Hey, see for yourself. Just look at that big sign they have along Frankford Avenue in front of the Mayfair Theatre that reads: “Mayfair, a Great Place to Work and Live,” and then look down at the bottom left where it lists the name of three current politicians — John Perzel, Joan Krajewski and Mayor Street. See, to me, a true businessman knows how to run a business in such a way that they don’t require vast expenditures of your and my taxdollars to make it look like they know what the heck they’re doing. And the businessmen of the original Mayfair were true businessmen. Then came the new breed, the Stecks and so on, all just in it for themselves and we the consumer be damned. And if you criticized this new breed in anyway they’d penalize you by not repairing your word processor right or what have you. Which is exactly what did happen in my case when I simply spoke the truth regarding the Mayfair Theatre to that Steck guy. When I got the word processor home, the damned thing didn’t work, I had a college term paper I needed to get down for class that night, so I called up the Steck guy and made him come out to my house to fix it there. He did so, but only when I made it clear I’d kill him if he didn’t (figuratively speaking, of course.) Several years later. when Bill Clinton, campaigning for president, made a stop at the Mayfair Diner, I remember hoping he’d see that Pennypack Theatre building and quicky point out to U.S. Rep Borski and others who were campaigning with him that day that it needs to get back to being a theater once more, just as any truly great presidential candidate would have done.
To better explain, did you ever see the movie, “The Last Picture Show”? In that film, the closing down of the town’s movie theater in the film’s finale is the ultimate symbol of the town’s demise and death. Meantime, in Ambler and in Phoenixville we’re seeing the exact opposite of this going on right now, now that their movie theaters are being newly brought to life once more. And yes, though they might be getting government grants to aid in the restoration (your and my taxdollars), at least in this case it’s for something the people really want. But do I want my taxdollars being wasted on bailing out a businessmen who resents my love of movie theaters, not to mention resenting doing what I;m paying them my hard-earned dollars to do? Well what do you think? And just out of curiosity, what brings you to the Cinema Treasures website anyway, HDTV? For I get a sense you don’t like movie theaters very much, going by your above commentary…
Are they running commercials at the Orleans? If so, it totally contradicts another major reason why anyone — short of those who love getting ripped off — would be motivated to go out to see a movie at a theater. At that big convention the theater operators held out in Chicago, in their giving the green light to digital, wasn’t one of the agreements reached that if they chose to, at their own discretion, they could opt out of running commercials at their respective theaters if they said okay to digital? I’m pretty sure that was the agreement reached, meaning that if the AMC Orleans is running commercials it’s doing something it doesn’t have to and that obviously no reputable theater operator would. Making an excellent argument why the Orleans needs to have a competing theater operating in close proximity. Not that this second theater in the area would cause the Orleans to clean up its act, but at least it would provide Northeast Philly’s more intelligent citizenry with a theater they could feel satisfied with. Showing previews/trailers is acceptable. But commercials!? At a theater!? Woe! That’s blasphemy!!!
Several weeks ago the closest digital theater to us was up in Elizabeth, NJ, over 61 miles away. But since then it’s come a bit closer in that the United Artists King of Prussia Stadium 16, which is 18 miles away from us, now has it. So I’m going to venture a guess from that that whatever theaters here in Philadelphia switch over to digital are those that plan to stick around, and whatever ones don’t will be the ones shutting down. So if AMC Orleans is telling everybody that it has no plans of shutting down next year, but isn’t scheduled to switch over to digital anytime soon, the latter is the real giveaway as to what the actual truth is. As for the two theaters built on the side of the original Orleans having bigger screens than the original theater building did, that’s because they were designed specifically to be theaters unto themselves. But if you take the original Orleans theater and make it into a single screen theater once more — as it was originally intended to be anyway — it will easily be able to stay competitive and be right up there with the best theaters around in terms of over all screen size. And to be sure, a lot of the quality-conscious-consumers who stopped coming to it when it was split up into two smaller theaters will start going to it once more. I know that I certainly will if it’s showing the movie I want to see, but which the Pennypack Theatre closer to home to me (which when restored will be a single screen theater) isn’t. And I’m sure there will be times when it will be vice versa for those residing over in the Orleans Theatre area. For to me it would be damned foolish for the Orleans Theatre to shut down completely next year just at the dawn of digital cinema. For the restored Pennypack Theatre just in itself as the only digital cinema around is going to have a very limited capacity regarding how many consumers it can serve at any one given time. It’s got enough going for itself that it can be one of several digital cinemas with a single screen right in this over all NE Philly region, both in terms of its parking capacity and location, but for it to really work out well for everybody the AMC Orleans should set its sights on becoming a single screen cinema theater, too. And what about the old Castor Theatre nearby? For if it has adequate parking space, that should be restored to being a theater as well, this time around an all-new digital one. And what a pity the Crest up there on Rising Sun Avenue didn’t get to stick around long enough to see the digital age. I saw “The Last Picture Show” there, and how ironic it is now as I look back in that, unknownst to me at the time, I was actually living that movie as I was seeing it…
The one memory I have of the Mayfair Theatre has to do with when I took my word processor to be repaired at Steck Typewriter, which is just across the street from it on Cottman Avenue. This was sometime back in the early 1990s, and the theater had been converted to a Thrift Drug by then or some other crap. Anyway, I said to Mr. Steck, the guy who owned the typewriter place, how really sad it was that the Mayfair across the street was no longer a movie theater. And although he didn’t come right out and say it, the look on his face said, “Well who the hell are you, buddy!?” He then did a really lousy job of repairing my word processor, not to mention charging me a small fortune for the really lousy work he did. I guess it was just his low life sort of way of getting back at me for speaking the truth about the Mayfair Theatre. For as a kid I used to love going down to Mayfair, and that theater itself was at the heart of it all. And it wasn’t just me who felt this way. Back sometime in the mid ‘70s when the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, and revelers came out to the intersection of Frankford and Cottman the night they won, things got so out of hand that they were vandalizing things left and right. Store windows all around there got smashed, and a whole 66 trackless trolley was abandoned there at Frankford and Cottman, not to mention car windows being busted and so on. But the one thing I’ll always remember is how the most prominant thing of all at that intesection — the Mayfair Theatre, which back at that time was still a theater — was completely untouched. With destruction of other things going on all around it, given how so drunk out of their skulls many in the crowds were that night, the love everyone had for that theater itself was so great that nobody dared touch it. And that is something I’ll always remember.
I must have looked and relooked at that photo at the top of this webpage at least a million times now, but have yet to see anything that could even remotely fit the description of a ghost named “Freddy.” I even copied the photo and cropped it down to just the part where the ghost is said to be standing and enlarged it full screen on my computer. Yet even then there was not the slightest indication of any sort of spirit being there, in black & white or otherwise. Sure is a beautiful theater though!
Philadelphia is not New York City, though, in that it has so much positive going for it that can offset any negative impact OTB parlors can have. Or so it seems.
My main concern however is that Northeast Philadelphia at the present time in terms of its movie theaters has nothing that can be described as “quality-conscious-consumer friendly.” No one with any class would be caught dead walking into the AMC Orleans right now the way it’s being run, except perhaps as a joke. One thing that might change the way the AMC Orleans is currently being run at some future point is if the Fox Chase Cancer Center v. Burholme Park dispute going on farther up Cottman Avenue gets resolves with those favoring saving the park prevailing the victors. But right now with all bets being placed on the bad guys winning in that dispute, the AMC Orleans has itself positioned for what it expects to prevail in a very opportunistic sort of way. Not that it ever really was a classy theater. I think in the beginning it tried to be classy when pressures were on it to be, but in later years, when Perzel and other mistakenly-elected politicians such as that came along, was told, “Okay, you can relax now,” at which point it split its main theater building into two and added those two smaller theaters to its side and then those really dinky ones in back where the Pathmark used to be. But to give credit where it’s due, at least it continued onward as a theater rather than becoming an OTB facility or what have you. And that’s a lot more than can be said of the nearby Crest, which became a fur coat store, and the Mayfair, which became an Eckards. Or the Pennypack over in the Holmesburg section, which, since the ‘50s has been everything but a theater. So at the very least, hats off to the AMC Orleans for staying on course by remaining a theater! All told, as you can see, there are so many different ways you can look at it….
It’s hard to imagine how anyone arriving to the Orleans and finding out the movie they came to see is being exhibited at one of those dinky small theaters they have in back where the Pathmark used to be could do so without feeling hugely let down. And do they charge the same admission at those littler theaters that they do at the bigger ones? If so, it’s hard to conceive how this could even be legal! In fact, I’d feel really let down if the movie I came to see was being shown in one of the not quite as small theaters they built on the side of the original Orleans. But I guess all this is to be expected when it’s the only theater complex around for a very wide radius. Still, it really isn’t right, and it’s sad that folks in this area put up with it. And perhaps the OTB parlor built so near to it reveals the degree that gambling operations such as that, not to mention slots parlors, downgrade everything that’s right around them. In brief, I’m seeing here, just as was proven in Atlantic City, that gambling, except with regard to itself, is bad for other businesses right around it, draining away the lifeblood from what had some degree of life before. And what a terrible context to see a movie in! I mean, is it any wonder that 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” was the main feature being shown there last Saturday? And in its two main theaters at that? I guess that all told the way the Orleans is being run now works out for those who like getting ripped off. But what about having a theater in Northeast Philly to satisfy the needs of the more quality conscious consumers residing around here? Or is it now the case that there aren’t any left, that all such consumers have now vacated Northeast Philadelphia for good because there’s nothing left around here to make them want to stay? For oh how so much a poorly run theater — but which wasn’t always — seems to reveal!
Good Memory! Meantime, er, what’s a park turf club OTB facility?