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When the Midway was turned into a quad, for several weeks, the balcony was the only open screen. A large screen was suspended in front of the balcony during those weeks when the orchestra level was divided into two chambers. (I recall seeing “The Late Show” with Art Carney & Lily Tomlin there during this period; the workmen downstairs were heard and seen during the matinees.) The two downstairs cinemas opened simultaneously, and then the balcony was divided into two.
This Friday is official opening of the Regal Atlas Multiplex. The Da Vinci Code is the first big title they’ll show. This week, starting today, a series of screenings for the neighborhood at the Atlas. Take advantage. Not good news for the viability of the Ridgewood unless it’s repositioned and reprogrammed and renovated a la Cobble Hill Cinemas, Kew Gardens Cinemas, or similar morphing.
I saw the first press showing of “Close Encounters” at the Ziegfeld in 70mm. A gala night. I recall Paddy Chayesky in the audience.
Warren, I saw the first Natural Vision 3-D movie at the Valencia, “Bwana Devil,” on a jam-packed Friday night in 1952. The short was Disney’s “The Alaskan Eskimo.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Valencia had 3 projectors, and needed an intermission halfway through the main feature for reel changes.
On the night “My Fair Lady” premiered at the Criterion, Channel 5 presented a half-hour live special at 7:30, with arriving celebrities greeted by Arthur Godfrey. He kept plugging Audrey Hepburn’s upcoming appearance and interview, but her car was delayed in traffic, and she only was seen over closing credits and entered the lobby during the fade to black. This fiasco resulted in the loss of the station’s Program Director and thousands of dollars in make-good commercials for the sole sponsor.
Tom, you may also want to check out this website, View link It’s wonderful to know that Lamb’s descendant has found Cinema Treasures!
Most important, the architecture library at Columbia University is the custodian of most of your great-grandfather’s papers after his firm was dissolved. I had been doing some research on his last project and can’t immediately lay my hands on the notes which disclosed the name of the people who control the use of these documents, but a few calls to Columbia, and you should be able to dig right into the materials. (The project he was working on when he died in February, 1942, was a Queens Boulevard theater as a joint venture by RKO and Skouras, later to be known as the Midway, and possibly completed by West Coast architect Charles Lee.
New York Post today (February 6) described Borough President Markowitz’s latest attempt to “save the Kings.”
B'KLYN: SAVE OUR THEATER
February 6, 2006 — Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is leading the latest community charge to save the majestic Loews Kings Theater on Flatbush Avenue from City Hall bulldozers.
Markowitz is trying to persuade the Bloomberg administration that the future of the gritty avenue’s business district hinges on restoring the neglected 77-year-old historic jewel, which closed in 1979.
Reviving the 75,000- square-foot former picture palace and vaudeville house, he said, could also be the centerpiece for a bigger project that includes building residential space, a boutique hotel and retail shops…
Warren, I saw those same pictures at the Midway, probably on the same Saturday afternoons. Not the most pleasant matron in the children’s section, eh? Warren, as the resident authority on booking patterns in NYC, you’ve enlightened us greatly on the RKO & Loew’s chains and their theaters. When did the two chains establish the circuits which seemed to be locked in stone from the mid-30s to the mid-50s, and when were the decisions made on borough exclusivities and playoffs?
Already listed under Ithaca Theater. Ryan, the owner, was also the mayor of Ithaca for a time.
There’s a chapter in Frank McCourt’s “‘Tis” describing an afternoon at the 68th Street Playhouse. Frank went to see “Hamlet” and brought in food from the outside, a no-no. A hilarious sequence involving ginger ale and lemon pie!
I visited the Skouras New Jamaica (as it was known then) in the early 50’s and saw a live stage show and a double bill, all featuring Bela Lugosi. The stage acts consisted of three appearances by Bela as Count Dracula, rising from his coffin, with green and violet lighting, and at least three interludes with a magician. There were two awful Monogram pictures, with “ape” and “bat” in the titles. In later years, I learned that Lugosi, to support his drug habit and debts, did “bus-and-truck” tours nationally, and this was but one stop on that caravan.
Thank you again, Warren, for your diligence! You’re expanding this site well beyond what I ever envisioned it might provide. I remember seeing “The Man Who Never Was” at the Parsons, and, as may imagine, the CinemaScope image was pretty small in that narrow proscenium.
Does anyone close to BP Markowitz know whether Markowitz is aware of the progress being made on the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx? If the Paradise restoration and performing arts uses are successful, this could be a template for the great Loew’s Kings.
The night before setting off on a three-week camping trip from London to Istanbul and back (stopping in Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, etc.), we went to the Odeon Swiss Cottage to see “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.” A nice send-off for a great trip, and an impressive visit to one of Britain’s massive Odeons of the thirties.
Probably the most interesting historical note about the Port Jefferson Theatre (aka Art Cinema and Theatre Three) is its location as the factory for the all-important Griswold splicer. Here’s a paragraph I googled on it.
Few film makers, whether amateur or professional, have not at one time or another used the Griswold—a very rugged hand made film splicer that had been produced since the early 1920s. Manufactured by the Griswold Machine Works in a little factory behind an old movie theater in Port Jefferson, New York, use of the splicer peaked in the 1940s when thirty full time workers were turning out two thousands units a month. However, as technology advanced, the company experienced a steady decline in demand for its only product and went out of business in 1978.
In the 1940’s, I believe there were two Loew’s Poli Theaters in New Haven, the Loew’s Poli and the Loew’s Poli Bijou.
Hats off to Michael Perlman for taking on the important role of Trylon preservation advocate. This theater, a lovely example of 1939 World’s Fair style, shares this heritage with the magnificently maintained Senator in Baltimore and Riviera in Charleston. It’s a shame that in this nation’s greatest city there could be no action over the past four years to prevent the destruction we’re witnessing now.
From my posting on Cinema Treasures earlier this year:
Speaking of “Heaven’s Gate,” I went to the final showing of that epic at Cinema One on a rainy Thursday night. I was seated in the front row of the raised rear section, and next to me was Pauline Kael, who chortled throughout the film, took notes, while eating danish pastries and sipping on miniature bottles of whiskey.
posted by PaulNoble on Jan 6, 2005 at 4:03pm
It should be pointed out that the quadding of the Midway in the 70’s destroyed most of the Midway’s original look. That transformation was sinful. When the theater was changed into a nine-plex, it had to be considerably enlarged in width and height to accommodate stadium seating auditoriums and give necessary attention to accessibility. Also, engineers discovered quite quickly that the original building needed considerable strengthening, because it was constructed during wartime steel shortages. What exists now from the past is the 1942 building facade and vertical sign, the curved staircase, the oval lobby, excellent maintenance and the same graciousness that has always been a trademark of this venue.
On the 27th, I saw that the two Beekman marquee signs were gone and the one over the facade was still in place. The theaters across the street are now Beekman 1 & 2, and their newly-installed signs don’t mimic the original Beekman design.
When I saw “My Favorite Spy” at the Globe in 1951, there were two balconies. During the transformation into the Lunt-Fontanne, the theater was rebuilt and the second balcony removed.
From today’s New York Times Sunday Long Island section:
Things Are Looking Up in Downtown Riverhead
By JOHN RATHER
Published: July 17, 2005
CYNICS around here used to say that nearly every house and building in town was for sale, if only someone would make an offer.
Whether this was ever true is doubtful, but it is surely not so now. Riverhead – the historic, but in spots seedy, seat of Suffolk County – is about to pop.
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Deirdre Brennan for The New York Times
The exterior of the Suffolk Theater on East Main Street in Riverhead.
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Deirdre Brennan for The New York Times
The interior of the 1933 Suffolk Theater has elaborate tile work, above, and etched-glass egrets.
Deirdre Brennan for The New York Times
The Suffolk Theater, which has been closed since 1987, once had 800 seats.
That, at least, is the opinion of Robert Castaldi, a specialist in historic restoration, and other optimists who believe that empty stores on Main Street will soon be filled or replaced by new buildings, even five-story hotels, as downtown Riverhead is reborn, in accord with a new town master plan, as a perfectly situated center of arts, culture, entertainment and affordable living.
Mr. Castaldi, the owner of Castle Restoration and Construction in Long Island City, Queens, and his wife, Dianne, paid the town $707,000 in February for the Suffolk Theater on East Main Street, a rare surviving Art Deco movie house that had been sliding into dereliction.
The theater, the last of 11 on Long Island designed by R. Thomas Short, was built in 1933 but has been vacant since 1987. The Castaldis say they will make it the cornerstone of the new Riverhead.
In a bet on the downtown’s revival as a regional destination, the Castaldis, who have a home on Nassau Point in Southold, are spending about $1 million of their own money on the theater project, including the purchase price. Mr. Castaldi estimated that $2.5 million would have to be raised to renovate, expand and restore the 800-seat theater and to revive its interior and exterior, notable for etched-glass egrets, an elaborately tiled drinking fountain and the facade’s signature scallop shell.
Plans call for the theater to reopen by next summer for live entertainment, plays, dance, films, concerts and other events. The Castaldis have set up a nonprofit group, the Suffolk Performing Arts Society, to book the shows and handle fund-raising with their help.
The group will also have to raise about $1 million for its operations, and its success in fund-raising will also determine the extent of renovations. Mr. Castaldi said that a fund-raising campaign, which would include naming rights, would begin in September.
Mr. Castaldi, a compact man with a crushing handshake, is not put off by the current commercial distress on Main Street. Where some might see limited prospects, he sees opportunity.
His previous projects include restoration of the observation deck of the Empire State Building (which opened in 1931, two years before the theater), the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport and the Suffolk County Courthouse in Riverhead.
“This is Long Island’s last forgotten town where you can still do a deal, and the theater is probably its most important building,” Mr. Castaldi said. “This project is going to be the spark that will change Riverhead.”
Rob Dippel, the Suffolk Performing Arts Society’s executive director who moved to Riverhead from Cedar Falls, Iowa, in March, said that plans call for staging 60 to 80 live events a year, mostly during the summer. “We will do a professional touring series, theater, musical theater, dance, pop, country, comedy – we’re going to run the gamut,” he said. “We’re going to be able to draw from the North and South Forks, and I think there is a sizable market west of Riverhead.”
He added that classic, foreign and independent films would also be shown.
Some theater professionals said they doubted that the Riverhead theater would have such drawing power when established community groups elsewhere were having trouble filling seats.
“The obstacle they face is that what they would like to do and what the surrounding area is interested in are two very different things,” said John Blenn, a professor of music business and the general manager of the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center at Five Towns College. “That area has been a basic blue-collar audience, but things like theater and original theater have never seemed to find an audience out there.”
Riverhead bought the theater for $400,000 in 1994 and spent about $1 million to repair the roof, facade and marquee. But in July 2001 voters rejected a $4 million bond issue that would have allowed the town to restore the building as a movie theater and performing arts center.
Philip J. Cardinale, the current town supervisor, led the opposition to the bond issue before his election in 2003 but inherited the problem of what to do with the building upon taking office last year.
When Mr. Castaldi turned up, Mr. Cardinale said, he seemed highly qualified to carry out the project with private money. “We were very pleasantly surprised by his appearance,” Mr. Cardinale said. “If he can’t do it, nobody can.”
Mr. Cardinale said the theater fit the town’s plans for downtown redevelopment. Last month, the town formally asked for proposals from developers for a major redevelopment project along the Peconic River downtown. The project is envisioned as a small-town version of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, the River Walk in San Antonio or the popular WaterFire in Providence, R.I., a periodic event in which wood fires are lighted in caldrons along three rivers.
“We’re not asking for them to do a master plan,” Mr. Cardinale said. “We have the master plan, and we have the zoning. We want them to tell us how they would revitalize and recreate.”
Artspace Projects, a nonprofit real estate developer in Minneapolis that specializes in creating working and living spaces for artists in downtown areas, recently visited Riverhead and was interested in playing a role in its revitalization, Mr. Cardinale said.
Peter Sieve, the manager of consulting and new projects for Artspace, said he found Riverhead “extremely charming in the best sense of the word.”
“We left with the strong impression that all the ingredients were there for an affordable artist live-work project,” he said. “We’re optimistic we will be able to help Riverhead move forward and realize its vision.”
The Town Board is also discussing a downtown historic district that would include the theater and the 1881 Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue.
The town had been close to selling the single-screen Suffolk Theater to a buyer with plans to carve it into a multiplex. Mr. Castaldi strongly disagreed with that proposal.
“To save the building, it has to be a theater,” he said. He would leave the stage intact and with a single screen, but would expand the backstage area by 5,000 square feet, adding dressing rooms, lighting and sound equipment and a loading dock. He said he would also enlarge the lobby and add lighting, seats and more restrooms. And he would apply for a liquor license.
As word of the proposed renovation spread, people with memories of the theater visited during a recent open house. Some took old seats the Castaldis were giving away.
Larry Penny, 69, who grew up in Mattituck, said he and friends used to hitchhike to see movies at the Suffolk Theater during the heyday of downtown Riverhead in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
“It was a classy theater and the place to go for first-run movies,” said Mr. Penny, now the director of natural resources and environmental protection for the Town of East Hampton. “In those days Riverhead was where it was at. For us it was like going to the Big Apple. There were two newspapers, and it was a place of culture and entertainment and all that kind of stuff.”
The downtown declined during the 1970’s and in more recent years has suffered as retailers like the Tanger factory outlet center, Wal-Mart, the Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Pier 1 Imports opened on Route 58, once a downtown bypass.
Downtown, meanwhile, lost Swezey’s department store, but it gained the Atlantis Aquarium, which draw visitors to East Main Street not far from the theater.
New development, including an office building facing the river, is already planned. Suffolk County is also spending $35 million to renovate the court buildings on Griffing Avenue, which runs north from Main Street. A sculptor, Giancarlo Biagi, plans a studio in the space between the Barth drugstore, a Main Street mainstay, and the EastEnders Coffee House, a recent arrival.
“I’d say Riverhead is certainly on the upswing,” Mr. Dippel said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun just riding the wave of what’s going to happen here.”