Comments from TheaterBuff1

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TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about Challenge issued to those hating how things turned out on Apr 22, 2008 at 3:04 am

My own observations and studies all reveal that bad politics was the primary and in some instances only reason why the great movie theaters of the past — whether grand palaces or classic neighborhood single-screen theaters — met their demise. Politics was responsible for this in several ways.

Number one was bad economic policy. Following WWII we essentially adopted the same economic policies of the countries we had just defeated. and fully abandoned those which had brought us to that point of strength that enabled us to win WWII, notably, the New Deal that had lifted us out of the Great Depression.

Number two was the ignoring of existing laws on the part of politicians. Pretended legislation was enforced in total disregard of actual law. This suddenly put theater operators in an impossibly awkward position of having to work within a framework of politicians' whims rather than anything solid and concrete.

Number three was destructive taxation. Totally ignoring the First Amendment factor, theaters were suddenly treated as businesses just like any other businesses when it came to taxation. Taxation also helped to bring about theaters' demise by way of unfair taxation of theater patrons. I.e., money they would’ve normally spent on attending the theater suddenly was siphoned away by dramatically escalated taxes, and made all the worse in that it was taxation without representation.

But not to lament too much on what happened in the past, when things get too bad, society does change. And though we haven’t fully reached that point yet, we’re not too far from it now. And if we succeed in changing and not ending up like Mars, I have no doubt the world will see single-screen movie palaces again, and better than before. And to be sure, the data collected by this website will come in very handy then.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:37 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…

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 16, 2008 at 4:14 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
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 15, 2008 at 2:00 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”…

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 14, 2008 at 12:54 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?

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 13, 2008 at 2:25 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about South Dakota theaters documentary on Apr 12, 2008 at 2:02 am

This is an ironic twist, because where I live — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — all the successful theaters are located out in the suburbs now, the city theaters we had unable to compete with them…

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 12, 2008 at 12:38 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!

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 11, 2008 at 4:23 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 10, 2008 at 3:09 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 9, 2008 at 3:46 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 8, 2008 at 2:47 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 7, 2008 at 5:39 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:49 am

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

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:40 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
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 5, 2008 at 12:57 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about Plan for Regal, AMC, Cinemark to go all digital on Apr 4, 2008 at 3:04 am

To me it’s not that DLP itself that has major drawbacks, rather, it’s the current times we’re living in as this new technology is being introduced. That is, politically speaking, we’re living in a “nice guys finish last” type of era right now. The new technology needs to be launched in combination with a deep caring for current day audiences, and politically speaking there’s not much of a regard — or respect — for that type of caring right now. It’s the givers v. the takers, and right now the takers clearly have the upper hand. And when it comes to those with the taker type mindset, they don’t have any especial desire to give the audiences the best exhibition they possibly can. Rather, it’s “here’s your DLP gruel, just accept it, don’t expect to like it.”

I believe though, that in the right hands, DLP can far outshine 70mm if given a chance to. And that chance hasn’t come up yet.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 4, 2008 at 2:41 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?

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 3, 2008 at 3:20 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:36 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 2, 2008 at 1:37 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about $35 tickets for luxury movie theater on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:41 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…

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about The architecture of today's theaters on Mar 25, 2008 at 2:50 am

Since that last post of mine, I took out a moment of time today to watch a DVD a friend of mine gave me recently titled “La Reggia Di Versailles,” and boy, is it ever a reality check of how far architecture has fallen since. It’s a walk-through documentary of the House of Versailles, showing its countless fountains, sitting rooms, reception areas, bedroom quarters, chapel, theaters, painstakenly manicured grounds, etc., so much of it today still looking as fresh as when it was built — over 200 years ago. Yet how can it be that in today’s world — with all our advances — we cannot even begin to hold a candle to that which was done without the benefit of motorized cranes, power tools, computers, trucks for construction material shipment, etc., over 200 years ago? And the only answer seems to be that more hard work and effort today is being poured into the prevention of such expert craftsmanship from ever surfacing again, than the hard work and effort it once took to build the Versailles palace. We seemed to be on the right track there for a while, our great movie palaces of yore being an excellent example. But then what the heck happened? For look at the obstacles entailed in attempting to build a great theater in today’s world. Is it that we lack the technological advance needed to do it? No. Is it that we lack the blue collar labor force necessary to help make it happen? No. Is it that we lack the… Well, I could go on, but I believe you get the idea. It’s not the lack of what’s needed to get back on a forward track that is the problem. Rather, it’s the presence of all the hard work that goes into the stoppage of such from happening. The accountants and politicians and lawyers that work tirelessly to come up with complicated, calculatingly confusing excuses why this and that “cannot be done.” Not to mention all the money poured into the concocting of that excuse, so much of it being our own taxdollars. I look at all the round-the-clock hard work and money that goes into presidential campaigns of today, the long grueling run of it, and I think, if all that hard work and money could somehow be redirected, the campaigning politicians could kick back and relax and we wouldn’t be holding this conversation right now, for where would there be the time to when there’s so many great theaters around to be going to?

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about The architecture of today's theaters on Mar 24, 2008 at 1:35 am

At risk of revealing how unknowledgeable I am when it comes to theaters of yore, what is meant by “waterfall curtains” specifically? The theaters I remember of my youth had curtains that opened and closed sideways, while I assume the really older theaters — the ones with stage houses (and that I never had the pleasure of knowing) — had curtains that went straight up. And, of course, without having a stage house, I don’t see how the latter could be possible.

Now with regard to construction materials used to fancify a theater, I think every theater owner [or I would hope] would love to go all out with that, incorporating the best materials money can buy. But it wouldn’t make sense to go too overboard with this if the political situation is unstable. Case in point, the Mastbaum Memorial Theatre in Philadelphia — /theaters/1207/ — had been designed so fancifully that it made the House of Versailles blush. It incorporated all sorts of marble, or what looked to be such, and magnificent murals, and, well, what didn’t it incorporate in terms of its over all interior splendor? It was like a Renaissance European opera house within. Yet for reasons I never knew about — I assume it was politics — it hardly lasted very long. Built in 1929 with a screen size of 27' x 60', by 1958 it had seen the wrecking ball. And you have to wonder, why? For up until the last it had been hugely successful, featuring live performances as well as epic films. And in the part of the city where it had been located — 5 blocks west of Philadelphia City Hall on busy Market Street — it constituted a noteworthy bright spot where one was clearly needed. And when it was demolished it wasn’t a case of “down with the old (or in this case not so old) and in with the new.” Rather, in its wake nothing rose up…other than a desolate stretch of Market Street west of City Hall for many years thereafter. So in light of that I believe it to be understandable why theater owners might be reluctant to commit too much.

At the other extreme, creating the sense of splendor, but relying on low cost materials to create the appearance of such, if the materials used in that case appear to be uncannily cheap — coming from China as LuisV suggests — well there’s a reason for that extraordinarily low cost of course. And what could prove to be a very dangerous one if no thorough investigation is made to find out why such materials are arriving into the U.S. so cheap. It could be because of an intense reliance on slave labor in the country of their origin, or because the materials were pillaged rather than acquired legitimately, or in violation of international environmental ethics, or a long list of other things that could later haunt the theater owner if he goes ahead and just buys them blind, or in full knowledge but also full disregard of how they were acquired. What goes around comes around, in other words.

So thinking in terms of the theater of the future, with hopes of matching and even surpassing what had been in the past, it helps to know what exactly caused the theaters of the past to fold. As for the competition from TV not helping, when I was young TV had been in its Golden Era. Yet the theaters were really great at that time simultaneously. In many ways the two appeared to be complementary. For watching TV at home was one thing. Seeing movies in a well-run theater was another. And no matter how great TV might’ve been then, it couldn’t hold a candle to the specialness of the theatergoing experience. And even with all the latest advances, watching TV at home still can’t. And so far as I’m concerned, so long as people wish to date, or families like to go out on a special outing, or kids want to attend the afternoon matinee together, there’s always going to be the strong need for that well-run theater. That much, as far as I’m concerned, has never gone away. But I can list a whole lot of politicians who I only wish would…

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 commented about Regal to possibly end newspaper listings on Mar 24, 2008 at 1:33 am

Even with other alternatives to find out what’s showing and where, there’s still something reassuring and useful about seeing the theater listings in the newspaper. And the newspaper display ads do indeed spur people to want to go and see the film. You can be paging through a newspaper with going to see a movie being the furthest thing from your mind, but the sight of that movie ad when going from the front page to the funnies grabs you. So you pause to look at the display ad and you look to see where it’s showing, meaning that your plans for that day suddenly have a new addition.

Can the Internet ever take the place of that? No, I don’t think so. So newspaper ads being “insignificant”? I beg to differ. If the newspaper ads are dwindling, it’s because the theaters are dwindling.