Comments from Hal

Showing 1 - 25 of 38 comments

Hal commented about Ziegfeld Theatre on Mar 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I’m sure there’s some greed involved but my understanding is that the reason for the edit is so that younger people (those under 17) who have a stuttering problem can get in by themselves to see the film. Of course that ignores the fact that the film should never been rated R in the first place! I think it would have been better to let the theatre owners decide of they wanted the new version or wanted to keep running the original. I don’t think it’s PATHETIC to do the edit, just dumb.

Hal commented about Mill Road Theatres on Mar 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I see the UA tag disappeared overnight, I don’t think that was necessary, I was just trying to set the record straight. But UA’s theatre operations in Milwaukee were somewhat complicated, so confusion isn’t surprising. A lot of their theatres, the older ones anyway, were acquired from Prudential Theatres, they didn’t get all of them but they did get most of them, but this one was always an independent. Milwaukee was somewhat unique for a larger city, it always had a fair number of independent first-run theatres, but then the chains invaded, notably UA, and then Marcus, now Marcus pretty much rules the roost, and this being their hometown, I guess that’s not too surprising.

Hal commented about Mill Road Theatres on Mar 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm

This was not a UA theater, it was owned and operated by Dean Fitzgerald of Capitol Services which also ran the Spring Mall Theater in Milwaukee and later took over the Brown Port. They also were the main player in Madison for many years operating numerous theaters under the Madison 20th Century Theaters name. Mill Road added screens over the years, I think it had 4 or 5 at the end maybe 6 I just don’t remember, but UA never had anything to do with it. They had Northridge for many years not too far from the Mill Road.

Hal commented about Oriental Theatre on Mar 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I was just reading this (better late than never) and was amused and confused by the posting way above talking about Dolby Stereo, in particular Dolby SR. SR was and is a special noise reduction system which is used only when the SVA tracks are in use, those would be the “2 wiggles” alongside the picture area. Most theaters these days only use the digital track, but most systems will automatically default to the Dolby SR tracks if the digital fails. Dolby optical stereo always had a surround track, unless the director chose not to use one. Dolby EX was a split “stereo surround system” for 35mm, frankly it never really worked all that well and most theaters don’t use it anymore, 70mm Dolby always had stereo surrounds and this was supposed to be a way for a 35mm house to have the same effect. It worked well for 70mm because of the discrete magnetic tracks, but for 35mm it was like trying to put 10 gallons in a 5 gallon hat, too much stuff! Some of you may remember “Quintaphonic Sound” for Tommy, this was a magnetic system but it was pretty much the same idea, it didn’t work very well either, it split the surround track for 2 surround feeds but the surround track on magnetic 35mm was very narrow and prone to noise and other issues. When Dolby Stereo came out it was really a 2 channel system with left and right with a mix to fill the center channel, and they used a SQ matrix to come up with a surround track, if a theater runs a Dolby stereo print in standard analog (no digital or SR) that’s pretty much what you still wind up with. The new digital projection and sound (no film) systems now can reproduce multiple surround sound tracks in addition to the normal left, center, right and subwoofer. Early Dolby Stereo was pretty primitive, compared to discrete magnetic sound (there were some attempts at Dolby 35mm magnetic but only 70mm wound up with them)but Dolby has made quantum leaps in technology to give us the superb sound we sometimes take for granted today.

Hal commented about Mayfair Theatre on Mar 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

This theater was kind of an “odd duck”, it shared certain design ideas with it’s sister theaters, Southgate, Mayfair and Ruby Isle, but had a couple of notable differences, the main one being the screen. This theater had a shadow box around the screen, like General Cinema would do years later, but unlike GCC it had screen masking and a main curtain, which was really strange, the curtain was in front of the box, so whatever was still on screen when the curtain closed was really distorted. Working the booth was like working in a drive-in, the machines pointed up, and it was a damn small booth, especially when you consider it held 2 Norelco AA11 35/70 projectors. Which brings me to oddity #2, I was told by long time projectionists that it never ran 70mm until Logans Run, in fact other than the projectors and sound system, everything else was hauled over from the Southgate, reels, splicer, cue marker etc. I only worked the booth early in the 1970’s, ran the Exorcist there, worked there once after that for a 70mm run, some forgetable thing I can’t remember. The one other annoying thing about working here was the booth exhaust, it went out the side of the building, and if the wind was strong out of the east, it would blow the carbon exhaust back into the booth, the only way to fix it was to crack the booth door open a bit so the draft would increase to the lamps. The door opened directly to the lobby, so you never knew who might stick their head through the door. All that said, the theater was still a vast improvement on anything built recently!

Hal commented about Ruby Isle Theatre on Mar 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

This theater was kind of a smaller version of the UA Mayfair Theater. It had the booth under the balcony just a few steps up from the lobby. Same design concept as Mayfair, Southgate and the Madison Hilldale. Nothing really special about it, but not bad for a strip mall theater. Nice size screen, Simplex XL 35’s with Ashcraft Carbons.

Hal commented about Paradise Theatre on Mar 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Another theater I worked at from time to time, it was running 2nd run at the time. No Norelcos when I was there, Simplex XL’S and Peerless. It was a neat theater, pretty well kept up too (especially for a UA house, which it was when I worked there)One of the odd things about working there was the requirement that the Star Spangled Banner short be played prior to the 1st show of the day, and woe be the projectionist that didn’t do it! The older lady that was manager there at the time was not one to be messed with, if you didn’t run that thing you could count on one hand how many seconds it would take for her to get up to the booth! This is another nice neighborhood theater that got lost in the megaplex building boom.

Hal commented about Capitol Court Cinema I & II on Mar 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I don’t know where the 625 seat capacity came from but it’s not even close! When this was a single it had somewhere in the vicinity of 900 seats, maybe a 1000, and it was without a doubt the finest film presentation house in Milwaukee. I worked there as a relief projectionist from time to time, it’s the only booth I’ve ever worked in that had house light level meters so the projectionist could judge light levels without guessing! It had a huge 70mm screen which rarely saw any 70mm use, but the scope 35 screen size was nothing to sneeze at. The neighborhood “slipped” and the film bookings stunk and then Marcus got hold of it and made to “bowling alley” theaters out of it. It’s too bad they couldn’t save it, it was a great film house!

Hal commented about Strand Theater on Aug 7, 2007 at 3:28 pm

This was an approx. 1100 seat theatre, not 400 seats! The Strand was a single level theatre (no balcony) with all seating on the main floor. It also had a large screen, especially for widescreen films, as I recall, the screen was around 54ft. wide by 28ft. tall for “Scope” films, never had 70mm. There really wasn’t a bad seat in the house, no obstructed views, great sight lines. This was also the first theatre in Madison to install Dolby Stereo, for the original Star Wars film, which ran here forever. Here’s some trivia, this was also the sight of a Nickelodeon called “The Amuse”, the Amuse occupied what was the very long lobby of the later constructed
Strand, till it was demolished you could go into the basement stairwell, look up, and see the projector ports for the Amuse! The theatre was torn down to make way for (what else!!)an office
building. At the end of it’s life it was part of the Madison
20th Century Theatres chain, which was part of Dean Fitzgerald’s Capitol Service Co. of Milwaukee, WI.

Hal commented about Prospect Mall Cinemas on Oct 3, 2006 at 9:57 am

This theatre is now closed, and frankly, I doubt if anyone cares. This was probably one the worst cinemas that Marcus ever built! It was just a “god-awful” place to see a film, it was always over-shadowed by it’s neighbor, The Oriental, just a few steps away. The Oriental is a prime example of how to mulitplex an old theatre without completly destroying the character of the theatre! I can’t think of any reason to mourn the passing of the Prospect Mall Cinemas.

Hal commented about McClurg Court Cinemas on Jul 21, 2006 at 7:17 am

Hey! I’m all for re-opening this house too! But as the above individual noted, you better find out what shape it’s in first before you geet too excited about it! Knowing how well Cineplex was keeping up their theatres toward the end, especially their older ones, the inside could be a real nightmare! I always felt this could be a great film festival house along with art/specialty bookings, and as long as we are “dreaming” how about turning it back into a single screen while we are at it? The big curved screen that used to be in there would be great for a 70MM retro festival! I’m thinking Roger Ebert’s “Overlooked Film Festival” would be great here! Frankly, I think this is all wishful thinking, but what the heck, if you are going to dream, you might as well go for broke!

Hal commented about Westown UltraScreen Cinemas on May 25, 2006 at 12:17 pm

Ha! Someone beat me to it, click on Westpoint Cinemas for more info!

Hal commented about Westown UltraScreen Cinemas on May 24, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Both this theatre and it’s sister theatre across the Interstate highway (Westpoint Cinema) are going to be demolished sometime in the near future, I believe in 2007. The Marcus Corp. is building a brand new theatre just around the corner from the existing Westown Theatre, it will replace both of the existing theatres (Westown & Westpoint). I assume it will have at least one “Ultra-Screen” if not two. I’m not sure of the screen numbers for the new one. When I find out more I’ll post it.

Hal commented about Paradise Theatre on May 13, 2006 at 9:48 am

This is another theatre that I worked as a projectionist in, when I was there it was a 2nd run house, being run by United Artists as I recall. The one odd thing about working here at that time was the manager’s insistance that we run the Star Spangled Banner film clip before the first show of the day! And whoa be the projectionist that forgot to do it, you could here the footsteps of the manager (a not very pleasant lady I might add) pounding up the steps to the booth within seconds! It was kind of a nice theatre as I recall, but suffered from lack of maintenance just like most UA houses, and being a 2nd run house only made that particular flaw worse.

Hal commented about Southtown 5 & 6 on May 13, 2006 at 9:32 am

This was a god-awful theatre from the get go! When GCC twinned it what you wound up with was two tiny theatres with postage stamp size screens stuck half way up the front walls! They did the same thing with the Brookfield Cinema, and in that one they didn’t bother to straighten out the rows of seats, Brookfield was a good size house with a big screen so the rows curved in half-moons from left to right, when they put the wall down the middle they left the curved rows as is, which meant that if you sat either in the far left of #1 or the far right of #2 you were not facing the screen head on, you had to turn your head slightly! Westlane wasn’t that big and as I recall the seat rows were straight across. But this one was so bad I would have helped drive the bulldozer that flattened it!

Hal commented about Skyway Drive-In on May 13, 2006 at 9:06 am

This place is a genuine “time warp”!!! If you are ever in Door County stop in and see a movie, they are open daily from about Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend and run weekends only for awhile before and after the holiday weekends. Usually they have a double feature, normally they run current films too! The price is right, it’s alot of fun, and a great family outing! They have special “theme nights” from time to time, just like years ago, it’s usually packed on the weekends so go early and enjoy a real trip back to the 50’s & 60’s! I know this sounds like an advertisement, but hey, how many drive-ins are left? And besides, Door County is just about one of the most beautiful places in the country to Visit.

Hal commented about Bluemound Drive-In on May 13, 2006 at 8:50 am

I worked as a projectionist here for part of a summer, back around 1977 or 78, by that time it was pretty run-down. Originally it was run by something called General Theatres or some similar name, in any event that company became General Cinema Corp. which ironically ran a new hardtop right next door at the Brookfield Mall. After GCC sold off the drive-in it was run by at least one and maybe several independent operators until they pulled the plug on it. They tried soft-core porn from time to time which usually got the Brookfield Police to show up, you could see the screen very niecly from the rear exits of Brookfield Mall, I can imagine the looks of horror on the faces of unsuspecting mall patrons as they came out! I don’t remember how many cars it could hold, but it was big, and was most notable for the fact that as far as I know it had the only curved outdoor screen in the area, and a really big one at that. Never had radio sound, only speakers, but this was a prime example of the real estate becoming more valuable than the business that sat on it, not an uncommon problem with drive-ins everywhere, which is of course why so many are gone. When this place opened, it was “out in the country”, when it closed it was hemmed in by all sorts of new shops offices, which is pretty much what happened to all the Milwaukee drive-ins, and drive-ins all over the country.

Hal commented about Westgate Cinemas on May 13, 2006 at 7:08 am

By the way, this theatre was simply known as Cinema 1 & 2, the Westgate moniker didn’t show up until many years after the opening. We had two of these in Madison as well, but because there were 2 of them GCC added West Towne and East Towne to the 1 & 2 to distinguish the two cinemas as to their locations. When the Racine 1 & 2 opened, there was no “Westgate Shopping Center” or anything else called Westgate except the drive-in mentioned above. The Turnstyle Store I mentioned above was all that existed in the nearby shopping center at the time, there may have been a couple of smaller stores there I don’t remember, but the center was not known as Westgate at the time.

Hal commented about Syosset Theatre on May 13, 2006 at 6:26 am

First let me say how much I enjoy reading Vito’s many comments on this page and on other theatres as well! I never had the pleasure of seeing this fine theatre, although I did see some films in the NY Rivoli before they twinned it. Someone commented on the River Oaks 150 near Chicago, it’s still there but closed at the moment, Cineplex closed it not long ago and I hear someone is trying to reopen part of the River Oaks Complex, several of the screens were demolished. The last time I was in it you could tell Cineplex hadn’t spent any money on upkeep for awhile, it looked pretty tired and run down. I don’t know if the 70mm equipment is still in the booth or not, they wouldn’t let me have a peek. I knew several people that saw films in 70mm at the Syosset 150 and they couldn’t stop “gushing on” about it! Makes me jealous to say the least! I agree with many of the other comments above, it’s too bad someone couldn’t find a way to preserve these wonderful film venues and keep them operational, even if running 70mm is a rarity these days. As to the 70mm prints of GWTH, I ran a 4track 35mm print of it during the same release period and those prints were crappy too, same terrible cropping and less than crisp image on the screen, probably not as bad as the 70 prints due to the smaller screen size, but they still looked awful! Now with the ability to put a 70mm soundtrack on a disc (DTS) and run a 35mm print on screen, I’d say the chances of seeing 70mm prints in release is slim to none. Instead of trying to make the movie going experience exciting again, the studios are trying to figure out how to eliminate film altogether! They’ve been trying to get to this point for years and I guess it’s going to happen. People jusr don’t realize what they missed with theatres like the 150, I’m convinced that if the 150 or others like it still existed and you put a 70mm print on the screen for a currnet big release people would line up around the block to get in! But it ain’t going to happen!!! And that is really too bad!

Hal commented about Downer Theatre on May 12, 2006 at 10:06 am

When I worked here as a projectionist, it was still a single screen, had OLD Super Simplex projectors I believe (maybe E-7’s, it’s been a long time!). I always got a kick out of telling people I worked at the Downer Theatre, it always got a chuckle out of them! Got alot of lame comments like, gee, it must be a real depressing place to work, and on and on. There really wasn’t anything earth shattering about this place, kind of a nice art house in a trendy neighborhood, got on the arthouse format long before the larger Oriental did, now both are run by the same company, Landmark Theatres. I only ran 2 films here, Annie Hall (which seemed to run forever) and Altman’s
3 Women. It was a fun place to work, great neighborhood, and still is.

Hal commented about Wisconsin Cinemas I & II on May 12, 2006 at 9:52 am

I suspect that this was one of the first ‘piggy-back" conversions, (this fate came to the Centre/Grand as well) The downstairs house played some heavy hitters early on, many in 70mm, the upstairs house was always kind of a dumpy affair, and UA ran both so you know what that meant as far as upkeep! At the end, the booths were automated with platters and the 70mm equipment was removed from the downstairs house, which really didn’t matter because by that time all the downtown Milwaukee film houses were on their way into the crapper. This one was running X-rated upstairs and B& C grade stuff downstairs, the twinning pretty much runied whatever was left of the original theatre. I don’t think too many people gave a hoot when this one was finally put out of it’s misery.

Hal commented about Westgate Cinemas on May 12, 2006 at 7:18 am

Actually, I believe the drive-in was down Washington Ave. to the East, it was behind the shopping center and around the corner. Both that drive-in and the original “Cinema 1&2 ” operated at the same time. The shopping center housed a “Turnstyle” store as it’s anchor many moons ago. This theatre played all the major films after the demise of the downtown theatres, it was your basic GCC. blue everything, shadow box screens, no masking (very annoying for “flat” features) and ran 6000 ft reels on twin machines with automation and carbon arcs! For years there was a motel and restaurant right next door, it was called the Clayton House. I saw my first “R” rated film in this theatre, Catch 22!!! There was nothing special about this theatre at all, but when it opened it was a big deal because there hadnn’t been a new theatre built in Racine since the 20’s or 30’s. I’m sure it’s date with the wrecking ball is not far off, in this day and age, if there arn’t at least 18 or 20 screens, you can bet the theatre is not long for this world. In this case I doubt if anyone will shed any tears.

Hal commented about Bradley Symphony Center on May 12, 2006 at 6:57 am

Before I say anything else, let me preface my comments by stating that I feel this theatre needs to be preserved! That being said, anyone who thinks they or anyone else is going to go in there, refurbish it and try to run it as a movie theatre, is in for a rude awakening! There is a reason that single screen theatres bit the dust (especially downtown ones), they are not financially feasable! Look at all the movie theatres that used to line Wisconsin Ave. and just off Wisconsin Ave., Palace, Esquire, Cinema 1&2, Strand,
Towne and on and on, only the Riverside still stands,
and you’ll note as a live performance house, not a
film house. The Milwaukee Symphony has said “thanks,
but no thanks” to using the Grand, do in no small part to the huge expense of refurbishing it. Also, parking is a pain in the butt, which is a major issue for the
modern movie theatre, unless there is a large residential area that can walk to it, but this isn’t
New York either! The only way this theatre is going to
survive is if someone can come up with an alternative
use for it, and Milwaukee needs another performing
arts space like it needs a hole in it’s head. So
what’s the answer? I have no idea, but if this
building is going to survive, someone better come up with an idea and some cash pretty quick! And you can bet that there will be alot of screaming and yelling if that alternative idea is an indoor tennis court!

Hal commented about Southtown Cinema 4 on May 11, 2006 at 1:27 pm

This theatre started life as a single screen, Marcus added 2 of their standard (for the time) shoeboxes to the big single. 70mm was installed for Close Encounters, the equipment was swapped with the projection equipment from the Capital Court Theatre (which Marcus twinned and couldn’t run 70 anymore) The big house ran several 70mm’s but I don’t recall ever seeing Pink Floyd there in 70mm. I ran Encounters and a rerun of The Sound of Music in 70mm. Later they ran a wall down the middle of the big house, and that was that. The old Westlane across the street became #’s 5& 6, it was a former GCC house that wasn’t worth a burp as a single and was even worse as a twin. GCC twinned the Brookfield Square the same way, the screens were way up the front wall, made for sore necks.

Hal commented about TCL Chinese Theatre on May 10, 2006 at 12:31 pm

I just read some of the Star Wars stuff up above, I saw the original Star Wars in 70mm at the Chinese way back when and thought I’d get someone else’s memory going! I seem to recall that they were running a 70mm copy of “Duck Dodgers” (remember that great Daffy Duck Cartoon!) along with the film, and someone told me that it was a request of George Lucas. I also remember Star Wars as having been one of the first films to use the full 20th Century Fox “CinemaScope Fanfare” in years, it was really a knock-out in 70MM Dolby!!! The Chinese is another one of those wonderful theatres where even a “crappy” movie some how looks and sounds great! Not living in or near LA I have only seen a few films there, but seeing Star Wars there was outstanding, unfortunately, when I got home I had to run the film in 35MM mono, we did get Dolby several weeks into the run but no 70mm.