Comments from rodeojack

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rodeojack commented about Point Roberts Theatre on Feb 13, 2018 at 8:36 am

I had a telephone agent at the national aircraft pilot’s association tell me a very close version of this story, so apparently, it’s true. The Canadians were so unimpressed with the theatre, they wouldn’t allow film or concessions deliveries to it by truck. The theatre got around this by hiring a young pilot to bring film and supplies in from an airport in the US, thereby circumventing the Canadian authorities.

rodeojack commented about Charleston 333 on Nov 12, 2007 at 10:41 am

The “G-style Knights” business has closed, and the theatre is once again available. Whether it could be used as a theatre is questionable though. The owners leveled the floor in order to convert it to a night club. They have said it could be restored, though one would question whether it would be worthwhile.

At this point, pretty much everything has been tried there… first run, sub run, discount, art/independent and live. Its size, location, surrounding businesses and lack of parking may make it difficult to run a successful theatre. However, there’s always someone out there with a new idea, and the building is for sale if you think you have the magic answer!

rodeojack commented about Valley 6 Drive-In on Oct 2, 2005 at 3:47 pm

The Valley Drive-In is the last of what was a very large Washington drive-in chain. They were known in Washington state as “United Drive-Ins”, and were part of the Forman/Pacific chains of California.

In their time, the United drive-ins were state-of-the-art theatres, though it is true that they deteriorated in later years.

As for the Valley; most of its problem is that there’s been an ongoing effort to redevelop the property for years. I first heard of them closing over 14 years ago, and as has been noted, it’s opening is an annual event, far from certain.

The story I get is that the property owners actually did get the permits to redevelop, but stopped when the bottom fell out of the rental market. The drive-in sits on 56 acres of prime real estate, and operating the business goes a long ways toward paying off their substantial taxes, so it remains open as the owners wait for commercial footage to be needed again. As I understand it, the permit package has a life of some 10 or 15 years, and the owners can begin the demolition process anytime within that period without re-permitting.

Of course, the main problem with this kind of operation is that they don’t see any reason to dump a lot of money into the place IF it actually turns out they’d be tearing it down. The catch is they never tear it down, and the money doesn’t get invested, so everything does tend to go downhill.

They have done some work on the screens recently, and they’ve installed FM in one of their screens. They have AM sound on the rest of them, with wires you have to clip on your antenna or tape on your window.

In its time, this was a pretty impressive place. It’s still worth checking out, though it admittedly doesn’t represent the best a drive-in could be right now. If nothing else, it’s worth being able to say you went there, as drive-ins all tend to be unique experiences.

rodeojack commented about Uptown Theatre on Oct 2, 2005 at 3:35 pm

The Uptown Theatre is a classic example of what fraternal organizations typically did with their buildings. It was constructed in the late 1800s as an Oddfellows lodge. The Oddfellows held their meetings in the top floor, and for a while, used the downstairs floor as a community dance hall. It eventually became a skating rink, and the original hardwood floor is still there. At the time, skating music was provided by an organ, located on a “Romeo and Juliet” balcony.

In 1948, a local family leased the downstairs level and installed a sloped floor over the original hardwood, The organ loft was walled off and a new Century projector and sound system was installed behind the wall. The curved balcony remains today. The projection booth was accessed by going through the dining room of the mid-level apartment, where the theatre’s owners lived for many years.

The theatre does have poster boxes, located on either side of its entrance. They were built for the large 40x60 posters that were common back then.

The theatre has changed little over the years. It was remodeled in the late ‘70s, when it reopened after being closed for 3 years over an admissions tax dispute with the city council.

More recently, the projectors have been upgraded and automated, and stereo sound has been installed.

When the Uptown opened, the owners closed two downtown theaters that they were operating at the time… the Port Townsend Theatre and the Rose. The Rose is now reopened under separate ownership.

The Uptown’s owner purchased the building from the Oddfellows in the mid ‘90s. Currently, a dance teacher and aerobics instructor operates in the remodeled lodge meeting rooms upstairs.

The Uptown Theatre owners also own and operate the Wheel-In Motor Movie, the area’s only drive-in theatre, which was built by the family in 1952.

rodeojack commented about State Theater on Oct 2, 2005 at 3:16 pm

I worked as a projectionist at the “State”, before it was purchased by Moyer’s Luxury (Ore-Wash Corp). Back then, it had a huge screen, waterfall curtains, first-class projection system with magnetic stereo sound capabilities. The only time I ever had a magnetic stereo movie in a theatre that had the equipment to run it was at the State. It was in 1978, and the movie was “Capricorn One”.

Dolby stereo had not yet arrived in Olympia, so getting a mag-stereo film was quite an experience. Even though it hadn’t been used in years, with a little TLC, the sound system performed wonderfully!

As is noted here, the theatre was triplexed, and it was a horrible job. The original sloped loge section was closed off to allow for two small screens. The booth was made by framing a floor across the back two rows. It was so cramped that our union business agent had to crawl under the lamphouses to get to the projectors… there was almost no clearance from the lamp to the back wall. The auditorium seats were not realigned, and the screens were located in the corners of the auditoriums. In the right auditorium, you sat facing left and had to look right to see the screen. It was the other way in the Left auditorium. There were plenty of other flaws, but that probably doesn’t matter now… thankfully, that part is history.

Working at the State during that time was an excellent education in how very different theatre owners could be. The Mann company was an excellent operator and employer. They took good care of their buildings and staffs, and budgeted maintenance activities as a normal part of their operations. Their successor was almost 180 degrees from that, though it didn’t seem to harm their business any. They became the only operators in that part of town, and could pretty much set the standard as they wished.

rodeojack commented about Roxy Theater on Oct 2, 2005 at 3:00 pm

Actually, the Roxy is doing rather well in it’s latest incarnation. Considering the number of huge single-screen downtown theatres that have closed as its customers have headed to the outlying multiplexes with huge parking lots, the fact that the Roxy is open at all is a small miracle.

It was purchased from the Tom Moyer chain by an area welding contractor, who had visions of restoring the building as a combined movie and performing arts house. However, the cost of asbestos abatement and proper rebuilding was more than the owner could afford, so he sold it to the Calvary people.

While it’s likely the Roxy will never return to its original function, it is open, well cared for, respects its origins and does serve as a safe, well supervised venue for the area’s young people.

I have my doubts that it will ever be a shoestore! :)

rodeojack commented about Puget Park Drive-In on Oct 2, 2005 at 2:50 pm

The Puget Park Drive-In is the last remaining outdoor operation of the SRO company, once one of Washington’s largest theatre chains. SRO, formerly based at their flagship theatre in Bellevue, WA., had lots of indoor theatres, a few bowling alleys, several radio stations, and a handful of drive-in theatres, mostly in Western Washington, but also in Eastern Washington cities like Spokane.

As did the United Drive-Ins chain, SRO evolved from an entertainment company to a property development and management firm. The Puget Park Drive-In is said to have sentimental value to the owner, who, I would imagine, is not financially challenged. They recently did some significant remodeling and paving, and word is they see at least another 10 to 15 years there as a well-run drive-in and swap meet.

rodeojack commented about Midway Drive-In on Oct 2, 2005 at 2:42 pm

The Midway Drive-In is now history. Its weekend swap meets ended on Sunday, 9/25/05.

It stopped running film in 1987… opting instead for the big bucks they could make as a swap meet… 500 merchants in their 1,000 car field, eventually another 240 or so in an enclosed building… up to 10,000 shoppers per day. The money involved made dropping the movies an easy decision, sad though that was.

The comment about their “stale” popcorn was amusing! The chain (United Drive-Ins) doesn’t appear to have popped their own corn at any of their Washington drive-ins… at least as far as I’m aware. They purchased their corn “pre-popped” from a local concession supply company, and yes… it could sit around for quite a while before being eventually served to the customers. Believe it or not, there are still a couple of theatres around that buy their corn like that… pretty amazing, considering how sensitive today’s customers seem to be about fresh popcorn. Today, they do pop their own at the only drive-in they have left, the “Valley 6”, in Auburn, WA. The pre-popped stuff was getting pretty nasty!

The Midway screen was said to be one of the largest on the West coast, measuring 56 X 115 feet. According to one of its caretakers, it was built in the late ‘60s (the original screen burned down). Even from the back rows of the drive-in, the picture would have been comfortably large enough for viewing (is that what they did in the back row?).

All in all, it is sad to see such a well-built drive-in be replaced by something else, but it was probably inevitable. The property is surrounded by development, it was a single-screen theatre (hard to make a living at these days), and could not have been expanded or multiplexed.

rodeojack commented about Magnolia Theatre on Oct 2, 2005 at 2:20 pm

I worked at the Magnolia Theatre as one of its last projectionists. The building won several architectural design awards, which were prominently displayed in the lobby. It had an elevated loge section and a very large screen, covered by a waterfall curtain. Mann’s “State Theatre”, in Olympia, WA. was built along a design similar to the “Magnolia”.

The projectors were modern for the period and were well maintained by the projectionists, SRO’s shop and RCA sound service technicians; Generator-fed Peerless Magnarc lamps, Brenkert projectors and RCA sound heads and amplifiers. The accoustics were excellent and the picture was bright and clear.

Unfortunately, people seem to travel to where the lights are, and patronage wasn’t great during the theatre’s final years… at least as compared to the large downtown houses and the “new” mall theatres. As noted above, the theatre was replaced by a bank, and you’d never know it was ever there.

There used to be a fire station next door (still there?) When someone lit a roll of toilet paper in one of the upstairs restrooms, the firemen were there within a minute of our call!

rodeojack commented about Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In on Oct 2, 2005 at 1:46 pm

The Wheel-In Motor Movie is truely one of the finest examples of a family-owned community drive-in. It was built in 1952 and is currently owned by the Daughter and Son In-Law of the founding family.

Since the theatre was built, little has changed. The concession stand was remodeled in 1970 to add counter space for pizza and sandwich sales. However, the original restaurant booths still sit under the large picture windows, the original popcorn machine is still in use (though on its 2nd kettle), the 30 seat viewing room is in service and the original dial telephone hangs on the wall.

The theatre’s projection room has been upgraded somewhat… the carbon arc lamps are gone, and a projector was installed that was better suited to run continuously through a double feature. The drive-in has FM stereo sound, which is common these days. However, the original 1952 RCA sound system is still fully functional, meticulously maintained and in operation every night.

Pictures of the Wheel-In are available at our web site,
You’ll find the Wheel-In’s link in the upper left-hand frame.

rodeojack commented about Charleston 333 on Oct 2, 2005 at 1:34 pm

Oh… one detour in the theatre’s history: Prior to the short 1980’s first-run experience, the porn operator leased the theatre to a local couple who, for a short time, did attempt to run art, foreign films and independent fare. They painted the front of the theatre a vivid purple… a color which outlasted their operation by more than 10 years! Getting rid of that purple was one of the first things the Meyers did! :)

rodeojack commented about Charleston 333 on Oct 2, 2005 at 1:30 pm

The Charleston Cinema was one of Bremerton’s first movie theatres. It was born, the “Grand” cinema. In the early ‘80s, a well-known Seattle porn purveyor remodeled the theatre, taking out the small upper balcony, converting the cry room into an office and installing new heat, screen and automatic reversing projectors. It was reborn the “Playtime Grand”, running porn films with a staff of one. Tickets were sold at the end of the small concession counter, and a remote control panel operated the projectors upstairs.

As porn moved increasingly to video, cable and early c-band satellite, patronage at the “Playtime” dwindled. The owner changed the theatre’s name to the “Charleston” and attempted to run mainstream content. Unfortunately for him, a Portland chain (Tom Moyer’s Luxury Theatres) already had a firm hold on the first-run market, and the theatre was forced to run older fare.

In late 1986, the Moyer chain got into a spat with Paramount pictures. For a while, they either refused to run their films or were cut off by the studio. Being the only non-chain theatre in town, the Charleston enjoyed a short lived bonanza, booking “Crocodile Dundee” in September, and “Star Trek, The Voyage Home” in November. For a while, the only place you could see those films was at that one theatre, and naturally, it was packed! The owner siezed on the opportunity and engaged in an aggressive campaign to sell the place as a “hugely profitable first-run theatre”.

Unfortunately, nobody bought the place, the Moyer company made up with Paramount, Paramounts pictures returned to the chain houses and the Charleston was once again relegated to sub-run films. It closed soon after.

Several years later, the owners of the local “Rodeo Drive-In” reopened the theater, attempting to establish it as a neighborhood discount house. However, they experienced the same lackluster attendance the previous operators did, and closed the theatre within a few months.

8 years later, The theatre was reopened under the ownership of the Meyers'. That story is told in the posts above.