Oswego 7 Cinemas

138 West Second Street,
Oswego, NY 13126

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 8, 2015 at 1:28 am

The May 31, 1941, issue of Motion Picture Herald featured a page of photos of the Oswego Theatre.

Additional photos appeared in this ad for the Formica company.

The splash panel over one of the Oswego’s two drinking fountains can be seen at the upper left of this page of the magazine.

A view of the Oswego’s auditorium can be seen illustrating an article about theater seats on this page of the same magazine’s May 3 issue.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on February 18, 2015 at 10:10 am

In 1910 the Hippodrome Theatre is listed in the city directory at 138 W Second Street. It must have preceded the Oswego Theatre and subsequently have been demolished to make room for the new theatre.

OswegoFilmGroup on September 29, 2010 at 8:24 am

You’ll find some recent photos of the theater in our blog entry “Deco Still Lives” (http://oswegofilmgroup.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/deco-still-lives/)

Oswego Film Group

jukingeo on October 4, 2007 at 7:18 pm

Hello Roadshow,

Nice to know that the Oswego is in good hands and someone is willing to properly care for the place. I know what it is like when a theatre gets in the wrong hands, the end results are usually hurtful for the theatre, the town, and all those that had high hopes that their theatre would be around for all time.

Perhaps movies will stick around a bit longer in Oswego. Still, I will keep a close eye on the place.

I wish my wife would think differently about moving because I really would have loved to go to Ohio and snatch up the Norwalk.


exit on October 3, 2007 at 11:57 am

Just had a nice talk with the owner, who seems to be interested in taking care of the place, and has made an effort to match the character of the original design with the alterations. Some of my guesses were correct, others were not. I’m told all the seats are new, which is a great improvement. I’ve learned elsewhere that the theatre is now capable of running 70mm on the main screen, in the rare event a print was available. Back when I worked there it was all 35mm and there were no dimmers or stereo sound, so obviously some upgrades were made. It is nice to know someone has spent some money on fixing up the place. I am working on setting up a photo shoot for sometime soon. Considering the fate of the Genesee, we’re all lucky this owner has a definite interest in keeping a nice theatre.

exit on September 15, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Thank you Geo. I’ve got friends who still live there, and quizzed one extensively about the place. Also have some feelers out for pictures of Schine’s Oswego Theatre and the late Carrols' Oswego Cinema.

I’d love to hear from someone who has been in the Oswego Theatre lately, to see how accurate my description was, and what the new attached screening rooms look like.

Meanwhile for info about lost Syracuse area theatres, the Kallet Genesee and Kallet Shoppingtown, check out www.CinemaSightlines.com Neither theatre is listed on CT, but the Syracuse community is still mourning the Kallet Genesee, it was a recent topic in the letters page of the Post Standard.

jukingeo on August 26, 2007 at 10:24 am

Hello Roadshow,

VERY nice explanation. I got the full picture of how the division is now.



exit on August 24, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Additional detail about the divisions of the Oswego Theatre, from my own memory augmented by a report from a current local resident…

Seating upstairs and downstairs was originally in three sections, center, right and left, and there were four aisles, allowing access to each section from both sides.

The original Balcony was separated from the main floor by putting a wall up to the ceiling from the edge of the balcony. What used to be the front section of the balcony (about 4 rows) became a little pit with lights on the floor aiming upward at the curtains. Plain curtains on the front wall right and left. The screen, directly in front of the center seating section, had about a 3 foot platform in front of it and curtains in cream and burgundy stripes about a foot wide. Years later, when the Balcony was subdivided, they did not cut it down the middle. On the right side, just about a third of the balcony’s width was sectioned off, using a tiny portion of the original projection booth that was the rewind/cutting room when I worked there in the 70s. It already had a tiny window in it and that’s where the projector throws from. I was in there once for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, (1989) and was surprised that they fit a projector in that small space. I imagine the platter for it is in the main area of the booth, where the Projectionist’s Viewing window was. At that time i believe the two bottom rooms and the two side rooms had not been added yet.

The main auditorium got its own booth in the 1972 split. The downstairs booth was in the back of the center section, and went from the left center aisle to the right center aisle, and from the lobby wall to the edge of the balcony.

Two additional screens occupy the back of the main house, going from the left center aisle to the left wall, and from the right center aisle to the right wall. Both rear rooms extend past the Balcony overhang, one almost halfway to the main screen, the other not so much. Both have projection booths in the rear, that throw to screens toward the front. I would not be surprised to learn that the original seats are still in their original locations within the two back rooms, however since these rooms go straight to the wall on both sides, that means there is no longer access to the wall aisles of the main house from the lobby. It is very likely that a couple extra rows of seats were removed from the rear of the left and right sections of the main house to allow access to the wall aisles.

The last two screens are in an addition built onto the side, occupying about ¼ of what was an unpaved parking lot for as far back as I can remember.

Sound has been upgraded in the main house by simply hanging speakers on the walls, but the original screen (still tilted backward from the early days when the projector was upstairs) has not been upgraded or even touched, nor have the two sets of stage curtains been used in years. The mechanism for the rear stage curtains had broken by the time I worked there, so all I had to work with was three switches: front curtain, house lights and footlights. There were no dimmers upstairs or downstairs. I’m told the front curtain hasn’t been used in about 20 years.

exit on August 9, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Oswego had more bulbs and neon all over the marquee, too, it just broke and wasn’t replaced. And the letters used to be all the same size.

jukingeo on August 8, 2007 at 4:59 am

Nice article, Lost

They got a good shot of the marquee…especially the underside. The Norwalk has the same patterning, but is more elaborate. They have more lighting underneath as well.


jukingeo on August 7, 2007 at 6:59 am

Hello Sue

Wow! That is a beautiful aerial shot you have there. Roadshow was right though…there are several areas near the theatre including an empty lot next to it that could be available for parking. This building does have good parking potential for a live theatre.

Yes, as you can see the little outbuilding attached to the right of the building…that is where two of the 7 theatres are.

No, it isn’t a small building at all, I remember that the Norwalk was about 4 to five car lengths wide, this theatre is an easy 5. Then there is the depth…way deeper than the Norwalk.

One thing I did notice also that there is ‘alot going on’ in back of the Oswego. Thus I am wondering if it has better stage facilities than the Norwalk. Perhaps better dressing rooms, a large fly area, and what not.

As for theatre screen mashing, yeah that was a typical 80’s trend. I call it ‘shoeboxification’, based on the way my mom coined the term of a small theatre as a shoebox. My mom is from the tale end of the 40’s, so she does know what many of the old picture palaces were like. She has been to many of the old NY theatres such as the Roxy, Loews Valencia, and of course Radio City (her favorite). So she is really used to larger theatres.

The Norwalk did have a sitting area for both the men and women upstairs in the balcony lobby. The sitting areas were small though. But they clearly had a mens and womens side and they funneled out into the main balcony lobby area that fed to the staircase as well as the balcony entrance. A really nice set up and this area was about 98% original. The balcony rug was original, all the bathroom fixtures were original.

Overall it is a very pampered building and it is surprising how much of it is intact. I guess that is why I liked it so much.

Well, I have to run…


mooneye on August 7, 2007 at 6:38 am

Hi Geo!

Yes! They have put on a substantial addition – I was even in town this past spring and didn’t drive by. Here is a link to an oblique:

View link

I suppose it wasn’t teeny, I must be remembering it and comparing it to other theaters I’ve been in since I left. I do remember the upstairs theater-screen being mashed right up close to the first seats.

There were no columns that I can remember, most of the decoration was either paint or special wallpaper. I’ll ask my brother about whether there was a men’s sitting room or not.

—-sue h


jukingeo on August 6, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Hello Sue,

Both the Norwalk and the Oswego are really a combination of two art styles…Greek and Art Deco. Hence sometimes these style theatres are called Greco Deco theatres. That is probably what confused you. Now I have not seen the interior of the Oswego either prior or post “botchification”, but the Norwalk had more of the Greek influences in it’s lobby. The vestibule and much of the exterior is Art Deco. The striping on the exterior is more Greek as well.

Getting back to the lobby, the Norwalk does have large columns and there is more striping there as well. Now the balcony lounge areas by the original rest rooms is more art deco. The auditorium is also more art deco as well.

I could only assume that the design lines were similar for both theatres because they were sisters, built by the same designer and the same year no less.

John Eberson has always created masterpieces in theatre construction and these two buildings are no different. They are very well built and were built to exceed the then standard building design tolerances. For instance the concrete floor slabs are immense. They are extremely thick. In Norwalk they designated the theatre as one of the town’s gathering places if there ever was a disaster. These buildings will stand for a very very long time if they are properly taken care of.

As for the size…yeah, it is probably small now, but I could say that in the past 1800+ seating is really nothing to sneeze at. That is a pretty big place. As for how they divided the theatre, well, not all 7 theatres are in the main building. I believe someone mentioned that an auxillary build was created to the side of the theatre and that building houses the two last screens. So the configuration is one large main screen fore balcony. The balcony itself was split both top and bottom, netting 4 theatres, and then the two in outside building.

I found it tough to envision too, but then I saw an aerial view of the building and the overall space it takes up is considerable. It is WAY bigger than the Norwalk Theatre. The nice thing though with the Norwalk Theatre is that it is for the most part unspoiled. So even though it’s 900 seats may not sound impressive or large, you really have to see it from a stage point of view. It isn’t small at all. Given that the original single screen of the Oswego is double that figure…well, let me say that I sure can picture it being VERY large. Which is why I am really itching to see inside pictures prior to the theatre’s conversion.

Of course if you have been in a large theatre such as Radio City Music Hall, then obviously everything else is small in comparison.

Roadshow. Ok, I see the email address now. Expect a message soon.

exit on August 6, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Geo. I meant the Norwalk pics compared to my memory of the Oswego. I posted my email to you two messages ago. The Balcony wasn’t huge.

mooneye on August 6, 2007 at 2:20 pm


I lived in Oswego from 1967 to 1986 and was a frequent visitor to the Oswego Theater. I have always been under the impression that it was built in 1928! It certainly didn’t look like a 1941 interior. It was all textbook speed-type curves with accompanying straight lines. It never occurred to me to get pictures of the place before I left. In the 80’s, they had bands play on the stage occasionally, and I even got up there once – you know, Rocky Horror and all.

I saw 2001:A Space Odyssey there as a first run film downstairs in the main theater, also Romeo and Juliet with Olivia Hussey, but that was in the new balcony theater.

There were some neat features to this place. Yup, fake balconies on the sides – these always fascinated me. They were – sort of, glued on, and then others were painted on, in a hierarchical fashion. There was a gigantic ladies sitting room outside the ladies lavatory, with big leather chairs and a couple of beautiful cut glass mirrors. The stalls in the bathrooms were divvied up by big slabs of marble I believe. Please don’t ask me about the mens' room!

Overall, the theater was not all that big, so I fail to see how they were able to cut it up into 7 theaters. What a shame! I almost cried when I heard that news. It has been some years since that happened. The balcony theater was especially tiny. Gee, I saw Blazing Saddles there…

Well, there’s my 2¢! Thanks for reading!

—-sue h

jukingeo on August 6, 2007 at 5:02 am

Hello Roadshow,

I would need your email address to contact you. The line you mentioned “…it is clear from their pics…” indicates that you do have pictures of the interior of the Oswego. I would like to see them. I wouldn’t doubt it for a second that the Oswego was made more eleborate. Right off the bat it is the larger of the two theatres. More than likely it was probably the first one built in 1941 and they based the Norwalk theatre design on it. Now I do have a couple questions. If the proscenium was brought forward on the main screen, what was put behind it? Did they just make the stage deeper, or did they add dressing rooms, etc. The Norwalk does have a back wall but it lacks doors on the auditorium archway entries…thus they hung blue curtains over the doorways and just pull them back prior and post show. This is really one thing I do not like about the design of Norwalk because it is really impossible to carry on a conversation in the lobby with someone during a show (meaning when you are purchasing candy and such), because voices will ‘leak in’ to the auditorium. Not the best design in that aspect. As for the balcony conversion, it is pretty much how I envisioned it. But I will say that the Oswego must have had a HUGE balcony in order to support a double split like that. I think I would still stick with my idea of restoring the top of balcony but leaving the bottom, or as I mentioned above, use the bottom for another performance space. What is nice to know that there is an empty lot nearby. Parking is always an issue and if a parking field or garage could be made on that lot then that would make a project like this more feasible. As for a full restoration of the theatre…hmmmm, I really don’t think it would work out. Keep in mind you DO have to fill 1800+ seats and that is a difficult proposition for most small town theatres at best. Heck most small town theatres have a hard time filling a space that is half that size. To put things in a better perspective, most theatres in NYC don’t even come near the original occupancy of the Oswego. There are many many more people in NYC. However, as far as expanding the theatre into a full destination complex with a restaurant and a family entertainment center, I am all for that. In fact this exact plan I had for the Beaver Falls Granada Theatre in PA, but that project was too ambitious for me with limited financial means.

All in all, I am going to keep a close eye on the Oswego. If it does come up for sale (and for a reasonable price)…I would be on it. This theatre, the Norwalk (and hopefully others like them), should all be carefully preserved. The marquees are to die for alone. Both the Norwalk and Oswego theatres don’t have fully working marquees. With them fully restored, I am sure they would be a sight to behold.

You just don’t see stuff like this anymore.


exit on August 5, 2007 at 1:48 pm

BTW the interior of the Oswego is more elaborate than the Norwalk. It’s clear from their pics that the side walls were replaced and the screen/proscenium was brought forward… The Oswego (last time I saw it) had better details. Clouds painted on the ceiling, faux side balconies, Different entrance. Seems the Auburn Schine looks a bit more like the Oswego than the Norwalk.

The Oswego auditorium did not have a back wall, just a half wall, and eventually heavy curtains were hung above it. In the 72 conversion, the second booth was built in the back of the house from Left aisle to Right aisle right to the edge of the balcony, which was walled off. The back left and right sections, also under the balcony, are now boxed off to house two other screens. I have had nightmares for years that someone bought the Oswego and turned it into a sloppy multiplex… (oh right, they did)

I’d restore the theatre, including the balcony, to its original condition, then excavate the lot next to it and build a parking garage, with a tasteful multiplex over it. I’d have a top notch designer make the decor of the new auds similar in style to the main house. Maybe add a restaurant & some retail, making it a full destination. The lot to the left of the theatre may be available as well…

exit on August 5, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Contact me Geo, I have information for you…

jukingeo on August 4, 2007 at 6:47 am

Hello Roadshow,

Bummer…I would have loved to see pictures of the interior of the Oswego. As for other sister theatres, I have not researched it fully, but I would believe that if Schine had an expansion around the early 40’s then, yes, I wouldn’t be surprised that all the theatres from that era would have a similar design. The trouble would be finding out which theatres are still intact. Thus far the Oswego has be ‘butchered’ a bit…but it is not terrible. From the outside the theatre looks very restorable. I am happy to see the Oswego retains it’s original marquee. I personally think that the Norwalk and Oswego have one of the more attractive ‘triangle’ style marquees that I have ever seen. So to find two of them practically identical really had me reeling with joy. What more is that I am pretty much going to move north to the New England area so the Oswego will not be too far from where I will move. Yet, if the Oswego ever came up for sale…I probably would be interested in it. I absolutely adored the Norwalk Theatre, and I know that I could probably attain a similar attachment to the Oswego.
Just right now I am DYING to see some interior pictures of the Oswego…especially the main auditorium. I am hoping to see more similarities between this theatre and it’s sister.


exit on August 4, 2007 at 3:57 am

Warren, where on earth did you get that picture?? I don’t remember the extra lines on the building, just the Schine’s up top. And I paid a lot of attention. Those details had to be gone by the sixties. Have you any other pictures of this, or other theatres from that area??

Geo, CS has no feature on the Oswego yet – No photos to post. Only way they could post existing or vintage pics is if someone offered them… Someone local has agreed to take some new shots of the Oswego Theatre, (in and out) the former Oswego (mini) Cinema, and the Midway Drive-in.

Speaking of sister theatres, the Kallet Genesee in Syracuse seems to have one as well. I’ll have to look for the link.

Warren and Geo, you can reach me at

jukingeo on July 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Hello Warren,

WOW, that is a nice picture of the theatre. I always looked at this theatre like something was missing and I was right. The decorative panels over the marquee are missing as well as the crest piece towards the left.

I really hate it when they deface a building like that. NOW this way I like the building’s facade just as much as the Norwalk theatre, because now I can see it’s intended design. What I would do with this building is restore the panels, and put lights behind them, heh heh heh.

Now to only see what the inside used to look like.

This is Art Deco at it’s finest. I can see that it even shares the same arched doorways as it’s sister in Norwalk. It is just this theatre has 6 doors across the entrance and the Norwalk has 8.

What I find interesting is that the entrance and marquee are smaller on the Oswego in comparison to the Norwalk, yet the Oswego is the larger of the two overall. You would figure…bigger theatre, bigger marquee and entry way.

Now the question remains that while the theatres are sisters and built the same year…which one was constructed first?

Thanx for sharing Warren. This piece of information really has piqued my already brewing interest in this theatre.


jukingeo on July 12, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Hello Roadshow,

Very nice link on those theatre…however, I don’t see the Oswego in that list on the top. Can you provide a more direct link? I don’t know where to look. Ok, I will contact you, but I do need your email address :).

exit on July 12, 2007 at 11:47 am

Hey Geo, take a look at the coverage of the lost Kallet Genesee and original Shoppingtown over at http://www.cinemasightlines.com/cinemas.php – the Oswego theatre and nearby drive-in should turn up there eventually. For more info on the Oswego (owner, building, etc) contact me directly.

jukingeo on July 6, 2007 at 7:54 pm

Hello Roadshow,

It sounds like that they have perhaps did the same with both theatres. I do know that the Norwalk Theatre’s live capabilities were enhanced. They extended the stage and added an orchestra pit. They also changed some of the storage areas in the basement to additional dressing & makeup rooms. They also added an organ too. I found the organ a nice touch because the only other theatre I went to that had an organ/player was Radio City Music Hall. In fact due to the fact that the Norwalk Theatre is 90% all original, the townfolk did refer to the theatre as their “Little Radio City”. Ironically the foot mats in the vestibule are the SAME type used in Radio City’s vestibule.

The stage in the Norwalk was definitely shorter, but with the extension added on by Towne & Country the stage is about 30 feet deep. The fly space is only half height though and thus the battans are designed to roll the backdrops and background scenery. The movie screen also rolls up.

Towne and Country was very “Old School”, and as such, nothing in the theatre was computer controlled. The whole theatre had a very nostalgic touch and it could be one of the reasons why I fell in love with the place.

I guess overall I know that right off the bat I have a ‘closeness’ to the Oswego theatre even though I never seen it (in person) as of yet. I just know I will like it just because of the fact that it is the Norwalk’s sister.

I never seen interior pictures of the Oswego, either now or prior to it’s conversion. I have heard that of the two theatres, the Norwalk was always the ‘prettier’ of the two. However the Oswego is much larger…I looked at the overhead aerial shots of both theatres and the Oswego is huge, more than twice the size.

In terms of multi use, that would pretty much depend on the capacity of the main theatre. For live shows, this space should be about 600+. If that isn’t the case presently, then perhaps the balcony could be opened back up as it was originally. This would still leave 4 theatres that could continue to show movies. If the capacity of the main stage is currently suitable, then the balcony could be converted to another performance space, such as a dance hall. I would think this kind of variety at that location would make the building a very attractive place for entertainment.

Picture this: A family visits the theatre in the afternoon to see a movie. Then when the movie is over they partake in an event in the dancehall upstairs. Finally to cap the night off they see a nice live show in the main theatre. Realistically that will probably not happen like that, but offering the choice of different types of entertainment is what I am getting at…and it is likely that people would do two of the three things.

I have been thinking much about planning like this for old theatres because much goes into saving an old theatre besides just restoring it. There is the business side of the operation to consider as well. You do need people to patronize it. The trouble is that many old theatres like the Oswego (prior to it’s conversion), are just to big by today’s standards and that is how they were divided in the first place. I will be the first one to say that I am against the idea of the dividing a theatre, but I been to one theatre where the conversion was VERY tastefully done and it rearranged my thinking about creating multi-use venues within old theatres. The goal would be to restore the theatre by attempting to capture much of it’s original essence but yet, you have built in flexibility in programming and you have the advantage of more than one event that can be taking place. Bottom line is, more seats get filled. So in a way it is like having your cake and eat it too.


exit on July 5, 2007 at 10:07 am

If anyone has any photos of this, any other Oswego/Syracuse theatres, or the Norwalk, please contact me.

Geo1: I worked there as a teenager and remember the place fairly well. The stage has dressing rooms and a rear entrance, and there is a few feet of space behind the screen, so the stage depth could be about 20-25 feet. The Theatre did house the (rare) occasional play when I was around, one I remember was one night of YOU KNOW I CAN’T HEAR YOU WHEN THE WATER’S RUNNING with Imogene Coca and King Donovan in the 60s. Though it’s not been kept up as much as we’d like, I think it’s built solid as a rock… why not make them an offer they can’t refuse?

Multi-use there could be very nice, and there could always be a modern multiplex built next-door. The question is, is there enough interest in the surrounding community to support the place? I understand there are no movie theatres in the area (including Syracuse) other than standard plexes with small screens. Maybe if it was equipped with a big screen, digital projection and surround sound, it could be an “event” venue again.