• November 10, 2016

    Iron Mountain, MI - Historic Braumart Theater: the heart of a city


    From The Braumart Theater has been in Iron Mountain since the 1920s and, for decades, the historic fixture was the heart of the city’s downtown area.

    Billed as the “finest amusement house north of Milwaukee” at its opening in 1925, many names have been splashed across the Braumart’s marquee. But the one that has stood the test of time and remains today is the name of the theater itself, derived from a combination of the names of two men, pivotal for its inception.

    “When they named The Braumart, the ‘B-R-A-U’ portion of the name was from August C. Brauns, and the ’M-A-R-T' was part of the first name of Martin Thomas. So, Brau-Mart,” historian for the Menominee Historical Foundation Bill Cummings said."

    With a vision of bringing the most modern theaters for local entertainment to the area, in 1924 manager of the newly-formed Colonial Theatre Company Martin Thomas, and owner August Brauns announced plans for the new theater, estimated to cost over $200,000.

    At its grand opening in April of 1925, the Braumart became an instant hit. Patrons on that day, more than 90 years ago, were turned away as the 1,000-seat theater filled for the first performances. For years to come, the Braumart would evoke memories and bring a community together.

  • November 7, 2016

    Red Lodge, MT - Under new management, historic Red Lodge theater anchored on Broadway


    From The Billings Gazette: In its early days, boxing matches would precede film showings at the Roman Theater in Red Lodge, said manager Mike Booth.

    But for most of the theater’s long history, it’s just been movies. The Roman was built in 1917 and has been seating audiences since. A short list of managers have overseen the building over the years, and it’s changing the guard once again.

    “For a lot of us who grew up here, there’s all those memories of the theater,” said Booth, who took over as manager in October.

    The aged Broadway Avenue building contains 202 seats, which are rarely filled. Booth said an average of 15 to 25 people show up each night. The balconies that flank the center gallery no longer hold a crowd of people. They’re used for storage.

    Building owners Jeff Anderson and Betsy Scanlin put in a new screen and invested in a digital projector in 2012 — anything to keep Red Lodge’s only theater going.

    “We’re very lucky if we break even,” Anderson said.

  • Patchogue, NY - Patchogue Theatre: Past, Present and Future


    From Ward & Glynee’s Patchogue Theatre opened on Main Street in May 1923. For the next three decades, Patchogue was a major source of employment in the textile, tourism, shipbuilding, and fishing industries. In fact, the village was called “The Queen of the South Shore” during this time.

    The theater attracted celebrities, first-run feature films, Broadway productions, vaudeville, and even burlesque. Later, in the 1970s and ’80s, Patchogue Theatre operated as a triplex movie theater. According to board member Chris Capobianco, “everyone has a story from those times.” But the triplex was closed in the mid-80s, and the theater lay empty for 10 years. Capobianco believes that 1997 was a key year, not just for the theater, but for the village’s restoration as a whole. The BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant had just opened, and thanks to the help of some local business people, it was announced that the Patchogue Theatre would be saved from the wrecking ball. The then-owners wanted to sell the venue so that it might be demolished to build an office building.

    A lot has happened since the theater reopened in 1998. Last season, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts achieved a record annual attendance of over 150,000. Capobianco remembers the first show after the theater was restored to its original grandeur—Gateway Playhouse presented The Nutcracker on Ice from Russia. The performing arts center closed once again this year, but only from January to March for interior renovations. “The $1.5 million renovations to the interior have greatly improved the ‘Patchogue Theatre Experience’ for our patrons,” says Bernie Fabig, Public Relations & Marketing Manager. “Our new seats are not only wider and more comfortable, but the Village had seating experts come in to make sure that the sight-lines were improved, so that you are never sitting directly behind someone.”

  • Washington, MO - Calvin Theater Owners Remove Old Marquee


    The marquee at the Calvin Theater was removed this weekend by the owners of the building.

    The city of Washington contacted the property owner’s, Douglas and Gregory Strothkamp, in early October about property maintenance code violations at the old theater on 311 Elm St.

    In a letter to the Strothkamps, the city outlined numerous problems with the building.

    The letter said the property was in violation of Sections 106 and 107 of the city’s property maintenance code and the owners have 30 days to address the problems. The letter is dated Oct. 4, 2016.

    City Administrator Jim Briggs said the letter did not call for the marquee’s removal, but did address several issues with the sign.

    Briggs said a resident complained about the condition of the marquee and pointed out potential safety hazards.

    “We got a complaint that it was in horrible shape,” Briggs said. “He said he thought it could cause dangerous harm.”

  • November 3, 2016

    Lakeview, LA - New movie theater heading to the old home of the Robert E. Lee?


    From The film projector at the old Robert E. Lee Theater went dark on Sept. 9, 1990, with a final showing of the Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts movie “Flatliners.”

    After that, the once-popular Lakeview theater fell into a state of neglect, despite at least one effort to reopen it, and met the wrecking ball in 2009.

    The site has been a vacant lot since, but now a local developer hopes to build a four-screen theater there, bucking a trend in recent decades that saw large chain theaters in the suburbs replace neighborhood theaters.

    Dubbed the Nola Movie House, the family-friendly theater would include four screens in smaller, more intimate auditoriums than those of multiplexes, and include food and drink service. A screen is also planned for the roof.

    Documents filed with the city indicated there would be no more than 190 seats in the entire building.

    Architects have applied for minor zoning variances, including one that would allow a marquee to be placed atop the front of the theater, similar to the Robert E. Lee name perched atop the former building. The exterior design of the new theater closely resembles the old theater, which opened in 1965.

    A recent meeting between the architects and neighbors included questions about whether liquor would be served, if lighting from the marquee would disturb neighbors and if traffic would increase.

    According to records of that meeting, representatives said alcohol would be served but only during movies and the theater would not operate as a bar; lighting would not bleed into the surrounding neighborhood; and they do not expect any impact from additional cars since a large parking lot exists at the shopping center where the theater would be built.

    Ellen Johnson is a local movie buff who cherished the theater so much she bought the bold red letters from the rooftop marquee.

    “This was definitely an iconic theater in our very storied city, and I hated to just see it go away,” she said, adding that the return of a theater to Lakeview would be a welcome addition. “It will be another place for families to go and movie buffs like me. I don’t have to drive across town.”

    Benji Azar, the man behind plans for new theater, has memories of the old Robert E. Lee theater, which led him to plan a replacement.

    “My wife and I grew up going to movies at the Robert E. Lee Theater, and we both have memories of our experiences there,” Azar said in an email.

    He said the space will be designed for those who remember the old theater and those who are used to a more modern movie-going experience.

    “What we’ve put together, at least I hope, is a space that reminds people of what was once there and at the same time, creates something fun and cool enough that people will want to come back to over and over again,” he said.

    The Robert E. Lee was built by theater mogul Joy Houck and considered the “shining new star” in his chain, Jack Stewart, a local preservationist and historian, and Rene Brunet Jr., owner of The Prytania theater, wrote in their book “There’s One in Your Neighborhood: The Lost Movie Theaters of New Orleans.”

    Errol Laborde, a historian and editor of New Orleans Magazine, remembered it as the first big theater in the lakefront area and its unique interior, done in a riverboat motif, and something else that was equally unique for its time.

    “It also had a lot of interesting concessions as I recall,” Laborde said. “I think you could buy alcohol there which was sort of revolutionary for the time.”

    After the theater closed, Brunet made an unsuccessful effort to lease it, and though it only took on a few inches of water during Hurricane Katrina, the owner, M&O Realty, considered the building dated and thought it would cost too much to retrofit, Stewart and Brunet wrote.

    While the Nola Movie House would be a neighborhood theater, it would be a far cry from the neighborhood theaters of days gone by and a something of a rarity. Until recently, The Prytania in Uptown was the only theater left in the city, but it retains an older feel with one screen, a larger auditorium and traditional concessions.

    The model of smaller auditoriums with plush seating and food and drink service first appeared on the local scene when the Theatres at Canal Place opened in 2010, bringing a movie theater to the French Quarter and Central Business District.

    Since then, local theater operator George Solomon opened a similar “movie tavern” in Covington, and The Broad Theater opened in Mid-City at North Broad Street, near Orleans Avenue, opened earlier this year.

    The Broad is another four-screen theater that shows independent films along with more mainstream films from major Hollywood studios.

    “You know, that’s what New Orleans is all about, the old style theaters. We have Canal Place now redone, the Prytania Theater is still in action,” said Brendan Gonzalez, who lives in New Orleans. “I think it’s time for Lakeview to get an old-school boutique theater back up and running.”

  • November 2, 2016

    Lafayette, CA - New life for downtown movie theater?


    From The East Bay Times: A group of residents is hoping to transform a long-closed movie theater into a center for cinema, music and art.

    Cathy and Frederick Abbott and business partner Alex McDonald want to purchase the 75-year-old Park Theater on Golden Gate Way and convert it to a performance and rehearsal space and venue for art house films.

    The acquisition, according to Cathy Abbott, is a last-ditch effort to preserve the theater as a place for cinema and community gatherings. “It seemed like a now or never moment, realizing that once the theater is demolished, there’s no bringing it back,” Abbott wrote in a statement to the City Council.

  • October 30, 2016

    Richmond, IN: Indy architect firm buys Richmond’s Tivoli Theater site


    From The Pal-Item: The historic Tivoli Theater building in downtown Richmond has been purchased by an Indianapolis-based architecture firm that hopes to turn the space into a regional office, Center City Development Corp. announced Thursday.

    R&B Architects closed on the 900 E. Main St. building on Oct. 21, after determining the site would suit its needs for a satellite office space, as well as other potential commercial development projects.

    Immediate plans for the building include a design studio office space and potentially a coffee bistro, R&B principal Brent Mather said.

  • October 27, 2016

    Oregon, IL - New popcorn business could lead to theater re-opening in Oregon


    From The Ogle County Life: Ryan Hopper knows popcorn.

    Hopper, who recently opened Hopper’s Poppers in Oregon, said his family has been in the movie theater and popcorn business for decades. And he brought his successful popcorn formulas from Sycamore to Oregon to give locals a taste.

    And judging by opening day – Sept. 31 – he has another hit on his hands.

    “We had a line out the door waiting for us to open,” he said. “The building inspector was still in here inspecting.”

    That opening weekend – the weekend of Autumn on Parade – Hopper said they went through 150 pounds of popcorn.

    “Our supplier was surprised,” he said. “I was surprised.”

    Hopper has not only opened a new business in Oregon – selling popcorn, candy and other treats – he has purchased the building at 104 N. 4th St., which is next to the closed movie theater that currently houses an appliance repair shop, moved his family to town and is looking at the possibility of renovating and opening the theater. (see sidebar story).

    “I really see Oregon as being one of those up-and-coming towns,” he said “That is one of the reasons why we chose to move to Oregon.”

    Hopper started his business in Sycamore in 2012. His family has owned the Sycamore State Theater since 2000, and he started his business selling popcorn at the theater. From there he started selling at area farmer’s markets and business boomed.

    “It got so popular, I had to upgrade all of my equipment there, to larger equipment,” he said.

    Hopper said the secret to his success is how he makes and keeps his product.

    “We use high quality food,” he said. “We use coconut oil for our oil. I made my own recipe for the popcorn, so it’s not just generic run of the mill popcorn.”

    And once the popcorn is ready, it is held in crispers to keep it fresh. He said it won’t dry out and it won’t get too soft.

    And then there are the flavors. There are nine flavors on hand, but different flavors come in and out of the menu all the time. Hopper said he will always have cheddar, carmel, chocolate and cake popcorn. There is also kettle corn and a wide variety of cheese popcorn.

    The best seller?

    “Carmel is always the best, by far,” he said. “Everyone comes in to try the cake, though. Not everyone has cake popcorn.”

    To keep up on what is available, follow Hopper’s Poppers on Facebook.

  • October 26, 2016

    New York, NY - The haunted history of Broadway’s Palace Theatre


    From Curbed NY: The sightings of spirits, ghosts, and ghouls are a common occurrence in New York City buildings, and one such haunted spot is Times Square’s Palace Theatre. It’s said to be home to a variety of ghosts—both friendly and frightening—many of whom once graced its legendary stage.

    Located at Broadway at West 47th Street, the theater was built in 1913 by the Milwaukee-based architecture firm of Kirchoff & Rose. They were somewhat limited in their design potential, thanks to the fact that the theater was located within a ten-story office building and surrounded by existing buildings on each side. They designed a three-level auditorium with 16 parquet-style boxes arranged along the walls toward the stage, “under a graceful arch forming a stylized sunburst above them on either side.” Designed in the Neo-Classical style, the building featured “moldings of such as fruit festoons and bead-and-reel to outline the panels into which the walls and ceiling were divided.”

  • October 25, 2016

    Bedford, NY - Bedford Playhouse Nears Fundraising Goal To Begin Construction


    From The Daily Voice: The folks trying to turn the Bedford Playhouse, one of northern Westchester’s oldest cultural institutions, into a nonprofit arts cinema and community center, are marking a fundraising milestone.

    Thanks to several recent large donations, the campaign has now raised $4.6 million of its $5.2 million needed to begin construction. Additional fundraising will ensure the Playhouse is operational in 2017.

    In the past six weeks alone, the effort has raked in $800,000. About $600,000 more is needed to begin construction.

    They also announced that a series of videos, touting different aspects of the project, have been, or will be, released on the theater’s website,

    They hope the six short promos, which were created by Jamie Edgar of Hound Dog Media, will rally their “final stretch” effort.

    Each video includes commentary by Bedford Playhouse president John Farr.

    The first two videos were posted earlier this month.

    In 2014, the playhouse was facing extinction after its previous tenant, Bow Tie Cinemas, decided not to renew its lease.

    Now there are plans for three state-of-the-art theaters, including a flex-use space for community events such as guest speakers and concerts, and an all-day café.

    A fundraiser and celebration of the movies and performing arts was held recently at the Harvey School’s Walker Center for the Arts in Katonah.

    The event featured a cocktail reception and show that included performances by Westchester residents Glenn Close and Paul Shaffer, Jeffrey Tambor, Chazz Palminteri, Terre Blair (Marvin Hamlisch’s widow), Marissa McGowan and Robert Klein.

    Bedford resident Chevy Chase had been scheduled to appear by had to bow out because of a professional commitment.