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How about that, Ken MC!
For just before the classic Ocean City was driven under, one of the last places I stayed at there while that was still intact, and which I now have the fondest memories of, was the Oceanview Apartments, which were located there on Plymouth Place right behind Gillian’s Fun Deck (which he later turned into that giant water park, Gillian’s Island.)
In its latter days, the Oceanview was in a somewhat rundown state, and I’ll be the first to admit that. But with its Spanish Revival architecture and enormous white pillared porches facing out towards the boardwalk and sea — with high-back rockers no less! — it was a dream come true staying there! The upstairs apartments (where I stayed each time) were enormous, and at the front end they had those large pillared porches facing towards the sea which I just described, while at the back (as you stepped out from the kitchen) they had these high up porches that overlooked all of Ocean City. The sunsets from way up there were fantastic!
And you really got a sense of Ocean City history when you stayed there, it being part of the original Ocean City from its late 1800s beginnings. Case in point, to its front end (facing the boardwalk) at the lower level it had a large wooden sundeck which in actuality was a section of Ocean City’s original boardwalk when this building was positioned directly on it!
After Gillian became mayor, all historic importance be damned, one of the first things he did after he got in office was push through an ordinance requiring all Ocean City buildings beyond a certain size to have sophisticated fire sprinkler systems installed. The owner of the Oceanview, unfortunately, couldn’t even begin to afford that and thus was forced to sell, and, to none other than Gillian himself.
The moment Gillian bought it up, and at bottom dollar at that (being he was mayor he was able to rig it that way), and then instantly tore it down to build a parking lot in its place for his water park.
Though it had been somewhat in a rundown state in its last days as I say, by that I only mean superficially. For at the core it was in excellent shape, very solid, one of those classic “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” type buildings. And like I say, it had been one of Ocean City’s oldest. For over a century it had easily withstood hurricanes and floods and Nor'Easters.
But alas, it could not withstand Gillian’s shear greed and stupidity.
At the same time, just to be totally fair, I don’t fully blame Gillian for what happened. When nearby Atlantic City had gone the way of casinos and governmental attention became fully focused on that — primarily to “keep the mob out” — Ocean City, 10 miles to its south, was left wide open. Suddenly it was without any real law or other protection to speak of whatsoever, for no one beforehand ever foresaw the need for this. So overnight — and I mean that literally — Ocean City suddenly became this very lawless place. Any attempts to reverse it, including my own, were too little too late. for at that point it became rule of the thugs and “commerce” at its utmost worst. No legitimate businesses based there could survive it. For governmental regulatory agencies, with their resources stretched too thin with Atlantic City, couldn’t even begin to get to Ocean City’s problems let alone adequately handle Atlantic City’s.
Add to this that it was the Reagan era of deregulation, which added even more to the confusion. For no one at that time, with its being relatively new, quite knew what deregulation meant. And for some it simply meant anything goes in the name of making a buck. And anything that stood in the way of that was without bearing.
And because Ocean City was primarily classified as a “resort” and not where Americans actually lived, that also prevented it from receiving many regulatory protections it might have gotten otherwise. Casino workers took up permanent year round residence there, yes, but as such they were viewed as only “temporary.” And most of the casino workers saw themselves that way. I remember that firsthand. When I tried to engage their support in saving the resort from becoming a “nightmare vacation spot by the sea,” to them they just saw it as a “bedroom community” only, a place close to Atlantic City simply to sleep and wash up between shifts, nothing more. And the vast majority of them, totally new to Ocean City, never even knew it had been this great seaside legacy the way you and I had gotten to know it. Plus, by then it was too late for them to get to know that, all the downward changes came so quickly.
One or two things of yore survived — the Music Pier, the Flanders Hotel, the Port ‘O Call, plus the boardwalk itself.
And miraculously, the Strand Theatre — although it’s all chopped up into little mini theaters now — is still there. And at this late stage it is Ocean City’s LAST movie theater, to give credit where it is due. However, it’s not one where I feel any customer gets a sense of what all once was. rather, I get this feeling it was reworked to prevent newcomers from ever seeing that. “Better they not know,” some might say. But I almost feel like I’m Marc Antony or somebody in my saying that.
No, the Blue Laws was the first casualty when Ocean City underwent its downward transition.
I was living and working there at the time, and as I recall, an all out campaign was launched that year to register the sizeable number of new residents to town (re: Atlantic City casino workers) to vote, with voting out the Blue Laws placed at the top of the ballot. The only aspect of Ocean City’s Blue Laws kept in tact, I suppose for Somers Point’s economy sake, was the continued prohibition of bars in Ocean City, which still holds to this day.
And you’re right about the big amusement pier at the upper end of the boardwalk being Wonderland, but I don’t believe Gillian owned it in the years you remember. Perhaps he did, but if so he was in a dormant state of the kind of person he evolved into later, sort of like the two Nicks depicted in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. After Ocean City sharply underwent its downward transition he rose up to be mayor for a time, which is when he created that big water park — Gillian’s Island at Plymouth Place and the boardwalk. All to cash in on the huge ocean pollution crisis that hit Ocean City during that period. As mayor, he was able to supply his new water park with the city’s water free of charge which, incidentally, coincided with a severe drought New Jersey farmers suffered that year. Later, a mother and two kids got killed on one of his faulty rollercoaster rides, but because he was mayor he got off with something like a $20,000.00 fine.
In other words, you’re lucky you got to experience Ocean City when you did, so was I. While I really wish I had not seen it later when it sharply underwent its downward slide. As I say, the last movie I saw there at the Strand while it was still a single screen theater was THE UNTOUCHABLES, while my guess is the movers and shakers of Ocean City by that point felt it hit too close to home for them. For that year I saw that movie it really did feel like I was living it while I was seeing it.
Anyway, I wasn’t in Ocean City for the 4th of July this year. But they said on the news tonight that for this year’s 4th of July it was an unusually cold night on the Ocean City boardwalk. Winter coat weather almost.
It’s now the height of summer in the seaside vacation resort town of Ocean City, NJ — tomorrow is the 4th of July, 2007 no less — and the Strand Theatre, strategically located at the pinnacle of the entire town (9th Street & the Boardwalk is clearly the pinnacle of the entire town), is the only last movie theater Ocean City has at this point to its name. So given that, one would think a very special effort would be made to go all out to insure it’s one that doesn’t insult peoples' intelligence. But lo and behold what do we see but the exact opposite. And I’m trying very hard to understand that right now, but hard as I try, I can’t. Yet it is a question that begs to be answered.
I’m not saying this is the theater operator’s fault, for ultimately I don’t believe that to be the case. Faced with all sorts of bureaucratic governmental pressures, it’s in a position where it’s forced to either sink or swim. Of course some business operators, strange as it might sound, like that sort of thing. It levels the playing field so that incompetent businessmen can be happy while no one else can. And when the main — and only — movie theater in town is run in such a way that insults the intelligence, who’s to know?
If a program could be started up in this country that would grant movie theaters a type of diplomatic immunity — which they should have anyway thanks to the First Amendment — that could begin to change. For why not movie theaters that can raise peoples' awareness in ways they need to be raised? And the Strand Theatre in Ocean City — where countless hundreds of thousands flock to each summer — would be an excellent starting place for this.
But watch. I’ll say what I’ve just said here, and the only response I’ll get is one of one huge blank. As in, “Raise awareness? Raise awareness of what? What are you talking about? We go to Ocean City each summer and find it ‘lovely’.” Which will only reinforce my point why movie theaters — protected by diplomatic immunity — are needed. For to be sure, Ocean City could be lovely. It could be outright beautiful. But it’s far from that now. And who’s to know, given the current way the Strand Theatre is being run. Again reinforcing my point.
Now with the increasing reliance on ethanol forcing corn prices higher (even though hydrogen I.C.E. was the much better choice and was all set to go till stupidity put a stop to it) it won’t make good economic sense much longer for popcorn to remain the standard movie theater concession staple it traditionally has been all these many years.
But rather than candy emerging triumphant on the next leg ahead, could future movie theatergoers be sold on the idea of pretzels or potato chips becoming the next movie theater concession standard? For wheat and potato prices look like they’re to remain stable for now, along with salt itself, while regarding anything with sugar that’s hard to say — it being another source of biofuel, as is the case in Brazil now. Of course in cases where farmers can grow corn instead of wheat or potatoes, and the pressure is on them to do that, that could reduce wheat and potato supply, hence forcing the price of that to go up also. The “Domino Principle” if you will, and all tracing back to the holding back of hydrogen I.C.E. Plus, a refusal on the part of our government to allow farmers to own and operate their land tax-exempt — all for the sake of keeping new housing starts going strong.
And alas, movie theaters, though at times they might appear to be a world unto themselves and above all the everyday fray we go to these theaters to get away from, are a part of this world after all. As revealed by the skyrocketing popcorn prices at their in-house concession stands.
Hey, don’t sweat it, HDTV267, for by rights my fellow investors and I should be thanking you right now. Back in 2005, when I eyed the potential of the historic old Holme Theatre building — at that time all boarded up and looking like it was mistakenly being about to see the wrecking ball next — an article appeared in National Geographic Traveler saying Philly was destined to be the next great city, and we thought it was meant as the real deal. Embarrassingly, many people did, not just us. And some even lost their shirts by forcing through this or that new business as if it were true. All I lost was a few countless hours chatting with various everyday Philadelphians on the Internet — such as yourself — which, all told, really wasn’t a waste, because now two years later we know Philadelphia was never on any actual course to become the next great city. To achieve that goal, Philadelphia would have to become a major world seaport once more, and as you can see by what’s happening now on the bigger scale that was never part of the plan. And it’s the last thing anyone in Philadelphia or throughout the rest of Pennsylvania is thinking right now. And regarding the Holme Theatre building, at this point I’m just happy it wasn’t torn down and hope that the way it’s being used now will be enough to weather it through what comes next.
As for yourself, again as I say, don’t sweat it. You did your part well, and the Lord works in mysterious ways as they say…
Well that’s unsettling. Have there been other arsons that fit this same pattern, or was this the only one? If the answer is the latter, I would presume/hope that factor is being factored in in the rebuilding of this theater so it can’t happen again, while I still hold out hope they catch the guy.
Well, HDTV267, if that’s how you truly feel, it’s a shame you didn’t get behind the Holme Theatre restoration proposal back when you had a chance to — instead of slamming it the way you did. Because in the business plan I had for it I had all those problems you’re complaining about worked out and resolved. And, I had all the investors lined up to make it happen. But all we needed — ALL WE NEEDED — was enough people such as yourself saying they wanted it. For we were not about to push through something that nobody wanted. In any event, too late now. Enjoy your pizza and made in China trinkets the next time you’re over at what the Holme Theatre’s been converted into now, while perhaps pausing a minute to think what might’ve been. C'est la vie…
That sounds like relatively good news — I say “relatively” because I would have much preferred what was still left of the original historic structure been fully restored in every single instance. But hey, in an era when doing away with theaters completely has become so standard, who can be too critical in this instance?
But in this case did they ever find out who the arsonist was and what the motivation was, or is that much still left hanging in the air?
If it’s any consolation, Joyce, I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. I had the same experience here in Philadelphia, PA several years back (see Cinema Treasures' Holme Theatre page, /theaters/9141/),,) where an old historic single-screen movie theater building — designed in the Art Deco style by William Harold Lee no less — was vacant for a time, it’s not having served as a movie theater since the 1950s. And in its forelorn, boarded-uo state it just looked so ripe for becoming a beautiful neighborhood theater once more. But alas, developers who had other ideas for it beat me to the draw. Plus, the over all community response to my proposal could not have been more hostile.
This, of course, isn’t to say the reasons why your plan and mine were blocked are one and the same, as the reasons why in Philly’s case appear to be rather unique. In this instance the community where the theater building stands — though far from being ghetto — is hardly posh. It’s for the most part small town-like and middle class, but also extremely poorly educated, and with the overwhelming majority of current residents (who are not the residents of this community originally) and the politicians very determined to keep things that way. And a well-run, beautifully restored neighborhood movie theater of historic significance simply would not fit well with that theme.
And other than my experience, just to show how you’re not totally alone, you should review the commentaries posted at Cinema Treasures' DuPage Theater page (/theaters/801/) which got so bad CT had to finally shut it down. In that case it was an atmospheric single-screen movie palace designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp — which many rank as the greatest theater designing firm of all time — and was located in the very posh village of Lombard, Illinois just outside of Chicago. And it appears very good plans were in place to breathe all new life into it. But, for a theater that just happened to be located in the worst possible place people-wise. In that case there was a ferocious stampede to get the historic theater torn down completely, not even so much as converted to another usage, as it was in your case and mine.
Out in California, though, where motion picture production is such a mainstay of its over all economy, it’s especially uncanny that anyone would put up any resistance to a theater being kept as a theater.
But, I suppose, as it is here in Philadelphia, PA and up in Lombard, Ill, people in that particular California town have their good reasons, or at least “good” from their own viewpoint, for putting up resistance, in some instances outright hostility, to keeping movie theaters at bay. Fortunately though, it’s not that way every place. Here at this Cinema Treasures website you’ll find many wonderful accounts of theater rescues and restorations that were accompanied with the greatest community support and enthusiasm. Right here in the state of Pennsylvania and in neighboring New Jersey we have many such cases — the Ambler, the Colonial, the Hi-Way, the County, the Majestic, the State, the Broadway, the Beach… (well, we’re still watching with the Beach, but I think it’s going to be okay.)
To me personally, as I’m sure it is with you, a movie theater that’s alive and well is a healthy sign, the mark of a very great place to be, to live, to work, to thrive. And fortunately we still have that some places, just not everywhere.
And I consider it wonderful that the U.S. still has a theater as well run as this within its boundaries. For in the age America has entered into now it is a true rarity. So by all means, cherish it for all it’s worth, and don’t take it for granted.
CORRECTION: I said above that you can go through image files in rapid succession by pressing the ENTER key. I meant to say the SPACE BAR key. (Press the ENTER key if you want to view an image file full screen.) In any event, you’ll find this program very intuitive….er, so much so that you won’t be thinking much about which key you’re pressing when doing this or that function, hence explaining my mix-up.
As a good basic file viewing program, and with a high degree of editing capability, and so readily accessible the moment you click on its icon, to me it’s a must have program to have on every computer. For instance, if you have a bunch of image files in a folder, open the first image file with IrfanView, and simply by pressing the ENTER key on your computer keyboard you can then go through all the image files in rapid succession, or slow if you prefer, without having to open each file separately.
You can also easily crop photos, convert them to grey scale, blur or sharpen them, intensify the color, change the coloration, increase or decrease the contrast, brighten or darken them, enlarge or reduce the image size, rotate and reverse the image, change the file format, and so on, more easily with this program than any other I’ve ever come across. So for Cinema treasures members I’d say it’s a must-have program all told.
Patsy and Lost Memory, you should download Irfanview 4.00 — which is free shareware — from the following link:
Though it’s basically a file viewing program, it has full editing capability and is very easy to use. I’ve been using various versions of this program ever since I began computing and couldn’t even imagine not having it on my computer. So go ahead and download it and you’ll both be happy you did, I guarantee it!
One thing that Philly lacks right now that those other city’s you mention have is checks and balances. For instance, with a mayoral race going on here, the city’s most likely next mayor, Michael Nutter, wants to give Philadelphia police the power of stop and frisk. The introduction of martial law, in other words. The mayor of Baltimore wanted to bring the same to Baltimore, but there the Baltimore Sun was quick to state the truth that it would be the same as when Fascism was on the rise in Europe. Checks and balances, i.e.
And the reason for the big difference between Philadelphia and those other cities you mention, brucec, is because those other cities have not been written off the way Philly has. Unlike Philadelphia they are still vital to the U.S. over all. And they are vital because they still have some sort of checks and balances in place.
And to restore a movie palace and make that restoration stick, you have to have checks and balances firmly in place. But sadly, the way Philadelphia is right now, I would compare trying to restore a movie palace here at this point in time to the prospect of trying to do so in Germany at the height of the Nazi Third Reich. For there’s a breakdown of law going on here, a breakdown in a truthful press and so on — as in “Sound familiar?” when referring back to the WWII era?
Since most of those two weeks I spent in Ocean City that summer were down at 59th Street and hitting the beach at that fantastic state park below there leading out to Corson’s Inlet, I don’t know if Roy Gillian owned Ocean City’s big amusement parks that year or if all of that was to come later. Probably later, since Ocean City was still very much on the up and up at that time. Cases in point, Chris’s Restaurant back on the bay at 9th Street, where we ate on several occasions, was in full swing that year, and beachtags were still way off in the future if you can imagine. But in your case you were there so you know that firsthand.
But in remembering things uptown on the boardwalk that year, there was a pinball arcade in a large white airplane hanger shaped building with amusement rides in back — I think it was Paul’s Fundeck (though it might not have been called that at that time) — which had a full-size painted metal cowboy riding a metal horse up over its entryway. The cowboy was supposed to be holding onto and swinging a lasso high in the air, but the metal lasso part was missing. I don’t know if the hippies that year climbed up there and stole it or what. In any event it was like straight out of the Rory Calhoun western movie era. In the years to follow, that same cowboy on a horse reemerged in one of the boardwalk miniture golf places, though I don’t remember which one now. But why it was ever removed from over the entrance of that pinball arcade I have no idea, as it was just so memorably classic up there.
So often the business owners in Ocean City don’t know a good thing when they have it. And that most certainly was the case when Frank Family Management acquired and reworked the Strand Theatre. You look at the photo of how it’s being run now and compare it to how it once had been, and you can’t help but think, what were they thinking?! For in the summer of ‘72 as a single-screen theater it had been a major uptown centerpiece, rivaled only by the Ocean City Music Pier, Flanders Hotel and Stainton’s Department Store. And who does that really? Take a main attraction such as that and reduce it to what for the most part is now a chopped up nothing? Maybe Ocean City at some future point could all be brought back to what it once was. But it seems it would require a whole different class of people for that to be possible.
So do I, and being as I was in my teens at the time I thought it was fantastic! My widowed, childless aunt rented a place for herself, my brother and I down at 59th Street for two weeks in July of that summer, and after we got all settled in and then went uptown to visit the boardwalk and saw all the hippies and flower children everywhere I turned to my aunt — who was quite conservative — and said all excitedly, “Wow! Ocean City’s really become a hippie heaven!” She was horrified, and quickly scoffed, “Why on earth would anyone think that is a good thing?!” I don’t recall what my exact reply was, but I remember feeling, why wouldn’t they? But alas, I guess you had to be young to see it that way. Still, here it is 35 years later, I’m not that young person anymore, and yet I still see it that way.
And the two brightly lit up things I remember in the middle of it all at that time were the Strand Theatre to one side of the 9th Street ramp and Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy with its neon lights to the other. That was the main central point of the boardwalk, and when you arrived to there it felt like coming to the top of the world. And it was, it was, it was!
Back when it was a real theater the main entrance was right behind the circular ticket booth, of course. But going by this photo that part looks like it’s completely sealed over now and has been for quite some time. So who knows where the patrons are expected to enter in through. To the theater’s immediate right that’s a ramp leading off the boardwalk, so I’m guessing the entrance (or entrances) is somewhere along there.
At least it’s still a theater, albeit all chopped up now.
But if there’s one location where a single screen theater should be able to work out very well, this is it, at least all throughout the summer months when that boardwalk is jammed packed with tourists. And because the tourism turnover rate is extraordinarily high now, given the very high cost to vacation in Ocean City these days (gone are the days when sizeable numbers of people could afford to spend their whole summers there), you could have one movie playing there all summer yet expect that theater to operate at full capacity every single night.
Meantime, just to tell an interesting story relating to something near to there, just up the boardwalk is the Ocean City Music Pier. traditionally Ocean City’s Music Pier hosted free live performances throughout the summer months, but this year the tickets for each show will be $20. One of the performers it will host this year is John Sebastian, leader of the 1960’s band the Lovin' Spoonful. An interesting story about John Sebastian which may be true or merely urban legend, back in the summer of ‘72 Ocean City caught the ripple effect from the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair held up in New York State just three years before. The whole entire resort that year was completely swamped with hippies and flower children everywhere. And one of the tales of that summer was that John Sebastian attempted to enter the resort (which is out on a barrier island) totally stoned on L.S.D. and driving a paisley Rolls Royce but was immediately intercepted by Ocean City police and forced to depart the resort the same way he drove in. So in that sense I just thought it’s very interesting that 35 years later he’ll now be performing at the Ocean City Music Pier. Maybe somebody can ask him if that longstanding story is really true. But at the same time, if he was really stoned on L.S.D. as the story goes, he probably wouldn’t remember it, would he?
Thanks, Lost Memory, for posting a link to what to a large extent is a very sad photo, at least in relation to the Strand Theatre’s one time glory. And just looking at how it’s being run now, it having been greatly reworked since I last saw a movie there in 1987 (ironically called THE UNTOUCHABLES), where do you even go in at? And given how it wasn’t all that big inside when it was a single screen theater, the five seperate auditoriums it’s been chopped up into must be really cramped. Not the best place I would say to see PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END. The way it had been before would’ve worked out quite well for a movie such as though.
There is something totally unAmerican about a theater, or any other type of U.S.-based establishment for that matter, seeking to alienate anyone. The far better — and more ethical — thing to do is to plan out the theater using the Murphy’s Law approach. Have it so it works out well for everyone no matter who comes to it. There’s the old saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But if someone tries to bring back a theater style of old and it is greatly clashed by such things as teenagers with cellphones or whatever it’s time to face the music and recognize that what worked out well in the past needs to be seriously updated. For as Murphy’s Law states, if something can go wrong it will.
Now to Dr Pepper, what you said caught my interest. You stated, “I think the Ritz was the best thing to do in South Jersey” (referring to the years you were growing up there.) Now I don’t know when that was, but to me if going to a theater is the best thing to do in South Jersey there’s something majorly wrong with South Jersey. And this you’re hearing from someone who spent much of his youth in South Jersey. But in my case — and I felt very fortunate — the best thing to do in South Jersey was to hit the Jersey beach every summer. And while all my life I’ve always loved movie theaters, the whole point of them was to greatly enhance how we view life itself. Take the Beatles' movie HELP!, for instance. My having seen that at a theater when I was a kid when it was all new (1965) the beach scenes shot in the Bahamas made me want to get down to the South Jersey beaches and enjoy life for all it’s worth. And then there was that movie documentary ENDLESS SUMMER that motivated me to get out there to see what real surfing is like.
Now admittedly the Shore scene in South Jersey these days is a total mess. For the past 20 years straight it’s been a disgusting rip-off at every turn. And made all the worse by the media rarely daring to tell it like it really is. And so if you grew up in South Jersey during that last 20-year time period I can fully understand your saying that going to a movie theater is the best thing to do in South Jersey. But at the same time can you see why I see that statement as being very sad? For movies and movie theaters in themselves — as much as I personally really love them — are not enough. They shouldn’t be enough. If they’re looked upon as if they are sufficient just in themselves and without really motivating anybody to do anything really exciting with their lives it’s like they’re cannons designed not to fire or what have you. Movie theaters should not merely be pacifyers but actual motivators — eye-openers, awareness-raisers, truth-revealers and all that good stuff. Things that get the people really riled up to bring about positive change where it’s needed. And South Jersey could really use that right now I feel.
Oops! Apologies for my not being that techically proficient, but hopefully this link will lead you to the article:
The latest news on this theater can be read View link this having appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for April 12, 2007.
Though I haven’t heard anything specific — and given the current state of politics, organized religion, the press and the local blogs around here I’m not likely to — now that Pennsylvania State Representative John Perzel is no longer House Speaker it’s probably safe to say the Devon Theatre restoration project as a live arts entertainment venue is now officially dead in the water.
For I can pretty much guarantee the new House Speaker, Dennis O'Brian — who’s also from Northeast Philadelphia — has no interest in this project going forward. You can write or call his office, or that of Perzel, or Philadelphia City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, or the Mayfair CDC organization, or whoever else, but I can pretty much guarantee you won’t get any replies. Nor will anyone who tries to step in and take over where Perzel left off get very far.
As for sound explanations for all this? Your guess is as good as mine. But usually when things get all hushed up this way the explanations behind it are more likely of a sinister rather than positive nature. Hey, why do you think Phoenix just surpassed Philadelphia in population size, making Philadelphia now America’s 6th largest city? People don’t stay around places that turn this way if they can help it.
And more importantly, or at least I feel, is that it will be the FIRST — yes, you read that right, FIRST — time any movie theaters directly IN Philadelphia will have digital projection. Or at least this according to the Philadelphia Inquirer for Sat., March 31, 2007: View link
And let’s hope the Philadelphia Inquirer is telling it straight this time. For if it is true I compare this to the Berlin Wall finally coming down or something. Yet Landmark is saying — at least according to that article — that at least two of the Ritz Theatre auditoriums will get digital projection.
And if so, can democracy be very far behind?
There’s already some other type of creepy governmental operation near to the former GCC Northeast building which, as you say, is being converted to a creepy Social Security center. It might be called PATH, but I’m not fully sure, only that it’s all very creepy.
And to think that whole area had been refreshingly part of the modern world at one time. And now it’s like it is today — totally creepy in the middle of broad daylight and God knows what it must be like around there at night. And these days is there any sort of rule of law around there other than fear itself? I wish I could learn more about some of the things that went down right before that theater went under. Today the modern world races to and fro by that once fully up to date section of Northeast Philadelphia along always-busy Route 1 but nowadays always steadfastly oblivious to it. I’d be surprised if penetration of those who do stop ever goes beyond Chuck e Cheese itself. And the Burlington Coat Factory that now occupies the former E.J. Korvette’s building just doesn’t seem like it would be much of a draw. But, I suppose it’s just how a certain group of people like it. Passing motorists on busy Roosevelt Boulevard won’t veer off into areas that don’t look very interesting.
What’s really surreal is if you venture over to where the remnnants of the GCC Northeast is now and you have memories of when that was a really classy suburban mall, which it was in the beginning — late 1950s-early 1960s. The mall itself, originally called E.J. Korvettes, stood for “eight Jewish Korean war veterans,” and was the concoction that eight army buddies dreamed up. In the beginning years there was a plaza-like area between the E.J. Corvettes department store itself and where the theater rose up — called “Cinema I & II” at the outset — that had a large outdoor birdcage as its centerpiece filled with colorful tropical birds. And the theater itself, with its simplistic streamlined design, was all very novel at the time. And every aspect of the complex held up very beautifully for a long stretch of time.
But then I don’t know what happened. It just all went south in one foul swoop it seems, perhaps more symbolized by the birdcage itself then anything else. I remember looking in that birdcage one day and it was just dead within and fully neglected. I don’t remember seeing dead birds, but the exotic plants inside had all given way to the everyday weeds of that area. And yes, it was creepy.
But why did this happen? For the location of that mall complex was good. It was right on Roosevelt Boulevard (Route #1) a major U.S. highway, after all, had more than ample parking, and so on. You can’t say it couldn’t compete with the malls because it was a mall. And you can’t say the GCC Northeast Theatre couldn’t compete with the multiplexes because it was a multiplex. But something between the late 1950s ideals and its strange demise went really weird. And that’s been a weird weird place around there ever since. Yet so strange, given how it is right alongside the busy Boulevard. They always say “location location location,” while this was location, and still is, really.
I don’t know, really bad politics, I guess. What else could it be? And though I haven’t been back over that way for a long time now, I guess that theater’s still the burned out hulk it was when I saw it last and shot some photos of it. It just looked so hopeless when I saw it last that I took my photos and then got the hell away from there…er, that is, before the dreaded sundown had a chance to settle in. And you’re right, I think back now and it was creepy.
But it wasn’t always…