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Tim: A good question, and one that someone with access to an old map could probably answer for sure, but I think I have a partial answer.
WCMB-TV was not in the State Theater Building as I had heard many years ago from a now-deceased co-worker at WKBO. Since the address on Court Street would seem to be in the right vicinity, I had no reason to doubt it. However, today I asked a co-worker (I think you know Mr. Kauffman) who had worked at WCMB radio in the early 1960s. He tells me WCMB-TV was located on Court Street between Walnut and Locust behind what is now the Federal Building, constructed in 1964. Court Street, then and now, is little more than an alley, but many businesses had addresses in those little side streets.
I’m not quite buying that location, however, as the 200 block of Court Street is north of Locust, and 228-232 would be about midway between Locust and Pine, well north of the Federal Building. Perhaps someone else could pinpoint that address. If WCMB-TV was not in the State Theatre Building, what building was it in?
While I was originally told the old TV studios were â€œintact,â€ I took that as meaning the rooms in which they were located were still recognizable as TV studios but that the actual equipment had been dismantled.
Sorry for spreading misinformation!
…and was operating as late as 1955. Looking at newspaper ads from the era, 1956 seemed to be the year of doom for many of Harrisburg City’s neighborhood houses.
“WSS” was reissued in the fall of 1968, perhaps the first since the original release. I worked at a theater than ran it for several weeks. It was chopped a bit for that release. I think it may have had an overture that was cut, and the end credits were definitely dumped. The curtains closed with the shot of the cast standing on the basketball court. It didn’t even say “The End.” Too bad because that long Saul Bass credit sequence would have been a perfect opportunity for the women in the audience to dry their eyes. Never have I seen such weeping at the end of a movie! Although the theater had 70mm capability, the print was 35mm Panavision. The musical numbers were in stereo, but the dialog parts were not. Nice to see it have a proper reissue.
Ronn – I also thank you for those photos. I never thought I would ever see any pix of the State, much less in color! I remember that ornate lobby well, with it’s marble staircases leading up to the mezzanine. I always wanted to see what was beyond those staircases but the balcony was always closed. That auditorium photo is fantastic. I was startled by the detail of the proscenium arch. I don’t remember ever seeing it, but it was probably obscured by draperies covering the screen. Looking at those photos made me think again about what a loss to the city the demolition of the State really was. To think Harrisburg had a showplace like that into the 1970s and let it all go.
The Paducah Drive-in was located on the right-hand side of Rt. 45, otherwise known as the Lone Oak Road, about two miles south of town. I don’t know the exact address or what is there now. The Indian gentleman whose face was on the back of the screen was Chief Paduke. It had been built pre-CinemaScope, and wing extensions had been added to either side of the screen. They were not flat but at an angle, giving the screen a curved appearance. We saw “America Graffiti” there after it had played one of the downtown theaters. There is a picture of the screen tower at various places on the web.
We lived in this charming Western Kentucky town for year in the mid-70s, when I was a DJ at WKYX. We attended most of the town’s theaters: the Arcade and Columbia, downtown; the Paducah Drive-in; and the modern Paducah Cinema. All of these are now gone. We never managed to get to the South Twin, however. It was no longer a twin at that time. It had been, but one of the screens had been abandoned with only the framework remaining. It sat right at the edge of the parking lot for a pizza shop we frequented, this huge construction of rusting metal with no screen panels. It was still called the South Twin, however. (Hey, why spend money updating your logo?) The only thing I remember about the South “Twin” was that they seemed to play Clint Eastwood’s “High Plains Drifter” as a perpetual second feature. It was almost as if they owned a print. Across the highway were the remains of another drive-in, which had also been a twin. The screens were still up although falling apart, the lot was overgrown and there seemed to be no way of getting in, as a number of small businesses had sprung up since the drive-in closed and were strung along the roadside. The place wasn’t for sale or anything. It just stood there deteriorating. I’ve always wondered what was it’s name and when it closed. There was another abandoned drive-in across the state line north of Paducah on the road to Metropolis Illinois. It had a large picture of an Indian chief painted on the back of the screen!
This theater was at some time taken over by a local owner, Charles MacDonald, who also owned the Southern on Jackson Street in the city. MacDonald renamed it the Holiday. Both theaters were first-run. Native Yorkers remember going there into the 1960s. It was demolished to make way for a Danskin factory, date unknown.
John: That would have been the Comet. Never saw it myself so I’m not sure exactly where it was. A Lancaster native once told me it was where Kelly Cadillac is today, but that seems a little too far up the road. Any Lancastrians out there who know for sure?
In way of answer to a few questions:
John: I’m told a car dealership is on the former site of the Comet D-I, northwest of Lancaster off 283.
The Tanger Outlet Center is on the SkyVue site.
Nobody asked about this but cows graze on the site of the Columbia D-I. It is immediately adjacent to a farm, east of Columbia on 462. The site is no longer recognizable as the drive-in. That was a very well-attended D-I that got kicked off the land by the owner’s desire to build a shopping center, which for reasons unknown was never built. It was operating 5 or 6 months a year as recently as 5 years ago.
Ross: Playland in East York was long gone by the time I got to town but there was a huge old roller skating rink in the area I think you’re talking about. Was that part of Playland? The roller rink burned to the ground – leveled in about 20 minutes – in a spectacular fire one Sunday afternoon in the 1980s.
The Lincoln was pretty rural, all the way out in Thomasville, but the Stony Brook was just down the street from the apartment complex where I lived when I came to York. I could have walked there. East York became a very well-developed suburban area post-WWII, and East Market Street for the first mile or so past Mt. Zion Road. (Rt. 24) was a busy retail strip and is more so today. Drive-ins were traditionally built on cheap, outlying land accessible by good roads. The Lincoln was a prime example. How they got all that land in suburban East York to build a drive-in theater in 1950 I’ll never figure out. Perhaps they were lucky and beat the rush, or the original owners of the drive-in already owned the land. It was probably all farm land or woods at that time.
Back in 1989, I was an “Arts & Leisure” writer for a local daily newspaper. I wrote an article about York-area drive-ins and the Lincoln in particular, as AMC had re-opened it for the summer after a two-year hiatus. I had to go look up that article to get some facts straight. AMC acquired the Budco theaters in January 1987 and closed most of Budco’s drive-ins, and there were many. As an AMC spokesman told me, they had no experience with drive-ins and considered them a waste of time. Both the Stony Brook and the Lincoln did not re-open in 1987. AMC did re-open the Columbia Drive-in, however, as that one was fairly close to their New Jersey district office and had always been successful. The guy who ran Columbia convinced them to re-open the Lincoln in 1989. They declined to re-open Stony Brook, I was told, because of the York 4 Cinema on the same property, and they didn’t want to compete with themselves. I attended a showing of “Pink Cadillac” at the Lincoln as part of writing the article and interviewing the people who worked there, as friendly and dedicated a group of people as I have ever met. Unfortunately, AMC did a lousy job of running and promoting the Lincoln. The lot was overgrown with weeds and the projectors each hit a different spot on the screen. AMC declined to re-open the Lincoln after that season, and it was left to rot for years. Stony Brook could never re-open, as AMC had, in their words, “cannibalized” the projection equipment for spare parts. That property sat there for years, turning into a veritable jungle of weeds and overgrowth. They just closed it and forgot about it. At least when the York 4 was running they kept the lot reasonably clean, but after that, forget it. Too bad.
Opened in 1950. Closed in 1986. Co-owned with the Lincoln Drive-in, west of York on Rt. 30 in Thomasville. Like the Lincoln, open year-round during its heyday, running first-run movies. Stony Brook, Lincoln and the hard-top HiWay eventually came into the Budco fold, which also operated the York Cinema next to the Stony Brook property. When I moved to York in 1975, the York Cinema was one large theater, which was then twinned, and two more screens were added by the late 70s. Budco closed Stony Brook at the end of the 1986 season; Lincoln around the same time. AMC acquired Budco and re-opened the Lincoln for one season around 1990, using equipment that had been removed from Stony Brook. AMC closed the York Cinema in the late 90s and the property sat there declining for close to a decade before a developer leveled it all for a shopping center and condos, both of which sit where the drive-in used to be, on a new street called Cinema Drive. Ironic, since there is no longer a cinema located there. The last movie I saw at the Stony Brook: “Purple Rain.”
This was a “portable” drive-in with an inflatable screen that operated for a while at the York Fairgrounds. The company that ran it was USA Theaters, which has been doing something similar at a variety of South Central PA locations for several years, emphasizing family-friendly movies. Not what we would think of as a traditional drive-in but the concept seems to have been popular.
Norelco, I love your stories, the “reel” dirt on some of these places. From the way you tell it, no wonder they had projection troubles. Sounds like the riot was an event waiting to happen. Tell us, who owned and operated the Rialto? Did it ever have any connection with any other Harrisburg theaters or was it on its own?
No, at that time I would not have been welcome on North 3rd Street, certainly not at night when the theater was operating. I’m curious what the Rialto may have looked like inside. It was probably the largest of the city’s neighborhood houses. No pictures exist, I’m sure.
Just for laughs, check out this link:
The Paxtang Theater alternated this and another creaky old “Previews of Coming Attractions” trailer until 1966. I recall this being a little longer, and unfortunately the ending of this one is clipped, but you get the idea. It says 1940 but I’ll bet this goes back to 1937 when the theater opened.
Yes, there was a theater in York called the HiWay. It was on West Market Street at the intersection with Carlisle Avenue. It had its last gasp as – what else – a porno house around 1984. Sat vacant for a long time and was eventually sold for taxes. It is now a factory for a company that makes decorative metal work.
When National Screen Service closed its regional exchanges in the 1970s, years upon years of posters were carted out and dumped. Savvy collectors who found out about this went dumpster diving and carried them away by the truckload, so I’ve been told. How many more were actually lost, you have to wonder. I began collecting again in the 1990s and did so for several years but haven’t done much this decade. Back then you could go to a show and actually see what you were buying. Now it’s all on-line.
One of my oldest posters came from Renninger’s flea market: “San Antonio” starring Errol Flynn. $5 around 1970. Every once in a while you find a newspaper ad from someone who has a collection to sell, or find a theater that stored them, but not often. I don’t know what direction prices are heading nowadays.
Ross, I’ll e-mail it to you. Doc returned the larger posters to National Screen Service but the one-sheets he stored for a while and then threw out. I can tell you where lots of the movie posters Doc trashed are today. In my storage closet. A friend of my older brother made a similar discovery one day, and I started making a regular swing by to look for posters and pressbooks. Doc used to occasionally give you one if you asked but I struck up an acquaintance with the old guy who cleaned the place and he used to set them aside for me. Many are in wretched shape but there were a few gems, like four color lobby cards from “Some Like It Hot,” a one-sheet for “From Russia With Love,” and a pressbook for “A Hard Day’s Night.” Some of them will contribute to my retirement eventually!
Just to add a couple of things to John’s submission: Walter Yost also owned an existing theater in Mechanicsburg, the Paramount, seating 390. The Paramount was closed eventually but when the Valle opened, they switched the Paramount to a format of westerns. Does anyone know where that theater was located?
The 1945 Film Daily yearbook lists yet another theater in Mechanicsburg, called the Mt. Vernon, with seating at 1000. That may have been a mistaken listing, but who knows?
I took a tour of the Valle in the 1980s, long after it was closed, with the dream of reviving it. There was no power and we went through using flashlights, from projection room to basement. There were no seats and the floor had been converted to tiers for a short-lived nightclub. Only one of the two projectors was in the booth.
It was a little spooky in the half-dark but from what I could see, the Valle had been a very nice theater at one time with a number of attractive touches, like floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the lobby, glass blocks with neon lighting on either side of the aisles, and a water fountain with pink flamingos on the mirror above it. I had seen the small marquee lit up at some time or another but unfortunately it had been hit by a truck and virtually destroyed. It had been a real beauty too.
I passed on it, thinking it was too much to take on. I’ve always wondered why the Valle wasn’t able to survive, like the West Shore has. If it could be done in New Cumberland, why not Mechanicsburg? The communities are similar. Unfortunately the Valle is all gone now with no chance of bringing it back.
One other thing: was the name said “valley,” or as someone once said it to me, “va-LAY?”
My dad’s family lived at 1408 Liberty Street in the 1930s. My mom and dad were married in 1938 at the Methodist Church on State. They moved to Paxtang in the early 1940s. His mother lived on Liberty Street until she died in the late 40s. My dad liked that entire neighborhood and one time said that when he was a young man he thought it would be wonderful to own one of those grand houses on State Street. That was quite a classy neighborhood back in the day.
That was a good, clean, well-run drive-in and was open year-round with first-run movies in the 1960s and 70s. I remember seeing “Summer of ‘42” there in January, using one of their in-car heaters. And the flea market was huge, a good Sunday afternoon use of all that land. I recall when that drive-in was really out in the middle of nowhere with hardly any development out that far on 22. Now the retail zone extends way beyond where the drive-in once stood. When the drive-in was built the land must have been dirt cheap. By the time they got around to selling the land it must have been worth a fortune. Land value and the VCR spelled the end of many a drive-in around 1985 or 86.
The Trans Lux in York was probably the same as the one in Harrisburg, and was twinned in the Blue and Gold style as well. They were even nice, plush theaters as twins. The only problem was they were really long and not so wide, and you practically needed binoculars if you were near the back.
That story about Sameric firing Paul Hipple really ticks me off. He’s long gone I’m sure but what a lousy way to treat an employee who came up with a way to recycle carbon rods and save them money. To my young eyes he was really good at his craft, and he was always nice to us “JRs” as he used to call us. What possible justification did they have?
Norelco…I remember there was a third projector in the booth, to the left of the big ones. It was smaller and very old-looking and 35mm only. That projector was used for a couple of weeks when I worked there as an usher. They were showing the Julie Andrews flop “Star!” in 70mm but late in the run they wanted to run a trailer for the next attraction before the main feature, and that projector was used only for that. It was a Simplex I think. How old was that one?
There was a storage area at the top of the steps to the booth and to the left. It was stacked with box upon box filled with used carbon rods. What did they keep them for? When they split the Eric into twins did they build a new booth for either side or did they keep it in the same place? I went in there one time after it was twinned and think I saw what looked like another staircase in the lobby, which I assumed was for better access to the booth. It was 30+ years ago so I may be remembering something that wasn’t there.
Another thing I remember about the Eric was the emergency lighting system, which was in a small room to the right of the screen. There must have been a dozen or more storage batteries all wired up and ready for the lights to go out. Never saw anything like it. The room was freezing cold as I recall.
I worked at the Eric for about a year in 1968-69. There was a lot of turnover among ushers. Mr. Bernstein wasn’t the easiest person to work for, cranky as he was.
The Eric wasn’t much for beauty but 70mm looked great in there and the sound was really nice. However, I’ve always thought the Trans Lux was just a nicer theater all around.
Oh what a colorful past this little theater had. The Star wasnâ€™t always an adult theater. It was simply a very small neighborhood house in an area of town that if you didnâ€™t have to be there, you probably shouldnâ€™t be. It catered to the local audience with second-run movies. I recall it played double-features a lot of the time. â€œA Star feature means double entertainment!â€ the ads used to say. I think it opened and closed a few times over the years. I only saw the Star once or twice in my lifetime, before the switch to what the owners euphemistically called â€œartâ€ films.
That would have been around 1961, perhaps as early as 1960. The Star became the Star-Art, â€œHome of Unusual Art Films.â€ They showed what at the time were quaintly called â€œnudies.â€ In many ways the Star-Art was a pioneer of the genre. Russ Meyerâ€™s â€œThe Immoral Mister Teasâ€ played there for quite some time. Nudies at the time had little more than a little skin and titillation, and not much of either. There was no actual sex. They were just teasers. Many mainstream Hollywood pictures of today are infinitely more graphic.
There was an audience for those movies and the Star-Art prospered. A lot of cities tried to shut down theaters like the Star-Art. York was battling the Southern into the 1970s before they gave up. Harrisburg just didnâ€™t seem to care as long as the theater was in a shabby neighborhood. For those of us who were teenagers at the time, the Star-Art held a real mystery, but none of us would have dared go there.
As the movies turned to graphic nudity and sex, the Star-Art went right along, but encountered competition it would have never thought possible, from the Senate on Market Square and even from some suburban theaters. The Star-Art finally unreeled its last flick at the end of 1976.
Ironically, the Third Street area where the Star was once located has become â€œMidtown,â€ a very trendy residential area for young professionals.
Thanks, guys. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I don’t know if this will work, but I found a photo of the Paxtang at this web address:
It’s a recent photo. As you can see, the gymnastics school has neglected the once-beautiful facade. They painted everything over with green. Wish I had a photo in its glory.
John, you’ve read my much-longer story about the Paxtang. Perhaps I’ll share a few bits from that from time to time.