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Actually there’s a typo in the above. The Plumb Theatre installed CinemaScope in December of 1953 and opened with “The Robe” on New Years day in 1954. I was a Freshman in high school and was down town when I saw the RCA truck pulled up to the stage door. I had been looking forward to CinemaScope and rushed over to look. When the manager, who was a neighbor, saw me he asked me to help unload the truck. I was so thrilled to be asked it didn’t even occur to me to ask for pay.
The WLS Barndance definitely appeared at the Plumb Theatre. We listened to it almost every Saturday at home so when they played the Plumb my Father and I went to hear them. I’m not sure of the date but it was before the Plumb installed CinemaScope in 1952 as they used the full stage. They carried a “barn interior” drop and had bales of hay onstage. I think Lulubelle and Scotty may have been the headline act as they were popular at the time. (They also played the high school auditorium and I saw them in both venues so I’m not sure which act I saw where.) They played after a movie at the Plumb and there was a small hole in the house traveller and I remember seeing the picture sheet being flown out just before their performance. Those performances probably inspired my own career which led to the Music Hall.
When we got our booking to play “Fantasia” at Radio City I called to see if we could get a Dolby encoded print to lower the magnetic track noise. To my surprise I was put in touch with Irving Ludwig who was in charge of Buena Vista. I mentioned in our conversation that the first time I saw “Fantasia” it was presented in Superscope. He replied, “Yes, and if you ever find any of those prints let me know so I can destroy them!” Superscope was a variable anamorphic process which allowed the projection lens to vary the “stretch” of a picture from anything to none to the standard 2:1 squeeze. In the case of “Fantasia” they varied the width of the picture by cropping the top and bottom of the frame. It worked pretty well for the Toccata and Fugue which was abstract, but less well for narrative content. In the case of the “Sorcerers' Apprentice” portion with Micky Mouse the screen reverted to the standard 1.37:1. Since Disney was being distributed at the time by RKO which was promoting the Superscope process it probably seemed like a good idea at the time by their promotion department, but needless to say the critics and discerning public raised a fuss. You won’t find any reference to this version in standard Disney histories today, but on the original Laser Disc release a picture of the ad is included in the supplemental material.
Mark, I’m not sure when the Zeiss projectors were taken out. I think they were there when I left the Hall to work for Dolby in 1999. Our engineers were there to align the Dolby equipment for premieres until the end so perhaps they’ll know. I’ll see if I can find out. The last things I ran there were a screening of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in 70mm reel to reel and then a couple of 35mm prints in a series of classic films – one of them “The Professionals”. At that point they had platters, but the Zeiss projectors were still there.
Just a few comments on the above: RCMH used three projectors for ALL presentations of the “Napoleon” triptych. (I was Head Projectionist for all of the screenings at the Hall.) Yes the contour was used. The first time we did it, we used the house picture sheet which was 70' wide and closed the masking to the center until the changeover to the triptych. Subsequent presentations were done on thee 30' fast fold screens butted together with a strip to mask the joins. That screen was upstage of the first blacks which were closed to the center and opened on cue by a stagehand at the start of the triptych. Bob Harris did bring a 70mm test roll in, but they had not printed the three images together so we never even tried it.
The Ziegfeld did have Zeiss Favorit 35/70mm machines for most of it’s career. I attended a presentation of “Soldier Blue” there on a visit to New York before I came to work at the Hall. At that time the console in the rear center of the auditorium was in use. The idea was that there was a man on the console to run the show and then thread up the three machines in the both for the next show. There was automation to do the changeovers and control the lights and curtain. The union still insisted on two men on a shift so the console was eventually scrapped.
At one point after a critical review by Rex Reed of the projection, the Zeiss projectors were removed and replaced with 35mm machines which were in use when I came to New York to work at the Hall in 1974. They were taken out and the Zeiss Favorit machines were put back for the 70mm run of “That’s Entertainment”. They were in use for the years I worked vacation relief there when the Ziegfeld had a long run of 70mm presentations. They were removed and replaced with Century JJ’s which were there when the house closed.
It was Walter Reade’s prime house before the Ziegfeld opened. It went from 70mm roadshows to almost becoming a porno house when it was triplexed to becoming a Peter Elson grind house. I was in the booth on a visit when “Fisherman” was being shown there, then spent time in the booth during the tirplexing, and finally worked there during the last years. It is not surprising that the condition deteriorated it was a completely different operation. In between the roadshow years and the time it was triplexed there was a fire in the balcony that left damage that wasn’t cleaned out until the triplexing. There were still remnants of its glory days, but it had definitely gone down hill.
edlambert, I was quoting the spec so I’m not sure what would cause the height limitation but I suspect that it could be that the three booths were sometimes placed on orchestra level at the back of the house which might cause problems with a balcony overhang. If the height was lensed down to be completely visible then the width would be sacrificed and the screen would be smaller. It might have been that they felt that it was better to have the widest “wrap around” effect than to have to reduce the screen width. We were frequently required to place road projectors at the back of the orchestra when I was at Radio City and we had to be careful about the 1st Mezzanine balcony overhang. That problem would be exacerbated with Able and Charlie booths possibly getting the image clipped from the overhang.
edlambert: checking on the Cinerama specs listed in Martin Hart’s Widescreen Museum which lists them from the SMPTE standards the negative image for three strip Cinerama was .996 x 1.116. The print aperture was .985 x 1.088 x 3. This produced an aspect ratio of 2.59 although there was a note that because some theatres might not be able to handle the increased frame height the ratio could be 2.65. Somewhere I have a pamphlet from the SMPTE published in the ‘60’s that had all the specs for all the widescreen processes. I hope to find it as it was the definitive reference source.
vindanpar if you set your Blu-ray player for PCM output for Khartoum and then Pro-Logic decode the two tracks in your receiver or control unit you may get a decent L-C-R-S playback which comes closer to mirroring the original Khartoum track. Criterion did this with “Blow-out” which was a Dolby stereo track matrixed for theatrical playback. I don’t know why they just don’t do this in the Blu-ray production process and release the decoded tracks in a normal DTS configuration, and Criterion wasn’t able to tell me why when I asked them about it, but give it a try.
You should be aware that the Village East main auditorium has a very steep downward angle for projection. The screen which had been onstage when it was a single house was moved forward when the proscenium was bricked up to create the two backstage screens. There is a fair amount of cropping to account for the keystone. I saw a 2.2 70mm print here when the house opened and it looked as if the picture were almost 1.85. They did have lenses that shifted the image up a bit, but one of the engineers I work with has tech checked a couple of 70mm prints here and always laments the crop.
Truthfully it wasn’t that impressive on a flat screen in a huge hall. I had a chance to see it twice in Cinerama on curved screens once in Chicago and once at the Oakbrook D-150 house near Chicago. A college student who was home for vacation mentioned to me that he had seen it in 16mm. I was working for Plitt Theatres at the time and had a pass for all of their houses. 2001 was playing at Oakbrook so we took a ride up to see it there. We sat in the first row during a matinee performance, and my friend commented that when the D-150 snipe appeared before the feature that it was the only time he had had to turn his head to read a title. Also memorable was the projectionist slightly missing a changeover and putting a tail leader on the screen. In Cinerama (D-150) it was enough to suck your eyeballs out!
I sat in the first row at the Hall when we did our tech screenings of the 70mm prints but it wasn’t the same. I considered going up on stage and sitting right in front of the screen, but the projection crew would probably have had me committed.
We beat ‘em both when we ran it at Radio City. Our screen was 70’ so there!
During the demolition Marlene Dietrich was appearing across the street in her stage show in the Mark Hellinger Theatre (itself a former movie palace). During Dietrich’s Wednesday matinees the demolition crew stopped work so as not to interrupt Miss Dietrich’s performance.
I do stand corrected if the theatre opened in 1935 (I can check the date in a local newspaper article.) I can remember being taken there by my grandmother to see a re-release of “Snow White” when I was pre-school age probably around 1945.
The photo is not of the Granada. The Granada was built in the ‘40’s in the Mulford Garage building which had been converted to also house several stores including the Mulford printing company. Ken Childs built and ran the theatre until a fire destroyed the whole complex. Since the Plumb and Majestic Theatres were both Publix Great States theatres, the Granada had a deal to be the sole exhibitor of Warner Bros. pictures in Streator, while all Paramount pictures played the Plumb. The Granada also played “B” level Fox and MGM pictures. The Streator Times-Press did an article on theatres in Streator which featured a photo of the theatre when it was open and another with coverage of the fire with the marquee crashed to the street after the fire. Those are the only two photos of the theatre I’ve ever seen. As a kid I grew up attending matinees at the Granada including a series of 16mm Hopalong Cassidy titles during the days when he was big on TV. It was a particularly suitable theatre since Clarence Mulford, the creator of Hopalong Cassidy, was a Streator native and the Granada was in a building owned by the Mulford family.
This picture comes as a bit of shock. This is the first theatre I worked in as paid projectionist in 1965 or so. I grew up watching movies here as this was the deluxe house in town. It was a l-o-n-g way up to that booth from the street level more than one floor below the edge of this picture. by the time this picture was taken I was already at Radio City. I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness the end.
During the ‘70’s I was on a Local #306 Projectionist’s union team picketing a porno house around the corner from the Metropolitan. Our picket signs were stored in the Metropolitan booth. When our shift ended I volunteered with another member to take the picket signs back up to the booth. We got as far in the balcony as perhaps 30’ from the booth door when the stench got to me and I left the signs with my partner and headed for the exit. It was the only time in my life that I got that close to seeing a new booth and didn’t go in. “Sleazy” — I’d say!
Yes, along with 5.1 sound. (That’s ironic since the original release was in mono in most, if not all theatres.) Following the picture the stage presentation was done on a set that copied Brando’s office in the film.
“Godfather and Part 11” was screened digitally at the Hall (one of our Dolby engineers was there for the sound E.Q.) “Reservoir Dogs” did screen on 35mm at the Beacon the same weekend. Since it was Tarantino’s personal print it was screened on two projectors with changeovers.
“All That Jazz” didn’t screen at the Hall. In 1979 they changed the format from movie/stage show to it’s present use with Bob Jani’s stage “Spectaculars”. Had “All That Jazz” opened a couple of years earlier it could have qualified for Bob’s Movie Musical Memories". Other than one offs and special series the Hall didn’t have any long movie runs other than those mentioned above.
One irony, the Hall was offered the original run of “The Godfather” and considered it even though it was rated “R” but ultimately rejected it even though they could have used a hit. It would have accompanied the Easter show with it’s “Glory of Easter” prologue set in a cathedral with “novices” (officially they weren’t called “nuns”). It was felt that you couldn’t come out of the violent ending of “The Godfather” into a religious sequence like “Glory”. Thus this weekend’s screening at the Hall was finally fulfilling the offer made years earlier.
Thanks Mike. I took the man in charge of house operations word and didn’t check on my own.
After commenting on vindanpar’s entries above I got to thinking about his date of 1979. I then remembered that there was a special series at the Hall called “Musical Memory Lane” that ran in the mornings after the movie/stage show policy was eliminated. Bob Jani had just taken over the operation and his first show was a “Summer Spectacular”, but he wanted to continue the link to the Hall’s movie heritage. I checked my files and, sure enough, both “Flower Drum Song” and “Funny Face” ran during that series which screened at 11 A.M. Monday’s through Friday’s most weeks. I also realized that I had indeed been behind the projector when vindanpar saw them. Since they were not first run films, the union gave the Hall permission to have only one man in the booth. My “assistant” who was the only man retained from the previous crew didn’t want to do the series so I ran all of the films.
I was surprised that the series ran from 6/18/79 to 11/12/79 and featured 22 titles. I did remember “The Jolson Story” which was in 70mm and “Cabaret” which was the first “R rated” movie to play the Hall.
Among the other statistics were that from the time the house first showed film “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” until the last, “The Promise” in 1979 there were 674 features. In 1985 we did 10 weeks of movie/stage show presentations with “The Black Cauldron” and “Return To Oz” sharing the same Disney stage show. If you count “The Lion King” and “Barney’s Great Adventure” which had runs of at least four days the total number of shows with stage presentations was 677.
The only features that I didn’t count were in the “Art Deco” film festival in 1974 which also featured an art deco antiques show in the lobby. Each of those titles only ran one time. We also did a four feature silent series with Kevin Brownlow in which each feature only ran once, and “Napoleon” also silent with orchestra which ran multiple times over a couple of years.
Alas I didn’t do “Flower Drum Song” or “Funny Face” at the Hall. “Funny Face” was one of the first VistaVision films from Paramount and the very first VistVision picture “White Christmas” did play the Hall with true horizontal VistaVision projectors, one of the few places that did. They were so new (and rare) that I found hand drawn threading diagrams in the booth files. By the time “Funny Face” played it was in a standard reduction print from the VistaVision negative but it must have looked great on that screen.
In my post above I was trying to think of a young girl who played the Hall before becoming more famous. I think now it was Leslie Uggams, and while I can’t find a direct reference to the Hall she was working as a teen ager around the city at that time.
Just a “Hi” to StanMalone and NYer to say I’m glad you enjoyed the article about me and the Hall. Also wanted to mention that I’ve heard that Christian Slater is another performer that appeared briefly in the cast of the first post movie/stage “Christmas Spectacular”. He was the Little Drummer Boy for a few performances. It was a very odd number with the drummer boy in a suit and also featured a bag lady if I remember correctly. It was dropped after a few performances and some critical comments in the reviews. There is another performer who became famous that appeared in the movie/stage show days but I haven’t been able to remember her name. She’s African/American and appeared when she was a teen ager. I remember my boss talking about her and saying that her mother watched over her like a hawk to keep her safe from the stage crew. She was not a rock performer but did ballads. Hopefully something will jog my memory and you can add her to the list of performers who did appear in the stage show early in their careers.
Just as a side comment, if you remember the days of 35mm interlocked projector 3-D in the early ‘50’s, all of the complaints raised about digital 3-D were true then. If you turned your head slightly you’d lose the separation created by the Polarized light. In order to maintain the separation the screens had to be high gain and thus could display a “hot spot” when viewed off axis as well a significant light drop off in wide auditoriums or ones with a steep projection angle (that was one of the reasons the Radio City Music Hall scrapped the plan to show “Kiss Me Kate” in 3-D. They would have lost too many seats at the sides and top of the mezzanines.) Many of those conditions exist with digital 3-D as well. One exception is Dolby Digital 3-D which uses a very sophisticated variation on anaglyph 3-D. It can be projected on a matte white screen and not lose separation between the eyes. The trade off is that it does require more light than those systems which use high gain screens. With all of the digital 3-D systems the registration is better than could be achieved with two 35mm machines, and of course, there’s no mechanical motion problem such as weave to cause problems between the two images being seen as one. Digital 3-D just copied a lot of what was developed in the '50’s for film 3-D. Another case of “everything old is new again”.