Comments from TKHutchinson

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TKHutchinson commented about Rose Theatre on Nov 24, 2015 at 7:47 pm

There was more than one Rose Theatre in Colfax. When the original Rose closed, its sign and name was moved (as well as some equipment) to the other cinema, a postwar concrete purpose built building. It had another name before being re-named the Rose. It was open until the mid 1970s, and probably was the 425 seat venue referred to earlier. I purchased and removed the projection and sound equipment in the mid ‘70s, and still have the Motiograph sound rack which started its life in the original Rose and was later moved to Rose II.

TKHutchinson commented about Woodland Theatre on May 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm

The Woodland Theatre was built circa 1926. I am not sure who built it but one story had it that a group of local businesspeople felt that the town needed a modern theatre, and went together to build it. By the mid 1930s the theatre was owned and operated by Nate Rhodes, who continued to operate the theatre until the late 1950s.
Rhodes then rented the theatre out to a parade of operators, none of which lasted very long, until he finally sold the building in 1969.

The auditorium was nearly square. Originally built for silent movies, the walls were painted plaster. When sound was installed (the only Crockett sound system I have ever seen; a Seattle manufactured knock-off of Western Electric) the interior was covered with ten-test board, to reduce the echo. There was no organ, stage or orchestra pit; it was designed only for movies.

Rhodes modernized the theatre in the mid 1950s, adding cinemascope, magnetic stereo sound, a new entrance, and an ajoining soda fountain.

Later operators included Lee Brown (a local schoolteacher), Bob Rising (from Portland), Gordon Back (a projectionist from Vancouver, Wa), Tom Hutchinson (who operated the theatre as a high school senior), and Gene Manring (who eventually turned the building into an auction house).

TKHutchinson commented about Garland Theater on May 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I was told that the Garland was designed by the same architect that designed the Empire in Tekoa, Washington; the Rena in Kellogg Idaho, the Bungalow in St. Maries Idaho, and perhaps others.

TKHutchinson commented about Deja Vu Showgirls on May 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Ken mc got the list of Favorite Theatres in Spokane right, but the East Sprague, East Trent, West End, North Cedar were all drive-in theatres.

The Dishman was (as far as I recall) owner operated until the late 1960s, when Favorite gave it a remodel job and turned it into a first run Hollywood big deal cinema. I remember we played Billy Jack there for months (I was occasionally projectionist there at the time).

A new UA twin was built not too far west of the Dishman, and I think around that time Dishman became an X rated house. That was the time when single screens were being phased out in favor of twins or triples. Favorite Theatres was purchased by Sterling Recreation Organization, from Seattle, around this same time.

The Dishman Theatre was unremarkable, a good example of small town theatre construction but plain, and overall a good place to see a movie.

TKHutchinson commented about Tekoa Empire Theater on Apr 19, 2006 at 4:32 pm

I don’t know. It is possible, but I am not sure. I have no idea who installed the Devry equipment or whether it is currently operational.

TKHutchinson commented about Princess Theatre on Apr 19, 2006 at 4:14 pm

The Princess was operated during most of its first period of life by Famous Players. The Mckernans did operate it initially but not for long. Famous closed the Princess in 1957 because its “nickelodeon” design with a very long, narrow auditorium and minute screen could not be brought up to date to compete with TV (it was never converted to cinemascope under the Famous Players operation).

There are several theatres in Edmonton that have claims to the first sound exhibition…..and I would doubt that any claim the Princess makes is credible.

When Famous Players closed the theatre (they closed several Edmonton theatres about that time; victims of TV) it was converted to a store; a TV store in fact. Much of the balcony was demolished, and the interior was gutted.

In 1968 Hector Ross and his Town Cinema Theatres Ltd bought the Princess and did a complete renovation, following a historic theme but anything but historically accurate. They reconstructed a new balcony (in a different place from the original), reconfigured the lobby, and equipped the building to pass the codes of the day. This required closing the rooming house on the third floor and cutting into that space to put the new projection room, to shoot over the top of the newly reconstructed balcony. Offices on the second floor were demolished to make way for rest rooms (funny how no one had to go to the toilet in 1914). The only thing original in the building as it is now is the procenium arch (now widened for CinemaScope) and the mural above the procenium. A plasterer was brought from Europe and a large crystal chandelier was bought from France to enhance the look of the theatre. The new theatre was called the Klondike, after the “Klondike Days” celebration that Edmonton had in the summer. Towne Cinemas Ltd morphed into Landmark Cinemas and they tried to use the Princess as their flagship theatre. However, the neighborhood was disreputable and run down; the theatre had no parking and a very small screen and poor acoustics, and it didn’t ever “take off”. It did play first run product, but first run product that was available to a smaller cinema company at the time, with Odeon and Famous Players controlling the best Hollywood fare. It never showed “porn” but it did show some pictures like the English “Carry On” series that featured women with large breasts.

Because soft core porn was successful in several theatres, Landmark discussed running such pictures. The residents of the area felt that if the theatre were to operate with soft core porn, it would further drag the area down. So “saving the theatre” became a rallying cry which eventually formed a very vital revitalization organization, the Old Strathcona Foundation. The Foundation operated the re-named Princess Theatre, rented from Landmark, as a very successful repertory cinema. They eventually bought the building.

By and by videos came and wrecked the repertory operation, so it shifted to mostly Hollywood. Then a 12 plex discount theatre was built in Edmonton, and even the Hollywood pictures didn’t make any money. The theatre, instead of supporting the Old Strathcona Foundation, was costing it money. It was sold to a private investor.

This private company attempted to operate the theatre as first run art/alternative, but they were unsuccessful. They leased it to Magic Lantern Theatres (the current operators)in the late 1990s.

Magic Lantern built a small screening room in what was originally a pool hall under the theatre. It is totally separate from the main Princess Theatre, and is called Princess II. Both the Princess and Princess II (as well as the Garneau Theatre, nearby) currently show first run art/alternative product.

Tom Hutchinson

TKHutchinson commented about Roxy Theatre on Apr 19, 2006 at 3:37 pm

The Roxy was never owned by Odeon. It was built by an investor (the mayor of Hanna,a small central Alberta town, named Shaker. He built 3 theatres in Edmonton (Varscona, Avenue and Roxy)(Shaker also built Broadway Saskatoon as well and operated Capitol and the drive-in in Hanna). Early on he leased all 3 Edmonton theatres to Odeon.

Odeon gave up the leases on all 3 in the early 1980s. Shaker’s estate sold the theatres to a local investment company. They were leased by Famous Players for a short time. Following that, the landlord began operated all 3 theatres under the banner “Inner City Cinemas” as repertory cinemas; the picture would start at one theatre, move to the next after 3 days, then to the next. An interesting concept.

The landlord sold the Varscona for demolition and rented the Roxy to Magic Lantern Theatres who operated it as the “$2 Roxy” in the mid 1980s, operating as a repertory or “calendar house”. That didn’t prove financially viable and so the landlord donated the building to Theatre Network for conversion into a playhouse in the late 1980s.

Tom Hutchinson

TKHutchinson commented about Wilma Theater on Apr 19, 2006 at 3:23 pm

Renato, if you were the elevator operator at the Wilma building you have so many stories to tell that you could fill books. Is it true that elevator operators know everything? Like Eddie Sharp and Bob Sias, the owners; like Koro Hatto, the dead pigeon; and on and on. I would be very interested in knowing what you got out of the basement, because WA Simon Amusements operated many theatres in Idaho and Montana, and had a very -colorful- history.

Briefly, W.A. “Billy” Simon was a contemporary of Pantages, and was instrumental in operating one or more vaudeville theatres in Portland Oregon. One of the acts he had on stage was the Wilma Sisters. He took up with the much younger Edna Wilma, and married her. They settled in Missoula and operated the theatres as well as ranches (not sure of Edna brought these to the marriage or if Simon did). Simon didn’t live too long, as I recall he died in the mid ‘30s and Edna (a very sharp and savvy businesswoman) carried on and improved the business holdings, which prospered during the second world war. At the end of the war Edna, by then middle aged, married young Eddie Sharp, who was a musician. She only lived a few more years and upon her death Eddie began a lifetime relationship with Bob Sias. Neither Eddie or Bob were nearly the businessperson that Edna was, and essentially for the rest of their lives they lived off the assets of the WA Simon Company, which by the time of their deaths were pretty well gone (all the theatres were gone except the Wilma, Missoula).

The story of Simon, Edna Wilma, and Eddie and Bob is one of the most interesting I have run across. Any documentation you have, Renato, would be very interesting indeed, as would be your recollections as the elevator operator.

Tom Hutchinson

TKHutchinson commented about Tekoa Empire Theater on Apr 16, 2006 at 4:31 pm

I operated this theatre as a cinema for about a year in 1971. Tekoa was a farm town of about 500 population, in Washington’s “Inland Empire” area. The theatre had been closed by its builder, Rex Hevel, in 1958. His widow kept it clean and in good condition for all those years. We had quite a bit of a challenge to get the Century projection booth (installed by Western Theatre Supply of Spokane) going again after nearly 15 years of disuse. I lived in the unfinished suite upstairs. There was no bath facility, so I paid 25 cents to take a bath occasionally at the local hotel.

The theatre had been used one week a year for the summer festival “Slippery Gulch Days” for some time prior to my renting it, and has been used for that since. It is quite a cute little theatre (350 seats when I ran it), with all the original painting and detail still intact in 1971. The auditorium ceiling had nice graphics painted on it, and the blue damask acoustic panels were quite pretty on the walls. Nice decorative light fixtures, too.

After I closed the theatre, the Century equipment was sold to Hector Ross in Calgary and was installed in the Canfilm Screening Room there. Original equipment at the Empire was something else, probably Simplex with incandescent lamps, moved from the old theatre in Tekoa (also operated by Hevel). The Century stuff was put in after the war. I understand that Devry equipment has been put in after that by the Community.

The same architect also designed the Garland in Spokane, Washington; the Rena in Kellogg, Idaho, the Wilma in Coeur d'Alene Idaho, the Bungalo in St. Maries Idaho, among others.