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Historic Movie Palaces

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Rafter, May 1, 2007.

  1. Rafter

    Rafter Suspended

    I noticed on another thread that The Pantages is still alive!!!
    "It's A-L-I-V-E!!"
    This got me thinking about all the movie theaters of the past.
    Do any of you have fond memories of these great movie palaces?

    Hey Los Angelinos,
    You are so lucky to have so many of your historic theatres....The Egyptian, The Hollywood, Grauman's, Million Dollar Theater, Los Angeles Theatre, The Downtown Palace Theatre, El Capitan, Cinerama Dome and of course The Pantages.

    When my dad graduated from High School in the late 50's, he went on a cross country trip with his friend and his family. I've looked at the pictures
    from this trip many times,...those taken in LA were the best,...the two standouts were taken in front of "The Brown Derby" and "The Pantages".
    The box office bomb, "Say One For Me", featuring Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, and Stella Stevens was on the marquee.

    Didn't know that The Pantages went "Legit". How long has this place been featuring theater productions?

    I'm from the Big Apple and it is very sad that all the historic movie theatres that onced lined Broadway and the adjacent environs are all gone!!.....The Loew's Capital, Criterion, The Paramount (now a Hard Rock Cafe), Rivoli, RKO Warner, DeMille, The Hollywood (now a church), Astor, Roxy, Strand, Loew's State (now a Virgin Records), etc.

    In the outer boroughs all the fabulous atmospherics are gone...The Brooklyn Paramount (now a gym for LIU), Loew's Pitkin (now a supermarket), Loew's Valencia (now a Church), Loew's Kings and RKO Keith's (in ruins), .....all but one gem has been recently restored to it's former granduer The Loew's Paradise in the Bronx.

    Of course the last one standing in Manhatan is Radio City Music Hall. But it's used for movie screenings on rare ocassions.

    Sad to say that NYC is notorious for destroying it's architectual gems.
    This week the last operating stable in Manhattan was closed after 115 yrs. The Claremont Riding Academy was the last place where you could take classes or rent horses for a ride in Central Park. Condos will be replacing the Academy. Can you believe it? No one will ever be able to go horseback riding again in Central Park....except for the cops!!
  2. There are a lot of palaces in Los Angeles that are no longer around, and some have also been converted into other things. You'd be surprised on how many theaters are/were in Los Angeles! http://cinematreasures.org/location/country=181&state=5&sort=location

    The Pantages I'm very thankful is still around, like a lot of the theaters around here. It's a shame that anything historic can be torn down, but sometimes it is just too expensive to renovate, or it's not safe, or it's just convient to tear it down to make way for traffic. There are many reasons, some reasonable, some not.
  3. Smaller towns

    Here and there many smaller cities and towns are saving their old palaces. Erie PA saved its old Warner Theater and it now houses the Erie Philharmonic. Jamestown NY saved the Palace and it's now the Lenna Civic Center. There must be many others across the country (and across both ponds?).
    I must say, that when I see an old movie or vaudeville palace being used as a church or supermarket, I'm grateful it's still standing, and available to be restored. There's an old vaudeville theater in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I'm told the Three Stooges got their start in the 1920's. It's a C-Town Supermarket now, but you can see it's obviously a theater (I'll try to get pix).
    The problem, of course, is television (and now the internet.) Nobody goes out to these places any more! And instead of restoring old places downtown, new concert halls are built. Baltimore had the magnificent Lyric Theater, but they HAD to build a new concert hall. Likewise Philadelphia. The Academy of Music is considered by some to be the greatest hall in America (even better than Carnegie) but they went and built a new one anyway. Yes, it's a fabulous hall, but did they really need it?
    OK, sorry, this turned into a rant. Bye, bye.
  4. Pink Dahlia

    Pink Dahlia Call Me a Cab

    We've got one!

    The Orpheum

    Opening night was January 5, 1929 and it opened right before the stock market crash. Apparently if they had waited until after they could have built it for half as much. By the way they completely restored this in 2003. Yay!

    Some pics:








    The only thing is it doesn't show movies any more. There are ballets and operas and the like.
  5. Oh, but they do--not on a regular basis, of course, but they do show silent films several times a year in a program called "Silent Sundays." It's great fun!

    We had another one, called the Fox Theater, but it was torn down in 1973. :(
  6. Thanks Dahlia and JBD for chiming in on the Orpheum! The last film this season was this past Sunday, and I missed it.

    Extra points for the acmeron link... he's got the best shots, doesn't he?
  7. How I'd love to get into the projection booth at the Orpheum. *Sigh*.

    Has anyone here ever been to the Fox Arlington in Santa Barbara? When I lived there in the early '80s it had just been restored, and I got to see a four-hour presentation of Abel Gance's "Napoleon" there, with live orchestral accompaniment -- it remains the most memorable movie experience of my life. A truly gorgeous theatre, with a Spanish mission garden theme...


  8. I went to Uni up there and haven't been...hmmm maybe this calls for a field trip.

  9. Small world. I saw the same presentation of "Napoleon" at the gargantuan Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Carmine Coppola (Francis Coppola's dad, the composer of the "Godfather" music) conducted the orchestra.

    It was the most memorable silent movie experience of my life.

  10. Mike in Seattle

    Mike in Seattle My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Here's a link to an interesting story that mentioned the Boston Paramount Theatre is being demolished.
  11. berrybuzz

    berrybuzz One of the Regulars

    Actually according to a tour I took there, it was originally designed as a Vaudeville playhouse. With the Great Depression and the increased demand for 'talkies' it was converted into a movie palace...

    It's pretty awesome to see the ballet there. Though the seat aisles are way too narrow IMO. I couldn't even cross my legs without kneeing the lady in the seat in front of me. Not made for taller folks like myself!
  12. The Alabama Theater

    Here is a link to the historic Alabama Theater's website. I enjoy going there to watch many vintage films. I especially love to see holiday films like Its a Wonderful Life on the big screen. They also host other non-film events like concerts, plays, etc. Check out the Mighty Wurlitzer organ for a short concert. I love to catch films here. Its like stepping back in time. There are always cartoons before the films, as well as an old newsreel. Then everyone stands for the national anthem, played on the organ.

    The Alabama opened in 1927. A complete restoration was finished in the past ten years. If you are ever in the area, please stop by. In fact, this would be a great place for a FL event.

  13. Flivver

    Flivver Practically Family

    The Fox Theater, Detroit

    About ten years ago, I attended a showing of "Gone With The Wind" at the magnificent Fox Theater in Downtown Detroit...definetly the most beautiful theater I've ever had the pleasure to attend. I remember the sound system as quite poor, but the beauty of the newly restored theater more than made up for it.

    And to make the evening even more pleasureable, my date arranged for us to tour the historic WJR studios in "the golden tower of the Fisher Building". Her uncle was an on-air personality on WJR at the time.
  14. I've been there. I took a class on Music Appreciation that included a one-unit extra, sort of like a lab I guess, in which we got free tickets to concerts at the Arlington and just had to write a one page review. I saw the L.A. Philharmonic, among others.

    It's really amazing inside. SB is a truly beautiful little city, probably my favorite on the west coast, and the Arlington is a perfect example of one of the reasons why.
  15. About 15 years ago I got the idea that I wanted to write a book on historic movie theatres around the United States, because I have always loved the look of them and the history's behind them, I thought it would be neat to do all the travel and the research but I have yet to take on this project but I do like to dream about it.

    In Portland there is a few old historic theatres, one is the Bagdad theatre which McMinnamins has taken over, it has been restored and they play movies for $3.00 (at least the last time I saw a movie there a couple of years ago it was $3.00 - when I saw what the Bleep Do We Know) and you can have a beer and pizza while watching the movie.


  16. I am in the process of co-finishing a book on the Warner Theater in Erie, PA. It will be coffee table sized, with pics and stories about the place few people have ever seen or heard.

    Please keep posting pics of the old theaters in your town. When you hear the phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to," I always think of the theaters before the movies.
  17. Too cool Brian!

  18. I saw Walter Hendl conduct the Erie Philharminic there in the 70's. Fabulous theater.
  19. State and Capitol Theatres Sydney - Australia

    State Theatre
    49 Market Street, Sydney
    1929 Henry White & John Eberson (NY)

    This is a glorious fantasy palace from the 1920s built specifically to show 'talking pictures.' When opened it was billed as ‘The Empire’s greatest theatre’, which referred both to seating numbers and interior treatments.

    This was perhaps the most prestigious project for Sydney architect Henry Eli White, who had recently introduced the ‘atmospheric theatre’ to Sydney through the Capitol Theatre in the Haymarket.

    However, White’s work was only a reflection of the vast theatres designed in the USA by John Eberson, whose work White had visited, researched and brazenly copied. For this project, Eberson was invited to work in association with White, giving the State Theatre extra shades of originality.

    The lobby, crush spaces, foyers and mezzanine foyer are gold and red, lavishly animated with cast plaster figurines, statuary, foliage patterning and concealed lighting. Grand stairs lead from the foyer to the galleries, adding to the pomp and occasion associated with a good night out on the town.

    Externally, the building has weak Gothic detailing in painted plaster surfaces, caught between the baroque extravaganza of the Plaza Theatre in George Street (now Planet Holllywood) and the sombre repetition of the Gothic Scots Church built in the same year. The State Theatre is home to the Sydney Film Festival. The Wurlitzer organ is still in working order and is the only Wurlitzer still to be found in its original location.

    Information appearing in this section is reproduced from Sydney Architecture, with the kind permission of the author, Graham Jahn, a well-known Sydney architect and former City of Sydney Councillor. Sydney Architecture, rrp $35, is available from all good book stores or from the publisher, Watermark Press, Tel: 02 9818 5677.



    Capitol Theatre
    Sydney, New South Wales
    13 Campbell Street Haymarket, Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia(map)
    Status: Open
    Screens: Single Screen
    Style: Atmospheric
    Function: Stage Shows
    Seats: 2771
    Chain: Unknown
    Architect: John Eberson, Henry E. White
    Firm: Unknown

    Recent view of the Capitol Theatre's absolutely stunning atmospheric interior

    Photo courtesy of KinoCQ/Australian Cinema and Theatre SocietyThe Capitol Theatre was built on the site of the 1893 Sydney Fruit and Vegetable market. The site was later redeveloped for Wirth Bros Circus, opening as the Hippodrome in 1916. The original facade of the markets has been retained, although the 36 street level arches were rebuilt up to the second level of the building.

    In 1927, Union Theatres took over the lease (the property was and is still owned by the Sydney City Council) and converted it into a movie palace. Sydney architect Henry White, went to America in 1927 to get ‘know-how' on what was the latest in theater design.

    What no one knew until the 1970s, Stuart Doyle, head of Union Theatres, employed John Eberson to design much of the Capitol, particularly its auditorium. His finished plans were sent to Henry White's office in Australia, then released with only Henry White's name on them. Whereas, the American drawings listed 'Henry White, Sydney, and John Eberson, Chicago, Architects-in-Association' as the principal architects.

    When the conversion was complete, the Capitol Theatre reopened as an atmospheric movie palace on Easter Saturday, April 7, 1928; with the silent feature 'His Lady' starring John Barrymore and Dolores Costello. There was always a lavish stage production with orchestra, singers and dancers, before the main feature. The Wurlitzer organ was played by the America, Fred Scholl, the organist from Grauman's Chinese and Egyptian theaters.

    After the close of Greater Union Theatres' lease in 1972, Jesus Christ Superstar played on stage for a couple of years, and then rock concerts took over the venue, with vandalism beyond belief. In 1977 the ailing building was classified by the National Trust of New South Wales. In 1989, it was decided to restore the theater as a venue for live theater. Restoration and extension work started in 1993.

    Some $AU30 million later, the fully-restored Capitol opened on January 24, 1995. In July 1995, Miss Saigon became the theater's first big stage production. The stage had been extended into a street at the rear of the theater and the orchestra pit enlarged to accommodate 110 players.

    The stage is now one of the largest in Australia. The fly-tower is some 5 floors high. A 35mm projector was installed in 1999 for nostalgia screenings whenever the theater is closed for 'live' shows. 'Gone With the Wind' was the first of many films in the pipeline, but because of changing theater management and policy, the screening of films has suspended. A great shame, as the theater was originally designed for movies.


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