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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » Old New England,Netoco, M&P, Sack and more (Page 0)

 
This topic comprises 2 pages: 1  2 
 
Author Topic: Old New England,Netoco, M&P, Sack and more
David Wodeyla
Member

Posts: 65
From: Natick, MA
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted December 23, 2004 04:47 AM      Profile for David Wodeyla   Author's Homepage   Email David Wodeyla         Edit/Delete Post 
The newspaper in April 1933 announced the renaming of the theatre back to St George, said that the long time manager was returning, and the ownership would be back in the hands of TriMount. (I haven't found a TriMount in a Film Daily yet, time for some more research.) Giles is still listed as owner in the book.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted February 20, 2005 08:50 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
I've posted a lot about Sack on CinemaTreasures, but it's probably worth assembling that history here as well. I moved to Boston in 1975, and never got out to the suburbs much, so I'm going to concentrate on Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville from that year forward.

In 1975, Sack operated the following theatres in Boston:
Savoy (2 screens - former RKO Keith Memorial, acquired in 1960s)
Saxon (1 screen - former Majestic, acquired in late 50s)
Gary (1 screen - former Plymouth, acquired in late 50s)
Music Hall (1 screen - former Metropolitan, acquired in 1962)
Cinema 57 (2 screens, built in very late 60s or early 70s)
Beacon Hill (1 screen, built in 1971, replaced an earlier Sack theatre of the same name on the same site)
Pi Alley (1 screen, built in very late 60s or early 70s)
Cheri (3 screens, built in 1966 - the city's first multiplex)

Around 1975, Sack acquired the Paris (1 screen).

In 1977, Sack acquired the Charles (3 screens), originally a Walter Reade theatre built in 1967.

In 1978 or so, the Gary closed. It was torn down to make way for a new State Transportation Building.

Also in 1978, Sack sold the Savoy to Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston, which renamed it the Opera House.

In 1980, Sack lost its lease on the Music Hall. It was turned over to a new nonprofit, the Metropolitan Center (which after a few years became the Wang Center).

In 1981, Sack opened the Assembly Square Cinema (8 screens) in Somerville. It was the largest number of theatres ever opened at one time and location in New England. Two years later, they added four more screens, for a total of 12, making this the largest multiplex in New England.

Somewhere in the early 80s, Sack turned the Pi Alley into a twin and the Beacon Hill into a triplex.

In 1983, Sack sold the Saxon to Emerson College, who subsequently restored it and gave it back its old name, the Majestic. This was the last of Sack's old (pre-1960s) theatres.

In 1984, Sack opened the Copley Place (9 screens).

In 1985, Sack changed its name to USACinemas.

In 1986, USACinemas bought the Nickelodeon. This gave the chain a monopoly in central Boston, as they now controlled every screen except a few porn and kung-fu houses in the Combat Zone.

Later in 1986, USACinemas bought the Harvard Square Theatre (then 3 screens) and the Janus Cinema (1 screen), both in Cambridge. It was the chain's first entry into the Cambridge market, and it gave them a near-monopoly. The only non-USACinema remaining in Cambridge was the Brattle Theatre, a repertory cinema.

In 1987, USACinemas closed the Pi Alley.

In 1988, Loews bought USACinemas - including the Charles, Beacon Hill, Cinema 57, Copley Place, Paris, Cheri, Nickelodeon, Janus, Harvard Square, and Assembly Square.

Over the following 17 years, Loews proceeded to close all of these except the last two.

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David Wodeyla
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Posts: 65
From: Natick, MA
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted February 22, 2005 05:43 AM      Profile for David Wodeyla   Author's Homepage   Email David Wodeyla         Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for the history on Sack Theatres. Was the Paris a Walter
Reade house before Sack bought it?

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted February 22, 2005 06:39 AM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think so. On CinemaTreasures.com someone said that the Paris was run by an adult-film operator for awhile before Sack bought it, but I haven't looked through old newspapers to confirm this yet.

Sack also had another Boston theatre called the Capri, but it was torn down some time before I arrived in 1975.

There were other Sack theatres in suburbs like Danvers, Needham, and Natick, but I never paid much attention to them and can't provide any useful history. At one point I recall them owning what is now the (independent) Lexington Flick.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted February 22, 2005 12:13 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
By the way, I've started another thread about Sonny & Eddy's Theatres, a small art-house chain that we had around Boston in the 1970s and early 80s. If you have any information about this chain, please post in that thread. Thanks.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted February 26, 2005 07:32 AM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
Former Sack theatres still operating as either cinemas or live stage houses:

Music Hall - now Wang Center. Mostly live shows, but they show an old film for free on very occasional Monday nights.
Savoy - now Opera House. Live shows only.
Saxon - now Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College. Live shows only.
Cinema 57 - one of the former two screens is now the Stuart Street Playhouse. Live shows only.
Lexington Cinema - now independent Lexington Flick, 2 screens.
Danvers Cinema City - now independent Hollywood Hits Theatre, 7 screens.
Salem - now Patriot Cinemas at Museum Place Mall, 3 screens.

Here's a Boston Globe article about that last one's opening:

MARQUEE\ SACK TO OPEN CINEMA-VIDEO COMPLEX IN SALEM
Boston Globe
October 8, 1982
Author: George McKinnon Globe Staff

Pac-Man versus the movies. Or a $3-billion-a-year ticket sale for films against a projected $7 billion for home video and arcade electronic games.

In an if-you-can't-beat'em-join'em move, Sack Theaters is combining a new three-screen cinema complex in Salem with an adjoining game center.

Yesterday, A. Alan Friedberg, president of Sack, said: "We're calling it the Sack Entertainment Center and it will open next Friday at East India Mall in Salem in the heart of the downtown renewal area. It's the first such theater and game center combination in New England.

"We've had a few video games in our theater lobbies, but this is a new concept, a completely separate area next to the theaters."

Asked if he thought the games would cut into movie profits, Friedberg said: "We don't think so. We feel that people will go into the center either before or after going to the movies. I think they'll both feed off each other."

He pointed out that a New York Times page one story Monday said that arcade and home video games have in the past five years become enormously popular and Hollywood has gone into the games by licensing its successful movies, such as "E T," to game manufacturers.

When the Entertainment Center opens next week, Sack Theaters will have 57 screens in Massachusetts.

[end of article]

I don't know how long the video arcade part lasted -- probably not very long. To my knowledge, Sack never tried this again anywhere else. Loews picked up this theatre along with the rest of Sack, but I'm not sure how long they kept it.

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Roger Katz
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Posts: 339
From: Thomaston, CT
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted February 27, 2005 06:08 AM      Profile for Roger Katz   Email Roger Katz         Edit/Delete Post 
I know the Forestville Theatres in Bristol, CT were built by Sack just before they became USA Cinemas.

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David Wodeyla
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Posts: 65
From: Natick, MA
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted February 27, 2005 04:21 PM      Profile for David Wodeyla   Author's Homepage   Email David Wodeyla         Edit/Delete Post 
Sack also operated the Capri and Copley theatres on Huntington Ave.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted March 14, 2005 05:22 AM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
I'm very much looking forward to this new book, which is supposed to come out later this spring or summer:

The Theatres of Boston
A Stage and Screen History
by Donald C. King

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David Wodeyla
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Posts: 65
From: Natick, MA
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted March 21, 2005 12:50 PM      Profile for David Wodeyla   Author's Homepage   Email David Wodeyla         Edit/Delete Post 
In the late 1950's until the late 1960's, Ben Sack had complete control of Boston exhibition with his chain of theatres. A man named Allen Friedberg, began working as an Assistant Manager in 1957 and worked his way up to become Sack's General Manager. Around 1970, Friedberg hired a former Assistant Manager from General Cinema named William Glazer to be his assistant, as well as a former GCC DM named Ed Dineen.
In this same period, the circuit was sold to a conglomerate and renamed USA Cinemas with Ben Sack retiring. A few years later, Freidberg engineered the sale of the theatres to Loews, and negotiated a title and salary for himself with the new owners. During this transition, Glazer and Dineen were retired from the businees.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted March 21, 2005 01:00 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
Sack Theatres didn't have a monopoly in Boston in the 1960s and certainly not in the 50s when the chain was first coming together.

In the 1960s they competed with Loew's Orpheum, the Astor, the Charles (then a Walter Reade theatre), the RKO Boston/Cinerama, the RKO Keith Memorial (before Sack bought it and renamed it the Savoy), the Mayflower, the Paramount, the Park Square, the Kenmore Square, the Exeter, the Paris, the Abbey, the Symphony Cinemas, the Uptown, the Fine Arts, the Fenway, and others I've forgotten about.

Sack during that time had only the Gary, the Saxon, the Beacon Hill, the Music Hall (starting in 1962), the Savoy (starting in 1965), and the Capri (which closed, moved, closed again, and was then sort of replaced by the Cheri).

The Sack monopoly only coalesced in the mid-1980s, when the Exeter closed (in 1984) and then they bought the Nickelodeon (1986, by which time they had become USACinemas).

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David Wodeyla
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Posts: 65
From: Natick, MA
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted March 21, 2005 03:39 PM      Profile for David Wodeyla   Author's Homepage   Email David Wodeyla         Edit/Delete Post 
Agreed that in the late 1950's, Sack didn't "own" the city because he was just beginning. I think he only had 4 screens in 1957. When I say he was number one in Boston, I am referring to the ability to book any release he wanted into his theatres, and the grossing ability proven by his theatres. This, coupled with his knack for super promotions and a great relationship with the press, made his downtown houses top grossers.
In the years when the RKO Keiths Memorial aka Savoy, the Cheri, the Music Hall, Saxon, Gary, Beacon Hill, and 57, were in their prime, his chain was number one in the city. Granted, there was an occasional surprise hit in one of the art-type houses, like the Exeter, or Symphony, but for the most part, the major distributors wanted their films in a Sack Theatre in Boston.
I don't even consider the Paramount nor Uptown, both which were on the decline. The Paramount was losing money in those years, only receiving film because they played day and date with the big three suburban GCC's, and we won't suggest that the Mayflower and Pilgrim had any impact as subrun or softporn houses. As for the Cinerama, it had an occasional success, but not enough to keep it from going out of business shortly after 2001 Space Odyssey ran there. I think Ice Station Zebra was it's final pic. The Orpheum was grand and in the perfect location, but didn't gross like the Savoy next door.
The Astor and Charles had occasional moments, as did the Paris in those years, but they didn't control the distributors the way Sack did. And many smaller theatres, like the Boston, Center, and a few others, weren't highly regarded as competetive at the time. To sum up my view, the number of screens in the city don't measure the actual leverage and power of Ben Sack in his prime.
(edited to add, the original Kenmore was a successful venue for art films, an independent which was torn down to make way for the Mass Pike, and the Fenway Theatre played some of the art films, doubled as a concert hall from time to time...I remember going there in 1967 to see the Beach Boys, another time to see the Doors.) Sometimes counting the number of screens doesn't give an indication of the state of the business in a city. One has to evaluate the whole picture.

[ March 21, 2005, 06:08 PM: Message edited by: David Wodeyla ]

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted January 09, 2007 01:33 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
What is now the AMC-Loews Assembly Square Cinema, in Somerville MA, will close next Monday, January 15. It is the only remaining former Sack theatre to make it through a corporate name change (to USACinemas) and two mergers into the AMC chain.

Three other former Sack Theatres still operate under local independent ownership:

CinemaSalem - Salem
Hollywood Hits - Danvers
Lexington Flick - Lexington

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David Au
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Posts: 133
From: Walnut Creek, CA
Registered: Sep 2006


 - posted January 10, 2007 02:51 AM      Profile for David Au   Email David Au         Edit/Delete Post 
Why is it closing? Is it not doing too well?

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted January 10, 2007 04:44 AM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
It's 26 years old, very neglected, and overshadowed by newer theatres with stadium seating. Not the kind of place AMC wants to operate. The surrounding area is about to undergo extensive redevelopment, and perhaps the property owner wants to demolish it in order to participate in that future.

Here's the CinemaTreasures page about it.

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