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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinema Yak   » What is the worst theatre split you have seen? (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: What is the worst theatre split you have seen?
Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted September 13, 2005 12:15 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
Ever since I was a kid sitting in the GCC Villa Plaza in Tacoma, WA thinking "gosh this theatre is so long, narrrow and lopsided, why would they build a theatre like this?" I have been fascinated with theatre chains splitting cinemas. (Down the middle, front and back, triplexed...). I know GCC was notious for this. I would love to know what old GCC splits are still up and running and what the worst cinema split of all time is...(my vote would go to the basement of the Avco in Westwood, only because it seems such a crime to split what sounded like such a great theatre that I never got to see in its original state!)

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Jim Rankin
(Jim passed away in December 2006)
Posts: 123
From: Milwaukee, WI
Registered: Oct 2003


 - posted September 13, 2005 06:15 AM      Profile for Jim Rankin   Email Jim Rankin         Edit/Delete Post 
This would be a tough call, even if I haven't seen all the split-ups in the country. Funny how everyone seems to unthinkingly call them "twins" when there are two screening rooms formed. Twins would be exact duplicates of each other, but usually the resulting spaces are anything but well matched!

The worst dividing I am personally aware of (as opposed to the horror stories I have heard) is that of the long lost WISCONSIN theatre here in Milwaukee. It was a grand 3000 seat movie palace of 1924, but United Artists got control and in 1963 performed acute hatchet work, starting with the Grand Lobby which had four large chandeliers flanked by gilded plaster ornamentation and marble balustrades, but they discarded the chandeliers and replaced the bronze and beveled glass doors with aluminum and plate glass which led to the new 'flying' stainless steel escalator that soared from next to the new concession stand and ticket desk for the new Lower Cinema, up through the smashed away ornate ceiling to the concession stand on the balcony level for the new Upper Cinema. All the ornate draperies were removed, of course, and the marble grand staircase was smashed away so that there was no access to the now closed-off mezzanine and to make way for a candies storeroom!

Entering the Lower Cinema, one found oneself on the orchestra floor looking at a new, larger screen with no draperies to cover or frame it, with the organ screens covered, and the mezzanine draped over and closed. The balcony was even worse as it became the upper cinema with a dividing wall descending from the ceiling to the rail, with leaks in the ceiling dome covered by means of a stenciling of jaggged triangles in wild colors --and this amidst the painted-over French baroque ornaments! The new screen on the new wall was bare, small, and the view was awful, especially with a garish neon sign flashing at intermission and a half hour before the movie ended to interrupt the experience with the breathless news that the concession stand was open, or about to close. With no parking nearby and Americans having abandoned the old city buses, the patronage fell off to the suburbs and in 1986 it was razed; a handsome building and theatre lost to changing times and complete insensitivity to anything artistic.

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Chris Utley
Senior Member

Posts: 631
From: Torrance, CA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted September 13, 2005 09:58 AM      Profile for Chris Utley   Author's Homepage   Email Chris Utley         Edit/Delete Post 
Yeah...that GCC Avco Center split was HORRIBLE! I got to see it in it's original glory just once in 1991 when I saw "Sleeping With The Enemy" there. I've only been to the new, post split, auditoriums 2 or 3 times since then...once for a 70MM projected screening of Hitchcock's "Vertigo". Great film...REPUGNANT projection!

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Jeff Arellano
Senior Member

Posts: 685
From: Monterey Park, CA
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted September 13, 2005 05:33 PM      Profile for Jeff Arellano   Email Jeff Arellano         Edit/Delete Post 
The Academy in Pasadena is pretty bad. they took the main theatre and split it into 4 auditoriums, and split the balcony into two.

They discarded all the ornametation, so teh walls are bare and plain. There is no feel to it.

The upstairs balconys they call "stadium seating theatres" since they are just that. but handicapped can only sit in the walkway aisle.

All theatres, even today, are still in Mono sound. This theatre I heard was once nice in the early days of pasadena, but is horribly ruined.

I dont recall who owned it when they split it, I want to say UA.

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Dan Roben
Member

Posts: 155
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted September 13, 2005 06:19 PM      Profile for Dan Roben           Edit/Delete Post 
There are plenty of examples, but the worst example for me was the Springfield, MA complex operated by National Amusments Showcase Cinemas. This was related to me by a good friend who grew up there and when I had the chance, I had to witness it for myself.

Back in the 1960s, three glorious 1200 to 1500 seat theaters were opened within a quarter-mile of each other. These were deluxe houses under different ownership and, according to my friend, took great pride in showmanship to give the audience the best possible presentation.

When NA snapped them up, trouble began. Over the course of several years, each theatre was divided, then divided again (think of cells splitting and mutating inside a living organism)and again. I was fortunate (unfortunate?) to experience the wonder that was "Cinema 5."

It was formed along the left inside wall of the original building. The wall tapered inward as one neared the screen, as did the seats to provide a good view of the orginal screen. What NA did was place the small screen flat on the wall, yet the seats angled toward the new right wall. What this meant that if you sat anywhere but in the upper four rows or so, you had to turn your head to the left to view the screen. If you assumed a natural seating position, you'd be looking at the right front corner of the theater. NA never bothered to realign the seating. My friend tells me that this was the case in almost all the theaters.

Not only that, since the Springfield was the only game in town by the 80s, they never bothered to even install Dolby Stereo until Jurassic Park opened, and the newspaper critic publicly chastised the company. Only a few of the houses were outfitted with Dolby, and fewer still with a digital system. When Regal opened a new cinema featuring all-stadium and all-digital theaters, NA saw the writing on the wall and put the complex out of its misery, replacing it with a new megaplex (in one building, no less!).

I'm glad that the good citizens of Springfield have what I have to assume is a much better theatre. On the other hand, many of these carved up cinemas are being destroyed, which in an odd way is sad. I suspect that nothing like this behemoth will ever appear again.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

Posts: 661
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted September 14, 2005 02:12 AM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
UA was responsible for many of the carvings out here on the west coast. I've been to a few of their theatres that had their balcony twinned with what I call a "projection barrell" running between the walls of the balcony theatres so the original booth can still project for the original screen. Those are usually the saddest because you can see the original ceiling details in the corners of the balcony theatres, and then from the floor of the original house you can see the rest of the ceiling detail just run right into the walls.

A good example is the Alexandria Theatre, San Francisco< CA The State Theatre in Woodland, CA was similarly carved.

The UA Berkeley in Berkeley, CA is a sight to behold. I've talked about it elsewhere, but 1 screen carved into 7. The original floor was split down the middle, the balcony was split down the middle to make 4. The upstairs and downstairs lobbies were so large they build 1 screening room in each, and then the backstage was so large they put a theatre back there too. I wish I could get detailed photos but alas... Regal doesn't like to share history w/o home office permission.

I know the GCC Hillsdale 4, San Mateo, CA and GCC Southland 5, Hayward CA were both carved inside, but I only visited each once for a short moment while they were open I couldn't begin to remember how they did it, but I remember it was weird. What I remember about each building was the the original large screen had the back section turned into two different theatres, and a hallway ran down between them to feed the front of the auditorium.

I wish I had a time machine -- I'd go get some pictures for us all... [Razz]

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted September 14, 2005 08:51 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
The (formerly GCC) Redondo Beach Cinema 3 is that way as well: The back half of the original auditorium split in 2 with a hallway between them leading to the front half of the original auditorium. The Fairfax Theatre in Hollywood is also this way.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

Posts: 661
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted September 14, 2005 11:05 AM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
Oh really -- the Redondo is like that? It always looked so fresh and new compared to the older theatres they had built there. I never would have thought it was an original single... now I wanna go inside!

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted September 14, 2005 11:17 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
Wow! I got a response from the famous Scott Neff. Yes at the Redondo Beach the front auditorium slopes up near the screen. The rear 2 are mono...

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

Posts: 661
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted September 14, 2005 06:09 PM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
You'll find that if you say GCC enough I'll magically appear, kind of like the Candyman or Beetlejuice.

What I need to do is take some good time next time I'm down in SoCal to go to the Redondo Beach library. Those old theatre buildings were always very intriguing to me but sadly by the time I got serious about taking theatre photos, they'd all been torn down. I hope the newspapers clippings have one or two photos of those places. From what I hear those buildings were carved up by a sadistic butcher too.

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Mark Richey
Member

Posts: 90
From: Fort Worth, TX
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted September 14, 2005 10:57 PM      Profile for Mark Richey   Author's Homepage   Email Mark Richey         Edit/Delete Post 
Sometime during the 80s, the (now-demolished) Medallion, which during its heyday had the exclusive Dallas runs of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Godfather, among others, went from being a single-screen to a 5-plex. I never got to see it in it's original glory, but the one or two times I went there late in the theater's lifetime (after it had become a second-run theater), I marveled at the twisty hallways to the tiny screening rooms.

Also in Dallas, the Inwood, once a one-screen, had had it's balcony turned into two incredibly tiny, incredibly steep screening rooms. Unfortunately, as the Inwood was Dallas's premiere art house until the Angelica arrived, often those auditoriums were the only places the movies being screened could be seen in North Texas. The auditoriums were recently renovated, but I haven’t had a chance to visit since the redo.

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted September 15, 2005 12:24 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
An interesting split in Seattle: Landmark's Crest Cinemas. I have never seen it in it's original state, but this is what I know. The orginal auditorium was triplexed. The rear half of the auditorium was maintained with the screen moved back to the halfway point or so. The front of the auditorium was twinned, but longitudinally, with the screens now on the left wall of the original theatre. These 2 theatres were built STADIUM STYLE with an entrance on the left of each auditorium (you enter through a hallway that opens up near the screen, then turn right and go up stairs like most stadium seating theatres.) The rear portion of the origianl auditorium was still capable of 70mm projection. To the right of the lobby, an old storefront is the 4th auditorium. Although wildly chopped up, the crest has a peculiar pesonality that is rather inviting. It is now a discount house that programs a mix of art fare and quality mainstream fims (as with most Landmark Theatres). Although I started this topic as "worst splits", I have a soft spot for this neighborhod theatre.
http://www.cinematreasures.org/theater/11451/
http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=2573

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Jeff Arellano
Senior Member

Posts: 685
From: Monterey Park, CA
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted September 15, 2005 07:36 AM      Profile for Jeff Arellano   Email Jeff Arellano         Edit/Delete Post 
I was planning on going to the Redondo soon if they have good dollar films......

I'll see if i can sneak my camera in.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

Posts: 661
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted September 15, 2005 12:50 PM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
I should really contact their main office. They seem like reasonable people who'd let me come down with a tripod and do a full tour.

And while I'm there I can go get some Chick-fil-A at the mall. [Big Grin]

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted September 15, 2005 12:58 PM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
I believe they are a Regency theatre...

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