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» Cinematour Forum   » Mystery Cinemas   » West Springfield MA Mystery theatre Showcase?

   
Author Topic: West Springfield MA Mystery theatre Showcase?
Mike Rivest
Member

Posts: 96
From: Montreal,QC
Registered: Aug 2003


 - posted February 26, 2007 04:26 PM      Profile for Mike Rivest   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Rivest         Edit/Delete Post 
Have a look at this picture:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30943004@N00/400744043/

What was the name of the theatre in the blue box
The Yellow theatre was the EM Loews Palace (Showcase 16-19)

Can some one get me more info about this theatre campus?

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John J. Fink
Member

Posts: 123
From: Buffalo, NY
Registered: Aug 2005


 - posted February 26, 2007 05:11 PM      Profile for John J. Fink   Author's Homepage   Email John J. Fink         Edit/Delete Post 
Hey Mike,

I hope this helps, I have only been to the new theater, and didn't realize that several of the buildings were maitaned in the process, the new theater is one of the best in the area. I can default you to Cinema Treasures and SteveJKO's responce to my question: http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1260/

You also may want to check out this site for the archtects of this and the Showcase Buckland Hills: http://www.beaconarch.com/p-comm-showcasewestspringfield.html

Hope this helps.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

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


 - posted February 27, 2007 02:26 PM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
I really want to get inside and take detailed photos of the West Springfield location.

I was in contact with National Amusements a few months ago but never heard back after a point.

I find it so interesting that they went to the lengths that the did to make a 15-plex out of 3 separate buildings.

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Dan Roben
Member

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


 - posted February 27, 2007 05:35 PM      Profile for Dan Roben           Edit/Delete Post 
I'm checking with a friend of mine who grew up in Springfield. If anyone knows, it will be him. Should have that answer later tonight.

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Dan Roben
Member

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


 - posted February 28, 2007 07:55 AM      Profile for Dan Roben           Edit/Delete Post 
Okay, so it's actually the next morning. According to my friend, the blue building is...

But I'll let him tell you. I've posted his email reply in total below. It's quite a fsscinating history of the Showcase Cinemas complex(es) as well as being very entertaining. You may want to bring back up the overhead shot provided earlier in this thread as he references it. Enjoy!

From the email:

The bottom line is that the blue building was originally Showcase Cinema 4 & 5, it opened in late 1971 - I saw the first movie that played there (in #4 I believe) The Omega Man.

A little history, sequentially the color coding is not quite correct. The red building(s) should really be two colors.

In 1964 or so, Showcase Cinema's #1 and #2 opened up. The joint lobby for both of these cinemas is the darkest red area of the red building. It was a huge lobby. Two stories, with an art gallery running around the second level (all of the art was for sale - the stuff was horrible.) Looking onto the lobby down below. These theatres were hugely popular, and the lines for the next shows were sent snaking up the stairway, around the lobby balcony and then back down into the lobby.

There were no show specific tickets - you didn't buy a ticket to say the 7:30 show, you simply got an evening ticket - so if the movie was popular you needed to line-up to get into the show. There were basically five types of tickets for each theatre. Afternoon Adult & Child; Evening Adult & Child (higher priced of course) and Senior Citizen - same price all day. These were the only real theatres in Springfield (technically West Springfield) and they generally had exclusives. So if a movie played the Showcases it never played anywhere else.

You see the huge parking lot heading northwest in the upper left corner of the picture - the aerial photo is actually missing a significant component of the upper lot.!

Anyway, if we think about the red buildings as a clock face. The dark red building in the center of the clock face was the lobby. Cinema 1 is the building at 6 o'clock, and CInema 2 is at 9 o'clock.

Each of these Cinema's was massive. Over 1,000 seats, gorgeous rakes, curved screens, great curtains, plush rocker seats. Both of these theatres were designed for Cinerama, although the projectors were never installed. As I said, this was the only show in town - Sound of Music played for over a year in CInema 1.

One of my favorite stories of the era is when Love Story was playing. Huge hit, freezing cold winter, if you wanted to see one of these movies at night - the lines backed up for hours. You had to wait in the freezing cold for a couple of hours, just to buy the ticket that would get you into the long line in the lobby. For big hits, on a weekend night, you, your date or your family suffered. Generally the families were dropped off at the front door, to get in line as quickly as possible, and then dad, or whomever was driving, would be dispatched off to the north forty to park the car. Generally it would be twenty to thirty minutes before the families would reconnect, but no problem, you had at least a two hour wait. Car parking required an enormous number of West Springfield's off duty cops to keep the lines moving. Six or seven cops would be required for traffic duty on the weekend evenings. Anyway, back to Love Story, so its freezing out, seriously freezing, we are talking teens or low twenties here, the line is moving every two hours and all of a sudden two Greyhound buses pull up - they've come from Boston, 90 minutes away) with the owner of the theatre, Sumner Redstone (yes, that Sumner Redstone!) and 130 of his closest friends who just cut the line. That damn near started a riot. Several huge plate glass windows were shattered. Although the sign said Showcase Cinemas, the tickets said Redstone's Showcase Cinemas

The all time peak season each year was the Christmas movie season, the traffic would back up on Interstate 91 over a mile away. The mind boggles - it would take one hour to get from the Interstate, to start a two hour wait, to get into the theatre for the movie. Movie going was an expedition in Springfield in the 1970's. If you were at all sane, and you wanted to go on a date - you picked-up your date at 4 PM, had dinner at 5 PM, so that you could be at the theatre at 6 PM, to get into the 7:30 PM show. For more popular movies, you just got in line at 5 PM, ate tons of junk food during the movie and had dinner afterwards.

Anyway, with Cinemas 1 & 2 being so popular, Cinema 3 was constructed. The lobby for Cinema 3 would be at 11 o'clock in the photo, and the actual Cinema would be the upper left red building in the photo. Technically these last two buildings should be another color, say green. Cinema 3 was really huge say 1,500 seats - my first film there that I remember, Best Picture Winner, Oliver!. Other memorable films there, Magnum Force, Earthquake, Roller Coaster and Midway (the latter three all being in Sensuround). Cinema Three had a special area for giant - and I mean giant, Sensurround Speakers in the upper left and right of the theatre. These speakers were ten feet tall!)

One other memorable moment, driving through an ice storm, by myself one later winter mid-week evening in 1978 to see Apocalypse Now, by myself in this theatre. (I was nuts, but by then being in college in New Hampshire, I knew how to drive on ice.) Really creepy to be the only person in the theatre - especially for that movie.

Anyway, now lets back-up. Long before there was Showcase Cinemas. There was a drive-in across the Street. E.M. Lowe's drive-in. Given the success of the now Cinema's 1-3, the drive-in was torn down and replaced by E.M Lowe's Palace. Even bigger theatre - even plusher, say 2,000 seats. The curse of E.M. Loew's Palace was that it could rarely if ever get a decent film. Showcase had the bookings lined up. The only memorable film I can remember seeing at The Palace was Nicholas & Alexandra. As a sixteen year old, I remember sneaking in, with a group of friends, to some really bad soft core porn film. By sneaking in, I mean we paid admission, but we were under age. There were probably fifty people in this gorgeous 2,000 seat theatre. I wish they had carded me. I am not talking bad softcore, like Flesh Gordon, which was great, this was soo amateurish, and non-erotic, and on a huge screen it only made matters worse. The sets in the film were crap, and on this huge screen, the absolute lack of set decoration was painful.

Anyway, Sumner, now feeling threatened and at the same time, with Cinema's 1-3 bursting at the seems, opens the blue building, CInemas 4 & 5. This was really the first Twin Cinema - as there were two screens in one building, Cinema's 1-3 are each in their own building. Anyway, Cinemas 4 & 5 were 750 seat houses (I remember thinking at the time they were small - now of course they would be huge.)

Cinema's 4 & 5 would be the last buildings built in the 20th century in the complex. I headed off to college in 1976, and from then on, weird subdividing began, as the age of multiplexes began. First, Cinema 1, became Cinema 1 & 2, so old Cinema 2, was now Cinema 3, and CInema 3 was now Cinema 4, and 4 was now 5, and 5 was now 6.

Next Cinema 3 (the original Cinema 2) became Cinema's 3 & 4, so Original Cinema 3 was now Cinema 5, Original 4 was now CInema 6, and Original 5 was now CInema 7.

Now across the street, E.M. Loew's Palace became E.M. Loew's 1 & 2.

Now another couple of years pass, and Showcase takes Cinema 5 (original Cinema 3), the last standing major house, and triplexes it!. They also changed the orientation of the screen from facing north, to the three screens on the west side of the building. (The aerial photo has a true North - South orientation.) So now Original 3, then Cinema 5, becomes Cinema's 5, 6 & 7, with Original 4 now becoming Cinema 8, & Original 5 becoming Cinema 9. Next the blue building was closed and each screen was split. So Original 4 became Cinema 8 & 9, and Original 5, became 10 & 11. Finally, the mutations returned to Original 1 and Original 2, as they wer split again. So Original 1, was now Cinemas 1-4, Original 2 was now Cinemas 5-8, Original 3 was Cinemas 9-11, Original 4 was Cinemas 12-13, and Original 5 was now CInemas 14-15. This entire process played out over two decades into the early 1990's.

At some point the Palace was acquired, when I believe it was still a twin, and its original numbers were like 14 & 15. I think.

Finally E.M. Loew's was quadded so, Cinema's 16-17 became Cinema's 16-19.

A few notes, the conversions of the Original 3 and the Original 4 & 5 were reasonably well done - it was still a fairly decent movie going experience.

The multiple chopping of Original 1 & Original 2 was horrible. They simply cut the theatre into slivers. So you ended up with teeny postage stamp screens, way up in the air in these absurdly long shoe-box theatres. Perhaps the worst chop jobs on theatres I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot. The seats were never reoriented, so the natural focal point if you sat in the orientation of the chair was the intersection of the wall and the screen.

E.M. Loews which was still respectable as a twin was quadded in a really weird way - think the legendarily bad Copley Cinema's in Boston. With teeny, small theatres with reverse sloped floors and and long winding hallways. On one visit home I saw Interview with a Vampire in one of these houses. A creepy film, in a creepy theatre with a creepy crowd - that's Springfield for you!

Showcase's shortcomings were always ignored by the local press, both print and broadcast, since they were the only game in town for movie advertising. Showcase generally had a full page print ad, while all other theatres combined took a quarter page. Finally in 1992, with the advertising models changing, and virtually no local TV media buys, the critic for Channel 22, Cy Becker, pointed out that Showcase Cinema's was the only game in town, it was the only theatre that had Jurassic Park, that Dolby Digital was coming out, and that zero, that is right zero screens at the Showcase as of 1992 - had stereo, any stereo. He urged that everyone boycott Jurassic Park at the Showcases and drive to Boston or Hartford, but under no circumstances should they see Jurassic Park in mono. Showcase relented and finally installed stereo on I think two screens.

During the massive theatre boom of the late 1990's, Regal decided to build a large multiplex in the Liberty Height's area of Springfield, at the Springfield Shopping Plaza. It was the first major construction of a theatre in Springfield proper in over 70 years. (They only exception was a tacky Jerry Lewis twin, later triple) also built at the Plaza in the 1970's that was torn down in the 1980's.)

Showcase, finally fearing competition, in the summer of 2001, gutted all of the once magnificient, but now spawn from hell Showcase 1-15 and built new multiplexes.

Upon opening, Cinema's 16-19 were shuttered.

I only visit the area once every couple of years. Most recently, June 2006. As I cruised the area on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was lucky enough to see the end of this era. There poised in the parking lot of the Shuttered 16-19 was a full complement of wrecking equipment that was going to start work on Monday to mercifully take the Palace out of its final misery.

A final note, one year after opening the Regal CInema's went bankrupt and the Plaza Cinema's were closed. After being dark for I don't know how long, they were reopened under I think local management. In any event, the people of Springfield should thank God for Regal, or the Spawn from Hell 1-15 would still be playing films in glorious mono on 13 screens!

(End of email)

So there you have it! More information than you possibly could want! I can vouch for the miserable "chop job" as I saw a film there in one of the cinemas 1-15 in the "red" building, just to see the theater. My friend and I left after 10 minutes.

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Paul Bubny
New Member

Posts: 15
From: Maplewood, NJ
Registered: Jan 2006


 - posted February 28, 2007 12:49 PM      Profile for Paul Bubny   Email Paul Bubny         Edit/Delete Post 
That history of the West Springfield Showcase Cinemas is both fascinating and appalling, the way Redstone kept subdividing a once-glorious complex into tinier and tinier pieces, like segmenting a worm--in the process transforming it from a state-of-the-art triplex that anybody in his right mind would've patronized to a collection of behind-the-times storage closets that nobody who cared about quality presentation would want to go to. Love the bit about Mr. Chairman shutting paying customers out of a hit movie with two busloads of his closest friends.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

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


 - posted March 01, 2007 05:38 PM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
Man, I want pictures from every possible era of that theatre. I need to do me some library / historical society research up in West Springfield next time I'm out visiting the friends in Connecticut.

*drools*

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Tom Mundell
Member

Posts: 93
From: Silver Spring, MD
Registered: Nov 2003


 - posted March 02, 2007 06:22 PM      Profile for Tom Mundell   Author's Homepage   Email Tom Mundell         Edit/Delete Post 
Wow, I remember driving by this theater a couple of times; I always thought the exterior looked more like a car dealer than a theater for some reason. Never realised this place had an even stranger history than I originally thought...

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John J. Fink
Member

Posts: 123
From: Buffalo, NY
Registered: Aug 2005


 - posted March 02, 2007 09:36 PM      Profile for John J. Fink   Author's Homepage   Email John J. Fink         Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for that history. I've only been to the place in its newist form and never had any reason to think it had a life before it (although, knowing all this it explains the odd parking lot). Two huge houses now encompus what was the original number 2, I can't imagine what it was like in its original form. The 15-plex I have to say is one of the best multiplexes in the region, clean, well kept, good presentation, with a diverse snack selection. The theaters themselves, especailly the two big houses (8 and 9) are larger than the pathtic I-MAX retrofit (in a retrofitted building that used to be a department store) they opperate down in Manchester, CT!

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