Eric I & II

4400 Derry Street,
Harrisburg, PA 17111

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 29 comments

MSC77
MSC77 on May 27, 2023 at 5:29 pm

A chronology of Harrisburg’s 70mm presentations has recently been published for those interested in this aspect of the city’s motion picture exhibition history. The Eric at East Park Center gets several mentions in the piece.

markp
markp on October 2, 2014 at 12:41 am

Anytime L. Weigard.

LorinWeigard
LorinWeigard on October 1, 2014 at 10:56 pm

If I may join the earlier conversation on showmanship and Paul Hipple—I had the pleasure of working with him in probably the least glamorous venues in Harrisburg- The Star Art— but I always loved to hear his memories of the golden days of movie theatres. In particular to the Eric Theatre—before it was twinned— Mr. Hipple told me that when “Sound of Music” closed after 67 weeks (I believe) they were still running the same print they used on opening night—that says a lot about the precision of those Norelco projectors in the booth—but more to the point about the meticulous care the IATSE projectionsts took in assuring a flawless show. Mr. Hipple told me those projector gates and film paths were cleaned after EVERY performance, and the mag heads were de-magnitized after EVERY performance. There is no showmanship like that anymore—my last outing at one of the local Digplex Multiplex venues—I had to tell the candygirl the show hadn’t even started 10 minutes after the fact! I remember movies with curtains, and when showmanship was why you went to the movies. Thank you for considering my reflections. L. Weigard

patryan6019
patryan6019 on March 7, 2014 at 1:21 am

Contrary to the photo of the plaque, the theatre opened July 10 with ribbon-cutting by Sen.M.Harvey Taylor.

patryan6019
patryan6019 on March 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm

The grand opening of the “all-new” (whatever that means)Eric Twin I and II was December 19, 1973 — and the landlord didn’t figure this out for 5 years?

muviebuf
muviebuf on March 5, 2014 at 8:11 am

Michael:

The comment about the twin in 1978 came from me in a post several years ago. For some unknown reason that post along with several others that I made along way several years ago seem to have gotten deleated when this website went through various machinations.

If I recall correctly the theatre was twinned sometime around in either 1977 or early 1978. It took the landlord a while to find out about the twinning but then the Landlord decided to take action with the opening of Superman. I believe that Superman was playing on both screens.

The landlord literally padlocked the front doors with large chains and padlocks. I know this for a fact because I represented the theatre owner in the court case. The county court found for the theatre owner since the lease did not forbid twinning of the theatre so long as the premises were returned to its original state on termnination of the lease. Needless to say on the settlment of the suit the theatre owner got a sweethart rental adjustment due to the landlord’s actions.

Coate
Coate on March 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm

In the overview, Lost Memory wrote: “Twinned in 1978, the Eric I & II opened with “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve.”

This theater was twinned earlier than 1978.

markp
markp on March 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm

To Mike Rodgers and carolgrau, its sad the way the I.A.T.S.E. projectionists were treated in the 90’s and 2000’s. I myself being one for almost 38 years now, well, I lost my last job in May 2013 to digital, but I had a really nice run. My father was also IA. He worked for 55 years up till 12/31/1992. Sad thing is he passed away the following Oct of 93. In all my years I never once scratched film, even when I worked in adult theatres. My booths were clean as hospital wards. But I was always looked at as too expensive, etc. I remember the late 90’s/early 2000’s when I worked for Clearview in NJ. Always got 97 to 100 on secret shoppers scores for presentation. A month after they got rid of the union in 04, scores went down to 60-70 range.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 21, 2010 at 2:49 am

I.A.T.S.E was a dang good projectionist Union and it was one less headache to have to worry about the booth,in all my theatres ;i was lucky to have highly trained men,not only in putting a good picture on,but most all of them could fix a busted popcorn popper.LOL.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 21, 2010 at 2:45 am

I guess you can’t fight Wall Street,but I would like to think had i been a director such as a Kubrick,no 17 year would run my movie.It never has made sense to me.I saw this non-union crap coming my last year at GCC i was a pro-union manager because the guys in booth put on a good show,never had to give advice,maybe on a trailer,but other than that took their hours down for the payroll.I guess i was just too dang smart to manage a theatre when i saw they had plans for Managers in the booth and on the floor.Glad I got out in 1983.

carolgrau
carolgrau on July 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Simple,, They thought they were saving money by going non union.. Even though tons of footage was scratched or totally destroyed, they were saving money,..

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 18, 2010 at 3:36 am

What I never could figure out,and i was a manager,but pro-union is why producers and directors would use union labor to make a movie then turn it over to a 17 year old to present to moviegoers.I wish someone that knows much more Than I do,please explain?

carolgrau
carolgrau on March 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Paul was a great guy, He and I worked alot of theatres together, he always liked me because even though I was young I had a vast knowledge of projectors and lamps, sound was always my one weak point..Paul and I spent many many hours in booths together and we always got along great.. I went to his funeral was so sad, I don’t remember what year it was, but yes was quite awhile ago… Nobody knows for sure, but I think they just wanted to get rid of the union projectionist no matter how good we were, or how much we saved them money.

1posterfan4sure
1posterfan4sure on March 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm

The Trans Lux in York was probably the same as the one in Harrisburg, and was twinned in the Blue and Gold style as well. They were even nice, plush theaters as twins. The only problem was they were really long and not so wide, and you practically needed binoculars if you were near the back.

That story about Sameric firing Paul Hipple really ticks me off. He’s long gone I’m sure but what a lousy way to treat an employee who came up with a way to recycle carbon rods and save them money. To my young eyes he was really good at his craft, and he was always nice to us “JRs” as he used to call us. What possible justification did they have?

carolgrau
carolgrau on March 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm

The Trans Lux was a wonderful theatre, 4 projectors Cinemacannica V8s reel to reel automation changeovers, just a great job… I remewmber we ran Saturday Night Fever in the gold theatre and Heaven can wait in the blue theatre…We were so busy with fever that we cancelled the shows of heaven can wait and ran both sides with fever.. We had 40 minute reels so we just started them an hour apart,, worked out great and what a business they had them days, was nice to see both sides completely filled up….

telliott
telliott on March 4, 2010 at 6:14 am

I remember there was an Eric in downtown Allentown. It opened in the late 60s and I remember going there in the summer of 1969 to see “Midnight Cowboy” It must have been the same chain because the letters of the name in the photos above were the same as the one in Allentown. Many years later I was in Allentown again and it was the Eric 5, so they obviously added on more screens. I’m not sure when it closed but it was a stand alone building right near city hall and had it’s own parking lot. I don’t know if it still stands or was demolished.

carolgrau
carolgrau on March 4, 2010 at 4:27 am

John,, The boxes of carbon rods was eventually used up by Paul,, He bvought a tool set and joined them together, and burned them down to nothing. He saved that Company a ton of money by doing that.. He and I used to send ideas to projector companies on how to build better projectors, but was always turned down.. Thhe old projector was a Simplex Standard.. They took out the Norelcos towardsa the end and put in a Simplex XL on one side and one of the Cinnemacannicas from the Trans Lux on the big side.Sad thing is after Paul burned all the carbons for them they fired him, so he could'nt collect his pension…

1posterfan4sure
1posterfan4sure on March 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Norelco…I remember there was a third projector in the booth, to the left of the big ones. It was smaller and very old-looking and 35mm only. That projector was used for a couple of weeks when I worked there as an usher. They were showing the Julie Andrews flop “Star!” in 70mm but late in the run they wanted to run a trailer for the next attraction before the main feature, and that projector was used only for that. It was a Simplex I think. How old was that one?

There was a storage area at the top of the steps to the booth and to the left. It was stacked with box upon box filled with used carbon rods. What did they keep them for? When they split the Eric into twins did they build a new booth for either side or did they keep it in the same place? I went in there one time after it was twinned and think I saw what looked like another staircase in the lobby, which I assumed was for better access to the booth. It was 30+ years ago so I may be remembering something that wasn’t there.

Another thing I remember about the Eric was the emergency lighting system, which was in a small room to the right of the screen. There must have been a dozen or more storage batteries all wired up and ready for the lights to go out. Never saw anything like it. The room was freezing cold as I recall.

I worked at the Eric for about a year in 1968-69. There was a lot of turnover among ushers. Mr. Bernstein wasn’t the easiest person to work for, cranky as he was.

The Eric wasn’t much for beauty but 70mm looked great in there and the sound was really nice. However, I’ve always thought the Trans Lux was just a nicer theater all around.

carolgrau
carolgrau on March 3, 2010 at 4:09 am

The Eric was my first intro into 70mm and Norelco projectors, was like going to heaven, than they ruined it by twinning it and putting in a stupid air driven platter system in theatre 1 and simplex XLs in theatre 2 The Trans Lux had Cinnemacannica V8s on both sides and had them when they opened with a pair of Strong Futura II lamps.

dennisczimmerman
dennisczimmerman on December 30, 2007 at 4:59 am

John S in York: Yes they built an Eric Theatre in Lancaster. However, it was not a copy of the Eric Harrisburg. It was built in downtown Lancaster as part of the urban renewal after they tore down an entire block of buildings on both sides of the street. Included in the demolition was four movie palaces. One of which had two balconies and another one had one balcony. Anyway, the Eric was built in the concrete monstrosity they build to replace what was demolished. It was tucked away in a corner next to the “new Hilton Hotel” which replaced the original locally owned Brunswick Hotel that was also demolished. I think the original theatre had about 800 seats. It opened in the Fall of 1970. The theatre was twinned in the Fall of 1973 and reopened at Christmas. The theatre was closed on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 1995. I think as of today it is still sitting there empty. The whole concrete boondogle which started out with a movie theatre, shops, and offices is now basically empty. They are trying to get federal funding to tear it down and “re do” the block to look like it did prior to its demolition in 1967. Makes sense to me! They called that block seedy in 1967. Now it is a disaster.

JohnMessick
JohnMessick on July 16, 2007 at 7:56 pm

John S…Thanks for sharing and welocme to Cinema Treasures. Hope to hear more from you in the future.

1posterfan4sure
1posterfan4sure on July 16, 2007 at 7:33 pm

Hi John! No, I never worked at the Trans Lux but I wish I had. Of the theaters built in the Harrisburg area in the 60s and 70s, the Trans Lux was my favorite. Modern design, yet tasteful and elegant. Bright, comfortable and inviting. Projection and sound without equal. I saw “Doctor Zhivago” shortly after it opened in 1966, and later “Grand Prix” and “The Godfather.” I also saw “200l: A Space Odyssey” at the Trans Lux, the most mind-blowing presentation of that film I’ve ever seen. Too bad they had to go ruin it by twinning it in the 70s.

The Union Deposit Twin opened around 1972 as I recall. Saw “The Poseidon Adventure” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” there. I don’t know what company ran that place before Sameric acquired it. I do recall it fell on hard times, showed XXX flicks and closed for a while before Sameric stepped in.

When I was working at the Eric they were talking about building another Eric just like the one on Derry Street on land adjacent to the Keystone Drive-In, near the Harrisburg East Mall. That never happened, as they twinned the Eric and took over Union Deposit and the Trans Lux at Colonial Park. They were also talking about building an Eric in Lancaster, which they did in 1970. I’ve always wondered if that Eric was similar to the one on Derry Street, before they were both twinned. I had a friend in Philadelphia who had an Eric near him that was a duplicate of the Derry Street theater.

I never worked in a theater again, though I’ve had a lifelong interest in the theater business. I was offered a job as the Assistant Manager of the Eric in 1972, but I had already gone into the Broadcasting field by then and passed it up, probably for the best! I really enjoy this site and have found your comments and those of DennisZ and others about theaters in South Central PA to be quite interesting. I hope to add some thoughts and insight of my own to the discussion.

JohnMessick
JohnMessick on July 16, 2007 at 5:57 pm

John S…Thanks for clearing up when it closed. It did close in 1995 your right. I must have been thinking of the 4 screen in the Colonial Park Mall. That one is now a discount house. Did you ever work at the Twin Union Deposit or the Trans Lux at the Colonial Park Mall?

1posterfan4sure
1posterfan4sure on July 16, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Just want to add some details and minor corrections to what Dennis and John posted about the Eric. I grew up nearby and worked there in high school as an usher. The Eric was the Sameric Corporation’s hardtop entry into Harrisburg. (They were already operating the Keystone Drive-In, a first-run year-round venue less than a mile away.) The opening feature was indeed “Lawrence of Arabia” in the summer of 1963. Governor William Scranton attended the Grand Opening and dedicated the theater. The Eric was Harrisburg’s first theater with 70mm capability and six-track stereo sound. It was also the area’s first shopping center theater, in the East Park Center.

That “airplane hangar” criticism stuck to the Eric from the start. Even by 1960s standards, the Eric was drab. Gold curtains covered the screen and to the sides and were the only real color the place had. The walls were a sort-of corrugated sheet metal, medium-gray in color, and the carpeting was red with narrow black striping. There was no wall between the lobby and the auditorium, only a short partition with perhaps a foot of framed glass above it. Light streamed into the theater every time the front door was opened, and noise from the lobby was always a problem. The restrooms were ridiculously small for a theater that large. And those preposterous clouds on the ceiling…

I was told that the Eric had 1350 seats, 1250 ordinary gray seats and about 100 larger plush maroon rocking-chairs in the loges on the extreme left and right. You paid more to sit in the loges during reserved-seat shows but your view of the screen was actually worse, since you were seeing it at an angle, and it just got worse the further down you sat.

The poor design extended to the projection booth. The Chief Projectionist was an old guy (to us anyway) named Paul Hipple, who had formerly worked at the old Loew’s Regent downtown. He was one of the best and really knew his craft. He told me that the booth should have been placed about 15 feet further back. He said the short throw distance to the screen made it nearly impossible to focus anamorphic widescreen pictures, although flat 35mm and 70mm were fine. He was right. Panavision etc. always looked blurry but 70mm looked really sharp.

Like many theaters, the Eric struck gold with “The Sound of Music,” which ran for 67 weeks at reserved seats. It left for a couple of months, then came back at general admission prices for another two or three months. They kept on trying to recapture that magic with every Julie Andrews picture that came along. “Star!” showed at reserved seats when I worked there, and while people didn’t hate it exactly, they didn’t come back for a second view. One lady saw “TSOM” 73 times! They showed the same print for the entire run, and it was as pristine the day it left as the day it arrived. The Eric ran a lot of road shows but in between showed your ordinary pictures. I think “Fiddler on the Roof” might have been the last reserved seat picture shown there.

The Eric was twinned in the mid-70s which actually improved it. They had to wall-off the theatres from the lobby and the light and noise problems were gone. But typically of Sameric, one of the cheapest outfits I ever saw, the wall between the theatres was not sufficiently soundproof. When Sameric sold out to UA in 1988, the Harrisburg theaters weren’t part of the deal for some reason and went to Creative Entertainment. They ran them for a couple years and eventually sold them to UA. The Eric became shabbier as time went on and UA finally closed it in 1995. They brought in a giant dumpster and stripped the place to the walls in one day. It was used for storage for a decade and continued to deteriorate with large pieces of that curved roof regularly blowing off. Toward the last it was a real eyesore. The Eric was finally, mercifully demolished in 2006.

John S. in York