Comments from techman707

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techman707 commented about Trump Cinema on Aug 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

There seems to be a lot of mis-information about the Trump Cinema. It opened in late 1968 and was the “prototype” 16mm theatre of Automated Theatres Of America. They sold the theatre to the owner of the Card Shop in the shopping center. Because getting a continuous supply of 16mm current features wasn’t reliable
the new owner converted the projection equipment to run standard 35mm films, starting with the re-release of The Ten Commandments. It had absolutely nothing to do with union projectionists, which the theatre had from the day it opened (automated or not) until it closed.

This theatre had NOTHING to do with Jerry Lewis Cinemas. There was a Jerry Lewis Cinema in New York, but in was located in a strip mall in Rockaway. It burned downed and was reopened as a twin, then a third theatre was added shortly later.

techman707 commented about Movieland on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:56 am

Thanks for the search tip Ken, I appreciate it.

techman707 commented about Movieland on Aug 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

The “Forum 47th STREET”, as it was known when I worked there was operated by Ellson Theatres, a father and son team. However, it was the son, Peter Ellson that appeared to run everything. They also had the 46 ST Newsreel Theatre, aka, The Embassy Theatre and the Guild 50th, on the side of Radio City.

As a projectionist (now retired)I worked a minimuim of 100 different theatres over the years, some only a few shifts and a few long term jobs (5 years or more) over the years. I worked at the Forum in 1967 for the premiere of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” where I met Stanley Kramer at that time.

The database here is very strange, I almost didn’t find this theatre. Shortly after working at the Forum, I worked across the street at the “DeMille Theatre” however, I can’t find it listed in the database. I realize that the theatre originally opened in 1905 as the Columbia Burlesque and in later years was taken over by Loews and renamed the “Mayfair Theatre” before it was finally named “The DeMille Theatre” by Walter Reed in 1959 for the premiere of Spartacus, yet, I can’t find it on any of those names.

I worked at the Demille until the fire in 1973. It was operated by an independent operator for a short time until it was taken over by Ellson. It was turned into a Triplex and was incorporated into the “Embassy” theatre name along with the 46th Street Newsreel Theatre. I believe they were called Embassy 2, 3, 4, the Embassy 46 being Embassy 1.

techman707 commented about Utopia Theater on Aug 17, 2010 at 10:40 pm

In the main article for the Utopia, the writer stated “The utopia was owned by an unlikely pair. Mr. Paul Raisler, a short, jovial, Jewish man, and Miss Wright (no one knew her first name)…..”. I see the “mystery, her first name, Ruth was solved in a latter post. Apart from the description of the curtain, where he states, "It’s thin, gauzy curtains pulled sideways as the show began”, the Utopia had an Austrian shade type curtain the goes up vertically, allowing the screen to take up the entire proscenium for Cinemascope, the rest of his description of the Utopia is dead accurate and reading it brings to mind wonderful memories of better days. Although I am now retired (and in the final stage of emphysema), I spent my whole life working in theatres, first as a projectionist, then servicing and installing projection equipment. I knew Ruth Wright (and her partner in the Utopia, Paul Raisler) virtually my whole life. The last time I actually worked as a projectionist at the Utopia was the day Buzz Aldren walked on the moon in 1969. Although it was against Union rules to watch television in the booth, the Utopia had a “big” 21" TV on the wall of the booth over the spotlight window. A key was needed to turn it on and despite the fact that I really didn’t like watching TV when I was working, Ruth always unlocked it anyway. On that day, Ruth came up to the booth and turned on the TV saying “you need to see this” and we both stood there and watched the moon walk in amazement. One time a relief projectionist complained to the Union that there was a TV in the booth, but it had a lock on it preventing him from watching it. After the union business agent finished balling him out because he knew we were not allowed to watch TV while working to begin with, he called Ruth to tell her she can’t have a TV in the booth. That really set her off, she told him that it was her theatre and if she wanted to have a TV in the booth it was her business, as well as who she allowed to watch it.

The “regular” projectionist at the Utopia was Sam Conte, who was a real sweetheart. Ruth told me that he had worked for her since the theatre opened in 1941 and worked there until he retired, in the late 70s, I’m not certain because I’m becoming a little senile. Although the patrons of the theatre might not have known or been able to tell, but, the projection equipment at the Utopia was first class and “Conte”, as Ruth referred to him, kept the equipment in top shape.

From the time I was about 8 years old I would go to the movies at least once a week. In those days there the Utopia and the Parsons theatres were the main “everyday” theatres I went to and believe it or not, I went ALONE some times. If I went with my sister or my parents, the choices became much wider. There was Loews' Valencia and RKO Alden in “downtown” Jamaica and Century’s Queens and Community theatres further east on Jamaica Avenue (there was also the Regency and Belair theatres along Jamaica Avenue. And of course there was Century’s Meadows on Horace Harding Blvd. Although I don’t remember going there very often, the Mayfair Theatre on Fresh Meadows Lane was another choice. When I was around 13, I would go with friends to the RKO Keiths and Century’s Prospect in Flushing, both some of the many theatres that I would later work in. It boggles my mind to think of all the theatres there once were in Queens alone, but now all gone.

After Conte retired I serviced the equipment for Ruth, but because I knew her so long and she was such a sweet person I couldn’t charge her anything, despite her insistence that I should. As a result, she would continually give my wife small gifts. In the late 50s and early 60s, I recall both Paul and Ruth in the lobby saying goodnight to patrons as they were coming out. While that alone might not sound so unusual, they knew most of the patrons BY NAME. While people associate Ruth Wright with the Utopia and the Little Neck theatres, the Little Neck, the Mayfair, the Herricks and a number of other theatres were built by her father, but she liked the Utopia the best. Unfortunately, they didn’t own the Utopia property. The landlord (and his son) who owned the property apparently had NO COMPASSION when it came to money. The Parsons Theatre, that was originally owned and operated by the Interboro Theatre Circuit, was sold to an attorney who promptly twinned the theatre. Since also operating the Utopia theatre would be advantageous for booking films, he then set his sights on the Utopia, where the lease would soon be ending. This was at a time when the movie theatre business in general was declining. Ruth knew the theatre really needed to be twinned if it was to remain viable, however, it was something she didn’t really want to become involved with at that stage of her life. Unknown to me at the time, she was already in ill health, although she always appeared to be well. She made an offer to the landlord for a new lease, but, according to her, the landlord made a deal with the attorney behind her back. Not too long afterward she became very ill. I believe losing the theatre exacerbated her illness because she always referred to the Utopia as “my baby”.

One day shortly after she learned that she would be out when the lease ended, she called me house and asked my wife to have me stop by the theatre when I got a chance. When I came to the theatre she handed me a letter and pointed to a box and said, “this is for you”. In the box were a pair of practically new Bausch & Lomb Cinemascope lenses and a spare soundhead transmission assembly and other various parts. I saw tears in her eyes as she asked me to read the note. The letter was on stationary I never saw before. The letterhead said “Utopia Theatre”, “A PARU Neighborhood Theatre”. I assume it was a combination of PAul & RUth. With the door in the booth leading to the roof, it was a great job to work, but, you couldn’t open the door on a sunny day or it would flood the screen with daylight.

While Ruth lived in Nassau County, Paul Raisler lived only a couple of blocks from the theatre. Although I grew up off Union Turnpike near Bell Blvd., after I got married I bought a house off Union Turnpike on 178th St & 75th Ave. where I lived in until 1989 when I moved to Florida. Over the years as many theatres have closed, I’ve noticed that after a neighborhood theatre closes, it changes the whole “look and feel” of the neighborhood…..and not for the good. The missing marquee from the Utopia certainly changed the look of that area in the evening. It has a dead look. In a city that had many beautiful theatres, they have all been either destroyed by multiplexing, or torn down completely. There are only a small handful of “real” theatres even standing today. Fortunately, Loews Valencia is still standing, but the RKO Keiths in Flushing has been destroyed, despite “landmark status”. The other main Loews theatre in Queens, Loews Triboro, was torn down years ago. While the RKO Midway (over the years Skouras and then UA) still stands, it’s been butchered internally to make 9 theatres. Although not an architectural gem, the Elmwood theatre is now gone too.