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By the way, check out the sign on the wall. The projectionist would wait until someone would ask “what is a film stretcher” and he would reply “it’s used in case a feature is not long enough”.
In the picture of the 1984 auditorium, it shows two box-like grills on each side of the stage. That must have been added later possibly for ventilation or something. If you blow up the picture you will see some fancy plasterwork high above that curves down and ends. Originally that fancy plasterwork continued down and comprised the organ chamber front that extended out from the wall. It was quite beautiful, this link of another theater gives a general idea of how they did those theater organ chamber grills http://www.angelfire.com/al/saenger/saen9.html. I kinda had the run of the Hiway, Marquette and Colony from working during high school and continued to do some work over the years re-bulbing auditoriums and such. I was there when they started ripping out that fancy plasterwork and was a little upset how they were destroying the architecture just to make it look more modern. There used to be murals on the Colony auditorium walls which they had painted over when they painted all three theater auditoriums a dark ugly green. On the subject of the neighborhood, There were gangs even back in the 60’s. My sister still lives near 55th and Pulaski and last year I wandered around the Colony and it’s not that bad.
Since Hollywood is going all video and won’t be sending film prints soon means a major investment in video projection. Also, as far as restoring, when it was owned by Stern & Stern they completely demolished the deco on both sides of the stage where the organ pipe chambers were and did a sloppy flat plaster job. They covered it with a big gold curtain on both sides of the stage that became an extension of the stage curtain.
I grew up in this neighborhood and saw many movies at that theater. I also have done booth restoration work and I know that a theater that size will require some major bucks to get going. The last time I was in Chicago it looked in pretty good shape on the outside but the condition of the inside could be a mess. If the roof has been leaking there could be some major plaster damage. It would be interesting if someone could get inside to just see what the condition is.
The projection booth, including some extra rooms, at the Colony is as big as the lobby. The room is so big that the projectors hardly made any noise. Anyone ever notice that the facade of the Colony is full of light bulb sockets. The entire facade must have been illuminated at one tome.
It was twined when the fine arts folks had it I believe
The entrance is now at the back of the theater because the city screwed up the downtown streets and everyone uses what was the alley to access stores. So now when you walk into the twined main floor, you walk in under the (small) screen so the screen is way up in the air. The few times I have gone to torture a viewing I sit in the last row and I still have to look up. I can not image sitting up close, you would get a stiff neck. Sound is not very good and the wall between the two screens is thin so you hear what is going on in the other screen. Might look nice in a picture but it is not a good movie experience. The old balcony has a huge wall to wall screen the width of the original building. But since there are stairs, it is not handicapped accessible and no longer used.
New link, besides the pictures, there is a short 8mm film clip driving by the Hi-way in the 60’s with the newer marquee.
The Royal is in sad shape and further ruined by the city making a mall out of downtown. A two block stretch, including the Royal, has a cement canopy over the sidewalk and required removal of the Royal’s marquee. The street has been replaced with trees and grass. I know of other cities that have tried this and it does not do a thing to attract people. It is summer right now in Atchison and there is virtually nobody on the 2 block stretch of mall. The stores on both sides of the street have rear entrances that are used more than the mall entrances. The Royal busted through the rear wall and is using an entrance there. [url=http://www.itemspecialty.com/movie/royal_theater.jpg]
I grew up in the area and also worked for the theater chain in the 60’s. The concession stand had the popcorn machine exhaust vented out to the front side walk. When they were popping popcorn it smelled really good out in front. The projection booth is as big as the lobby, the booth may still have the equipment for 4-channel magnetic sound in it. It would be fun to have it open again but think about the cost of air-conditioning and heating that big place. You would have to do some live stage shows between movies to get enough support to pay the bills.
I wonder where the large Chinese restaurant was. As I recall those are all small store fronts.
I know the reason to add screens but my personal opinion is it’s a mistake. Main reason is many patrons think they are coming to see a movie in a large cool theater but instead will be in a viewing room. The Englewood can make it as a single screen if run properly. We ran a late show of the original “Night of the Living Dead” with modest promotion and had a decent turnout. Also, avoiding past problems like a manager skimming off the top by hiring good help is also key.
If this is the theater I am thinking of, it was in the “red light” district and it was torn down brick by brick. It was on a corner and the theater was dismantled from the front to the back. It was interesting to see the cross-section of how a theater was constructed as it was slowly taken down.
I was living in Rockford when the front of the theater burned, started in a bar in a store front if I remember correctly. It completely gutted the stores, apartments and lobby. The roof caved in and then the weight of the marquee bowed the front of the building. I never thought it would be rebuilt with that amount of damage. Having survived this long it would be a shame to be lost now.
As for location, the theater took up the entire southeast corner of 63rd and Kedzie. There were store fronts that fronted the sidewalk but the theater for the most part had the entire corner to the alley.
I watched the theater being torn down while I was in high school (Lindblom). The building was not built to be torn down. It took them months to get it down. The iron ball would take a swing at the auditorium wall and a few bricks would fall off.
Mr. Bill Hooper was in the process of restoring the organ when the University sold the theater to the city. From what I can gather, the city hired a couple of guys to maintain the place that we lets say less than qualified to do so. Bill got frustrated and stopped his work. I had done quite a bit of wiring in the organ chambers and soldering some pipes. At this point there is no telling what happen to the organ. But the last I saw the blower worked, all new air pipe and we were tooting pipes by hand.
Anyone ever consider flying a screen and show a classic film now and then?
I help Fran and George put in those 3 new screens. I first met them on a trip to Higginsville to see “Way Out West” there. At that time I helped George convert the main theater sound to stereo and put in surround sound. I still go there once in awhile but I work in Saint Joseph and it’s a long hike. These two people are the nicest people you could ever know. If you ever get there George would be glad to give you a nickle tour.
If you look at the facade on the front of the building I believe I remember it is full of light bulb sockets in patterns around everything. That building would have looked spectacular at night. If those are sockets, at this point if time I’m sure they are unusable. The projection booth had RCA projectors and the main old mono power amplifier I believe used 807 power tubes and still was in operation in 1960 when I worked for the chain. Someone might be able to get a grant to restore it if it is restoreable.
“cinema of no particular architectural merit” I wanted to mention that as well as the old silent screen behind the cinemascope screen was a lot of fancy plaster work that could not be seen. The original silent screen was quite small and around it was plasterwork extending out to the exit doors on both sides of the cinemascope screen. The lobby had beautiful woodwork in it. Somewhere I have a couple pictures of the theater. If I find them I will post a link here.
The Marquette had a major fire during installation of the cinemascope screen. One of the installers using a torch set the screen on fire. It took out the front of the auditorium and is why in later years there were just flat plain walls on both sides of the screen. Once while re-lamping the dome I found evidence of the fire up in the attic. Louie the projectionist was a gem. He had a bad habit of missing cues so he would thread up on the picture. If he got the cue he cut off 8 seconds of the next reel. If he missed the cue he would switch with the projector coming up to speed.
I also worked for the Stern’s who owned the Colony, Marquette and Hiway. In 1960 the pay rate was .65 hour. In the 70’s I believe, they had the organ chamber plaster work knocked off both sides of the stage and plastered flat. Then a huge shower curtain installed. I think the old red velvet stage curtain looked better with the pipe chambers intact. For me they ruined the theater. Back stage there was a black board by the stage entrance, you could still barely read the last stage acts that played there.
As a teenager I worked in the Hiway in the 1960’s. I got to know the projectionist well enough that he let me run the show once in awhile (quite a feat considering how tight the union was). Behind the cinemascope screen was the original silent screen still on the back wall. I re-lamped the auditorium once, had to use a huge extension ladder to do the pillars on the walls. Inside the exit signs over the lobby doors were no longer used gas jets. I understand the organ was sold to a church for $100 years earlier.
I don’t believe the Saenger in Mobile has run real movies since about 2002. From what I heard, they were using video projection casting images on the screen slightly better than shadows. When I ran films in the late 1990’s the presentation was wonderful including cartoons and shorts in front of features.
Sometime around 2002 I had gotten an email from the Saneger asking if I could run films again but I had moved to Kansas City. I’m guessing they couldn’t find anyone that knew how to run and maintain the projector.