Comments from zebtheamerican

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zebtheamerican commented about Winchester Court Cinema on Nov 8, 2017 at 6:46 pm

staylor066- We opened the theater with Innerspace in the THX house (house #5), which was one of the first 50 THX screens ever. Indiana’s Last Crusade we ran in 70mm (large format), and we also were one of the first dozen theaters in the world to show Jurassic Park in digital sound. It was DTS (Digital Theater Systems), a process where the sound was on a CD-ROM drive playing in synch with the film. Almost every film you listed I built up on our platters and ran. Glad you enjoyed the place, it was a real joy working there.

zebtheamerican commented about Plaza Theatre on Aug 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm

From 1985 to 1987 my friends and I performed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in front of the screen in theater 2. We had elaborate costumes, a fully realized light system and built amazing set pieces. We even found an old popcorn warmer in one of the rooms behind the screen that was the size and shape of Rocky’s tank that we painted up and made it look like the real thing. I had just moved to Memphis from Chicago where I had performed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter for many years. My first night there I was getting my make up and costume on in the men’s bathroom when I was approached by two young women who stormed in, Wendy and Caroline. It had been years since anyone had performed in full drag as Frank-N-Furter in Memphis and they were eager to put together a shadow cast, desiring to play as Janet and Magenta respectfully. The show had a low turn out at the time, mostly comprised of William Creswell and his friends. They became instrumental in putting together both a cast and audience lines. Actually, William (Allen back then) was quite funny, energetic and spontaneous. He could get an audience into the show unlike anyone I had seen before.

Within just a few short month’s of our revamping the show we began to sell out regularly and became the hot underground scene of Memphis. During the lead up to the 2 year anniversary of Rocky Horror at the Plaza we were interviewed by the local paper’s film critic, and myself and our Riff-Raff (David G.) were in full costume and make up on the cover of the Arts and Entertainment section. That show featured a live pre-show with comedy skits and musical numbers, and we had Rocky Horror fans in the audience from as far away as Germany who heard of what we were doing through the Rocky Horror International Fan Club.

About a year later I had a bit of a break down and Vince Astor was brought in to helm the show for a while. He did a great job while I recouped, I was grateful for his help.

Whatever one may think of Rocky Horror fans these people had a deep respect for the Plaza Theater, and just about all of them would regularly pay to see movies there all during the week. At times supporting it when business was slow. They were good people, and they were my friends. I miss them all dearly.

Oh, and by the way. I was also one of the theaters projectionist whom William wrote about and yes, the building was haunted back then. But I don’t believe in anything as silly as that now.

David Leadbetter, signing out.

zebtheamerican commented about Bellevue Cinema 12 on Aug 12, 2017 at 7:53 pm

@IMAXGUY: My name is David Leadbetter. Roger Frazie (Head of Projection, Regal Cinemas), Pat Cauldwell (Area technician, Regal Cinemas), and myself built this projection booth in ‘95. I was Head Projectionist of this theater for the next 3 years, during which time I was often asked to go to the other Regal’s in Nashville and train operators. I was also brought along to help install other Regal’s (Bossier,LA.– Jackson,TN) and train their operators. I am curious as to who you are and where you get the idea that all 12 screens could be interlocked, because we never wired the two sides together while I was there. I had asked Roger if we could do it, but Roger said it would be overkill. So we only ever had 6 on each side wired together for interlock. The booth had a rear projection screen overlooking the lobby. It was an old simplex with a continuous loop platter. The image was thrown against a large mirror to reverse the image back to normal. On it we ran trailers, and I was the only one they ever had there who figured out how to run it and keep it running (years after I left, Manager Vernon Womack told me it never ran again). The booth had Strong Platters, Simplex 35mm’s with Xetron lamp-houses and automation. We had Dolby processors in all the auditoriums, though only the 2 large houses had true left-center-right speakers behind the screens. All the other houses had one center speaker and we wired left and right front channels into the left and right surround speakers. MAJOR RIP OFF! In fact, every thing about Regal Cinemas was a major rip off. They didn’t believe in paying anyone their worth. It was corporate policy to pay Projectionist minimum wage AND they had to wear this ridiculous costume/uniform all day upstairs, where NO ONE ever went or saw them. ALL of the operators I was given to train were teenage kids, so we had scratched and torn up prints and equipment that was constantly abused and in need of repair. I tried to tell the DM’s that it is possible to run film without scratching it, they didn’t care. Spent most of my time running around Nashville putting out fires any professional projectionist would never start. I ended up hating Regal. I left to go back to Memphis and Malco Theaters which paid a STARTING wage for projectionist that was competitive with any Union. Good people, really care about film. Regal Cinemas only ever cared if the concession stand looked good. Idiots.

zebtheamerican commented about Grayslake Outdoor Theatre on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:32 am

I lived in Grayslake from 1975 to 1985, I was 9 to 18 years old. Our family went to this drive in regularly during the summer, it was magical. We would go in the station wagon and Dad would park backwards, open the tailgate and my lil'sister and I would lay on our pillows and eat popcorn we brought from home and drink Pepsi from glass bottles with our parents sitting in lawn chairs beside us. Had my first make out session with my first girlfriend there when I was 16, and then my first boyfriend a year later. Magical time!

zebtheamerican commented about Majestic Cinema on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:22 am

@rivest266: A few years ago Malco shut the addition side down (9 screens), due to “problems” with crowds and low turn out. Now that half of the building is used for storage, and only the original 11 screens are run.

zebtheamerican commented about Prospect Theatre on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:58 am

I was the Projectionist at this theater in the 80’s. The booth had Motiograph 35mm projectors, 20 minute reels with Motiograph carbon arc lamphouses. The sound system was made by Motiogaraph as well, and had mercury tubes. I had to show up at least 20 minutes early to warm them up, an hour in the winter (THE BOOTH WAS COLD!!!). The one speaker was an Altec “Voice of the Theater” model. The theater was located on 83 half a block south of Central across from the library, and was so close to the road I could hear and feel semi-trucks as they rumbled by. The woman with the red hair was named Helen and she was the manager there for many years, she was my friend. The owner was Leo Marubio, nice guy. The theater had a small curved stage that the screen sat on, and the back 8 rows were raised kind of like stadium seating today. We ran “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for a while on the weekends and I would pay a friend of mine to run the booth as I dressed up as Frank-N-Furter and performed in front of the screen. True story, I’m weird.

zebtheamerican commented about Raleigh Cinema 6 on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:53 am

First theater I worked at when I moved here from Chicago in 1985. First time working for General Cinemas. The President of the Memphis Projectionist Union worked here, Bill McAfee. He gave me this strange test to see if I really knew how to run film, rather than just check my credentials with the Chicago Union. He asked me to open a film can. I’ll never forget that. His son Billy Jr. worked there with him, so I was only given one shift a week there. The booth was all Christie Projectors, lamp-houses, platters and automation. I really don’t like Christie gear, noisy and it feels cheap. Only the 2 big houses had Dolby processors, the rest Christie mono. About 2 weeks later I was given a couple more shifts at the Plaza Theater and a couple of shifts at the Hickory Ridge Mall Cinema. Did this for 2 years until I found out Malco paid better and I went to work for them non-union. Glad I did because a few years latter the Union was gone, followed shortly by every GCC theater in Memphis.

zebtheamerican commented about Hollywood Cinema 20 on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:13 am

True Stories. I have been a Projectionist most of my life. Good job. Good pay. Worked for Malco theaters nearly 20 years, and knew many of this cities Projectionist, both Union and non. No one in this field has ever had anything nice to say about the Keshani’s, the family (2 brothers from India) that owns what is now called Ajay Theaters. They have been sued by many, including film studios for failing to report correct box office sales. I ended up working for them for 2 years after a dispute I had with a manager at Malco. They DID surprise me by paying me a professional wage, which I suspect was due to my reputation as one of the cities best projectionist. However, shortly after being hired I was told that not only was I to run all 20 screens by myself (a Herculean task in itself), but that I was to come downstairs and clean bathrooms and theaters when not busy. I refused, and for the next 2 years everyday they made life more difficult. Once during my time there, one of the owners bragged to me of a time he was sued by this elderly woman who fell and broke her hip because the stair lights were out and the theaters lights were to low (he admitted this to me). Yet not only did he win the case, he claimed to end up getting money out of her. He literally giggled and was proud of this as he told it to me. I also witnessed him myself, after the movies were over picking up used cups (popcorn AND drink), washing and re-selling them the next show.

Then there is what the older brother did to a friend of mine at the Fair Four. I was a member of a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast. I played the transvestite character Dr. Frank-N-Furter. For a brief 3 weeks the show moved to the Fair Four. On the last night, my friend Allen was out in the parking lot yelling to the crowds to come see the show like a carnival barker. He was a funny and interesting guy. Still is. Anyway, at some point these rednecks proceeded to attack him. I was inside in the lobby with the rest of the cast witnessing this. As Allen came running to the theater face covered in blood, The older Keshani brother went running to the entrance door. We all thought he was going to help Allen out, instead he locked the door and refused to let him in all while these rednecks are bearing down on Allen some 20 feet away. Some of us took off outside to confront the attackers others confronted Keshani (including me). We begged him to let Allen in or at least call the Police. He not only refused to do either, but turned to me and said the show was cancelled and to get out. I have known many good people from India, this is not an indictment of any people. Every culture has it’s bad apples and the Keshani’s are the among the worst.

zebtheamerican commented about Stage Cinema on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:20 am

This theater has a complete, and self enclosed apartment upstairs. It was built for Head Technician Mike Thomson for when he came to town.

zebtheamerican commented about Nippers Corner 10 Cinema on Aug 9, 2017 at 1:43 am

I worked for Regal as a Projectionist trainer in Nashville from 1995 to 1998. I would advise against working for Regal. They never paid any Projectionist more than minimum wage. I found out it was their corporate policy. They also didn’t pay their Managers much either, could never keep anyone. Spent an awful amount of time at this one training people and repairing abused projectors. Two things. 1) The theater had way more seats than 200 as the description states. 2) It also ran first run features the entire time I was with Regal. I can not speak to how she opened, but I do know it was first run between 1995 and 1998. Oh, and one of their operators absolutely DESTROYED their print of “The Empire Strikes Back”. Split it in half through all 6 reels and we had to get a replacement same day shipped to us. Don’t ask me how he did it, I don’t know to this day!

zebtheamerican commented about Studio Theater on Aug 7, 2017 at 5:39 am

Wasn’t this theater also a comedy club in the late 80’s called Sir-Laughs-Alot?

zebtheamerican commented about Palwaukee Theater on Aug 6, 2017 at 10:49 pm

The owner of the Palwaukee Theater was Leo Marubio, proprietor of Mini-Flix Inc. through which he also owned The Mundelein Cinema and The Prospect Theater. I was the Projectionist at the Prospect Theater. Both the Mundelein and the Palwaukee had automated hour long reels in the booth which the theaters manager operated. His Prospect Theater had the original carbon-arc, 20 minute reel Motiograph projectors and required a full time Projectionist. Leo was a generous and kind man, who cared about his employees and loved film. He wanted so desperately to run his theaters as “art houses”, but booking film back then was very competitive so he had to run far more of the “popcorn” fair than he wanted to. His enthusiasm was infectious. I worked for him in my late teens and he forever imprinted in me a love for film.

The Palwaukee was home to midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for many years, and I performed here as Dr. Frank-N-Furter from 1983 to ‘84.

zebtheamerican commented about Paradiso Theatre on Aug 6, 2017 at 5:40 am

I was the Head Projectionist at this theater when it opened, and was involved in the assembly and wiring of the projection booth beginning 7 months before it opened. I remember as the screens were being hung, Jimmie Tashie was becoming increasingly unhappy with their size. They weren’t big enough. So he had the screen frames rebuilt and screens rehung so as to go from wall to wall as they all do now. Only problem was that up in the booth we had begun cutting aperture plates to the new lenses that we had just bought. 35mm projectors use 2 different lenses for 2 different film formats. A “flat” lens that simply blows up the image as is, and an anamorphic lens for wide screen. The anamorphic lens is very expensive, and Malco only buys the best of the best for their projection booths. These 14 anamorphic lenses had a price tag of over $12,000 each.

I loved working for Jimmie and the Lightman’s. Good people who care about theater, spare no expense. Another interesting thing that happened just weeks prior to opening (2 WEEKS!!). Jimmy was not happy with the color of the carpet AND the color of the paint. SO,… I watched the entire lobby and halls get redone, with crews working through the night. Opening night, really had that new theater smell as the last coat went on that morning.

A STELLAR OPENING: Just a few days after opening night Memphis was hit by straight line winds that took out power through the entire city and surroundings. Thinking quickly Jimmie rented a portable semi-truck sized power generator, and 2 sets of high intensity search lights. We spent that whole afternoon testing powering up the building (Air-conditioning/ projectors/ ect,..), like that scene in “Apollo 13” where the NASA techs are trying to figure out how to power up without blowing a fuse. AND IT REALLY PAID OFF. Here it was, middle of the summer heat, no power anywhere, and at night all of Memphis is pitch dark. Absolute DARK. All of it except for these search lights screaming through the sky from the center of the city, announcing like a beacon to all the millions of Memphians that air-conditioning and entertainment is here, for you to enjoy. For one solid week power was out and we sold out every show, all day long. I firmly believe that The Paradiso has become such a Memphis “thing” because of that night and the on his feet thinking that is Jimmie Tashie’s amazing gift.

zebtheamerican commented about Majestic Cinema on Aug 6, 2017 at 4:22 am

Having been a Head Projectionist for Malco Theaters for nearly 20 years I can testify to the fact that until The Paradiso, The Winchester Court was the only theater Malco had in Memphis that had “large format” projection, or what is called in the profession 70mm. I operated the Winchester Court for it’s first 4 years, and later operated the Majestic for 5 years. It did have 2 exceptionally large screens, but up in the booth we were throwing regular 35mm film on them. Chief Technician for Malco theaters Mike Thomson once told me that we were pushing the absolute limit for blowing up 35mm, and it did look it. We could never get enough light out of the lamp houses, and unless the print was by Kodak the image was grainy.

zebtheamerican commented about Round Lake Twin on Aug 6, 2017 at 1:48 am

I lived in nearby Grayslake from 1975 to 1985, ages 9 to 18. When this theater opened my family and I frequently saw movies there as the next closest indoor theater was miles away in Waukegan (The Lakehurst Cinema). I remember pestering my Mother to take me to see “Jaws” there and then regretting it. I never swam in any body of water that wasn’t a swimming pool ever again. And even then I had trepidation. Few years later, my best friends older brother took us there to see “Alien”, and needless to say I spent the remainder of my childhood awake at night. WIDE AWAKE!

zebtheamerican commented about Winchester Court Cinema on Aug 5, 2017 at 7:01 am

I was the Head Projectionist at this theater from opening in 1987 to 1991 when I moved to the Appletree 12. The above bio is mistaken. We did not have 70mm ability on our 2 main screens, only on screens 5 and 6 (a 350 seater and a 210). To test the equipment the first 70mm films we ran were “Altered States”, “Aliens”, and “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” as midnight runs. “The Wall” ended up staying in the booth the entire time I worked there and was run for audiences every now and then. I kept it built up on a platter and my friends and I would often run it after hours while enjoying various forms of recreational play. Also, all of the auditoriums did NOT have Dolby processors. The 2 smallest screens had a system called “Smart Sound”, not bad sound. The booth had a covered exit stairway that led out back where the Manager and I parked, (his office was upstairs, off the booth). I remember one day I was sitting on the stairs smoking some AHEM when suddenly the booth door opened and out he came heading to his car. His only comment as he passed by, “Don’t bring that in the theater”. Great guy!