Colonial Theatre

View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.

The Colonial Theatre in Augusta, Maine opened in 1913 and was designed by architect Harry S. Coombs, who was known for designing many local libraries.  In 1926 the theater was damaged by a fire, and much of the auditorium had to be rebuilt. The owners took advantage of this and expanded the size of the theater. Originally the 1,240 seat theater showed silent films, and had an orchestra pit directly in front of the stage so music could accompany the films, but this was covered over as silent films gave way to “talkies” or motion pictures with sound.  

Since this photograph was taken the lobby has been cleaned up and used for live events.
Since this photograph was taken the lobby has been cleaned up and used for live events.

During World War II, bond drives were held at theaters across the country where you could only gain admission by purchasing a war bond, which were certificates issued by the government to help finance military expenses, and the Colonial Theatre was no exception. At one bond drive held at the Colonial, actress and singer Dorothy Lamour made a appearance to help drive bond sales.

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The theater closed in the late 1960s due to declining ticket sales. Mothballed and only used for storage, the building’s roof began to deteriorate. Without regular maintenance, water began to leak into the building and eventually causing three large holes in the wooden auditorium floor.

While the theater was closed water leaked in from the roof and caused the wooden auditorium floor to rot.
While the theater was closed water leaked in from the roof and caused the wooden auditorium floor to rot.

 

Colonial Theatre, Inc. was founded in 1995 with the purpose of buying and restoring the building. A number of developers expressed an interest in rehabilitating the theater, but no plan worked out and the building continued to deteriorate. In 2009, Colonial Theatre, Inc. began the process of getting the theater listed on the National Register of Historic Places as that status would offer some protection and tax breaks if the theater was restored. Five years later, they succeeded and the theater was listed in the summer of 2014. The theater is open for tours on Saturday mornings during the spring, summer and fall months.

In 1929 a DeForest Phonofilm system was installed which allowed the theater to show “talkies” or motion pictures with sound.
In 1929 a DeForest Phonofilm system was installed which allowed the theater to show “talkies” or motion pictures with sound.

In June 2015, an art installation and screening of “A Home for Women,” a documentary by Caroline Losneck, Betsy Caron and Kate Kaminski, was held in the lobby of the Colonial, which was the first movie shown at the theater in almost 50 years. More information about the theater is available at https://www.facebook.com/ColonialTheater and http://www.augustacolonialtheater.org/

 

The exterior of the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, ME
The exterior of the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, ME
View of the side of the balcony
View of the side of the balcony.

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One of the surviving auditorium light fixtures.
One of the surviving auditorium light fixtures.

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Studebaker Theatre

View of the auditorium from the mezzanine.
View of the auditorium from the mezzanine.

*Sorry for the delay. There was a slight error when this was supposed to post earlier.

Located in the Fine Arts Building in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District of Chicago, the Studebaker Theatre as it is today opened in September 1917. Built between 1885 and 1887, the building was commissioned by the Studebaker Company and designed by architect Solon S. Beman. The part of the building that would eventually become the theater was used as a showroom from 1887 until 1898 when the Studebaker Company moved to a new building on South Wabash Street.

View from the side of the balcony.
View from the side of the balcony.

Renamed the Fine Arts Building, it eventually became known as the first art colony in Chicago. Three new stories were added to the building for artist studios and offices. In 1898 the showroom was converted into two music halls; Studebaker Hall which could seat 1500 people and the smaller University Hall which could seat 700. The upper floors attracted some notable tenants during this time including; Frank Lloyd Wright, L. Frank Baum and organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Chicago Women’s Club.

Mezzanine, Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL
Mezzanine, Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL

For the first twenty years Studebaker Hall was used for plays, opera and musical acts. Klaw & Erlanger, the theatrical production company that was responsible for the Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903, ran the hall for a time beginning in August of 1913. Four years later the Shubert Organization took over the hall, and together with Klaw & Erlanger, converted it into an actual theater. The only part that was untouched during the conversion was the ceiling. Samuel Insull, a British-born American businessman, took over the theater in 1927, but was forced to give it up two years later when the stock market crash caused the collapse of his business empire.

 
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The theater went through many different uses over the years including a Church from 1944 to 1950, and a studio for NBC from Feb 1950 – 1955. DuMont Television Network’s Cavalcade of Stars, one of the first live television shows, was filmed at theater during that time. The Studebaker returned to its theatrical roots in 1956, but was only used occasionally until it closed in 1982.

The ceiling is the only part of the auditorium that was not touched during the conversion to a theater.
The ceiling is the only part of the auditorium that was not touched during the conversion to a theater.

In December 1982, the M&R Amusement Company converted the Studebaker and the former University Hall, now known as the World Playhouse into a multiplex. The Studebaker auditorium became the 1200 seat Theatre 1 and the Studebaker stage was closed off to create the 240 seat Theatre 3. The Playhouse auditorium became the 550 seat Theatre 2, and its stage became the 158 seat Theatre 4. At first the new multiplex mainly showed art and independent films, but M&R sold their theater chain to Loews in 1988 it switched to playing mostly Hollywood films.

The second screen that was on the stage has been removed in preparation for the theater's reopening as a performing arts center.
The second screen that was on the stage has been removed in preparation for the theater’s reopening as a performing arts center.

Loews closed the theater on Sunday November 26, 2000 citing that the small size of the size of the theaters as well as the competition from other cinemas in the area made it no longer economical for them to continue operating it. The final films shown at the four screen theater were “Red Planet”, “Cleopatra’s Second Husband,” “Billy Elliott,” and “Dancer in the Dark.”

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Both the Studebaker and the Playhouse were restored in 2015 and are scheduled to reopen in October 2015. More information can be found at: http://www.studebakertheater.com/

If you look closely you can see the old hat racks on the bottom of the seats.
If you look closely you can see the old hat racks on the bottom of the seats.

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View of the auditorium from the stage.
View of the auditorium from the stage.

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View from the upper box seats.
View from the upper box seats.

Road Trip 2014 Day 3

View of the auditorium from the main level.
View of the auditorium from the main level.

The Fox Theatre in Fullerton, CA opened in 1925. Designed by Raymond M. Kennedy, it was a sister theater to the Egyptian, and Chinese Theatres. The Fox closed in 1987, and was scheduled for demolition until a campaign to restore the building was launched in 2000.

Read more about the theater at: http://www.foxfullerton.org/w/

Road Trip 2014 Day 1

Hi Everyone – I’m on another road trip to photograph America’s abandoned theaters. This time I’m traveling up the west coast of the United States. Keep checking back over the next week for more updates!

View from the back of the auditorium.
View from the back of the auditorium.

The UC Theatre originally opened in 1917 in Berkeley, California. It closed in March 2001, and was designated a landmark the following year. Plans are underway to turn the theater in to a live music venue. For more information check out their website and facebook pages.

https://www.facebook.com/theuctheatre

http://www.theuctheatre.org/

 

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Russell Theatre

View of the auditorium from the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Russell Theatre opened on December 4, 1930 in Maysville, Kentucky. Plans to build the theater were announced in 1929 by Col. J. Barbour Russell, a local businessman. Russell hired the architectural firm of Frankel and Curtis to design the theater. It was built on the site of a grocery warehouse owned by the Russell family at a cost of around $200,000. Russell envisioned the 700 seat theater as a grand movie palace, saying, “what the Roxy is to New York, the Russell will be to Maysville.”

Continue reading “Russell Theatre”

Theater Updates

In light of the recent demolition of the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia, I thought I’d post an update for some of the theaters I’ve visited over the years.

 

View from the balcony of the Loew's Kings Theatre during renovation.
View from the balcony of the Loew’s Kings Theatre during renovation.

The Loew’s Kings Theatre in Brooklyn has undergone a $94 million restoration, and will reopen as a performing arts center in late 2014/early 2015.

The large mirrors in the Boyd's lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.
The large mirrors in the Boyd’s lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.

The Boyd Theatre was demolished in the spring of 2014, despite the efforts of the Friends of the Boyd. This demolition means that Philadelphia is one of the only large cities in America without at least one restored downtown movie palace. Fortunately, the Friends of the Boyd were able to come to an agreement with the owners to preserve some of the art deco features of the theater.

Continue reading “Theater Updates”

The OKLA Theatre – McAlester, Oklahoma

View from the balcony of the auditorium.
View from the balcony of the auditorium.

The OKLA Theatre opened on July 10, 1931 in McAlester, Oklahoma. It was built on the site of the Palace Theatre, which burned down in December of 1930. Wallace Wilkerson, the owner of the theater building, hired architect W. Scott Dunn to build a new theater on a budget of $50,000. Dunn converted the existing cinema walls into a partial atmospheric style theater. It was built for Robb & Rowley Theatres, but the lease was taken over by Howard Hughes’s theater company, Hughes-Franklin Midwest Theatre Corp LTD.

Architect W. Scott Dunn called it a "revised moderne, semi atmospheric" theater.
Architect W. Scott Dunn called it a “revised moderne, semi atmospheric” theater.

The opening day film was “The Man in Possession,” starring Robert Montgomery. Admission prices were 25 cents for the balcony and 35 cents for main level seats. The day after opening, the McAlester News Capital said that, “the theater, in the opinion of patrons, is on a par with the very best found in larger cities.” Hughes-Franklin only ran the 800-seat theater for one year before leasing it back to Robb & Rowley Theatres. In 1950, the premiere of “Rock Island Trail,” starring Forrest Tucker, was held at the theater. The movie was released on the 100th anniversary of the Rock Island Railroad line, part of which runs through McAlester.

View of the auditorium from the stage.
View of the auditorium from the stage.

Wilkinson’s heirs sold the building to United Artists Theatres in December of 1983. UA operated the theater for six years before closing on September 4, 1989 due to declining ticket sales. When it closed, the OKLA was the last surviving single screen movie theater in McAlester. A year later, the OKLA was bought by Kiamichi Actors Studio Theatre, Inc., a local performing arts group. KAST intended to restore the theater, but was unable to raise the funds and surrendered the deed to the bank. It was then purchased from the bank by the Ardeneum of Oklahoma Charitable and Educational Foundation, Inc.

The remains of the projector room.
The remains of the projector room.


Pride in McAlester, a local community improvement non-profit organization, leased the theater from the Ardeneum in June of 2010 with the intent to restore the theater. They’ve since held several events to raise money for the restoration. In 2012, Pride in McAlester applied for and received a $200,000 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, to be used to remove the lead paint and asbestos in the theater. The current plan is for the theater to be used as a non-profit multi-use community center. It will host concerts, recitals, lectures, movie screenings, community theater, award ceremonies and business meetings. According to a 2010 interview with a Pride in McAlester representative, the renovations will be at least 50% complete by 2015. Donations can be made at the OKLA Theatre’s website. 

The atmospheric blue paint, concealed by a subsequent paint job , is beginning to show through.
The atmospheric blue paint, concealed by a subsequent paint job, is beginning to show through.
The lobby is currently used for storage.
The lobby is currently used for storage.
When the original marquee was replaced in 1948,  two of the windows on the front of the building were bricked over.
When the original marquee was replaced in 1948, two of the windows on the front of the building were bricked over.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
A close-up of some of the details on the wall of the main level.
A close-up of some of the details on the wall of the main level.
When it opened the OKLA was dubbed "the finest talking picture theater in all of eastern Oklahoma.”
When it opened the OKLA was dubbed “the finest talking picture theater in all of eastern Oklahoma.”

The information in this post was obtained with the help of the Theatre Historical Society of America, for more information including how to join – check out their website at www.historictheatres.org

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.