The next stop on the trip was the Okla Theatre in McAlester, Oklahoma. The Okla opened on July 10, 1931 and closed on September 4, 1989. The city of McAlester is currently trying to restore and reopen the theater. For more information check out their website: http://www.oklatheater.com/
The Variety Theatre opened on November 24, 1927 in the Jefferson neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. It was built by Sam Stecker, Meyer Fine and Abe Kramer of the Variety Amusement Company. The 1,900 seat theater was designed in the Spanish gothic style by Cleveland-based architect Nicola Petti, who also designed the nearby Cedar Lee Theatre. The Variety building also included retail space and twelve apartments.
I took the Greyhound bus from Chicago to Cleveland to photograph the last place on the road trip: The Variety Theatre. The theater opened on November 27, 1927, and closed in the 1980s. It was last in use as a wrestling venue called Wrestle Plex.
Full blog posts for all the theaters I visited on this trip are coming soon.
I recently spoke with Kathy McKean – the Managing Director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. MIFA owns and is renovating the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, MA.
1. What is MIFA?
“MIFA is a Holyoke based International Festival that brings world-class events to Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley. MIFA’s 2011 Season included Hal Holbrook in ‘Mark Twain Tonight’ and Silent Film Night The Last Command. Other presentations in Holyoke have been Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, contemporary Irish Dance in ‘Irish Cream’, Eddie Palmieri in Concert, a series of French Dance, Enchanted Circle Theatre in ‘Sojourners Truth’ and Mikhail Baryshnikov 2004 World Tour. MIFA is a vehicle for community restoration and historic and architectural preservation and is renovating and reopening the historic Victory Theatre, a 1600 hundred-seat Broadway style theater in downtown Holyoke. The iconic theater will be returned to its original use as a live theater house for Holyoke, the Valley and the Northeast.”
The Victory Theatre opened on December 31, 1920 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The 1,680 seat theater was built by Mowll & Rand, an architecture firm based out of Boston. The firm was also known for the design of the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Victory was commissioned by the brothers Samuel and Nathan Goldstein of Western Massachusetts Theatres Incorporated.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the creative team of Popcorn Palaces, an upcoming documentary that will cover the rise, fall and rebirth of some of America’s greatest theaters!
“Once upon a time, the theatre in which you saw a movie could be just as special as the movie itself. The theatres that America built in the 20s and 30s were extravagant, exotic fantasies designed to transport the audience into another world. The show started on the sidewalk the moment you saw the theatre’s towering sign, outlined in thousands of flashing, chasing lights, spelling out the words PARAMOUNT or FOX or LOEW’S. You had found your way to an acre of seats in a garden of dreams. “Popcorn Palaces” will not only be a celebration of America’s moviegoing legacy, it will also be the story of how theatres today are striving to develop new audiences. Long before there was a multiplex or HBO or Netflix, the ritual of going to the movies provided us with a gateway to a new and deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. Today theatres are priceless resources that are bringing new vitality and civic pride to our cities. Far from seeing themselves as a club for the aged, historic theatres have made educational outreach programs central to their mission. Theatres are part of our past. They are also a vital part of our future.”
The Kenosha Theatre opened on September 1st, 1927. It was designed by Larry P. Larson, an architect known for mid-western theaters and financed by United Studios of Chicago. The project was commissioned by Carl Laemmle, a Wisconsin native and one of the founders of Universal Studios. Continue reading →