Somerville Theatre – Somerville, MA

This was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in February 2022. For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content, you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

View from the side of the balcony.

The 1,100 seat Somerville Theatre originally opened on May 11, 1914 in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was designed by the architecture firm of Funk and Wilcox, who also designed the Strand and Franklin Park Theatres. It was part of the Hobbs Building, which also had a bowling alley, a billiards hall, a basement cafe, and a 700-person dance hall, the Hobbs Crystal Ballroom.

Originally designed for vaudeville, stage shows and films, the fallout from the Great Depression forced the theater into primarily showing motion pictures, beginning in 1932. Like many theaters of this era, The Somerville held gimmicks, such as dish night or appliance giveaways, to get people to come to a show. During the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, films would open in the downtown Boston theaters, and then open in neighborhood cinemas like the Somerville a week later.

Unlike many historic movie palaces, the Somerville Theatre was never closed for long periods of time. It became a revival house in 1982, often showing double features and independent films. In the mid-1980s, The Fraiman family purchased The Hobbs Building, and came up with a plan to keep the theater competitive with modern multiplexes. They turned the unused portions of the building, such as the bowling alley, billiards hall, and the ballroom into new screens to show films.

The Somerville Theatre closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, screens 4 & 5 were removed, and they restored the Crystal Ballroom. The theater reopened on September 17, 2021 and the Ballroom reopened on October 8, 2021.

Looking back at the auditorium from the stage.

The exterior of the Somerville Theatre.

 

 

Summer and Fall Workshops 2022

Strand Theatre Auditorium

Here are the dates and locations for the next four After the Final Curtain photo workshops. I’m very excited about the Strand Theatre, which is an active theater, so it’ll be nice and cool inside.

A long exposure of the Everett Square Theatre auditorium. 

The projection booth at the Everett Square Theatre.

Everett Square Theatre

Location: Boston, MA

Date/Time:

July 16, 2022

The Theatre: The Everett Square Theatre opened in 1915 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It was designed by Boston architect Harry M. Ramsay for the Littlefield Trust, the original owner of the theater. For more information, visit: https://afterthefinalcurtain.net/2014/08/05/everett-square-theatre/

Cost: $50.00

Tickets: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/everett-square-theatre-workshop

The Everett was an early movie house and is perfect if you’ve never been on a workshop before. I keep the groups small here, and we tend to experiment with lighting as seen in the first photo of the theater posted above.

Strand Theatre

Location: Boston, MA

Date/Time:

August 21, 2022

The Theatre: The Strand Theatre opened on November 11, 1918, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It was designed by Boston architectural firm Funk and Wilcox, who also designed the nearby Franklin Park Theatre. It is currently used for live events.

Cost: $70.00

Tickets: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/strand-theatre-workshop-boston-ma

The Strand is an active theater with decay. This workshop was originally planned for January 2022, but was delayed because of Vincent van Gogh (seriously.)  The afternoon session is already almost sold out.

Auditorium of the “Grant” Theatre.

Grant Theatre

Location: South of Boston, MA

Date/Time:

September 17, 2022

The Theatre: The Grant opened in the early 1900s as a vaudeville theater, and was eventually divided into 2 separate theaters. It’s been closed for several years with no plans to reopen it.

Cost: $75.00

Tickets: https://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/granttheatre2022

***At the request of the owner the real name and location of this theater will be disclosed only to workshop attendees***

Franklin Park Theatre

Location: Boston, MA

Date/Time:

October 15, 2022

The Theatre: The Franklin Park Theatre opened on December 8, 1914 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It was designed by Boston architectural firm Funk and Wilcox, who also designed the nearby Strand Theatre. It was turned into a church in 1963.

https://afterthefinalcurtain.net/2014/10/08/franklin-park-theatre/

Cost: $110

Tickets: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/franklinparktheatreworkshop

The Franklin Park is one of my favorite workshop locations. Where else can you get a theater and a church all in one? (That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer.)

 

And that’s it for 2022 workshops. Maybe. I’m always working on new locations and I’ve got a new one that may happen in late fall. Followers of my Patreon will know about it before anyone else.  If there are some locations I’ve done in the past that you’d like another workshop  at – let me know.

Strand Theatre – Boston, MA

I originally posted this post on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in October 2021. For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content, you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Strand Theatre in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, originally opened on November 11, 1918, the same day that the news of the Armistice, ending World War I, reached Boston. The Boston-based architectural firm of Funk & Wilcox, the same firm that designed the nearby Franklin Park Theatre and the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA, designed it. It was one of the first theaters in Massachusetts designed with motion pictures in mind. The Strand also had a $75,000 Hope-Jones Theatre Organ, one of the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

A portion of the lobby was restored to show what the theater could look like after a full restoration.

Early advertisements for the Strand called it “New England’s Most Beautiful Theatre” and “Dorchester’s New Million Dollar Photoplay Palace.” The 2,200 seat Strand opened with a silent film double feature of “Queen of the Sea” starring Annette Kellerman and“Out of a Clear Sky” starring Marguerite Clark. There was also a performance by “Songstress DeLuxe” Emile Earle. Hundreds of people showed up to the Strand’s opening celebration in part to celebrate the theater but also the signing of the armistice. Many celebrities performed at the Strand over the years, including Fred Allen, Fanny Brice, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Duke Ellington, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Like many single-screen theaters of its day, the Strand’s audience declined, and the theater closed in 1969. In 1979, the City of Boston took ownership of the theater, and the Strand reopened. It was managed by the M. Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts (MHMCA), who signed a 25-year lease for $1 a year. During this time, some big names performed at the theater – Joe Perry, B.B. King, Tracy Chapman, Public Enemy, Phish, and LL Cool J, just to name a few. MHMCA operated the theater until 2003, when the City declined to renew their lease because of allegations of mismanagement.

The right organ chamber and box seats were given a sample restoration as well.

The City of Boston is currently searching for a new operator of the Strand.

 

 

Palace Theatre – Norwalk, CT

View from the side of the balcony.

The 1,149 seat Palace Theatre originally opened on December 21, 1914, in Norwalk, CT. It was known as “the theater you play before you play the Palace in New York.” Many famous vaudeville acts performed at the Palace over the years, such as Harry Houdini, W.C Fields, Mae West, and Enrico Caruso. It’s rumored to have been one of the final places Houdini played before his death in 1926.

A close up of the theater’s proscenium arch.

The Palace closed as a movie theater for the last time on August 28, 1966. It stayed closed until Russell Fratto purchased it in 1975. Fratto intended on turning the theater into a performing arts center and home for the ballet company he founded. Fratto could reopen it for the 1980-81 season but because of a recession, it closed again after that season.

The lobby is currently used as receptionist area for the building.

It was leased to the Palace Production Center (PPC) in 1983. PPC updated the electrical and HVAC systems and turned the auditorium into a sound stage. PPC purchased the building in 1985 and has operated the building ever since. It’s used for photoshoots, video shoots, and feature film productions.

Orpheum Theatre – St. Louis, Missouri

View of the auditorium from the mezzanine.

The Orpheum Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri opened on September 3, 1917. The Southern Real Estate and Financial Company hired G. Albert Lansberg to design the building. Lansberg designed many theaters for the San Francisco-based Orpheum Theatre Circuit. The 2,300-seat Beaux arts theater cost $500,000 ($9.6 million with inflation) to build. Unlike many other theaters, the Orpheum did not have a formal opening with special guests and speeches. Opening day was a straight vaudeville ticket with two strongmen, a contortionist, two comedians, and a singer.

The lobby of the Orpheum.

Many famous vaudeville acts performed at the Orpheum over the years, including Sophie Tucker, Eddie Foy, Fannie Ward, and Lee Morse. Harry Houdini, the famous illusionist and escape artist, performed at the Orpheum for a week on three separate occasions: the first began on February 13, 1922; the second on January 14, 1923; and the last on December 22, 1923. When vaudeville declined in the late 1920s, the theater switched formats and became a playhouse. It opened on Christmas Day 1929 with a production of David Belasco’s The Bachelor Father.
Warner Bros took the Orpheum over in 1934 and changed formats again, this time to motion pictures. A new screen, projectors, and a W.W. Kimball 2 manual organ were installed in the theater. It reopened on September 15, 1934, with a showing of “British Agent” starring Kay Francis and Leslie Howard. Warner Bros operated the theater until 1941, when the theater closed. It reopened two years later, as the Loew’s Orpheum Theatre on January 28, 1943, with a war bond event and a screening of “The War Against Mrs. Hadley” starring Edward Arnold and Fay Bainter.
On February 28, 1960, Loew’s Theatres Inc. announced that they wanted to move their operations to the nearby American Theater (a playhouse) since they could not easily install a 70mm screen at the Orpheum because of its balconies. They could convert the American Theatre at a much lower cost. Both theaters were owned by Southern Real Estate and Financial Company, which were in favor of the switch. However, because of the ruling of the landmark antitrust case, United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., which said that movie studios could no longer own the theaters in which their films played; Loew’s needed the permission of the Department of Justice to sign a new lease; the Department of Justice signed in March 1960. After a $300,000 renovation, the Orpheum reopened as the American Theatre on October 10, 1960, with a performance of The Music Man.
Local entrepreneurs Steve and Michael Roberts purchased the theater for $1.5 million in 2003. It underwent a two-year renovation and upgrade before reopening on April 10, 2005, as the Roberts Orpheum Theater. The first musical act to perform at the reopened theater was the Backstreet Boys. In 2012, Steve and Michael Roberts went bankrupt and were forced to close the theater. Jubilee World Inc., a music-oriented Christian ministry, bought the theater in late 2016, intending to reopen it as a performing arts center. However, no reopening date has been announced.

View of the auditorium from the box seats.

The auditorium chandelier and procenium arch.

View of the auditorium from the upper balcony.

Exhibition at The Kerlin Gallery in York, PA

The Kerlin Gallery, one of the Creative York galleries in York, PA is currently exhibiting 16 pieces of my work.  They range from 30×20 prints on aluminum to smaller framed prints.

The exhibition runs from Thursday, January 27 to Thursday, February 17, 2022. The opening reception is Thursday, January 27 from 6 to 8pm.

I will be at Creative York on Thursday, February 17 at 5pm for the closing reception. Following this reception, I’ll be speaking at the nearby Capitol Theatre at 7pm.

Hope to see some of you there!

The Library Opera House – Marathon, NY (Lucky Number 200!)

I knew I wanted to do something a little different for the 200th theater I photographed. I was speaking with a friend who went to school in upstate (real upstate, not just slightly north of NYC) and he asked “have you been to the one above the library in Marathon?” I hadn’t heard of it and was immediately intrigued. I found a few recent photos online and knew this would be perfect. Plus, it’s now the oldest theater I’ve photographed in the United States. As with most of my posts – it was originally posted on Patreon in August 2021.  For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

In January 1891, Mersena Peck, a native of Marathon, New York died. She left $20,000 ($584,217 when adjusted for inflation) in trust for the creation of a public library in Marathon and named three town residents as trustees. They began working to carry out her wishes and were well underway by 1893. However, before construction could start, a group of 125 citizens petitioned that the building include a space for public entertainment. Architect Miles F. Howe adjusted the blueprints to add a 600 seat opera house on the second floor of the building.

The Marathon Library and Opera House opened on January 1, 1896. It began as a live performance space, hosting traveling performers before transitioning over to films in the early 1930s. The Library Opera House was renamed the Park Theatre and lasted as a movie theater until 1953. The auditorium is currently only used a few times a year to host a used book fair.

The exterior of the Marathon Library/Opera House.

In early 2020, the Marathon Public Library announced that the building needs close to $1 million in renovations. They’ve received $50,000 through their capital campaign but far from enough to be able to make the renovations needed to reopen the opera house.

The orchestra level of the auditorium is used as a book fair.

The Restoration of the Colonial Theatre in Laconia, NH

This post was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in September 2021.  For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

View from the balcony before restoration.

Colonial Theatre Laconia, NH

View from the balcony after restoration.

I’ve been photographing theaters for long enough that many have been completely restored and reopened since I first visited them. The Colonial Theatre in Laconia, NH, is one of those I have documented before, during, and after restoration.

The lobby when I first visited the theater in early 2019.

Here’s the same shot that was taken in May 2021. I was told that these are close to the original colors of the theater.

Work began in March 2016, when the partitions divided the auditorium into four screens were removed. Fortunately, those who did this work left much of the original plasterwork intact behind the new walls. Belknap EDC brought in Evergreene Architectural Arts to restore the plasterwork and recreate some of the details that had been destroyed or deteriorated over the years. For example, the original fire curtain remains intact but needs some work before it can be used.

Orchestra Level (with my favorite fire curtain of all time) from early 2019.

A similar shot of the auditorium from May 2021.

The total restoration cost was $14.4 million, and the finished theater will seat 750 people, with 450 in the orchestra and 300 on the balcony. Spectacle Management of Lexington, Massachusetts, has been contracted to manage the theater. The official grand opening and ribbon cutting took place on August 27, 2021. In addition to bookings from Spectacle, the Colonial will be open to weddings, dance groups, meetings, and community productions.

Ticket Booth, Colonial Theatre Laconia, NH

The ticket booth in early 2019.

Ticket booth post-restoration.

The Colonial Theatre Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2020. Tickets to upcoming shows can be purchased at https://coloniallaconia.com/

 

Robins Theatre – Warren, Ohio

This post was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in June 2021.  For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

View of the auditorium from the balcony before restoration.

A similar view of the auditorium during the renovation.

The Robins Theatre opened on January 9, 1923, in Warren, Ohio. It was the crown jewel of the Robins Amusement Company (RAC). Architect C. Howard Crane designed the theater in the Adamesque style with an Italian Renaissance exterior. Construction of the 1,500-seat theater was handled by the Charles Shutrump and Sons Company of nearby Youngstown, Ohio; it cost $300,000, equating to $4.5 million when adjusted for inflation.

Looking back from the stage pre renovation.

 

The Robins was designed so that the theater could be converted from a movie theater to a live performance theater in only 24 hours. According to an account in the Warren Tribune, “Workmen could begin building a stage while motion picture performances continued in the theater proper.” Then when the theater closed at 11pm, a temporary intervening wall of lumber could be torn down, the connections to the front of the stage constructed and the stage playhouse ready for opening the following night.” The Robins opened with a silent film double feature — “The Speeder” starring Lloyd Hamilton, and “Quincy Adams Sawyer” starring Jon Bowers — and the Robins Orchestra performed the overture of Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber.

Some of the painted details on the wall in the balcony.

Vitaphone, an early form of talking motion pictures, was installed at the Robins in 1927. The first film shown with Vitaphone was “Don Juan” starring John Barrymore. RAC sold the Robins and the Daniel Theaters to R.M.P Realty Co. in August 1966 for around $500,000 ($3.9 million with inflation). The theater closed in 1974, and various plans were put together over the years to restore and reopen it. A feasibility study was done in 2005 that estimated it would cost $12 million to restore and reopen the theater. However, it wasn’t until it was sold to Downtown Development Group LLC in December 2017 that work would begin. The seats were removed in early March 2018, and the plaster repair began soon after. It reopened as a performing arts center on January 20, 2020.

The entryway to the theater was redesigned in the 1960s.

The Projection booth was cleaned out prior to the theater’s restoration in 2018.

Drake Theatre – Oil City, PA

This post was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in May 2021.  For early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

A look at Oil City PA's Drake Theatre from the Balcony

View of the Auditorium from the balcony.

The Drake Theatre in Oil City, Pennsylvania opened on August 27, 1928, as the Colonel Drake Theatre. The date was chosen because it was the sixty-ninth anniversary of the completion of the first oil well drilled by Col. Edwin L. Drake, the first man to drill oil in the United States, and the theater’s namesake. The Vemark Corporation formed the Drake Theatre Realty Company (DTRC) to finance the construction, and $500,000 in bonds were sold, which was around half of the building’s appraised value. On January 7, 1928, DTRC invited the public to view the laying of the Drake’s cornerstone.

The ceiling of the Drake Theatre in Oil City, PA

Much of the interior décor items, including the glass from the light in the center of the ceiling, were donated to local museums.

The 2,000-seat theater and 50,000 sq. ft office building was designed by architect William H. Lee, who is known for designing many theaters in eastern Pennsylvania. It was designed in the Art Deco style, and there are two murals depicting the petroleum industry on the auditorium walls. Music was important at the Drake; the Colonial Drake Symphony Orchestra, led by William Lantz, alternated performances with the Wurlitzer Co. Opus 1870 organ. Clark Piers, an organist from Scranton, PA, was hired as the theater’s organist.

The view of the Drake Theatre auditorium from the stage.

The view from the stage reveals how much water damage there is in the auditorium.

Many businesses took out ads in the Oil City Derrick, the local newspaper, to congratulate the theater on its grand opening. The theater’s motto “Always a Good Show” appeared in early advertisements. The opening day celebration began with a street parade headed by a marching band. Many of the theater’s new ushers marched in the parade wearing their green and gold uniforms. Dr. Thomas Farmer, an Oil City businessman, gave the opening address, followed by George H. Torrey of the Oil City Historical Society, who told the history of the oil industry in the United States.

The proscenium arch of the Drake Theatre in Oil City, PA was damaged due to a leak in the roof.

A closer look at the water-damaged proscenium arch.

In the 1950s, one of the lobby staircases was removed so that a concessions stand could be installed. Due to competition from a local multiplex, the Drake closed in July 1986 after a showing of the film “Club Paradise” starring Robin Williams and Peter O’Toole. The Oil City Playhouse briefly reopened the theater in the mid-1990s as a performing arts center, but it closed again after a year. The building was put up for judicial tax sale in 1995 due to $221,000 in back taxes. It was purchased for $70,500 by Bruce Taylor, who owned Penn Aire Aviation, Inc. Taylor outbid a group that intended on restoring and reopening the Drake.

A mural on the auditorium wall of the Drake Theatre in Oil City, PA

One of the two murals depicting the petroleum industry on the auditorium walls.

Penn Aire sold the building to Webco, a local manufacturing company, in early 2018. Webco intends to demolish the auditorium and build a facility to house manufacturing equipment. However, the lobby, façade, and office building will remain. Ellen Gierlach, president of Penn Aire, removed two murals, exit signs, light fixtures, and more before the sale. Gierlach has donated many of them to museums and historical societies, including the Drake Well Museum and the Theatre Historical Society of America.

The lobby of the Drake Theatre in Oil City, PA.

The concession stand in the lobby was added in the 1950s and replaced one of the staircases to the balcony.

The auditorium of the Drake Theatre in Oil City from the orchestra level.