Oriental Theatre – Boston, MA

The ornamental plaster was removed after the theater closed.

Originally planned to be built in Waltham, The Oriental Theatre opened on October 24, 1930 in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It was designed in the atmospheric style, where the ceiling resembled the night sky surrounded by a town, by the Boston based architectural firm Krokyn, Browne, and Rosenstein. They recreated notable Chinese structures, such as the Wanshou Temple and the Street Gate of Tsinanfu, in the auditorium. The 2,200 seat theater did not have a balcony, but had stadium seating with a raised section at the rear of the auditorium.

It was originally part of Jacob Lourie and Sam Pinanki’s NETOCO theater circuit, then Paramount, followed by M & P, and finally American Theatres Corporation (ATC.) The Oriental gained a reputation for being run down, and was eventually foreclosed on, which forced the theater to close. It was sold at a foreclosure auction on Friday, September 21, 1971. The last film advertised as being shown was “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

View from the rear of the auditorium.

In the mid-1970s, the building became home to an electrical supply warehouse. Fred McLennan, a local theater operator, purchased much of the ornamental plasterwork from the theater and installed it at the Orpheum Theatre in Canton, MA, which he renamed to the New Oriental Theatre. Only a few small pieces of plaster and the blue ceiling remained at the Oriental. A furniture store and warehouse replaced the electrical supply warehouse in 2018.

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 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.

California Theatre – San Diego, CA

This post was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in April 2021. You can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

Balcony of the California Theatre in San Diego

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

Once billed as “the cathedral of motion pictures” and “an enduring contribution to the artistic beauty of the entire Southland,” The California Theatre in San Diego, CA will be demolished. It could be said its destruction has been ongoing in the last 30 years due to inadequate maintenance. Southern California does not have harsh winters, but it gets rain, and when water comes into a building, it can do significant damage, especially if it’s full of ornamental plasterwork.

California Theatre Auditorium from the Stage

It was named the New California Theatre because there was already a California Theatre in San Diego in 1927. The original California changed its name to the Aztec in 1930, which allowed this one to drop the “new” from its name.

Architect John Paxton Perrine designed the 2,200-seat theater in Spanish Colonial Revival style. The building also housed several restaurants and a high-end department store, Bernard’s, which occupied the entire second floor. It began as a silent film and a Vaudeville theater, before turning to talkies in 1931. Eventually, ornate theater interiors went out of style, and the decorative plasterwork in California’s auditorium was covered by draperies during a remodel in 1963. The California stopped showing films in 1976, and became a performing arts center in 1978. Many famous bands performed at the theater during this time, including; A-HA, Poison, Pete Seeger, The Jerry Garcia Band, Donny Osmond, Jesus and Mary Chain, Melissa Etheridge, The Smithereens, Alice Cooper, Cowboy Junkies, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith.

The lobby of the California Theatre in San Diego

Joseph F Malloy, the theater’s original assistant manager, was shot and killed during a robbery on May 7, 1928.

Ariel Wharton (A.W.) Coggeshall, a San Diego-based businessman, bought the building in 1976. When he died in 1986, he left California to a group of non-profit organizations. The nonprofits formed a consortium called Fourth and C Corp. They were not interested in owning a 2,200-seat theater and planned to sell it to Hillman Properties, a Pittsburgh-based developer. Hillman planned to demolish the building and build a 34-story office complex. Fourth and C Corp gave the tenants of the office building, many of which were month-to-month, 30 days to leave in April 1990. Avalon Attractions, the company that managed the theater, was given until July 1990. The last performances were the Cowboy Junkies on June 20, 1990 and the Final Curtain Concert at the California Theatre, held by the Theatre Organ Society of San Diego on June 24, 1990.

The fire curtain and proscenium arch of the California Theatre in San Diego, CA

The feature presentation on opening night was “Venus of Venice,” a silent romantic comedy starring Constance Talmadge and Antonio Moreno. “Book Ideas,” a vaudeville show by Fanchon and Marco, and a performance by Al Lyons and his band rounded out the opening bill.

However, it wouldn’t be that easy to demolish the California, as it was a historic site grade three, which protected it from being demolished. Fourth and C Corp petitioned the San Diego City Council to change the designation to grade four, which would allow demolition as long as the historic features were recorded. They held a vote in February 1991 and voted 5-to-2 to change the listing. Hillman Properties abandoned the project in October 1991 due to the impact of the economic recession of 1990-1991. The building was bought and sold a few times in the 1990s and early 2000s, with plans for the theater ranging from a Christian performing arts center to a playhouse with occasional films.

Orchestra Level, California Theatre San Diego, CA

View of the auditorium from the orchestra level.

Sloan Capital Partners LLC purchased the California building in 2006. Sloan partnered with Caydon Property Group, an Australian company, to redevelop the property. Caydon’s plans called for the theater to be demolished and replaced by a 41-story condominium tower. Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), a San Diego based historic preservation nonprofit, filed a legal challenge to the demolition of the building on March 1, 2018. The court granted the legal petition because the environmental impact report did not analyze any adaptive reuse alternatives for the theater, required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Looby of the California Theatre in San Diego,CA.

The California was the first public venue in San Diego to have earthquake resistant framework built into the structure to protect the building.

SOHO and Caydon eventually agreed the lobby and much of the exterior facade would be reconstructed. They also agreed to work with SOHO to identify historic items in the building that could be repurposed. Caydon recently purchased the property from Sloan for $21.1M. It is currently scheduled to be demolished in 2021, with the construction of the new building beginning shortly afterwards.

Auditorium from the side of the stage - California Theatre San Diego, CA

The Wurlitzer organ was removed from the theater after it closed. It went to Trinity Presbyterian Church in Spring Valley, CA, but was destroyed by arson in March 1996.