After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater

Cover for After the Final Curtain; the Fall of the American Movie Theatre.
Cover for After the Final Curtain: the Fall of the American Movie Theatre.

 

Remember in the last post how I said I had an announcement I was going to keep secret for the moment? Well, here it is – Jonglez Publishing is going to be publishing a book featuring my photography of abandoned theaters!

After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater consists of 24 theaters from New York to California, including some that have never been posted on this site.

It’s being released on October 1, 2016 and can be pre-ordered at the following link: After the Final Curtain: the Fall of the American Movie Theater.

 

Photo Workshops 2016

View of the Victory Theatre from the side of the balcony.
View of the Victory Theatre from the side of the balcony.

I’m excited to announce that I’ll once again be partnering with photographer/founder of Abandoned America, Matthew Christopher for photo workshops in 2016!

First, we will be returning to the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, MA on April 9, 2016.  The Victory Theatre opened on December 30, 1920 and closed 58 years late on December 15, 1978. It is currently owned by the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, who plan to renovate the theater and reopen it as a performing arts center. Past workshops have generated over $4000 for MIFA.

More information as well as how to purchase tickets can be found at: http://www.abandonedamerica.us/after-the-final-curtain1abandoned-america1

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

We will also be returning to the Variety Theatre in 2016. The details for that workshop will be announced at a later date.

The Variety opened on November 24, 1927 and after a number of different uses (including a wrestling gym called the Cleveland Wrestleplex) closed in the late 1980s. The building was purchased by the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre on June 12, 2009, and they plan to restore the theater as a multi-use venue.

For more information go to: http://www.abandonedamerica.us/the-variety-theatre-an-after

Moreland Theatre

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

The Moreland Theatre opened on January 12, 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. It was designed by the local architectural firm of Braverman & Havermaet for A. T. (Adolph) Wallach, a real estate entrepreneur. The 1,296 seat theater is located in the Buckeye neighborhood, which had the largest concentration of Hungarian immigrants in the country at the time the theater was constructed. A press release for the opening of the theater describes it as having, “the most modern system of indirect side lighting,…newest type of projection machines,…and every facility and resource to contribute to the complete enjoyment of its patrons.” The Moreland cost $300,000 to build, equal to a $4,156,421 budget today when adjusted for inflation.

The auditorium floor was leveled in 1963 when it was converted into a dinner theater.
The auditorium floor was leveled in 1963 when it was converted into a dinner theater.

Originally built for vaudeville and silent films, the Moreland was part of the Universal-Variety circuit and opened with, The Cat and the Canary, starring Laura LaPlante. The film was accompanied by a live performance by George Williams and his band, the music box Merrymakers. Larry Jean Fisher, “The Texas Organist,” played the $40,000 Kimball organ throughout the opening night. The owners made sure to program for the theater’s Hungarian community soon after opening by scheduling the Hungarian Elite Mixed Choir, who performed in March 1928.

The lobby was gutted by a fire in March 1968. However, much of the ornate plasterwork was salvaged.
The lobby was gutted by a fire in March 1968. However, some of the ornate plasterwork was salvaged.

In October 1929, theater operator Paul Gusdanovic took over the Moreland Theatre. He already had a partnership interest in the Regent Theatre, which was located a few blocks away from the Moreland. Gusdanovic began jointly operating them, but was forced to close the Moreland in December due to the Stock Market crash of 1929. He reopened it a few times showing primarily Hungarian films as well as hosting community events.

Plasterwork details above a fire exit in the auditorium.
Plasterwork details above a fire exit in the auditorium.

The G&P Amusement Company of Cleveland acquired the lease to the Moreland in 1937. They remodeled the theater, adding a new RCA sound system, and began showing daily double features of Hollywood films. However, G&P ran into problems early on as they faced competition from the Gusdanovic’s Regent Theatre and the newly opened Colony Theatre in Shaker Square. In March 1949, G&P filed suit against the owners of the Regent, along with four other studios — 20th Century Fox, Loew’s, Warner Bros and Universal Studios — claiming that the Gusdanovic conspired with the studios to ruin the Moreland. G&P were eventually forced to close the theater in 1950. The Cleveland District Court ruled against G&P in 1952 — the judge said that the neighborhood could not support two theaters. G&P appealed the decision to the Sixth Court of Appeals who upheld the lower court’s decision.

During the conversion to a dinner theater a terrace was added to rear of the auditorium for use a dining area.
During the conversion to a dinner theater a terrace was added to rear of the auditorium for use a dining area.

The Moreland opened, closed and reopened throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. It was remodeled into a musical dinner theater in 1963 by Gerard Gentile, William Boehm and Eugene Woods. The trio had experience in theaters in the Cleveland area and were determined to revitalize the Moreland. It opened as Players Theatre Café in January 1964. Once again, the reopening was short lived and the theater closed in April 1964. It reopened again as the Beach Party Room in July 1967, with three inches of sand and artificial palm trees in the auditorium to help give the illusion that patrons were attending a party on the beach. This venture only lasted four months, after which it was turned into a dance club called “Second Shadow Lounge” in October 1967. This too did not last very long, and the theater became a Hungarian playhouse in June 1969. By 1975 the theater was closed again, and three years later it was sold to the Church of God in Christ (CGC). CGC became the theater’s longest tenant, using the building as a worship space for almost thirty years.

The exterior of the Moreland Theatre.
The exterior of the Moreland Theatre.

The CGC sold the theater in 2007 to the Buckeye Area Development Corporation (BADC), a not-for-profit community development corporation serving the area. BADC planned to restore the theater as a cultural center, but have yet to raise the estimated $6.1 million needed to renovate the building.

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The Church of God in Christ covered the plaster gargoyles on the auditorium walls with fake plants.
The Church of God in Christ covered the plaster gargoyles on the auditorium walls with fake plants.

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Moreland Theatre_017 Moreland Theatre_002

Moreland Theatre_001

Holiday Print Sale

Abandoned Theatre Pittsburgh, PA
Abandoned Theatre Pittsburgh, PA

It’s December so that means it’s time for our annual Holiday Print Sale!

From now until December 31, 8×12, 12×18 and 16×24 prints are 50% off when you use the coupon code holiday2015 at checkout.

http://www.afterthefinalcurtainprints.com/

If you have any questions feel free to email me at matt@mlambrosphotography.com

After the Final Curtain is a personal project, and all profits from your print purchases help me to continue photographing endangered theaters across the United States.

Fox Theatre Inglewood, CA

The Fox was the first theater in Inglewood to have air conditioning.
The Fox was the first theater in Inglewood to have air conditioning.

The Fox Theatre in Inglewood, CA opened on March 31, 1949. It was built on the site of the Granada Theatre which had been destroyed by a fire five years earlier. Fox West Coast Theatres (FWCT) purchased the site for $376,375.45 soon after the fire. Charles Skouras, the president of FWCT, requested that the theater be designed in a neo-baroque style instead of the more modern style which was typical of the late 1940s. To achieve they hired architect S. Charles Lee to design the building and Carl G. Moeller to design the interior. Newly low cost aluminium sheeting was used to create ornamentation that would have been much more expensive and harder to mass produce if created with plaster. Moeller went on to redesign a number of Fox’s pre-war theaters this way, which came to be known as “Skouras Style.

View of the auditorium from the screen.
View of the auditorium from the screen.

The 1008 seat Fox was the last theater to be constructed by 20th Century Fox before the Supreme Court Case the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. The case, also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948, decreed that movie studios were no longer allowed to own theaters and hold exclusive rights on where the films they produced were shown. Even though they no longer owned the theater, 20th Century Fox often held sneak previews of upcoming films at the Fox so they could observe people’s reactions to the movies. The Fox also had a soundproof room dubbed the “cry room” so that people could bring babies to the movies without disturbing the other patrons.

Much of the projection equipment was left behind when the theater closed.
Much of the projection equipment was left behind when the theater closed.

Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” starring Clifton Webb and Shirley Temple was the first film shown at the Fox. Webb and Temple both made appearances at the premiere along with an estimated 10,000 people crowding the streets around the building. The Fox changed hands and formats a few times, switching to exploitation, and finally spanish language films before closing in 1988.

The Fox lobby and concession stand.
The Fox lobby and concession stand.

In 2009, the Inglewood Fox Theatre Alliance was formed to raise awareness and gain support for restoring the theater. Through their efforts the theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 2013. It was the second location in Inglewood to be added to the NRHP after the Centinela Adobe. The building is currently for sale.

A close up of one of the original light fixtures in the lobby.
A close up of one of the original light fixtures in the lobby.
The original ticket booth has been protected from the elements by a plywood wall.
The original ticket booth has been protected from the elements by a plywood wall.
The interior of the Fox Theatre ticket booth.
The interior of the Fox Theatre ticket booth.
View from the back of the auditorium.
View from the back of the auditorium.
The marquee is also partially protected by a plywood barrier.
The marquee is also partially protected by a plywood barrier.
The concession stand has a gilt shell overhang.
The concession stand has a gilt shell overhang.

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Fox Theatre Inglewood_12

Hiatus

Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL
Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL

Hi Everyone – Just wanted to let you all know that I’m taking a short hiatus from posting while I finish my book on the Loew’s Kings Theatre. Don’t worry though – the site isn’t going anywhere. I have a backlog of 16 theaters that I haven’t posted yet and plans to photograph many more.  For updates during the hiatus check out the After the Final Curtain Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Afterthefinalcurtain

Here’s a quick look at some of the upcoming theaters that will be featured on AFtC later this year:

UC
UC Theatre Berkeley, CA
Varsity2
Varsity Theatre Evanston, IL
Warner Huntington Park
Warner Theatre Huntington Park, CA
Fox Theatre Fullerton, CA
Fox Theatre Fullerton, CA

Next Blog Post

Franklin Park Theatre Dorchester, MA
Franklin Park Theatre Dorchester, MA

Help me pick the next blog post on After the Final Curtain! Cast a vote for the theater you’d like to see next on the site, and whichever has the most votes by Thursday 6/19 will be featured in a blog post on Friday 6/20!

View from the balcony of the Adams Theatre.
View from the balcony of the Adams Theatre.
View from the balcony of the Russell Theatre.
View from the balcony of the Russell Theatre.
Everett Square Theatre Boston, MA
Everett Square Theatre Boston, MA
View from the balcony of the Logan Theatre in Philadelphia, PA
View from the balcony of the Logan Theatre in Philadelphia, PA

Thanks for voting! The Russell Theatre is the winner!