This post was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in Jan 2021. You can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain
Built as part of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, the Emery Theatre in Cincinnati, Ohio opened on January 6, 1912 as the Emery Auditorium. It was funded by an endowment of $656,737 ($17.1 million with inflation) from Mary Emery, whose husband, Thomas J. Emery had planned on building a similar school in the city. Emery stipulated as part of the endowment that the auditorium must be open to the public and have at least 1,800 seats. The 2,200-seat theater was designed by Harvey Hannaford of the architectural firm of Samuel Hannaford & Sons. It was one of four “acoustically perfect” concert halls whose design was inspired by the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL. The other three were the Orchestra Hall, also in Chicago, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra held an inaugural concert at the theater on January 6, 1912. In 1924, George Gershwin performed his classic composition Rhapsody in Blue at the theater. On April 25, 1936, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra held its final concert at the Emery; it moved to the Cincinnati Music Hall, a space with more seats and more parking. Beginning in 1935 and ending in 1939, the Federal Theatre Project, a program established during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal to fund live entertainment programs, began to use the Emery. From 1938 to 1948, the theater was the home of The Boone County Jamboree, an American Country Radio Program. A 500,000-watt transmitter was used by station WLW so that millions of people around the country could listen to the program.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Emery on June 16, 1959 while he was campaigning for Ted Berry during Berry’s run for Cincinnati City Council. The University of Cincinnati (UC) took ownership of the Emery building in 1969, when the Ohio Mechanics Institute was incorporated into the university. A Wurlitzer Opus 1680 organ moved to the Emery from the nearby Keith’s Theater the same year, but was not completely installed until 1977. That same year, the Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society began programming shows on the weekends. They held organ concerts, showed silent, talking, and 3D films, and reduced the seating by closing the upper balcony. The final organ concert was held on October 24, 1999, after which the Wurlitzer was removed to be restored. It would never return to the Emery, and was installed in the Cincinnati Music Hall’s ballroom in 2004.
Beginning in November 2011, the Requiem Project, a non-profit group formed in late 2008 to restore the theater, held concerts, film festivals and recording sessions at the Emery. The National, Dirty Projectors, Carrie Rodriguez, Ralph Stanley and others performed at the theater during this time. The Requiem Project hired John Senhauser Architects and Westlake Reed Leskosky, two architecture firms, to create the restoration plans for the Emery. However, the Emery Center Corporation, who subleased the theater from Emery Center
Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP), who in turn leased it from UC, shut down all programming in 2013. According to Kathy Schwab, head of the Emery Center Corp in 2013, programming was stopped due to the theater’s dilapidated state and because everything had to be approved by UC. The Requiem Project sued to try to continue their renovation efforts at the theater, but eventually settled in March 2016. On April 23, 2019, the UC board of trustees voted to sell the Emery; according to them, it is beyond repair. It was sold for $8.55 million to local developers who intend to restore the building. The restoration costs are estimated at around $30 million and will take about three years to complete.
Mark Jabara, an artist from Australia, has been taking some of my theater images and restoring them in Photoshop. The Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s only art deco movie palace, opened on Christmas day in 1928. It closed in 2002, and the auditorium was demolished in the spring of 2015.
The Madison in Peoria, IL was originally designed in the Adamesque style and was remodeled in 1936 in the simpler art deco style to ease the maintenance of the building. Mark restored some of the lost adamesque details near the stage.
The United Artists Theatre in Detroit, Michigan opened on February 3, 1928 and closed in August 1972. It’s one of the most dangerous and deteriorated theaters I’ve ever photographed.
The Boyd Theatre is featured in my first book, After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater. The Madison and United Artists are featured in my latest book, After the Final Curtain: America’s Abandoned Theaters. Both are available on my site, Bookshop.org, and bookstores everywhere.
I don’t talk about this very often, but for a long time I wanted to be a Director, and make movies. When I first started exploring abandoned buildings I had a video camera in hand the whole time. Those tapes have been packed away in a box for years, but I recently transferred the footage to my computer. This is a short walkthrough of the Norwich State Hospital Theater from 2004. The building (along with many others on the campus) has since been demolished.
I’ll be posting some more videos from back then on the After the Final Curtain Youtube page in the coming months.
I’ll be exhibiting some of my work at the Wall Gallery at Percival Brewing Company. It’s located at 83 Morse Street, Norwood, MA starting on December 14 and running to January 24, 2020. There’s going to be an opening reception on Dec 14 from 2-4 PM. Hope to see some of you there!
Almost all of the work I’m exhibiting will be on metal. Metal Prints are created by infusing a digital photograph onto raw aluminum, and the result is an image that almost jumps out at you. I’m not going to share them here because the screen and my iPhone shot doesn’t do them justice.
Ok, maybe just one.
Also, if you’re looking to order a copy of my new book, After the Final Curtain: America’s Abandoned Theatres, from me directly in time for Christmas please place your order by December 15th.
Happy Holidays! – Matt
I took a bit of a hiatus from the site to finish this up, but now that I’m completely done I’m excited to announce that my third book is coming out this November!
“After the Final Curtain: America’s Abandoned Theaters” will feature 20 different theaters across the United States, including six exclusive ones, and a foreword written by Tim League, the founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain.
If you pre-order it via my site you will get a signed copy with a ticket stub and a 5×7 print of one of the theaters in the book. It should ship around the first week in November.
The streets of small towns and cities across America were filled with the lights and sounds of movie theaters in the early 20th Century. The most opulent were known as “movie palaces,” which were designed to make their patrons feel like royalty; people would dress up to visit. But as time went on, it became harder and harder to fill the 2,000+ seat theaters, and many were forced to close.
Today, these palaces are illuminated only by the flicker of dying lights, and the sound of water dripping from holes in the ceiling echoes through the auditoriums. In “After the Final Curtain: America’s Abandoned Theaters,” internationally-renowned photographer Matt Lambros continues his travels across the United States, documenting these once-elegant buildings. From the supposedly haunted Pacific Warner Theatre in Los Angeles to the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA, which opened the same day the Titanic sank, Lambros pulls back the curtain to reveal what is left, giving these palaces a chance to shine again.
I’m in the beginning stages of planning a book/lecture tour to promote the new book, so if you want me to visit your area let me know!
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the theaters that will be in the the new book:
Here are the first three locations for the 2019 photo workshop season:
First up is a return to the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA on February 23, 2019. The Orpheum was the first theater profiled on After the Final Curtain, and the past workshops have been great. Attendees will be able to photograph the auditorium, ballroom and shooting range. You can find out more information and sign up here.
Next is the Everett Square Theatre in Boston, MA on March 30, 2019. The Everett is a smaller theater, and a great place for someone who is just starting to photograph abandoned spaces. Due to the theaters size attendance is limited to 7 people per session. For more information and to sign up visit: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/everett-square-theatre-workshop
Finally, the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, Maine on April 27, 2019. It opened in 1913, and closed in the 1960s. There’s a group looking to restore the theater, and they’ve done quite a bit of work (including fixing a giant hole in the auditorium floor.) This will be the first workshop at the Colonial, and I’m excited for all of you to see it in person. For more information visit: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/colonial-theatre
I’m still waiting on confirmation for three more new workshop locations for early 2019. I don’t want to say much about them until I get the go ahead, but two of them are active theaters. Hopefully, I’ll be able to announce them very soon.
I’m happy to announce that I’ll be at the 10th annual Millbrook Literary Festival in Millbrook, New York on May 19th, 2018. I’ll be signing copies of my books in the main tent from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. I grew up a few towns over from Millbrook, and might have snuck into the abandoned Bennett School a time or two.
The next photography workshop is at one of my favorite theaters – the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m co-hosting it with Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America on June 16th. For more info visit: http://www.dismantlingthedream.com/product-page/variety-theatre-photography-workshop
Finally, I’ll be at the 14th annual Books in Boothbay in Boothbay, Maine on July 14. I’ll be signing copies of my books from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.
One of the questions I’m asked pretty often is “How do you light these theaters?” When I first started photographing theaters the answer was pretty simple. I didn’t. I relied on whatever was already in the building. I’d use construction lights, open fire escape doors, or in some rare cases use the original theater lights.
A few years ago I picked up some small LED lights from Amazon. They worked pretty well, but had a battery life of around 45 minutes, which wasn’t ideal. Earlier this year I noticed that they were taking longer to charge and not lasting as long. I began to search for replacements. If you’ve ever looked at how many LED lights there are on Amazon and B&H you’d know that finding a good one is a pretty daunting task. After weeding through the duds I bought two Yongnuo YN300 III LED lights, and they’re pretty fantastic. I’m able to light an entire auditorium with the two lights running at 50%, and the batteries last for around two hours. I’ve only tested them at the Everett Square Theatre and the Victory Theatre, but I think they’re a welcome addition to my camera bag.
Congratulations to Monika Seitz Vega and @NKenny ! You both won a copy of my first book, After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater . Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. I’ll be doing another giveaway soon.
I had been photographing forgotten theaters for a few years before I launched this site, but we just passed the 7 year anniversary of my first post. So to celebrate I’m giving away two signed copies of my first book, After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.
To enter just follow my twitter account: https://twitter.com/MattLambros and retweet any image I tweet during the next week.
If you don’t have a twitter account, just comment on this post to enter. Good Luck!