Sunday, February 28, 2010

CALIFORNIA as Science Fiction 2

Self Portrait in Disney Hall wall, 
Los Angeles, February 21, 2010.

After hearing Ginastera, Ravel, and Stravinsky

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CINEMAS of the World: The Royal, Philadelphia, PA., USA

Marquee of the Royal Theater

I  remember when I used to come into Philly in the '70s I would park my car somewhere down and beyond South St., one of the few areas where you could park overnight in center city.

Thus I used to walk by the Royal Theatre on South Street quite often, on the way downtown in the evening and then staggering back the morning (or afternoon) after.

But always, always noting the black plastic letters gradually disappearing from the "Last of the Mobile Hot Shots" title. This late period (1970) Tennessee Williams film was apparently (and appropriately) the Royal's last film attraction.

Apparently the theater was never sold or rented and letters and words gradually slipped away until only a slight poignant suggestion of the title, only comprehensible to avid movie buffs, was left clinging to the neglected but still impressive marquee.

It seemed incredibly symbolic and touching to me at the time. (And still does).

Also especially meaningful because I had seen the original Tennessee Williams play, "The Seven Descents of Myrtle" with Estelle Parsons and Harry Guardino, during its March 1968 Philadelphia try-out. It played a few blocks over from the Royal at the Walnut Street Theatre.

The Royal also reminded me of Tennessee's audacious short story, "The Mysteries of the Joy Rio".

I never imagined I would ever see that poignant image again. But here it is from the collections of Temple University.

More about the Royal:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cinemas of the World: LOEW's REGENT Theatre, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Loew’s REGENT Theatre, at 410 Market Street, was the Harrisburg chapter of the national Loew’s chain of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “flagship” theaters.

These photographs show Loew's after it closed around 1960. Both shots look down Market St. towards Market Square.  

In the above the large building is Pomeroy's department store. Beyond Pomeroy's is Doutrich's, a clothing store (vertical sign), Bowman's, another department store, and beyond Bowman's (not visible) Woolworth's five-and-dime.  The Colonial Theatre (also not visible here) was at 3rd and Market Streets.

The large photo below shows Loew's from the same POV but closer. The theater was housed in a row of old buildings which included a bar, a dry cleaner, a novelty/gag shop (which kids of the era loved), and a photography/art store. There was a parking lot which is partially seen to the far right in the above photo. The Harrisburg train station was (and is) across and set back from this Market St. block.

In its prime Loew's  Regent was the first-run Harrisburg theater for most of MGM’s prolific output of period epics, musicals (such as "Brigadoon") , and melodramas, as well the studio’s series of often well-produced B-movie and noir programmers (such as "Rogue Cop"). 

But Loew's also showed the occasional oddball independent picture. I saw  both Lippert’s unforgettable “Rocketship X-M’’ as well as “Bwana Devil,” the infamous first 3-D feature, at the Regent. 

Otto Preminger's controversial "The Man With the Golden Arm." "An Adult Picture" as the newspaper ad warned, also played there in February, 1956.

Loew's opened in 1920. But, a victim of the 1950s trust busting that forever altered the production/distribution/exhibition system of studio era Hollywood, the Regent was razed in 1961. 

More about Loew's REGENT Theatre: 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cinemas of the World: The Penway, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

The Penway Theatre, 18th and State Streets, Harrisburg, PA.
Circa 1946/1947. 
Photo by Ross J. Care


The Penway was on the corner of 18th & State Streets in Harrisburg, Pa. State Street was the "grand boulevard" of the capitol city and ran from the impressive State Street Memorial Bridge at the capitol buildings complex to the edge of Reservoir Park.

My family lived on Liberty Street, one block down from the theater. It was the first neighborhood I lived in and the first movie theater I attended.

A later screening of ON THE TOWN at the Penway was the start of my lifelong interest in writing about film and vintage movie theaters. My mother, Edithe, and I are seen at the end of the line waiting to see another MGM musical. (Note that, among an all-star cast, Lucille Bremer is given co-star billing).

More about the Penway: 

I wrote about the Penway and the other Harrisburg theaters I grew up loving (and losing) in my first article for the Library of Congress. The above photograph, circa 1946/1947, by my father, is reproduced on the first page of this article. The article also includes what photos I could find of other downtown and neighborhood Harrisburg theaters and movie stills and graphics from the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound collections of the Library of Congress.

PERFORMING ARTS ANNUAL, 1986, Iris Newsom, editor, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1986. ISBN: 0-8444-0533-7

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The RIO: Cinemas of the World But No Longer in This World

The Rio Theater, 
323 Walnut St., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

The Rio began life in 1908 as the Majestic,  a venue for vaudeville, traveling shows, and occasional legitimate theater. It also served as a concert hall. 

Barely surviving during the Depression the Majestic interspersed films with live entertainment until 1938 when it converted to first-run motion pictures. As the Rio it booked quality films until (circa) the late 1940s when it gradually declined into a mecca for double-feature B pictures, serials, and westerns (as illustrated in the photo.

The Rio was razed in 1955 and Harrisburg's Strawberry Square now occupies most of the block across from Capitol Park where this beautiful and historic structure once stood.

You can read more about the Rio at this excellent website: 

Monday, February 8, 2010

CINEMAS of the World: Drive-In Ads, Harrisburg, PA.

An ad for two drive-ins in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Circa 1954. Even drive-ins had converted to wide-screen CinemaScope by the mid-1950s.
But you didn't get "The Wonder of Stereophonic Sound" as promised in the RIVER OF NO RETURN ad. (But there still were Cartoon Carnivals).