10 great places to see a classic cinema
Multiplexes may draw most moviegoers this holiday weekend, but savvy popcorn
munchers know there's more to the magic of watching a good film than stadium
seating and fancy drink holders. And while many of the USA's historic movie
palaces already have fallen to wrecking balls, hundreds more still are entrancing
audiences. Ross Melnick and Patrick Crowley, founders of the Web site Cinema
Treasures (www.cinematreasures.org), lead USA TODAY's Laura Bly behind the velvet
curtains to some of their favorites:
Coolidge Corner Movie Theatre
The Coolidge is the only operating Art Deco theatre in the Boston area.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, Mass.
"The paint may be chipped and the seats may be missing a few threads," notes Boston Magazine in its list of the city's best bets. But this 1933 art deco movie house in suburban Brookline, "home to a mixture of art-house, second-run and classic films, has been a cinematic Mecca for decades."
Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland, Calif.
The Grand Lake, currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, "is still showing first-run movies. Despite renovations that expanded the theater to four screens, it has retained its charm, and the original downstairs auditorium is breathtaking. Look for the theater's illuminated rooftop sign, which remains, like the Grand Lake itself, a classic neighborhood landmark."
Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Built in 1926 and seating more than 2,000, this "utterly magnificent" mission-revival theater is a must for those who have never seen the grandeur and majesty of a real movie palace. "Entering the Arlington, you step into a lush Spanish paradise with gurgling fountains, romantic courtyards and twinkling stars designed to transport audiences to a time and place 'far, far away' from our own."
San Marco Theater, Jacksonville, Fla.
This beautifully maintained art deco theater, built in 1938, remains a single-screen movie house. And "unlike your normal multiplex, the San Marco concession stand offers unique fare such as beer, wine, pizza and gourmet sandwiches" along with the conventional popcorn and candy.
Seattle Cinerama Theatre, Seattle
Reopened two years ago after an extensive renovation funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the 800-seat Seattle Cinerama Theatre is now one of the last Cinerama theaters still in operation. "Though Cinerama's popularity proved short-lived, it offered some of the most detailed images ever captured on film and paved the way for future large-screen formats such as IMAX. Today, the theater is one of the best places to watch movies in the 70mm format, such as the recent rerelease of 2001: A Space Odyssey."
Roxy Theater, Northampton, Pa.
Originally opened in 1921 as the Lyric, this theater was renovated in 1933 in the tremendously popular art deco style and renamed The Roxy after the famous New York City theater and its namesake showman Samuel "Roxy" Rothapfel. Today, as the city's only commercial theater, "the Roxy continues to be the greatest show in town," presenting both Hollywood favorites and live entertainment.
Senator Theatre, Baltimore
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Senator is "one of the country's most beloved movie houses and a favorite of Baltimore-based filmmakers Barry Levinson and John Waters, who has even cast the theater in his movies. Owner Tom Kiefaber has successfully fought to keep this circa 1939 art deco treasure alive, despite tremendous competition from local multiplexes. The magic of the movies permeates the entire building, from the beautiful interiors to the state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment."
Music Box Theatre, Chicago
When it was built in 1929 near Chicago's Wrigley Field, the 800-seat Music Box seemed small compared with its much larger and more palatial neighbors. While many of its competitors have now been converted, closed or demolished, "the Music Box still delights movie lovers with its eclectic mix of classic and art-house films," shown under a dark blue ceiling with twinkling stars and clouds.
Villa Theatre, Salt Lake City
Several mid-1990s renovations restored the theater's original 1949 murals and neon-laden facade, and with Utah's largest screen (at 93 feet), "this 1,000-seat jewel is the last historic movie house operating in the city and is still one of the best places to see a movie in America."
Oriental Theater, Milwaukee
"Still among the most exotic and ornate movie palaces in the country,"
the Oriental was built in 1927 and is known for its East Indian-themed decor,
including six Buddhas, eight lions and myriad elephants. It also holds the record
for continuous midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a theater
tradition since January 1978.