Is anybody else fascinated by photos of old movie
theaters, especially the outside, when you can read the marquees?
I love to see what movies are playing, and especially to see photos
where there are people waiting outside. Whereas I couldn’t
think of anything worse today than being in a crowded theater with
a loud coughing, crackling, chatting, texting, or beeping audience, back
in the day, as they say, it was the only way to go.
There are a few
websites out there with some wonderful photos of old cinemas.
The Theatre Historical Society of
America has a terrific site, with lots of
amazing photos and it’s not too late to sign up for their 2008
Conclave “San Jose and Around the Bay” taking place July 8 – 13, 2008. If you’re into old
theatres and have some vacation time coming, this looks like an amazing
few days touring the greatest extant movie houses in the San Jose and
San Francisco area. They will also be publishing a new edition of the
fascinating Great American Movie Theaters book which
came out in 1987. I’m sure many of us have this one on our
bookshelves, as I do! The photos below are from the Joe
Coco Photo Collection of the THSA.
Take a look at this great
photo of the Paramount Theater on Times Square in NYC, circa 1961 when
Snow White and the Three Stooges was
How about this great shot of the Globe Theater in 1937 when
James Cagney in Something to Sing About dominated the
Or this photo of the Roxy Theater taken during the run of
The Robe in 1953 -take a look at those crowds.
Around the block!
The world premiere of Come
to the Stable was obviously a huge deal at the Rivoli Theater
back in the town where I grew up, we had two movie theaters on the main
drag. These photos are a little before my time — that car contest
pre-dates me, but by only a matter of months! The next two photos
are from The Downey Conservancy
which has a nice collection on Flickr.
Obviously a gala premiere is something less than huge in the
suburbs, although they do have a cop on duty. Maybe they
were expecting a rumble, considering the movie. Hilarious and
amazing, since there probably wasn’t a more Leave It to
Beaver-type city than Downey, California, back in
Another wonderful site for
everything concerning old movie theaters all over the world is Cinema
Treasures, a comprehensive website that will
have you mesmerized for hours. This one will frequently break your
heart, though, as they report on theater demolitions but also restore
your spirits somewhat with more infrequent tales of restorations.
There’s a great page called Broadway Theater Tour
with photos of grand old theaters in downtown Los Angeles. They
haven’t been torn down but have mostly been turned into
storefronts in this predominantly Latino neighborhood. The photos
here are also terrific and the stories behind them are equally
intriguing. There's another excellent site called CinemaTour — Cinema History
Around the World.
recommended visiting each one of these websites to explore this amazing
area of movie history. All of these tireless supporters of
preservation are to be celebrated, because we all know how avarice and
apathy will trump historical importance almost every time.