Good book about an "atmospheric" theater

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sethb

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Good book about an "atmospheric" theater

PostSat Aug 12, 2017 4:28 pm

I found an interesting book about John Eberson and his "Atmospheric" theaters, and particularly the 2,500 seat Palace Theater he built in Marion, Ohio in 1928.

The book is "A Theater History of Marion, Ohio," by Scott Hoffman, and it's available from Amazon in paperback ($19) or as a Kindle e-book ($10). Published in 2015, it's an excellent history of the Palace Theater as well as the life of John Eberson, the theater's architect.

Hoffman writes well and perceptively, pointing out that an "atmospheric" theater was not only an inviting novelty to patrons, but was also welcomed by theater owners as well, since it only cost about half as much to build as a regular ornate theater. But with the coming of sound, these theaters tended to fall out of favor, as they seemed to be more suited to silents and their faraway locales, than to gritty 1930's crime dramas and the like. Television provided the final blow to these and many other movie theaters. Fortunately the Palace was saved from the wrecking ball and today functions as a community arts center and showplace. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?" -- Harry Warner
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DavidWelling

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Re: Good book about an "atmospheric" theater

PostTue Aug 15, 2017 8:53 pm

It's always great news to hear about a book about a historic theatre. Thanks for the heads-up on the Marion Palace. I spent a good amount of time researching the atmospherics when I was working on my book on Houston movie theatres (Cinema Houston, UT press). Eberson’s first atmospheric was the Houston Majestic, which sadly no longer stands. It, along with the other grand Downtown palaces, were torn down in the seventies. However it served as a blueprint for all that followed after.
You are correct about the cost savings to the construction of atmospherics. For the small number of them still in existence, it is a wonder to behold. To repeat a well-used line, they don’t make them like that anymore. Again, thanks for your report. -- David
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Donald Binks

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Re: Good book about an "atmospheric" theater

PostTue Aug 15, 2017 10:33 pm

We are lucky in Oz to have two surviving atmospheric cinemas. One was the "State" in Melbourne. It was twinned in the early 1960's to become the "Forum" (downstairs) and "Rapallo" upstairs. Unfortunately no longer used for motion pictures but still used for live acts such as rock and roll groups etc., The other - the "Capitol" in Sydney is still intact and was recently "done up" and the stage extended as a home to live theatre. Even operas are now staged there as the Opera House is too small for some of them.
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the exterior of the old "State" Melbourne\
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inside the "State" when it was still a cinema
I can just remember an orchestra at the "State" back in the early 1950's. The piano and organ went to the Kingston Town Hall.
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Inside the Capitol Theatre Sydney as it is now after restoration and refurbishment.
Regards from
Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
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sethb

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Re: Good book about an "atmospheric" theater

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 7:02 am

My only very mild and constructive criticism of the book is that there was no information about the projection booth and its equipment. As a former projectionist myself, I would have loved to see some photos or at least some descriptions of the projectors and lamphouses, and especially the Brenkert equipment used to project clouds onto the theater dome.

The author did mention that both(!) the Warner sound-on-disc and Fox sound-on-film equipment had been installed, and it would have been great to see and hear a little more about that. I also wonder what sort of speakers/horns were used to run the sound into the auditorium, and where they were placed.

Maybe this information can been included in a subsequent printing or updated reissue. But overall, a great job and probably a minor point for most folks. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?" -- Harry Warner

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