The irony is all in the name! The abandoned Joy Cinema in New Orleans is a sorry sight today. And while their names may not pose such a paradox as “the Joy”, these eight old movie palaces look like their best years ended with the passing of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Ramova Theater, Chicago
The Ramova Theater on the south side of Chicago, completed 1929, was built to resemble a Spanish courtyard, while glittering stars on the ceiling heightened the sense of wonder. Charlie Chaplin held the Chicago premiere of The Great Dictator at the Ramova, the highlight of its career. The cinema declined during the 1950s, screening Spanish language films following the Bridgeport neighborhood’s transition from a strong Irish community to Hispanic. The Ramova closed in the 1980s and has been abandoned ever since.
Olympic Theatre, Los Angeles
The Olympic, formerly the Bard’s Eighth Street Theatre, opened in 1927 with a 600 seat capacity. Remodelled several times, it was renamed the Olympic in 1932 to commemorate Los Angeles hosting the games that year. Featured in films such as The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, the Olympic Theatre also ended its days playing Spanish language films and closed in 1986. The auditorium was gutted in 2004, though the organ screens and some original features remain. Since this photo was taken, the facade has been restored and the Olympic has been reopened as a chandelier and French rococo furniture store.
Tower Theatre, Los Angeles
On October 12, 1927, the Tower Theatre burst onto the glitzy scene with The Gingham Girl starring George Arthur and Lois Wilson. While the theatre ceased playing films in 1988 and had its famous tower bizarrely shortened, it nevertheless remains one of downtown Los Angeles’ last intact cinemas. Serving as a nightclub, church and special events center since the film reels finally ground to a halt, the Tower Theatre reopened as a rock concert venue in 2008. It now has its own website and with its original interior reasonably intact, it has claimed its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Arcade Theatre, Los Angeles
Opened in 1910, the Arcade Theatre was built to resemble an English music hall. The ornate movie palace survived until 1992 before closing its doors to its cinema audience. Today the lobby is used as a retail space while the quiet auditorium serves as a storage facility piled high with boxes. Happily though, the auditorium remains very much intact, with the old Arcade Theatre”s music-hall features still in existence – a great potential renovation project.
Palace Theatre, Los Angeles
The Palace Theatre is one of the longest running movie palaces in the United States. Built in 1911 ans operated as a cinema until 2000, it is available for a wide variety of special events and location filming. The venue is well maintained, with deep red curtains still hanging above the lobby in the Ladies Lounge, where women once watched from the balcony for their escorts to arrive. The Palace Theatre was built in the style of a Renaissance Florentine palazzo, notably Casino Municipale in Venice, and last appeared onscreen in Dreamgirls (2006).
The abandoned Roxie, Cameo and Arcade cinemas line a street in the former theatre district of downtown Los Angeles. The only lighting on the dark street emanates from a solitary street lamp on a large billboard dominating the roof of the Cameo. Once upon a time this area was alive with theatre-goers enjoying the shows. Today many of the buildings remain but the golden age of film has long since passed them by.
Regent Theatre, Los Angeles
Of 20 small to medium sized theatres on South Main Street (two blocks from the larger Los Angeles theatres on Broadway (above), The Regent is one of the last standing. Despite its inauguration in the usual glittery Hollywood style, the theatre ended its days less salubriously playing adult films. As of September 2008, it was reincarnated as a live performance venue. The photo shows the stripped-out auditorium before The Regent was converted, aptly hosting a meeting of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Historic Theatres Committee.
Starlite Music Theatre, Latham, New York
The Starlite Music Theatre, fondly known as “the tent”, once drew stars such as Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Cash and Diana Ross. Essentially a huge oval, green and yellow-striped canvas tent, the theatre – which went by many names over the years, including Colonie Coliseum – seated 1,800 people around a central stage. By 1969, the tent had been replaced by a more permanent building seating 3,000. Theatre productions declined soon after, giving way to Las Vegas concert acts in the 1970s before the Starlite fell on hard times. It struggled on through the 1997 season but never opened the following year. Today, the big venue in the small hamlet lies derelict and abandoned.