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A tour of the Tower Theatre October 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Preservation, Theaters.
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A few days ago, The Oklahoman newspaper provided a tour for 30 subscribers to the historic but long-closed Tower Theatre along Route 66’s Northwest 23rd Street alignment in Oklahoma City.

As you will see, the tour contained a few former employees or patrons of the Tower.

The tour also included a Q&A with the developers David Wanzer, Ben Sellers and Jonathan Dodson, who plan on preserving the theater space in the building. The rest of the complex will be opened for business space.

“We want the theater to be something the community can enjoy,” Wanzer said.

It will take time, however, to renovate the space. For that reason, the developers didn’t mention a reopening date.

According to the Cinema Treasures website, the Tower Theatre opened in 1937, with a seating capacity of about 1,500. It closed in 1989.

(Image of the Tower Theatre in 2006 by Jason B. via Flickr)

Fox Theatre light returns to downtown Springfield September 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Signs, Theaters.
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A replica of the Fox Theatre’s neon sign in downtown Springfield, Missouri, was installed and lighted Thursday night, reported KLOR-TV.

The relighting was part of History Museum on the Square‘s fall fundraiser. The Fox Theatre is located at 157 Park Central Square.

More from the report:

The Fox Theatre’s iconic sign was lit at 9 p.m., with Hollywood spotlights, a live band and cheering onlookers below.

“It’s just another step in what is going to be a pretty long process, but an absolutely amazing process for the downtown and the citizens of Springfield and Greene County,” Executive Director of the History Museum John Sellars said. [...]

“This sign shined on route 66 for decades. Now we’ve brought back after 30 years and we’re so happy about that,” Sellars said. “We’re so happy about all the activities we got going on at the Fox.”

The History Museum, which is undergoing a large renovation, recently acquired the Fox. Sellars said there’s much more to come for Springfieldians, and visitors alike, to enjoy.

According to CinemaTreasures.org, the Fox opened as the Electric Theatre in 1916 — a full decade before Route 66’s existence — and was renamed the Fox after it was renovated after a fire. The theater closed in 1982, although other tenants continued to use the building, including a church.

The Fox was built by M.E. Gillioz, who also built the historic Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield, also on Route 66.

(Image of the sign relighting via History on the Square)

Johnny Rockets to open four types of Route 66-themed restaurants September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Theaters.
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The Johnny Rockets restaurant chain plans to open four types of Route 66-themed prototype restaurants — including drive-ins, food trucks and drive-in theaters —  as soon as this year, according to a news release Monday from the company.

The restaurant stated:

Established in 1926 as one of America’s original highways, Route 66 became the major path for those who migrated west, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. No company is better suited to resurrect the nostalgic brand than Johnny Rockets, which was founded on Classic Americana and opened its first location down the road from the culminating point of Route 66 in Santa Monica.

“Johnny Rockets launched exactly one year after Route 66 was officially removed from the highway system in 1985,” explains James Walker, chief development officer of Johnny Rockets.  “We feel privileged to have the opportunity to re-introduce the Route 66 brand to the new car culture generation through our already cravable food in what we are sure will be a cravable environment.”

The Johnny Rockets Route 66 concept will take the form of four distinct prototypes: drive-thru, drive-in, food truck and pop-up.  Through enhanced operational efficiencies and technology, the Route 66 concept allows guests to enjoy Johnny Rockets’ made-to-order burgers and hand-spun shakes while they are on the road or being entertained at the classic American drive-in.  Johnny Rockets anticipates some of the first prototypes to debut as early as Q4 2014. [...]

Drive-Ins LLC, a company that collectively has 135 years of experience in the motion picture exhibition, production and distribution industry, is spurring a resurgence in the American drive-in theatre.  At one time, there were an estimated 6,000 active drive-in theatres across the country, with the number now dwindled to 350. USA Drive-Ins LLC, however, announces plans to open 200 new drive-in locations including Johnny Rockets Route 66 as the food and beverage option for attending guests. These locations will present family-friendly films and embody a nostalgic, all-American experience.

Also in cooperation with Drive-Ins LLC, Johnny Rockets will configure a pop-up theatre prototype with a combined mobile restaurant that allows owners to create a dinner and movie combination in a myriad of venues, throughout the country. As with existing Johnny Rockets restaurants, this combination of food, families and fun was created for franchise partners interested in providing an entertaining and satisfying dining experience. For current Johnny Rockets restaurant owners, Route 66 food trucks now provide the capability to increase visibility and sales. The Route 66 food truck can be utilized for catering and community events or added to a market’s existing food truck line up.

Nation’s Restaurant News also has a few more details about this four-pronged initiative. Franchise info — including discounts for entrepreneurs who are veterans — is here.

This entire plan sounds incredibly ambitious. Then again, the number of drive-in theaters has declined to a point to where perhaps Johnny Rockets sees an opportunity in select areas — especially in suburbs that never had a drive-in.

And I suspect the drive-in and drive-through restaurant ideas take aim at Sonic, which built its business on largely the same model.

As for the food trucks, Johnny Rockets probably is betting that people — especially children — will more often order food from a truck with a familiar name.

In case you’re wondering, Johnny Rockets has locations in only the Route 66 towns of Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

(Images courtesy of Johnny Rockets)

A look at downtown Los Angeles August 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, Preservation, Theaters, Towns.
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With the help of a quad-copter, filmmaker Ian Wood produced this video about the landmarks of downtown Los Angeles, which was the western end of Route 66 until the highway was extended to Santa Monica.

Downtown Los Angeles from Ian Wood on Vimeo.

Wood’s description of the video:

Above the grit and noise of the street, downtown Los Angeles quietly provides some of the most amazing visual detail in its buildings and public art works. This is a selection of those buildings and public arts filmed across some 50 different locations in the immediate downtown area and the arts district. There are many many more locations that are not included and are equally if not more impressive.

Some of the buildings are in disrepair, some have been restored to their full glory while others have been transformed into artworks. In all of them, there is character, color and detail that makes the area a never-ending source of intrigue.

Wood also provided a very helpful map of many of the buildings he filmed here.

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles by David Gallagher via Flickr)

The miracle of the Coleman Theatre’s restoration July 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Preservation, Theaters.
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The history and eventual revitalization of the historic Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma, is one of the most inspiring and interesting stories you’ll hear on Route 66.

It continues to amaze how a town of just 13,000 people with nominal funding could return an opulent theater back to its old glory.

And who better to tell about it than the theater’s executive director, Barbara Smith?

As Smith noted, the theater continues to host tours almost every day. And it continues to bring in music acts, dramatic productions and the occasional film. Go here for its schedule of upcoming events.

The documentary was produced by students at Macon State College in Macon, Georgia.

(Image of the Coleman Theater from 1929 by CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange via Flickr)

Neon restored on historic theater in downtown Los Angeles June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Signs, Theaters.
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The marquee of the historic Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles was relighted during a ceremony Tuesday night.

It reportedly was the first time in 30 years that the marquee has glowed.

The theater is on 740 S. Broadway in downtown L.A., which served as the western terminus of Route 66 until it was stretched to Santa Monica.

Here’s a countdown from the relighting:

KABC-TV also filed this report:

The Globe Theatre was built in 1913 — more than a decade before Route 66. It is scheduled to reopen later this year. Owner Erik Choi is in the middle of a $5 million renovation.

Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena on the market June 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Theaters.
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The historic but shuttered Rialto Theatre of South Pasadena, California — after sitting in limbo for many months — finally will be put up for sale.

According to a Facebook post Monday by Escott O. Norton of Friends of the Rialto:

BIG NEWS! The Rialto will be going up for sale! It was announced today that the Rialto Theatre building will be listed shortly for an undisclosed amount. I have talked to representatives of the family trust that has owned the Rialto, and the point man for the firm that will be handling the listing. I have offered myself as a resource for potential buyers and hope to help find someone who will bring the Rialto back to life! It is good to see movement, now we need to make sure the movement is in the best direction for the Rialto and the South Pasadena community. If you know anyone who has always wanted to take on the project and has the resources to do it, NOW is the time to come forward!

The South Pasadena Now newspaper also reported today about movement on doing something with the theater, according to mayor Dr. Richard Schneider:

The mayor, Gonzalez and South Pasadena City Councilman Robert Joe plan to meet with members of the trust in the next couple of weeks. The ad hoc committee plans to report back to the City Council. “So there is some movement on the Rialto,” said Dr. Schneider. “Hopefully, it will bear fruit in the near future.”

The theater, at 1023 Fair Oaks Ave., is part of the original 1926 alignment of Route 66. Built in 1925, the theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

However, the theater will need a lot of work; its vertical neon sign, for example, worked itself loose two years ago to the point where city officials thought it would become a safety hazard to pedestrians and motorists.

(Image of the Rialto Theatre in 2008 by waltarrrrr via Flickr)

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