Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Four for the show

Cleveland Press June 28, 1971

Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures are going to use the same studios 20th Century Fox is selling off its studio land for a shopping center and MGM auctioned off costumes and props from several generations of movie making.

So what's happening to movie houses?

Are they closing? Dying out?

One of the paradoxes of the movie business is that with fewer movies being made and more studios facing bankruptcy that more theaters are being built.

Some of these replace older, bigger, money-losing theaters that have closed down but there is a net gain none the less.

Witness the theater building that has gone on in Greater Cleveland in recent years. Now, all at once, the General Cinema Corporation is coming in with not one but five theaters.

THERE'S A CATCH, however. Four of these theaters are in one building -- Westgate Cinema City I, II, III and IV. The fifth is an addition to Southgate Cinema. The road to the right of that theater is no more. That's where Southgate Cinema II went in.

The chain also bought the Mayland Theater recently and plans to convert that into a twin theater.

Multiple theaters is the name of the game now in movie exhibition. The industry no longer counts theaters but screens.

Put up one roof and four walls but instead of several thousand seats break the place into several smaller theaters. Locate the projection booth so that it can serve all the screens.

IN NEW YORK CITY Loews State became Loews State I and II. Penthouse theaters are springing up with the balcony being converted to a second movie house. Around the country huge auditoriums are teeing split down the middle to accommodate two or more screens served by one booth.

Automation is part of the big screen picture, with one operator pressing a button and automated equipment turning down the lights, starting the movie, switching

projectors at the end of a reel of film and turning up the lights when the program is over.

Twin theaters generally play two different movies in the same building, offering patrons a choice of screen fare without extra travel. Theoretically the Westgate complex should be able to play four different films but that many movies are not available and chain officials admit that this scarcity of product may continue.

MEANWHILE, THEY have come up with a policy of staggering starting times that makes sense. The film program that used to start every two hours can now start every hour.

If you miss the beginning of the movie at 8 p.m., for example, you needn't be faced with the choice of coming in at the middle at 9 or waiting until 10 for the next beginning -- the movie will begin again at 9 on the second screen.

The theaters are small and all four could have been dropped into one of the giants of the 1930's with seats to spare. Westgate Cinema I, II, III and IV will have seating of 375, 350,186 and 160 respectively.

(The Hippodrome in downtown Cleveland has about 4000 seats.)

IN LOCATING theaters the trend has been to head for the shopping centers. The Cinema chain has concentrated on centers exclusively. Loew's closed its downtown houses and headed for the suburbs.

National General Theaters made its first invasion of this area by building in Cedar-Center. Rappaport Theaters of Baltimore owns the Severance and the newer World East and West.

And out in Hollywood 20th Century Fox land has become a shopping center known as Century City.

The business of multiple theaters may have an educational benefit no one counted on. It may become fashionable as well as useful to teach Roman numbers once more.