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TOPIC: Maine single goes triplex the right way!

Maine single goes triplex the right way! 22 Dec 2005 10:46 #11699

  • Mike
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Congrats to John Moore on a great job!

Strand opens with 3 movies this weekend


By DARLA L. PICKETT
Staff Writer

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
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Staff photo by David Leaming
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Lloyd Mudie climbs staging to paint a new portion of the Strand Theater in Skowhegan this week. The two new theaters are scheduled to open Friday.

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SKOWHEGAN -- The Strand Cinema opens this weekend with three -- count 'em, three -- movies.

The offerings promise something for everyone, from legendary singer Johnny Cash, to a fantasy world under attack, to a really big ape.

After almost a year of construction and expansion work, owner John Moore said the cinema's grand opening Friday will feature "Walk The Line," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and "King Kong."

"Kong" fans, however, will get to see the much-touted flick two days earlier, in the original -- and bigger -- theater, at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Jeffrey Hewett, director of Economic and Community Development, said the town should look with pride upon Moore's accomplishment and view it as a catalyst to downtown development.

"We've been waiting for something like this for a long time, to have that type of change," Hewett said. "We're hoping it will spin off for other people. With three theaters, he certainly will be dragging hundreds more people into the downtown. Plus it ties in with the Downtown (tax incentive financing) plan."

The opening of the expanded version of the Strand comes -- to the day -- on the 74th anniversary of the opening of the original, single theater, according to local historian Herb Paradis. Even then, work on the Court Street theater was rushed to completion for a Dec. 16, 1929, opening, he said.

According to Paradis, a 1929 issue of the former Independent Reporter described the theater as having "dignified simplicity" and rich, quality materials, making it one of the best in the state at the time. When Robert and Joan Perry later purchased the theater, they nurtured it through many years, keeping the architecture and ambiance intact.

Moore -- who also owns Narrow Gauge Cinema in Farmington -- has maintained the same goal. Since he purchased the theater in 2003, his plan has been to add screens, but retain the vintage architecture. In 2003, he added comfortable seats, put in a new sound system and restored the murals in the original classic "movie palace," with its marble walls and terrazzo floor in the lobby and 25-foot ceilings.

This summer, Moore succeeded in advancing his vision for the Strand.

He has added two screens, 350 new seats, a second concession stand, additional rest rooms and a new waiting area without compromising his plan to retain the vintage look.

"I tried to capture the essence of the old-fashioned theater, while adding all the amenities and technological advances of a modern theater," Moore said. "To that end, we have digital sound, Klipsch speakers, and 48 inches of leg room between the rows."

Moore hired architects from Joy & Hamilton in Auburn to assure a quality blend of old and new. Bill Hamilton and architect Gabrielle L. Russell started working on the project 2 1/2 years ago, he said.

Russell said she was happy to see Moore putting so much care into retaining the character of the historical theater. She said they explored different types of construction, ending up with a brick exterior and insulated concrete forms that retain the heat better.

Balconies were chosen over stadium seating for each new cinema, but will not be finished for the opening.

Old-fashioned woodwork, cornice dental work on the eaves and steels window grills were added blend in with the original theater, Russell said. A glass curtain wall was installed over the second entrance, and a sitting area created on the second floor that looks down upon the new entrance hall, she said.

"Compared to other movie theaters around the state, this one is very unique," Russell said. "I don't think many put that amount of effort and care into the design."

Darla L. Pickett -- 474-9534, Ext. 341

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Michael Hurley
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Re: Maine single goes triplex the right way! 22 Dec 2005 19:06 #11700

I'm sorry, Michael but "triplexing a single the right way" seems to be an oxymoron to me. Twins and Multis were built as such and singles were built as such and all should be left that way! This is both from a historical aspect and a professional one. I have an old closed single screen in St. Croix, WI that my grandson and his boyfriend wanted to buy from me and twin. I told them that if and when they want to operate it as a single screen (what is was built for 87 years ago!) I would GIVE it to them but would never allow one of my places to be twined. I believe they are begining to see the light and are thinking of re-opening it soon!

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Re: Maine single goes triplex the right way! 23 Dec 2005 10:07 #11701

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I think one of the main points of the article was that the Strand had been expanded without harming the old architecture. Even the new areas were designed to blend with the older style.

My understanding is that the theater was expanded, not divided. They even mention that patrons will be watching Kong in the "original -- and bigger -- theater".

It seems that a person couldn't convert a single to a triplex with much more reverence than John Moore did. I would agree that he did it the "right way".

Maybelle, there are those on this forum who have divided singles to two or more screens (including Mike). And yes, it's possible that it may not always be as beautiful as it once was. However, an active vibrant theater is better than a closed single screen any day. If nobody can enjoy it, what's the point of its existence?

I understand your point of view. I would even agree that if it is at all plausible to maintain the beauty and character of a historic theater, that it should definitely be done. But the reality is that not every single screen theater can survive as a single screen.

From what I've seen, closed theaters usually end up as something else-- office buildings, antique malls, retail space, even warehouses-- if they are not torn down all together. Sure, there are some theaters that are so beautiful that nobody would ever dream of turning them into a warehouse or whatever. But then again, unless somebody is spending the money to keep it maintained, even that beautiful palace is eventually going to become covered in dust and cobwebs, then fall apart.

If you can afford to hold your closed single screen until it makes sense to re-open it as a single screen or until it becomes a community theater or a museum, that's fine, but you might want to consider that not everyone would do it the same way as you. And they just might be right.
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Re: Maine single goes triplex the right way! 23 Dec 2005 13:22 #11702

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The Strand single screen remains as it was but they added 2 new screens alongside the old building and they did a beautiful job spending a lot of extra money making extra effort to meld the new with the old.

The Colonial triplex was a one screen and if it had remained that way it would probably now be a convenience store.

The Houlton Temple twin would have failed years ago.

I would love to have a big single screen filled with people but.........

I am a fan of more screens and if possible keeping them in the downtown.

If you want a good look at closed theatres take a look at the book Silent Screens.

Whenever I travel through small towns in the west or south or north I can always find the old downtown movie theatres but they are too rarely theatres.



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