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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Magic Moments and a Step Into the Past

I am such a sucker for a fabulous theatre.This passion began years ago, when I saw movies at the now-demolished Michigan Theatre in Lansing, Michigan. It was designed by John Eberson for the Butterfield Theatre chain.


The memories I have of this theatre are deep and all good. A fourth grade birthday party where my friends and I saw Judy Holliday and Dean Martin in "Bells are Ringing." High school dates in the balcony. Enjoying Audrey Hepburn movies with my mom.


I would walk through the beautiful arcade where a selection of shops tempted my parents, buy popcorn at the concession stand and crawl into the cushioned red seats, ready to be enthralled by "Pollyanna," cry at "Old Yeller" or scream at "Wait Until Dark." The lights would dim, the stars on the ceiling would appear, I would be transported.


My mom's experience with the theatre went back far longer than mine. When it was called The Strand, she and her friends would go to the early movie and stay all day long. Money for the movie, a nickel for a candy bar. All the magic you could stand.



The Eberson atmospheric theatres were designed by John Eberson and in cities across the country including Dallas, Wichita, Tampa, Houston, San Antonio, Shaker Heights, Louisville, Chicago, and countless others from 1905 to 1950. Many of those theatres, like the Michigan, have since been demolished, making way for other businesses, unable to support their costs with crowds flocking to mall multiplexes.

Now, for some lovely background music, click on the video below!


Recently I had the opportunity to attend a concert by the ethereal Loreena McKennitt at another Eberson-designed theatre, the State Theatre located in downtown Kalamazoo.


I walked in and it was like walking into my past. Elaborate ceiling work in the lobby.


A small but busy concession stand. Classic signs indicating the Ladies Room.



The auditorium was spectacular -- well preserved and elegant. As I recalled from the theatres of my youth, stars twinkled on the ceiling and the ornate pillars and decor transported me to another world.


There was a powerful Moorish feeling to the setting. Sculpture was found in inset nooks on the walls and the gold was plentiful.

                         

Everything was beautifully lit -- dark enough to be mysterious, light enough to see the fabulous details.


The large and steep balcony (that's where we were sitting!) offered a terrific perspective for the stage and a great view of the entire space.


Add to this McKennitt's powerful Celtic music, filling the space with her clear voice and small but very effective musical trio who played cello/recorder, bass, fiddle with McKennitt on harp and piano.


It was a performance and evening to remember -- remembering both the evening itself and all those wonderful times long ago in another theatre that was much the same.


 Vintage photos in this post are from the sites Water Winter Wonderland and Cinema Treasures.

23 comments:

Mae Travels said...

You should come and visit Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater some time -- preserved as a nonprofit, home of many performances and real big-screen showings. In Santa Barbara, California there's an incredible moorish style theater as well. So great when they are preserved, as you say!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Maggie said...

What a wonderfull post, to see all those amazing black and white photographs of the theatres which sadly are no more juxtaposed against the Kalamazoo theatre, restored and revitalised and continuing to thrill, love it!

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like a magical night out, which evoked many wonderful memories for you. Have a great new week, hugs, Valerie

My name is Erika. said...

Theaters have changed so much, haven't they? I don't think any of our new ones are going to go down in history as wonderful architecture. It is good to see when old ones are still around and used for other things like concerts. It always feel so special to go inside them for the performance. I think at least.

Joanne Huffman said...

I haven't been to the State for years; you've reminded me how beautiful it is.

Victoria Zigler said...

Sounds like a wonderful evening, which conjured up some fantastic memories.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

You had me at Wichita. Now I need to find out if the Orpheum was an Eberson designed theater. It's been restored recently, and is beautiful inside, too.

So nice to travel down this path of remembrance with you.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a beautiful space! I love old theaters, especially when they have been so well-preserved. We are lucky to have several performing arts spaces here in the Twin Cities, like the Fitzgerald, where they record Prairie Home Companion, and a couple of places in downtown Minneapolis. I try to only see live acts in those older, more intimate venues because it greatly enhances the experience. I did make an exception and saw Adele in a huge stadium, but she's one of my all-time favorite artists and I just HAD to see her live! I wish I had gone to see her when she was less well-known and still performed in smaller spaces!

Red Rose Alley said...

What a grand theatre, Jeanie. I love a good performance as well. That balcony is amazing. And that picture of the ceiling you took is spectacular! There is an old theatre in my town, and it goes way back, and I saw my first movie on the big screen, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I'll never forget it. That's too bad that the theatre that you love has been demolished, but you will always have the sweet memories of seeing Audrey Hepburn with your mom. :)

Have a wonderful week.

~Sheri

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Jeanie, you took me into MY past....the "Million Dollar Theatre" in the heart of downtown Los Angeles is where my parents ushered me into a world I would forever love. Outside the building, homeless men begging, trash on the sidewalks, loud noises. On the inside, these very details of magical worlds enthralled me, and the round,blinking lights of the marquis fascinated me.

No matter what the architecture or structure, we can learn about the values of the era, and surely during the height of cinéma experience, it was a celebration and an invitation into the realm of make believe. Swoon....

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

P.S., I love Loreena's music.

Sandra Cox said...

How beautiful! I love Celtic music!

Marilyn Miller said...

What special memories! The music is amazing! How I would have loved sitting under the stars and surrounded by glorious music and golden decor. Beautiful!

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme said...

Oh my... what gorgeous theatres! I miss the ones we used to have here, one torn down, one turned into a music venue. I saw Loreena McKennitt when she was here in March for my birthday. And she is pure magic herself! So good to see you again!!

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, what wonderful memories you have and I love theatres too. We have one here in town, I also grew up going to movies and plays as a child. It has been renovated and still shows movies and local artist hang their works in the lobby. The is an even more beautiful one in Birmingham where is is know for it's organ. I enjoyed your photos and post, brought back my own memories............

Tamara said...

Amazing connections of past & present. Wonderful history. The concert of Loreenas would've been fabulous - beatuful music & performance & great setting.

London Serviced Apartments Lady said...

I'm really struck by that ceiling, it's so impressive!

Lynne said...

A treat of a post . . .
The kind that brought back memories of the Windsor Theater, Hampton, Iowa.
Memories of the many events through the years, the restoration to
preserve this beautuful theater come to mind.
And the Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon Michigan . . .
another great . . .
Enjoyed your post my memories Jeanie!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The Odeon Theatre in Vancouver was spectacular. I'd end up tripping because I was usually walking while admiring all the ornate ceilings and banisters. Thick, red, drapes everywhere. Plush seats. I'm not even sure if it's still there; we have lived 700km north for 40 years. Thanks for sharing these pics, Jeanie. They're lovely.

Sandra Cox said...

I enjoyed the trailer:) Very beautiful.

Joyful said...

Such beauty in your photos. I think I love the first one best with that gloriously deep coloured pumpkin. Have a great rest of your week.

Joyful said...

Oops! That comment was meant for the later post ;-)

~*~Patty S said...

OOOOHHH
AAAHHHH
I am swooning
Loreena McKennitt is a favorite of ours although we've never seen her in person.
How wonderful for you getting to make such a special memory!!!
She is magical and other worldly and so very talented.
oxo

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