Photographer Franck Bohbot is a master of interior and exterior spaces. Whether it’s his attention-grabbing photographs of French pools, grand libraries, or humble basketball courts, for me, it was hard to decide which photo series to interview him about. In the end, I gravitated toward his pictures of American movie theaters because they seemed to evoke a familiar narrative—old Hollywood and the golden days of film.
The Crest, Westwood, Lobby, Los Angeles, California, 2014
The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles, California
It’s no easy feat to take an empty space—devoid of people, animals, or weather—and make it shine, but every theater comes to life in Bohbot’s imagination. He originally became interested in the visual arts through cinema before his interests turned to photography, which is now one of his great passions.
While working on a project on French theaters, Bohbot stumbled on the Max Linder Panorama, which he calls “a famous venue and a beautiful Parisian movie theater. I told myself that one day I would travel to the U.S. and photograph the movie theaters built during the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.
With its nearly 6,000 seats and multi-tiered balconies, the Roxy Theatre was the showplace of New York City and of the nation.
Construction began on March 22, 1926 and it opened on March 11, 1927 with Gloria Swanson in “The Loves of Sonya”.
It was designed by architect Walter W. Ahlschlager of Chicago (who also designed New York’s Beacon Theatre), with interior decoration by Harold W. Rambusch of New York.
Its rather modest entrance at the corner of the Taft Hotel building disguised one of the most cavernous lobbies ever built and a magnificent auditorium that has lived on in its patrons’ imagination.
Whatever adjectives can be used for the Roxy Theatre, they all fail to signify the theatre’s achievement.
Sadly, the decline in attendance that had begun in the 1950’s spilled over into the early-1960’s and the Roxy Theatre closed with Dirk Bogarde in “The Wind Cannot Read” which began its run on March 9, 1960.
Despite numerous protests, it was razed in 1961. In its place sits a nondescript and unremarkable office building.
The neighboring Taft Hotel survives to this day (now the Michangelo Hotel) and is the only evidence that this epic structure was ever here. A TGI Friday’s restaurant occupies the theatres’ original entrance.
The legacy of the Roxy Theatre is almost as impressive as the theater itself once was.
The name ‘Roxy’ has since adorned movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other establishments around the world all attempting to give to their patrons what Roxy always brought to its own: entertainment.
The end of the Roxy Theatre signified the beginning of the end for thousands of movie palaces across the country.
With its destruction, New York City began to destroy its past for urban renewal and the city, and movie palaces, have never been the same.
The Tors Drive-In started construction in 1965 as the result of a bet that a fellow exhibitor had with the late Jack Feldt, owner and general manager of Feldt’s Theatres Townsville and Charters Towers.
Feldt’s operated the local theatres in Charters Towers at the time – they were the Regent Theatre (cinema), Olympia Theatre (open-air cinema and roller skating) and the Royal Theatre (live performances).
The drive-in’s purpose was to offer patrons an alternative to indoor theatres as well as to compete with television, which was slowly killing off the theatres in town.
The Tors Drive-In was built with almost everything being second hand – bricks, iron, timber, cafe counter and the railway line used to construct the screen tower, which is why it hasn’t fallen down yet!
The name for the drive-in had to be different, as everything in town was called Towers or Gold City, so after much thought the name Tors was used (noun: meaning hilltop), as the drive-in is built on a hill.
On St. Patrick’s Day 1966, the Tors Drive-In Cinema was officially opened by the Mayor Alderman Arthur Titley.
Only that morning at 4.30am were Jack Feldt and Harry Bucklar (Theatre Manager) were still trying to line up the carbon-arc lamphouses for that big night!
All went well until about interval, then the Tors was struck by a hail storm. The dents are still in the roof today!
Once the Tors was up and running, the Olympia and Royal Theatres eventually closed down, leaving the Regent Theatre and Tors Drive-In as the main theatres servicing the town, both owned and operated by Feldts’ Theatres.
After the death of Jack Feldt in 1972, on the night cyclone Althea hit Townsville, Harry Bucklar, manager of the theatres resigned and Jack’s son John Feldt, who still operated the Range Drive-In in Townsville, took over theatre operations with Mrs Ann Forno as manager of the Charters Towers theatres.
With the arrival of home video cassettes in the early 1980’s, the two theatres were up against a massive tidal wave.
The Regent Theatre was down to Saturday night only and skating.
The Tors continued as the main cinema with screening on Friday, Saturday and Tuesdays, however things were getting worse.
After many challenges from competition such as DVD, daylight savings, drought and rain, the Tors still survives to this day and celebrated it’s 44th year of operation in 2010 due to the support of it’s wonderful patrons who enjoy the alternative to indoor cinema and sitting at home.
Double features, great food and low prices is what keeps people and their families interested in the Tors Drive-In.
The Old Guv’s Tea Lady at King William Road and the Netley Complex, the late Cath Wing had a son Trevor (deceased) who managed the magnificent Regent Theatre in Rundle Street, Adelaide for quite some years.
He even managed to snaffle some of the artifacts from the building after it was demolished and set up his own functioning version of the cinema in his home backyard.
I can remember going to the Regent in 1964 to see The Beatles in the fab “Hard Day’s Night”.
Click the Link below for some fascinating information about this magnificent cinema.