The world’s oldest surviving public movie theater, the Eden Theatre in the town of La Ciotat 20 miles east of Marseille on the south coast of France, has been restored and reopened after 30 years of neglect.
In a gala opening this little town’s prominent place in film history was reclaimed with a showing of some of the first moving pictures ever filmed, shot in 1895 by the Lumière brothers in La Ciotat’s summer sun.
In 1892, Antoine Lumière, father of the soon-to-be-famous brothers, had a seaside mansion built in La Ciotat. A friend of his had introduced him to the town and he had fallen in love with its charms.
After construction on the Tuscan-style villa known as Château Lumière was completed in 1893, entire family spent summers there. The timing was ideal to make the sleepy town of 12,000 a dominant figure in movie history.
According to one popular view of events, Antoine saw Edison’s Kinetoscope in Paris in 1894 and suggested to his sons that they look into improving on Edison’s device which was heavy, dependent on electricity and only allowed one person at a time to view the motion picture through a peephole.
Within months, Louis had invented combination device that shot the film, developed it and projected it.
The brothers patented the Cinématographe on February 13th, 1895, using the name of an earlier recording and projecting device patented by Léon Bouly in February of 1892.
By 1894 Bouly could no longer afford the fees to renew his patents, so the Lumière’s snapped up the name.
Some historians believe Louis took more than just the name from Bouly’s device, but if so, he improved upon it drastically. Louis insisted he came up with the idea all on his own, denying even the story about his father and the Kinetoscope.
On March 22nd, 1895, the first movie audience witnessed La Sortie de l’Usine (“Exiting the factory”), less than a minute of footage of workers, mainly women, leaving the Lumière photographic plate factory in Lyons shot three days before the showing.
This demonstration took place in Paris for a private audience at the Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale (Society for the Encouragement of National Industry).
Robocop, tiny urban alleys, and gremlins are all just a part of the fascinating prop and miniature set collection held at the Musée Miniature et Cinéma.
Founded by miniature setting artist Dan Ohlmann, the museum holds over a thousand pieces of down-scaled locations such as a school room and a fully-furnished dining room which are so detailed that they could pass for their full-size inspirations.
The site also includes such tiny tchotchkes as carved matchsticks, chiseled egg shells, and micro-origami.
In addition to all of the tiny pieces of sculpture the museum’s other focus is on special effects and creatures from the movies.
In this section of the museum visitors can see props and costumes from such films as I, Robot, Stuart Little, and Hellboy.
Even with all of the micro amazements, the excitement the Musée Miniature et Cinéma is immense.
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.