Preservation Potentials for Small-Town Theaters


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  • Theater theater preservationist and former director of the National Main Street Center, Kennedy Smith writes, “More than most buildings, theatres are the places where lifetime memories are made.”Longtime residents have emotional attachments to the place they had their first kiss, saw iconic films like Gone With the Wind, or where they were captivated by Will Rogers or the week’s serial. Phyllis Rauchle, the director of Main Street Union City, and Sacchi Doss, a longtime Masquerade Theatre board member, expressed both of these ideas in a recent conversation. When asked why she and fellow activists worked renovate the 1927 movie theater for theatrical productions, Doss observed that “[the Capitol Theater] is you and always will be a part of us.” She also noted that in its early years, the Masquerade Theatre had plans drawn for a new theater building to be located on an empty lot past the Wal-Mart. The board decided against this plan because a new building would not have been “a part of our past,” it “wasn’t our town.” Doss felt that a new building by the supermarket would not have connected the community’s past to the future liked the Masquerade Theatre wanted.  Kennedy Smith, “Rescuing and Rehabilitating Historic Main Street Theatres,” Main Street News 232 (September 2006): 2.  
  • In 1987, the National Trust published a guide entitled, Great American Movie Theaters by David Naylor. - focuses primarily on pre-1940 picture palaces. - illustrates the field’s disinterest in small-town movie theaters at the time of publication By 1993, the National Trust’s Information Series includes a section of case studies dedicated to the “Movie Houses.” -These places of entertainment were single-purpose buildings designed by local architects who used modest decorations on theaters seating less than 1,000 moviegoers. - The National Trust’s inclusion of this theater type illustrates a shift in the theater preservation movement. The LHAT was founded in 1976 as an organization dedicated to the preservation of historic theaters whose stages played an important role in theatre history and continue to provide a venue for the performing arts today. - Late-1980s, the nonprofit “was an established and important asset in the national preservation movement,” - the National Trust defers technical theater preservation questions to the League - The organization’s 2006 publication of Historic Theatre Rescue, Restoration, Rehabilitation and Adaptive Reuse Manual provides a free 42 page guide full of short essays dedicated to saving a historic theater and making it a sustainable part of a community. Judith E Daykin, “A Historical Synopsis of the League of Historic American Theatres,” League of Historic American Theatres, (accessed November 28, 2012).  Grey Hautaluoma and Mary Margaret Schoenfeld, Curtain Up New Life for Historic Theaters, Information Series No. 72 (Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1993), 19-20.  
  • SOCIAL MEDIA foundded 2000 Today, Cinema Treasures uses social media and crowdsourcing to provide quick and fairly reliable information about the current status and history of the 26,087 American theaters listed. Though the Cinema Treasures website has listings for theaters worldwide, 75% are located in the United States. - The website also serves as a blog with postings relevant to recent openings and closings, preservation updates, renovations, and restorations, just to name a few. Ross Melnick, Co-FounderRoss Melnick is a media historian with a Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies from UCLA. After working for Miramax, MGM, DreamWorks, and Sony Pictures in marketing and distribution, he was Curator of the Collection at Museum of the Moving Image and Historian for Loews Cineplex Entertainment. His published works include Roxy: Silent Film Exhibition and the Birth of Media Convergence (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2012); Cinema Treasures (MBI, 2004); and articles in Film History and The Moving Image.Current statusCommentsPicture uploading Monitored by
  • Park Theatre (1941)Northwestern Carroll County approximately 5,300 residents median household income of $30,986. Masquerade Theatre located in the Capitol Theatre (1927)Obion Count
  • Despite being described as having “minimal integrity,” the Park Theatre is still a heritage asset to a community working to graduate from Tennessee Downtown status to a designated Main Street town. 1941 apperacne Structural / Carrara Glass (NPS standards)rhythem and patters of the storefront including AA entrance door placement ant treatment tile work leading to lobby lobby MAINTAINT 2nd floor windows orriginal brick work above marque (not paint) ADA compliance in Historic StutucturesMultipurpose buildingMovie Theater Community Gathering / University Arts Venue Meeting Facility Church ServicesOffice SpaceRevision and comments by Claudette Stager, February 3, 2012, National Register of Historic Places nomination, Park Theatre, McKenzie, Carroll, Tennessee, no reference number, Section 8, Page 13.
  • Not an idealEffort began in 1989, aquired building in 1992National Register listed, 1998 new seats not origial stage lobby backstage ceiling SustainabilityPolicitan support
  • Sacchi Doss, leader for the preservation of the Capitol Theatre in Union City, Tennessee, noted that they [who?] did not actively try to “erase” the past but also did not consciously try to [preserve/protect] that aspect of the building. Nonetheless, the evidence of segregation in the Capitol Theatre has been completely erased from the publicly accessible portions of the building and almost entirely removed from the remainder of the building like the balcony, used for storage and sound and light tech. Janna Jones observes that mid-1970s preservation efforts at three large southern picture palaces did not receive the same nostalgic response from African American residents. The author notes that, “itis not surprising they did not actively involve themselves in the efforts to save the theaters.”two forms of preservation: material and discursive.  
  • Preservation Potentials for Small-Town Theaters

    1. 1. NOW PLAYING SMALL-TOWN MOVIE THEATERS AND PRESERVATION PRACTICE Cassandra Bennett Essentials of Historic Preservation Fall 2012
    2. 2. TONIGHT’S ENTERTAINMENT • Nationwide preservation efforts, especially in small-towns • National Trust’s Main Street program • Multi-use facilities • Social media • West Tennessee case studies • Park Theatre (1941) in McKenzie • Capitol Theatre (1927) in Union City • Preservation practices
    3. 3. WHY THEATERS? • Excellent cornerstone projects for a community’s early efforts to revitalize the downtown • Full of childhood and young adult memories and emotional attachments • Local theaters are a source of great pride and links a community’s past, present, and future
    4. 4. NATIONWIDE PRESERVATION EFFORTS • Theater preservation movement mirrors the movement nationwide • Focus has been urban opera houses and picture palaces until mid-1990s • National Trust • • Main Street “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” • League of Historic American Theatres •
    6. 6. PARK THEATRE IN MCKENZIE • • • • Goal; return to 1941 appearance Use as a multi-purpose community center Owned by the City of McKenzie Tennessee Downtown
    7. 7. CAPITOL THEATRE IN UNION CITY • • • • • Masquerade Theatre, founded 1989 Theatrical 4 productions a year Example of importance to community and sustainability Funding Main Street
    8. 8. SEGREGATION “How do we reconcile my past with your past, even in the same landscape?” Melnick Robert “Preserving the architecture of racial segregation in all its forms can be a way to facilitate public education, understanding about modern race relations, and social tolerance.” Robert R. Weyeneth