Visiting classic movie palaces across the US
In their new book, Cinema Treasures, Ross Melnick and Andreas Fuchs celebrate classic theaters, from old to new (see Cinematreasures.org for more info). We asked them to pick seven around the country that still show films. Make any necessary detours--because there's definitely more to a glamorous night at the movies than cup-holder armrests.
Cape Cinema, Dennis, Mass.
Built to resemble a church in nearby Centerville, the colonial exterior belies the pulsing art deco inside, including a 6,400-square-foot Rockwell Kent mural. At its 1930 opening, the theater promised, "We shall endeavor not to waste your time or insult your intelligence by offering mediocre films." Indeed, it continues to showcase the best of art house cinema. 820 Rte. 6A, 508/385-2503, capecinema.com.
Paramount Center for the Arts, Peekskill, N.Y.
The Paramount--built in 1930 "in the glorified treatment of the English Elizabethan"--has morphed into a true center for the arts, but films are still shown Thursday through Sunday when there are no live events scheduled. Busts of Julius Caesar and Dante Alighieri are part of the show. 1008 Brown St., 914/739-2333, paramountcenter.org.
The Senator Theatre, Baltimore, Md.
Since he purchased the theater that was once part of his grandfather's Durkee Enterprises circuit, Tom Kiefaber has put all of his time, money, and sweat into this 65-year-old art moderne classic. Attended over the years by local cinephiles--including directors John Waters and Barry Levinson--the Senator books mainstream films like Star Wars but doesn't shy away from controversy, having recently played both A Dirty Shame and The Passion of the Christ to packed audiences. 5904 York Rd., 410/435-8338, senator.com.
Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee, Wis.
At its 1927 opening, the $1.5 million Oriental was the crown jewel of the Saxe Brothers' circuit. Eight porcelain lions guard the lobby, while the auditorium houses six larger-than-life Buddhas and 26 dragons standing on 26 elephant heads. After also hosting rock concerts in the '70s and '80s, the Oriental was converted by Landmark Theatres into a three-screen cinema in 1988. The 1926 Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ is played before 7 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays. 2230 N. Farwell Ave., 414/276-8711, landmarktheatres.com.
The Panida Theater, Sandpoint, Idaho
On opening day in 1927, owner F. C. Weskil dedicated his theater "to the people of the pan-handle of Ida-ho." (Hence the name.) Its audience deserted it during the early '80s, then rallied to make great renovation efforts. Rumor has it that Weskil's ghost walks the aisles. 300 N. First Ave., 208/263-9191, panida.org.
Cinerama Dome at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood Hollywood, Calif.
The ultimate in wide-screen presentation in 1963, the Dome has a geodesic ceiling of 316 interlocking hexagonal concrete panels (with a lone octagon on top). In 2002 Pacific Theatres opened 14 spacious "black box" auditoriums right next door. Just like the classic Dome, ArcLight Cinemas has since set a new standard in moviegoing, with a cozy café, a bountiful movie boutique, and special events and exhibits. 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., 323/464-1478, arclightcinemas.com.
Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, Calif.
After passing the freestanding ticket booth and a fountain, you enter a faux Spanish courtyard with twinkling stars on the auditorium ceiling's night sky and 3-D villas along its walls. Get there early: Not to save a seat (there are more than 2,000), but to gawk at what architect Joseph Plunkett dreamed up on a napkin seven decades ago. This first-run movie house is also home to the Santa Barbara Symphony. 1317 State St., 805/963-4408, metropolitantheatres.com.