A Night at the Movies – Independent Theatres Offer the Historic Experience
Popcorn in hand, drink by your side, you glance around at the historic architecture of the theatre, the curtain opens, the music swells, anticipation fills your heart as you settle in for the movie feature. In a seemingly bygone era, this is what it meant to spend a night at the movies. Three Lehigh Valley theatres are keeping this big-screen ambience alive by providing the old-time experience.
A cornerstone of Main Street, Northampton, is the Roxy Theatre. Built in 1920, the 453-seat, single-screen theatre has been entertaining crowds for decades. “The old-time theatre experience is what makes it work here. We still have a curtain on the stage. Years ago, that was thought to be an important part of the show. We still keep the old tradition of closing the curtain after the preview and opening it before the feature,” says Richard Wolfe, owner of the Roxy, as it is affectionately known.
As the top second-run theatre in Pennsylvania, the Roxy Theatre plays movies that have already run in the megaplexes. Being a discount theatre, admission is $3, instead of the $10 to $16 charged at the big theatres. The savings don’t just end with admission, Wolfe says, “Our refreshment prices are about 70 percent less than the first-run theatres.” Parking is generally not a problem, as there is a large municipal parking lot behind the theatre.
Wolfe says the Roxy primarily shows movies rated PG and PG-13, sprinkled with the occasional G or R-rated feature. “The summer and winter are the bigger attendance times. The spring and fall is when we show the more sophisticated adult films,” says Wolfe. The Roxy’s movie schedule can be found at roxytheaternorthampton.com.
Coming to the Roxy Theatre is like stepping back in time with most of the original architectural features intact, the staff dressing as they would have in 1933, and Wolfe and his assistant in jacket and tie on weekdays and tuxedos on the weekends and holidays. The nod to times past doesn’t stop there as viewers are not shown product advertisements before the movie.
Built as a combination movie and vaudeville theatre, it changed hands during the Depression and was taken over by Clark and Greenberg Theatres of Philadelphia. They hired prominent Philadelphia architect David Supowitz to redesign the theatre in the current art deco design and renamed it the Roxy. In June 1970, Wolfe and his partner Paul Angstadt took over the theatre lease. Since the late 1970s the theatre has continuously been showing movies seven days a week.
Nineteenth Street Theatre & Theatre514
Allentown is home to the Nineteenth Street Theatre and the Theatre514, both on North Nineteenth Street, under the umbrella of the Civic Theatre of Allentown. The theatres show current, silent, foreign, and independent films, as well as film series around certain themes such as Shakespeare. Tickets for regular priced films are $10; matinee, senior and student admission is $8; and Civic Theatre members see films for $6. Special pricing details for film series are available at civictheatre.com.
The Nineteenth Street Theatre has 502 seats and two spaces for wheelchairs. Theatre514 was renovated in 2014, seats 91 with four wheelchair spots, and enthusiastically shows off local artwork in the lobby. Both theatres have concession stands offering movie-going fare such as popcorn, soda, cookies and candy, with Nineteenth Street Theatre also offering alcoholic drinks.
Alan Raisman, Marketing Director for Civic Theatre says, “The intimate and the historic experience you get when you walk into our theatres…you don’t get with the megaplexes.” Instead of a parking lot, patrons enjoy a street-scape that includes light posts, sidewalks, crosswalks, and container gardens. After bank hours two neighboring banks allow theatre-goers to park in their lots. There are restaurants and shops to visit in the neighborhood before and after seeing a movie.
The Nineteenth Street Theatre was built in 1928 as a silent movie palace, and became the home of the Civic Theatre in 1957. “It’s unlike any theatre in the Lehigh Valley. It’s a local experience,” says Raisman.
Remembering their early days, they will be showing the silent films Beloved Road on Thursday, March 9, 2017, and Be Your Age and It on Thursday, May 25, 2017, with a live organist both nights.
Emmaus Theatre on South Fourth Street is a second-run theatre that specializes in family, independent and drama films.
Matinees and Monday through Thursday economy nights charge an admission of $4 for adults and children. Friday through Sunday showings are $5 for adults and $4 for children. Senior citizens’ admission cost is always $3. “We have a lot of cult classics that we play and they are $8, BYOB. We have a Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live shadow cast,” says Robert Audibert, co-owner of the Emmaus Theatre. The Theatre’s live comedy shows are $10. Upcoming showings can be found at emmaustheatre.com.
The budget-friendly snacks make a night at the movies an affordable entertainment venue for families. “We have some families that come here on a weekly basis because they can’t afford a night out at the megaplexes,” Audibert says.
The theatre was built in 1920. Audibert and his uncle Butch Rossetti purchased the Emmaus Theatre just over two years ago. “We try to keep it the same look, we just update it a little bit,” says Audibert. The one-screen, art deco style Emmaus Theatre seats about 476 people.
“About every two months we do a free screening for the community. When certain actors pass away we like to do a screening of one of their movies to commemorate their passing away,” says Audibert.
So, the next time you are in the mood for the grandeur of old-school cinema, visit one of these venues and catch a double-feature.