No More Movies, Time Warping as Discount Cinemas Fades to Black; CNN's Joe Johns once an Usher

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Cinema Theatre (photo Greg Pauley)
Cinema Theatre (photo Greg Pauley)

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – After nearly 100 years of showing movies in Downtown Huntington, the Hyman family has closed their last Fourth Avenue theatre.

The Discount Cinema, 1025 Fourth Avenue, showed discount “second-run” flicks and occasional first run “art” and “independent” films, as well as a series of “Flashback” and “Big Screen” favorites. The venue was the home for interactive showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Greg Pauley, vice president of the Greater Huntington Theatre Corp., confirmed the decision late Thursday night. Pauley , a longtime GHTC employee, had managed the Cinema in the 1970s then moved to the chain's Park Place in Charleston.

First Movie Critic Saw at Cinema
First Movie Critic Saw at Cinema

Ironically, the decision to shut down comes almost seven years since the Marquee Pullman Square 16 opened on Fourth Avenue. After splitting product and operating, the Keith Albee, Camelot , and Cinema as first run screens the first year, Derek Hyman, president of the Greater Huntington Theatre Corp., closed the Keith Albee and Camelot. He donated the remaining portion of the lease to the Marshall Foundation, clearing the way for the beginnings and restoration of the 1928 Thomas Lamp palace built by his Abe and Sol Hyman.

The Hyman theatre dynasty at one time included the State (to the right of Jeslyn Performing Arts Center), Tipton (which burned in the 50s), Orpheum (remodeled to the Cinema) and Palace (remodeled as Camelot). When the single screen auditoriums and movie palaces dropped like flies in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Jack Hyman , Derek’s dad, along with then general manager, F. Daniel Johnson, converted all the locations to multiple screen venues.

Chopping the Keith Albee up to four auditoriums angered the public, but, the splitting of the main auditorium was completed with the sensitivity of an artist. The “main” birth an East and West with about 200 seats each followed by a 90 seat intimate screening room in a former retail area, but the decision kept the doors of the grand ole lady open and the big light flashing for more than 30 years.

No More Movies, Time Warping as Discount Cinemas Fades to Black; CNN's Joe Johns once an Usher

The balcony of the Camelot became a separate auditorium. Then, the ‘big screen’ Cinema was cut into four auditoriums, negating the wide screen which had reflected the images from “2001 A Space Odyssey,” “The Ten Commandments,” and “Star Wars,” (which originally played from summer to Christmas!) .

As the Keith Albee hosted the Marshall Artists Series, the Cinema became the home for late night moviegoers, particularly the Marshall University crowd. When it was a single screen, near sell-out (about 800),  audiences danced and twisted to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which ran for a year or more without the interactive pre-show but with the audience tossing toilet paper, rice, and even water in the large auditorium.

When revived in the 21st Century, Downhome Decadence produced a weekly pre-show for the weekly midnight showings. They continued for almost two years.

No More Movies, Time Warping as Discount Cinemas Fades to Black; CNN's Joe Johns once an Usher

Management pulled RHPS when the “event” mood wore thin. It would be revived as a quarterly presentation coordinated to maximize  Marshall University students, which formed a majority of its audience. 

Pauley managed the first run theater when RHPS went viral in the 70s as a weekly midnight attraction. At that time, concert films (i.e. "Woodstock,"Pink Floyd's "The Wall," and Cheech and Chong's  "Up in Smoke," ) were big boxoffice draws. Pauley moved to the Hyman's Park Place Cinemas in Charleston, where RHPS would play for about five years. In fact, CNN political correspondent worked at the Cinema as an usher when he attended Marshall University and worked RHPS. .

Fittingly, he couldn't stay away from the quarterly reboot in September 2010, which opened to a sell out in the interactive auditorium. The final RHPS performance on Oct 28-29 last weekend played in two auditoriums with two interactive casts. Each night brought in costumed, sell out or near sell outs for both auditoriums. 

http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/local/101101-rutherford-rhps.html 

When the Cinema converted to discount, movies were $2 in the afternoon and $3 in the evening. The prices gradually rose and the theatre added irregular Cinema Exclusives  (foreign, independent, and art styled flicks which would run at least two weeks for $6 admission) and the Flashback Series, which revived gold and silver classics ranging from “The Wizard of Oz” to “North by Northwest to “Jaws” and “Young Frankenstein.” Flashback expanded this fall to the Hyman’s first run theatre in Charleston, Park Place Stadium Cinemas, which has eleven first run screens.

One of my first at The Cinema
One of my first at The Cinema

The Hyman family also operates the Fountain Place 8 in Logan, WV and Pierce Point 10 near Cincinnati, Ohio.  

Nationally, the recession has not been kind to the movie business, unlike the general golden rule that movies were invulnerable to depression as then the most inexpensive form of entertainment. However, technology has been forcing theatres still rolling 35mm prints to face an inevitable decision --- upgrade to digital (as 35mm prints become more and more extinct. Profit margins of second-run and less competitive first run

Since the opening of Pullman Square, other digital and first run theatres have opened within a one hour radius of Huntington, including the new 12-screen complex at Huntington Mall, the Kyova 10 at the former Cedar Knoll (now Kyova Mall) in Ashland, Ky., and the Silver Screen 7 , a new stadium seating complex in Gallipoolis, Ohio. 

Prior to the Cinema closing as a discount theater, the former first run MidTown Cinemas went second run after the Cinemark Cinema 10 opened opposite the Ashland Town Center  shopping plaza. 

Now, here's the link for , to the left, to the right, and for one last time, TIME WARP PICS AND COSTUMES AT HALLOWEEN AT THE CINEMA: 

http://www.huntingtonnews.net/12338 

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