A sign of the times? After being open more than a century, the Urbana Twin Cinema has turned off the marquee and locked the doors. A for sale sign is hanging up. Why? Because of the digital era. The Urbana Twin Cinema has seen some history. It opened on Christmas Day in 1941 at 7 p.m. It was then named the Gloria Theatre after Warren Grimes’ daughter who was in Kindergarten at the time. The first show was “Design for Scandal” starring Rosalind Russell and Walter Pidgeon.
The building that stands today cost $100,000 to build and was located on the site of the old Clifford Theater. The Clifford Theater was built and operated by Bill (Shyrigh) Clifford in the early 1900’s after retiring from the vaudeville stage as a performer. In 1940, Warren Grimes – aviation lighting pioneer and industrialist – purchased the building and remodeled the decaying theater into a cinema.The theater was operated under a lease by Chakeres Theaters in Springfield. Ticket prices in 1941 were 10¢ for children under 12 and 25¢ for the adult matinée (33¢ for the evening showing.) The theater boasted of seating for 900, air-conditioning and heat, as well as mirrors and dressing bar to allow women to adjust their make up in private. Chakeres bought the theater from Grimes in 1977 and has operated it since.
In 2010, Chakeres performed major renovations on the theater, and Billy Clifford and the Clifford Theater were honored with a bicentennial marker through the Ohio Historical Markers Grants Program.
But, the building is now closed and for sale.
I understand the changing times. Online movie providers like Netflix have permanently changed movies today. I realize that 35 mm film is a thing of the past and movie theaters around the country are upgrading to digital. I understand it costs $70,000 to upgrade to a digital projector.
But, here’s a bit of history – the Urbana Citizen newspaper reported the CEO of Chakeres ran the theater about 35 years ago.* Guess nostalgia doesn’t mean much when you are high up on the food chain.
We are talking $70,000 to convert to a digital projector.
They didn’t even tell the city… they announced the closing on the marquee.
Unfortunately, Chakeres Theatres, Inc is a privately held company, so I was unable to tack down their annual report and financial statements. But, according to Find the Company, Chakeres Theater is estimated to have $15.4 million in annual sales.
We are talking $70,000.
One of my favorite songs is Our Town by James Taylor:
Main street isn’t main street anymore
Lights don’t shine as brightly as they shone before
Tell the truth, lights don’t shine at all
In our town
How very ironic.
Driving into town, on movie nights, you could see the marquee from down the road. The art deco design shining and the bulbs all lit up. Kids standing outside waiting for the movie to start. You could almost taste the popcorn and hear the slurp of soda through straws. Cars slowing down to check out the upcoming movies on the posters hanging out front.
The lights don’t shine as brightly on Main Street.
The lights don’t shine at all.
*Interestingly, the article on the Urbana Citizen that discussed Phillip Chakeres history with the Urbana Twin Cinemas no longer exists. http://urbanacitizen.com/main.asp?SectionID=3&SubSectionID=5&ArticleID=164294.