It is with no small amount of hesitation that I type this on Carl’s “computer”, what we in the Golden Age of cinema thought was a fanciful concoction from the talented minds of George Pal, Robert Wise, Fred M. Wilcox, and Joseph M. Newman has come to pass.
I want to thank the Retroist for agreeing to let my history lessons appear in print. Many theaters and their “cousins” the Drive-In, veritable palaces of cinematic import in history have fallen to the wayside, lost to the average citizen who might pass a now decrepit and mouldering movie house on a daily basis, not for one moment to ponder the majesty it once exuded from days gone by.
Case in point, the Ramova Theatre in Chicago, IL that had her birth in 1929 on Halstead Street at 35th Street. The architect of the Ramova, Meyer O. Nathan, designed the interior of the theatre to resemble that of Spanish-courtyards and possessed a deep blue ceiling with stars that would glitter before the feature began. The sidewalls contained archways that revealed “scenes” of the Spanish countryside.
The Ramova’s crowing glory came in the year 1940, when Charlie Chaplin held the Chicago premiere for “The Great Dictator”. The Ramova earned this honor when the Loop movie palaces management refused to host the event as they were put off by the subject matter of Chaplin’s film.
In 1950 the offerings for the first run features of Hollywood dried up and the Ramova made do with second-run films, finally showing Spanish-language films upon the shuttering of its doors in the middle of the 1980’s. Though with Carl’s aid I have learned that all is not lost for the Ramova, perhaps there still lies future glories for her, on the Facebooking site you may find a group dedicated to the saving of her, Ramova Theatre.
I look forward to bringing you more information in the coming weeks as well as a special project that Carl and I have been working on. If you ever find yourself in Haddonfield I hope you will perhaps wait until dark and come by the old Starlight Starbright Drive-In, or as the kids today refer to it, the Haunted Drive-In, and introduce yourself.
(Photos courtesy of the Ramova Theatre Facebook Page and Cinema Treasures. – Carl)