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Myrtle Beach IMAX, 1325 Celebrity Circle: November 2011   11 comments

Posted at 12:20 am in attraction,entertainment,grand-strand

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IMAX theaters are kind of an odd duck in the movie world. They have tremendous screens and potentially a lot of advantages over regular theaters, but all seem to be run on kind of an amateur basis. For a time, South Carolina had two IMAX screens, one at the Charleston Aquarium, and this one at Broadway At The Beach in Myrtle Beach.

I used to go down to the Charleston one fairly regularly for spectacles like Harry Potter and The Polar Express. I wasn't too surprised when it went under as the parking situation was rather fraught.

Given the amount of time I spend on the Grand Strand, it always surprised me how seldom I got to the Myrtle Beach IMAX. It just seemed that whenever I would check it out, it was all sharks & dinosaurs. From time to time there would be a a good second run movie there, like Beauty & The Beast, The Phantom Menace or The Dark Knight, but it was always six months or more after the fact, by which time I had usually seen them elsewhere. (Though for the record, the IMAX cut of The Phantom Menace was much better than the regular theatrical release because the hard running-time limit imposed on IMAX at the time, due to the huge weight of the reels, forced Lucasfilms to cut a lot of the dross..).

This pattern continued even when IMAX hit its peak nationally with big hits. Given the lackluster record of the Myrtle Beach site, I wasn't too surprised when it closed in November of 2011. As it turns out though, there was a reason the place was so far below its potential. According to The Sun News the IMAX actually had a non-compete agreement with the Carmike 16 adjoining it at Broadway At The Beach. The fact that they would ever have agreed to such a thing kind of confirms my opinion of the amateur nature of IMAX management, but does explain why they never had the hit first-run movies. The ampitheatre re-opened this summer as a Carmike property, using a different big-screen technology called BIGD. I have not had a chance to check it out, but presumably there is no longer an issue of Carmike competing with itself.

Currently South Carolina has no IMAX locations. I believe that Charlotte is the closest outlet, but I have incorporated an IMAX stop into my Florida vacations for the last few years of big releases. Tampa had two, one at the port Canalside complex in Ybor City, and one at the big science museum. The Canalside location closed a year or so ago, and the last two years, I have hit the World Golf Hall of Fame location in St. Augustine for Dark Knight offerings. I'm pretty sure that this summer they had switched to digital projection, and it was much less impressive. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could see pixels at times. IMAX seems to be floundering at the corporate level as well as at the local. In recent years, they have diluted their brand by revamping mall-type multiplexes and labeling them IMAX. This, of course, leads Internet wags to label these outlets as "Liemax" locations, and there is no easy way to tell from their publicity which locations are true IMAX and which are not. In the meantime, Hollywood seems to be betting that High Frame Rate rather than huge screens is the next big thing. I guess time will tell, but in the meantime, even sharks and dinosaurs are gone from Myrtle Beach.

Written by ted on February 18th, 2013

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Nickelodeon Theatre, 937 Main Street: 31 August 2012 (moved)   8 comments

Posted at 12:54 am in business,entertainment,venue

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As I've mentioned, there was a time in my life when I saw three or four movies a week. After I left college, that dropped way off (though I still did manage to see both The Little Mermaid & The Incredibles upwards of 20 times each).

I think if I had stayed in Columbia, I might have stayed more in the habit -- I would look at the Nickelodeon calendars and see a lot that looked interesting, but having limited time in town rarely got around to it. As it is, I remember seeing two movies in particular here. The first was Gunga Din with Cary Grant. This was a splendid old light-hearted adventure film, and I saw it with my father, who had also seen it when it was first released in 1939. The second was completely different, in fact it was And Now for Something Completely Different, the first Monty Python film (which Wikipedia says is a reshooting of some of their classic sketches, which I did not realize at the time). I'm sure I saw a few other films at The Nick, but I'm a bit blurry on the details now.

Anyway, The Nickelodeon has now moved to the other side of the State House at 1607 Main Street. This is the site of the old Fox theater. I am pretty sure that the last time I was in the Fox was in 1977 to see Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. In fact, I had somehow convinced my mother and sister to go with me, and the film was so awful that they both walked out and shopped what was left of Main Street while I toughed it out to the end. I wonder if The Nick will do a Bakshi retrospective some day..

Written by ted on September 4th, 2012

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Columbia Mall Cinema 8 / Columbia Place Stadium Cinemas, 7201-802 Two Notch Road: December 2011 (open again)   77 comments

Posted at 12:27 am in business,entertainment

Originally, as I recall it, this was simply the Columbia Mall Theater, and opened about the same time as the mall itself. Compared to some of the other theaters in town, I don't have any really strong memories of the place. I know I saw what was pretty much the last 70s style Disney live-action movie there: The North Avenue Irregulars as well as one of Disney's periodic re-issues of The Jungle Book and the first run of The Rescuers Down Under. (Yeah, I like Disney). I also remember trying to go there for a James Bond flick, one of the later Moore ones, and finding it sold out, a pretty rare experience back then.

At some point after I moved out of town, the Mall started to decline, and the theaters actually went under (along with the nearby Capitol Centre Theater). After that, a company called Phoenix Theaters re-opened the theater, which was sort of their shtick "phoenix from the ashes"/"new theater from old". I can't find out a lot about them because every google search turns up theaters in Phoenix Arizona, but this might be their web site. If it is, they have downsized considerably. At any rate, I don't think the Phoenix incarnation lasted too long here in Columbia. I recall seeing one movie under that regime (they had the latest showtimes) and not being too impressed with the theater (or the movie as I can't now recall what it was).

After that, I think the theaters closed again, and remodeled along stadium lines, which was the latest gimmick several years ago (and is an improvement, I have to admit). I'm struggling to think of any movie I saw there after the conversion, and I don't think there is one -- by that time, I had switched mostly to Richland Mall and Forest Drive as my default theaters.

I've lost the hat tip for the commenter who pointed out this closure, and when they said it happened, but if you look closely, you can see a poster for The Darkest Hour a movie which opens on Christmas Day 2011, so it was very recent, and we can assume somewhat unexpected if they thought they would be showing that one.

UPDATE 3 July 2012 -- As the pictures below show, the place is now open again as Columbia Place Stadium Cinemas.

Getting ready to re-open (28 May 2012):

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Open again (29 June 2012):

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Written by ted on December 23rd, 2011

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Russell House Theater, USC (changes)   9 comments

Posted at 12:47 am in entertainment

Walking through The Russell House this fall, I was struck, looking at the Russell House Theater coming attractions, how much the place had changed in focus.

When I was at USC, from 1980 through 1985, the theater was mainly a classics house. Sunday through Thursday, they would play a different film every night, and I probably averaged three or four movies a week, and ones I probably never would have seen otherwise. In particular, I recall Lost Horizon, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Lolita, The Pound, Cinderella Liberty, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Double Indemnity, Farewell, My Lovely, The Magic Christian, Singin' In The Rain, Citizen Kane, The Philidelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, Sahara, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Captain Blood, The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex, Kiss Me Deadly, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The In-Laws, Stagecoach, Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, The African Queen, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, The Birds, The General, Intolerance, Wings, Advise & Consent, and The Best Years of Our Lives -- to name a few!

I was a bit disheartened that as far as I could see from looking at the lobby placards, the theater is apparently no longer functioning as an exposure to cinema, but more as a second run dollar theather. Granted anyone who wants can always rent or buy all the pictures I saw, but there's still something about sitting in a theater with a bunch of people and a good movie, or a fun movie, and there's something about serendipity -- sitting down to a movie you never heard of because it's just a buck, and it beats studying and finding against the odds that its something you'll remember for the rest of your life..

Written by ted on February 22nd, 2009

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Spring Valley Commons Theater, 9005 Two Notch Road: 1990s   3 comments

Posted at 6:30 pm in business,entertainment,historic

This small multiplex was located in the Spring Valley Commons strip mall on Two Notch Road. I believe the complex has a strong grocery anchor, but the rest of the place has been pretty transient.

I can only recall seeing one movie at this venue, the baseball comedy Major League in 1989. Through an odd sequence of events, involving a teenager, my father had become the semi-involuntary weekend host of a USC Japanese exchange student who spoke no English. (I wonder from time to time how that whole "go to college in a country where you don't speak the language" thing worked out for him). At something of a loss as to how to entertain the guy, my father recruited my sister and me to take him to a movie. As it turned out, the movie had a Japanese grounds-keeper character who spoke only Japanese, so at least the kid was able to understand a few words of the movie.

The theater itself was fine, not memorable in any way, but certainly OK. It was a pretty volatile time in the cinema market though, and I don't believe the place made it more than a few years into the 90s. The space is now one of the ubiquitous "self storage" operations.

UPDATE 23 October 2012: Add full street address and tags.

Written by ted on December 19th, 2008

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The Movies at Polo, 9700 Two Notch Road (near Sesqui): July 2005   35 comments

Posted at 4:49 pm in entertainment,historic,stores

The Movies at Polo opened and closed while I was living in Aiken. I can't recall specifically that I ever saw a show there, though I was in town more weekends than not. I think this place is another example of Pat Berman's underfannied theory of the Columbia movie market. There are simply not enough fannies-on-seats week-in-and-week out in Columbia to support the number of theaters we used to have. Of course in this case, it probably didn't help either that a new theater was in the offing at the nearby Village at Sandhills, though I'm pretty sure The Movies at Polo gave up the ghost before that multiplex opened.

Unlike the Capiton Centre Theatre we can't see with any specificity which movies actually closed this operation, but there has been no lack of bombs in recent years. I like to think it was Son of the Mask.

At any rate, we can see that, as usual, it wasn't a shortage of parking that did the place in:

For restaurant buildings, the last stage is the "Asian Buffet" stage. For other retail space, the last stage is the "Self Storage" stage:

As an aside, The Movies at Polo was actually a rather misleading name, as the place is not that close to Polo Road. The Movies Near Sesqui would have been better.

UPDATE 11 September 2011 -- As mentioned in the comments, there has long been a sign indicating that a funeral home is coming to the property. In fact, the sign has been there long enough that it seems unlikely now. I guess there might be enough room in the old parking lot for such an establishment and its own associated parking, but it would seem rather crowded. The self-storage place mentioned above has been open in the old theater building, and several adjacent new buildings for a good while now.

Also, as indicated in the comments, commenter Andrew has pinned the closing date for this place as July 2005, so I have updated the post title to indicate that. Also added the full street address.

UPDATE 27 February 2014 -- Well, I'm not entirely sure what happened here. I always wondered how Shive's could possibly build a funeral home on this site given that Monster had the old theater building, leaving only the old parking lot open -- and funeral homes need lots of parking for visitation and organizing the funeral processions. At any rate, the sign proclaiming this as the new Shive's site sat there for years with no action, and it has finally been replaced with one saying that the new funeral home will be built on Trenholm Road Extension instead (but Monster's sign still welcomes Shive's..)

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UPDATE 21 April 2014 -- Just for the record, Shive's has broken ground on Trenholm Road Extension & Dawson Road now:

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Written by ted on May 6th, 2008

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Capitol Centre Theatre, Capitol Centre: Feb 2000   8 comments

Posted at 1:23 pm in entertainment,historic,stores

Capitol Centre is a hard-luck strip mall directly across from Columbia Mall (it shares access from the loop road around the Columbia Mall parking lot). It has never prospered, and as Columbia Mall has declined, it has done even worse. Most of the places there that have come and gone, I didn't care about at all, but there were a few that caught my notice.

The Capitol Centre Theatres were one such place:

This was a typical multiplex, built before the current fad for stadium seating, not bad not great. I think its main problem was that being only a parking-lot away from the (twice dead and resurrected) Columbia Mall theaters, it was hard to establish a unique identity or to make it the default theater of habbit for locals. Back when Pat Berman was still doing movie reviews in The State, she did an interview with a local theater manager at a time when several local theaters were going under, and asked him if the market were overbuilt. He replied that no, it was "under-fannied" (too few fannies on seats). I think circumstances conspired to make Capitol Place Theater under-fannied.

You would think that working movie projectors would be valuable and salable assets, at least until the digital switchover of the last few years, but apparently not:

Not much of a theater without projectors in the auditoriums, but it wouldn't take much to put the lobby back in service:

This lets us date the closing to no earlier than 28 Jan 2000 when Eye of the Beholder opened:

It also lets us pinpoint the proximate cause of the theater's closure: Robin Williams

Written by ted on March 27th, 2008

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