July 30, 2008

Uptown Theatre News Even Hits the UK

Our best theatres are crumbling to dust
We don't seem to be able to produce such wonderful buildings for theatre any more

Jonathan Glancey
The Guardian

If I were king of infinite pounds or dollars, what theatre would I buy to indulge my own tastes for films, shows and music? This thought flicked to mind like an old Pathe newsreel when the story broke yesterday of the sale of Chicago's Uptown Theatre.

The Uptown isn't any old theatre, but a bravura design by the wonderfully named Rapp and Rapp, an architect duo (George and Cornelius) who produced a host of magnificent theatres across the United States. I think these ran into the hundreds. Offhand, I can think of the daunting Paramount Theatre in New York's Times Square, the Michigan in Motown, converted into a parking lot in the mid-70s, and that once great meeting place, the Ambassador in St Louis, pulled down when I was there in 1996 and replaced with what I think was a branch of the Mercantile Bank.

American cities have lost enough of these glorious buildings, and you'd think that there must surely be a list of altruistic buyers as long as the cast of a Cecil B DeMille epic only too willing to snap up such treasures and bring them back to life. I bet there's an old theatre, or cinema, not so very far from you that has either been demolished in recent years, divided up into a glum multi-screen or converted into a Bingo hall or a place of worship.

Rapp and Rapp's theatres do have one problem, and certainly for my wallet: they were usually very big, some of them incorporating offices or hotels and, like the Ambassador in St Louis, up to seventeen storeys, and possibly even more, high. This makes them expensive buildings to buy and renovate...

For complete article and commentary, go to The Guardian.

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