An Acre of Seats in a Garden of Dreams

“In the 1991 book ‘Ticket to Paradise: American Movie Theaters and How We Had Fun’ (Bullfinch Press/Little Brown and Co., $29.95), writers John Margolies and Emily Gwathmey rhapsodize about the lost era of the movie palaces. (The first, they write, was New York’s Regent, built in 1913.)

‘The buildings were ceremonial structures in which we could escape from reality into a communal yet anonymous space,’ they write. Here we could be transported into a public yet somehow private dream world. Here the rich and the working class could be swept away from ordinary time and place, together, as movie historian Bel Hall eloquently wrote, into `an acre of seats in a garden of dreams.’

Architect Thomas Lamb, who built some of the more spectacular movie palaces — including Hartford’s Loew’s Poli, where Bushnell Plaza now stands, said, ‘To make our audience receptive and interested, we must cut them off from the rest of the city life and take them into a rich and self-contained auditorium where their minds are freed from their usual occupations and freed from their customary thoughts.’

While a handful of cinema-vaudeville theaters around the state still exist, most have long since given up the movie mission. They include… the Palace (Roger Sherman) Theatre (presenting only concerts) and the idle College Street Theater, originally called the Hyperion, both in New Haven.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Hartford Courant, “Bushnell Tries to Recapture Glory Days of City Theaters,” by Frank Rizzo, September 21, 1992. (top) Image courtesy of the Theatre Historical Society, by way of the Hartford Courant, September 21, 1992

-Images courtesy of CinemaTour, “Photos from the John Lewis collection,” June 1990

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