Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Bellevue/Rapids Theatre on Main Street

(click on photo for larger image - circa 1921)

[From the Niagara Falls Gazette, September 14, 1923: "Many Leading Business Places Of The City Have Been Identified With The Street Since The Village Days"]
The Bellevue occupies a lot on the east side of Main Street, south of Michigan Avenue, with 100 feet frontage of Main Street and 160 feet depth. The main entrance is in the center of the building, which is of brick, concrete and hollow tile construction, is given over two modern stores on the first floor and five offices on the second floor. The building has a handsome tapestry brick front. Between the two stores a wide and handsome vestibule leads up to an equally ornate lobby, from which, in turn, one passes into the foyer of the spacious theatre auditorium, which occupies the rear of the building.
The attractiveness of the entrance and the marble and tile vestibule and lobby gives promise of the wonderful beauty of the foyer and auditorium, which is nothing short of captivating. The broad foyer is done in cypress and richly carpeted. The indirect lighting system throughout is of particularly enhancing design and in its soft glow, one glimpses appealing beauty on every side. There is nothing left to desire in that which the art of builder and decorator devises.

(click on photo for larger image)

Above the foyer and rear part of the auditorium's main floor, midway to the ceiling, is the loge or balcony, entirely given to the inviting boxes of the ornamental type. The loge has only box seats, which are arranged to give the occupants a wide sweep of the floor and stage. The stage itself, at the east end of the auditorium, is one of the largest afforded by any picture theatre in the state. It is 20 feet in width and 45 feet high, with a depth sufficient to permit of the best vaudeville attractions.
Of special importance to the welfare of the playgoing public is the fact that The Bellevue auditorium, its foyer, lobby and vestibule are of the most modern and complete fireproof construction and that every safeguard against fire is employed. The picture machine booth is completely outside the auditorium and is cut off entirely by fireproof walls and fire doors, which automatically close if a film catches afire. Even the window through which the picture machine projects its rays to the stage curtain is equipped with automatic appliances which make it impossible for flames, in case a film blazes, to leave the confines of the booth. The only person who can incur any danger from the fire is the machine operator. Besides the wide main entrance, there are eight fire exits from the auditorium main floor, four from the balcony and two from the stage.
38 years later...

(click on photo for larger image)

[From the Niagara Gazette, May 23, 1961: "Bellevue Will Become Luxury Movie House"]

Plans to remodel the Bellevue Theater to create a new luxury motion picture house were announced today. The change will start at the street entrance and sweep through the entire interior - with the greatest comfort and the newest in technical equipment keys to the revamping. To herald the complete change in the theater, a new name will be chosen soon to replace Bellevue.
Richard H. Hayman, vice president of the Cataract Theater Corp. and Michael J. Harmon, secretary, in making the annoucement today, said that their plans constituted a vote of confidence in the future of Niagara Falls.

"We believe strongly in the future of our city and of our business in particular," Mr. Harmon said for the corporation officers. "Because of this belief, we are actually bringing into the North End of the city a brand new theater."

The Bellevue will close within the next 10 days. The new theater will open, it is hoped, within a month from the closing. Patrons to the new theater will step under a modern, V-shaped marquee with the latest combination of decorative electrical signs. The accent on luxury and comfort will prevail in both the main orchestra floor and the loges. The techinical improvement will include additional projection and sound equipment so that the latest of the screen large picture super-motion features can be shown.
"Structurally, the building is sound," Mr. Harmon said. "We are going to do the remodeling needed to make this a completely modern theater." The gala opening of the newly named, remodeled theater will offer a major motion picture of the summer season, Mr. Harmon promised.

(click on photo for larger image - notice marquee far left - "Midnight Cowboy" circa 1969)
Enar Ahlstrom, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, hailed the announcement as a concrete expression of faith in the city. "Here is a local company with enough faith in Niagara Falls to bring us what will be a completely new theater. it is one of the finest expressions of confidence I've seen so far," he said.

"If more of our people in similar ways expressed their faith in the future of the city rather than only looking at today's problems, we would recover more quickly and get back to a healthy economic situation."
85 years later...

The Bellevue Theater (now The Dome Theater, previously the Late Show) as it stands in 2008:

UPDATE - 2009: Check out the GRAND OPENING of this Niagara Falls landmark here:

1 comment:

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