Great news about one of our favorite small town theaters! Richard Wolfe has made the Roxy Theatre his life-long passion – and we applaud him for the attention to detail and respect for the theaters wonderful vintage decor. BRAVO!
Be sure to check out the pictures link below as well.
Roxy Theatre gets gussied up
New seating, carpeting to grace Northampton showplace.
Owner Richard Wolfe kneels in the seating area of The Roxy theatre on Monday. (Harry Fisher/The Morning Call / December 7, 2010)
Netflix ain’t got nothing on the Roxy Theatre.
Despite the TV/movie giant’s expansion into home viewing, Northampton’s only theater isn’t impressed. In fact, 2010 has been what owner Richard Wolfe said was Roxy’s most profitable year yet.
So to celebrate, the Roxy’s getting all glammed up.
When it reopens on Dec. 25, the theater will feature more comfortable burgundy and black seats with several more inches of leg room. The floor will have been stripped down, sanded and stained with fresh carpeting lining the aisles.
Sure, the $80,000 project is first and foremost to give attendees a more comfortable experience — “You could feel springs” in some of the seats, Wolfe said — but even more significantly, the upgrades are yet another step in making the venue the way it was in 1933, when it became known as the Roxy.
“It’s been a slow process to get this place fully restored,” Wolfe said.
Harry Hartman opened the theater in 1921 and named it the Lyric. But the Depression forced him to close it, and he sold the building to Clark and Greenberg Theatres of Philadelphia, which renovated it and gave the building its art deco style.
Wolfe has spent the 40 years he’s owned the Roxy slowly fixing it up, one corner at a time. He’s re-done the façade, putting back the ornate décor and crown molding, which was removed during one of the many architectural changes that took place over the decades.
He had the paint changed from dark blue to an olive color, which Craig Morrison, a New York area theater restoration expert, determined to be the original shade. The green, says Wolfe, complements the reddish hues that dominate the multi-colored walls.
The old, blue seats that matched the old paint job were taken out last week, and the new ones will have higher backs and thicker cushions. Because the seats are being farther spaced apart, the theater’s capacity is dropping from 553 to 453.
The building’s art deco style makes Roxy a love affair for Wolfe, who says he can tell you anything about any old theater throughout the country. But if you’re curious about the year a film premiered or who played in it, Wolfe isn’t your man.
“Don’t ask me anything about movies. I’m a theater person,” he said.
The theater closed Dec. 1, and last week, Wolfe took dozens of phone calls, mostly from people wanting to know what was playing. The second-run theater generally plays one release per week which changes on Fridays.
After being told the theater will be closed until Christmas for renovations, most callers asked the same question: Will ticket prices go up?
“Ticket prices will remain the same,” Wolfe assured them all.
The cost of tickets has always been one of Roxy’s strongest selling points. Until the mid 1990s, tickets were only $1. They’re now $3.
The movies play seven nights a week — with two showings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is also a Wednesday matinee.
Joseph Kovalchik has spent most of his life in Northampton, and now leads the area school district. His first trip to the Roxy was in the 1970s, and he’s been going there ever since.
Kovalchik said it was easy to tell when a popular movie was playing at the theater, which is on Main Street near Route 329, because a line would snake down the street and around a restaurant on the corner.
“It’s just a great location and a great old-style movie theater, and it’s very homey,” Kovalchik said.
Though it’s been six months or so since he’s seen a movie there, Kovalchik said he never noticed anything wrong with the seats. After all, it was the ambiance he sought, the cartoons before the main feature he remembered.
Wolfe said those cartoons are getting harder and harder to find but he refuses to fill in the space with more than one trailer. And while his priority is always on maintaining the historical integrity of the space, his future plans are of a different focus.
In the next three to five years, he’ll be making the switch to digital projection, and plans to install a first-floor bathroom that is wheelchair accessible.
But for now, Wolfe can’t wait to see this finished project. The Roxy is tentatively scheduled to be playing “Megamind,” an animated superhero-themed movie featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt.
“I’m like a little kid. I can’t wait for Christmas,” said Wolfe. “But not for the usual reasons.”