Feb 21, 2013

Monarch Theatre Interior: Basement & Screen

The last few places I had the chance to explore inside the Monarch Theatre were naturally the most surprising. It's not often that the basement or behind the screen of this movie theatre get much attention, but there were a few treasures scattered about.

For starters, the basement had several different parts to it. As you'd expect, there was stock for the theatre and general supplies in the main bit, but further in it really was a time warp. I stumbled onto an original banner for Disney's 1953 classic Peter Pan. It was in rough shape, but it was still pretty impressive. 

Further in there was old signage from the theatre's Famous Players and Landmark days, there were old film canisters and projector parts, and even original roof tiles. I'm sure there was more to be discovered, but it was pretty dark and difficult to photograph much of it down there. 

Behind the screen of the Monarch there were more unique details to be seen. The framework and speakers were cool to see up close, but it was what I was shown that was still behind them that really stood out. Original plaster columns behind the current framework hinted at what the original movie theatre's stage looked like. It was believed that vaudeville was performed here when the movie theatre was first constructed, and the details of the original stage are still there and just hidden by the larger screen. Within the framework you could also see a large barrel, which is believed to have been an early air conditioner, used by filling it with cold water.

It would be amazing to see the original stage restored and those structural details fully revealed. During my photo shoot it was discussed that they'd love to do that at some point, and have a screen that was retractable so that the theatre had more of a stage space as well. 

Former details hidden behind the movie screen.

Old air-conditioning barrel from the theatre's early years.

On  the far side of the theatre with the glass block window, there's now a parlor commonly used when the Monarch hosts weddings. This portion of the building formerly housed a convenience shop, and there used to be a store front on the lower level that connected to the street. This is gone now, but the parlor is a nice space that fits well with the art deco design of the exterior.

There are other theories I've heard about the theatre, like how there used to be a bowling alley in the basement. I didn't see any clues to that effect, but there are low sloping ceilings down there that could have made it possible in the very early years of the Monarch. Other than the old boiler room, it's clear that much of the basement, and theatre in general, have changed a lot over a century of use. The Monarch is still an amazing place, and it's the combination of all of these details that continue to make it such a fascinating landmark.

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