When Will This Berkshires Movie Theater Re-Open It’s Doors? Nobody Knows!
As you know by now, I am "a living in the past" individual and my memories from way back ALWAYS remain in my heart until eternity. One prime example is while growing up in upper Manhattan's Washington Heights, New York City had a plethora of movie houses throughout the five boroughs. Each theater was unique with it's own identity. My go-to cinemas were within walking distance as I caught the latest releases at the famed RKO Coliseum Theater located at the junction of 181st Street and Broadway. A few blocks south, the resplendent Loew's 175th Street Theater (also on Broadway)was another destination until they stopped showing first run feature films in 1970.
The latter is STILL standing as the opulence and decor were just like I remember over a half a century ago as they present live shows and sometimes a film from the golden days of cinema. The Coliseum has been since torn down, hence a piece of my life is gone, but the memories remain with me.
Which leads me to why I am writing this article. Did you know Northern Berkshire county had it's own treasured movie house for over four decades and the building is STILL situated in the heart of Main Street, but the problem is it has NOT re-opened it's doors since 1991. A heritage cinema just sits there with an unknown future. SO SAD if you ask me.
The Mohawk Theater first opened it's doors on November 5th 1938. The two level cinema's first on-screen showing was a double feature (Yes, 2 movies for the price of one, non-existent these days for sure) "That Certain Age" and "Mr. Doodle Kicks Off" were the movies that christened this cinema with a seating capacity of 1,200 and a 25 foot wide proscenium was located below the silver screen (The 2 cinemas in my old haunts also were designed in a similar fashion). It has the distinct honor of being one of the last art deco style theaters nationwide. Due to ongoing negligence, the building has since deteriorated, but the indoor atmosphere is STILL intact.
Plans are underway to restore this historic building into an arts center, however the price tag to get this project going is steep. We are talking about an estimated $3.5 million as the city and local non-profit organizations are lobbying to make this reality.
The contemporary multi-plex cinemas were responsible for an impending demise of The Mohawk and similar nationwide movie houses (not a fan of entering a maze of rooms to see a film). Prior to it's closing, a private investor gave the downtown theater some life when revival films and LIVE concerts were featured. Due to the cosmetic improvements necessary to keep the building afloat, the padlock became official in 1991. It has been dormant for over three decades, a crying shame if you ask me.
Let's hope somebody out there will invest the capital to bring back a staple that would generate economic revenue and revitalize the heart of downtown. In the past, they used to say "Movies were magic in nature". Perhaps a piece of history could make a strong comeback in "this so-called 21st century". Cross your fingers and hope for the best.
(Some information obtained in this article, courtesy of www.flickr.com. Outdoor photo of The Mohawk courtesy of my colleague, Ryan Pause)
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