Regaining the Schine MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

     The silver screen flickers with imagesof the Lone Ranger, and 1,500 kids cheer him on. A score of content motherscradle their gravy boat door prizes while a romance plays itself out. A group ofteenagers luxuriates in air-conditioned comfort while the sun chars the groundoutside. Thousands of memories, one fascinating movie house.

Our town ofAuburn, a thriving metropolis of 36,000, used to be home to five large movietheaters. Their styles ranged from baroque to art nouveau. But after severalwaves of urban renewal, only one remains - the Auburn Schine. Named after the manwho built it in 1938, it was probably the most impressive of the five.

Inits heyday, the Schine had an art deco/outer-space theme. For years,theater-goers were amazed by the interior, which included illuminated stars andplanets on the walls and ceilings. While movies played, the fixtures glowed tolook like a solar system.

With the advent of the multiplex, movie palacesfell out of style. One by one they closed, and several were removed to make wayfor new buildings. When the Schine closed the first time, it was turned into anightclub. When that failed, the original lobby was renovated to house avideo-rental store. The theater started to deteriorate, and a large hole began todevelop in the roof of the main auditorium. The hole was allowed to grow for 15years, while the theater was exposed to the harsh central New York climate andthousands of pigeons made their homes in the plush green seats. When the videostore finally closed, the theater was in a state of ruin. Forced to sell, theowner did an immense amount of damage in a fit of idiotic rage. He smashedseveral of the original mirrors and fixtures, and even tried to set the theateron fire to collect insurance money.

In my town, a decaying landmark islikely to meet with a wrecking ball before any argument can be made, and a dealwas soon proposed to level the theater to make way for an expanding supermarket.A dedicated group of citizens, The Arts Council, worked feverishly to get thetheater placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The group succeededand the building was saved. A grant followed that allowed The Arts Council topurchase the building. The problem of securing grants to restore the theaterstill remains. It's in such bad shape that volunteers working in the structureare required to wear hard hats. Even though enough money was collected to repairthe roof and remove the pigeons, the ceilings are still crumbling. Much of thepainting has been washed away, and many of the original fixtures were stripped.While volunteering to clean a section of the balcony last summer, a friend and Iencountered knee-deep plaster that needed to be removed.

A great victorywas achieved this year when the theater was declared an American Treasure by theSave America's Treasures Foundation. With this title comes new optimism and, wehope, more money. As progress is made, interest in the theater grows. More andmore volunteers come forward to prove that those behind the wrecking ball werewrong. Even though the theater may take 10 more years to complete, it is certainthat the stars will return to the sky, and that the Schine will never again bedimmed.

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i love this so much!


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