Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy 45th Anniversary to Holiday Cinemas!

MDL Holiday Cinemas (October 2014).
At The Matinee celebrates the 45th anniversary of Holiday Cinemas (MDL Holiday Cinemas) in Frederick, Maryland.

Advertisement for the grand opening of
Holiday Cinemas (from the 

October 22nd, 1969 edition of The News).
The cinema opened on the night of October 23rd, 1969.  It was originally owned by the Weinberg family, who also managed the Tivoli in downtown Frederick (The Weinberg Center For The Arts).  The first film that was shown there was William Wyler's 1968 musical comedy, Funny Girl (based off of the Broadway musical of the same name, starring Barbara Streisand, Omar Sharif, Anne Francis, and Walter Pidgeon).

Holiday Cinemas was the first newly-built cinema venue in the Frederick area in over 43 years (after the Tivoli opened its doors in 1926).  The cinema venue on the "Golden Mile" was renowned for its unique "Rocker-Lounger" movie seats in the theater (as the ad on the right states- "an over-sized, permanently mounted rocking chair!")  According to Cinematour reviewer Paul Rosenberry, Holiday Cinemas has the distinction of being the first fully-automated cinema venue on the east coast.

In addition to the main theater, a private screening room (reserved private parties and groups) was also available until the theater was converted into a twinplex cinema at the end of the 1970's.  After the expansion of various cineplexes in the area (the Frederick Towne Mall twinplex, the Frederick County Square triplex, the Westridge Cinema 6, and the Francis Scott Key Mall triplex- which are all defunct), the Holiday would be relegated to screening second-run features at discount prices- which it still does to this day.

Throughout the years, Holiday Cinemas has been operated by several different theater entities.  After the Weinberg family sold the theater (they still own the property around the cinema), it was operated by R/C Cinemas of Reisterstown, Manos Quality Theaters, Neighborhood Entertainment, Inc. (which was a subsidiary of Cineplex Odeon), and Regal Cinemas.

I remember that in 2001, Regal was planning on closing the Holiday for good (possibly because the chain wanted to focus on first-run cinemas, rather than second-run cinemas).  The future for the Holiday looked bleak, until former manager Jack Loudin (who managed the theater during its Neighborhood Entertainment days) bought the theater, along with his son Mark, forming MDL Entertainment.  The theater reopened as MDL Holiday Cinemas in June 2001.

Regal would re-enter the Frederick market by taking over Westview Cinemas from R/C on Buckeystown Pike (that theater was built in 2002, and was sold to Regal after R/C's short-lived comeback to the area).  .

Though many of the cinema venues on the "Golden Mile" have come and gone over the years, Holiday Cinemas is still one of the prominent venues for motion picture exhibition in the Frederick area.  The prices are still reasonable, compared to the outrageous prices at Regal's Westview cineplex (which I still call the "16-plex" eyesore, in my view).

Another problem would occur for the Holiday.  If you've read the January 24th edition of At The Matinee you may have learned that the major studios decided to discontinue releasing feature films on physical motion picture prints.  The studios declared that all future film releases would be distributed on digital files to theaters (with digital projection equipment).

While this was no problem for major cinema chains to upgrade their theaters to digital technology, this was difficult for smaller, independent cinemas.  They either had to comply with upgrading to expensive digital projection equipment, or be forced shutter operations due to the transition from physical film prints to digital files.  MDL Holiday Cinemas had to act quickly, so that it could upgrade to digital projection.

The theater had to take out a loan to upgrade one of its theater rooms to digital projection, while they encouraged the general public to give what they could for a second digital projection system in order to showcase future second-run releases.  According to their website, it looks like that they were successful in getting the second digital projection system (thanks to funds from the general public).

For 45 years, Holiday Cinemas has been delivering the best in motion picture entertainment to area moviegoers.  Kudos to MDL Entertainment for showcasing (second-run) feature films at popular prices.  Here's to many more!

AND SPEAKING OF HOLIDAY CINEMAS... On the evening of October 30th, MDL Holiday Cinemas will have a double feature screening of two horror flicks from area director Edwardo Sanchez.  They include The Blair Witch Project (1998) and Sanchez's latest film, Exists.  According to the theater's Facebook page, Sanchez will be in attendance.

A "happy hour" (with cash bar) will take place from 6:00-7:00 PM.  The Blair Witch Project will start at 7:00 PM, and Exists will start at 9:00 PM (after a brief intermission).  A Q&A segment with Sanchez will take place after the double feature.  All proceeds from that evening's double feature showcase will go towards Frederick Memorial Hospital's Cancer Patient Assistance Fund and the JoAnn Garrett Foundation.

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