Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Hellman Theatre

I recall attending the Hellman only three times. Once in the 70's on a class field trip. We watched a screening of "How the West Was Won" (1962) in Cinerama! I went back in 1981 to see Roger Moore as James Bond in "For Your Eyes Only" and then again in 1984 to see David Lynch's "Dune." Now, (again) these are the movies I remember.

When I saw "How the West Was Won," the Hellman was still a single screen theater, seating over 1,000. I remember the gold curtains on the walls, the plush seats and the massive Cinerama screen - The Hellman Theater was truly a movie palace.

Unfortunately by the time we saw "Dune," the theater had been twinned, and very awkwardly so. They literally built a dividing wall down the center of the auditorium, halving the center seating section and not adding another aisle to walk down. The seating was then kind of off-center to the now smaller screen.


Hellman Theatre (1960-1989)
1365 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12206

Opened in 1960 on Washington Avenue, across the street from SUNY Albany. Originally designed with a large, very lavish lobby and lounge, and gold draperies throughout the auditorium. The two center sections had gold seats, while the two aisles flanking the walls had blue seats.

United Artists took over in the 70’s, and twinned it in the 80’s. It was the last of the Hellman Theatres in the Albany area to close. It sat empty for a few years. The theatre was eventually demolished.
(via Cinema Treasures)

What's There Now?
Flickr Photo Set

Publication and date unknown.

Boxoffice Magazine - May 30, 1960

Boxoffice Magazine - June 6, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Photos via Cinerama


  1. I went to the Hellman theater many times. I cannot count exactly how many but I first went with my parents to see major releases. I also saw the Bond movie. When it was a single screen theater it was the best place to see a movie in the Capital District. The widescreen was spectacular and the sound was great for the time. Not until imax did I see anything like it. I remember a 70mm showing of the first Star Trek movie in a 70mm equipped theater in Latham NY.

    I loved going to the Hellman. Even the best theaters at Crossgates are no match for the experience of a single screen theater like the Hellman.

  2. I had the pleasure of working at the Hellman from 61 to 63 while attending SUNY-ALBANY....certainly helped pay the rent. So many memories. The original objective of Neil Hellman was to feature roadshow pictures (hard ticket/reserved seating) as much as possible but the competition in Albany at that time was fierce and while he managed to win bids on some great films he always commented on how difficult it was to outbid the Stanley Warner chain and United Artists theaters. Some comments elsewhere suggest that the theater was scaled back during construction to save money. The only meaningful change I could note is cancelling plans for a balcony. The sound system and projection was top notch at a time when most chains were cutting back on stereophonic film offerings....Mr. Hellman went the opposite direction. My most fond memory was the installation of Cinerama in 1962. He then played the whole series from the original "This is Cinerama" to "How the West was Won." All were reserved seat hard ticket performances. I also recall "West Side Story" running a solid 16 weeks at the Hellman. When United Artists bought the theater they ruined it by splitting it down the center. The beginning of the end. Happy memories.


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