East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

Eastwood Cinema and the Hess Family

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on May 29, 2012

Many East Siders know the Hess family name from the story of the Hess Cooperage, honored with a landmark plaque at its site in Schenk’s Corners and subject of presentations by cousins Gary and Jim Hess. A 1947 photo of the barrel-making Hess brothers Joe, Eddie, Foots (Frank Jr.), and Tony (the generation preceding Gary and Jim) with their father Frank Sr. adorned the cover of the East Side Album, published by this club in 2008.

Gary sent us this clipping from the Dec. 20, 1967 issue of The Capital Times of his aunt Josephine Hess, the movie theater’s house manager, with Mayor Otto Festge and others on the occasion of the reopening of the remodeled Eastwood Theater, renamed The Cinema.

An article in the Wisconsin State Journal on October 1, 1967 proudly (!) said, “The old Spanish rococo plaster and tile designs that covered the auditorium and balcony walls — familiar to thousands of Madison families who have patronized the Eastwood since it opened in 1929 — will be removed, ceilings lowered and a modern interior installed. The theater will drop about 200 seats, to 825 seats, to accommodate new style chairs. The orchestra pit will be eliminated and the movie screen moved forward to create a more intimate atmosphere. The color scheme will be blue, green and white.  On the exterior, the front canopy will be preserved, but with the new name in neon letters replacing the old.”

Originating as the Eastwood Theater in 1929, the Cinema closed in 1986, a victim of multiple personality disorder–in its last years it screened “XXX” films as well as feature-length cartoons such as Disney’s “Song of the South”. (Josephine Hess was no longer associated with the movie theater.)

In 1987 the Barrymore Theater replaced the Cinema with a venue for live music. Josephine would probably have been pleased.

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One Response to “Eastwood Cinema and the Hess Family”

  1. The Orpheum Manager in the photo is the late Jerry Fladen, long time Madison preservationist. Not “Gladen”. I wonder if they posted a correction the next day.

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