SCHINES

Schine, Schines or Schine's? Why Auburn's most storied theater goes by so many names

2013-08-18T03:15:00Z 2013-09-17T11:51:10Z Schine, Schines or Schine's? Why Auburn's most storied theater goes by so many namesDavid Wilcox | david.wilcox@lee.net Auburn Citizen
August 18, 2013 3:15 am  • 

If you stare at an apostrophe, it kind of looks like a wedge.

In the case of the Auburn Schines Theater, the resemblance is appropriate.

Any debate over what should be done with the long-defunct downtown Auburn cinema typically includes another debate that's almost as spirited: What exactly is it called? Is it "Schine," "Schine's" or "Schines"? Is it "Theater" or "Theatre"? And where does "Auburn" go — in the beginning or the middle of the name, if anywhere?

The immediate answer to all these questions is "Auburn Schines Theater," because that's the name chosen by the Cayuga County Arts Council, the building's owner since 1998.

"The name 'Schines' (without the apostrophe) is our current branding of the project, under the concept 'All things creative,'" council member Collin Sullivan said in an email. "As with any re-branding, some people don't like it and stick to the older name."

The historical accuracy of that name is a much more complicated tale.

The original marquee on the 2,000-seat South Street theater, designed by art deco savant John Eberson and opened in September 1938 by brothers Junius Myer and Louis Schine, indeed said "SCHINES." The upright "blade" sign lining the building said exactly the same.

The blade was taken down in 1970 due to safety concerns, said Todd Gaglianese, an Auburn Schines Theater historian and former member of the Cayuga County Arts Council board. He's not so sure what year "SCHINES" was plucked from the marquee, but is certain it was between 1985 and 1993. Who's on First Video, which operated in the theater's front lobby for most of that time, at some point bartered the sign for electrical work, he said.

Still, pictures — and memories — of the signage continue to circulate. It's that entrenched visual that Schine advocates like Karen Colizzi Noonan are trying to correct. The theater's true name, the former Theatre Historical Society of America President insists, is "Schine" or "Schine's."

"Schine" applied to the brothers' theater empire (e.g. Schine Circuit, Inc. and Schine Chain Theatres, Inc.), which ultimately tallied 280 theaters in five states. But the possessive form used in the individual venues' proper names reflected the siblings' ownership, Noonan said.

"It's a proper name," she said. "It's their actual family name."

All the confusion about the Auburn Schines Theater's name can thus be traced to one question: Why didn't the sign feature an apostrophe? Schine theater marquees in Geneva and Penn Yan did, Noonan said. Was the same punctuation in the lanky "SCHINES" lettering atop the Auburn theater's marquee beyond the capability of 1930s metalsmithing? Or was it just a grammatical oversight? Noonan isn't sure.

"I guess anything's possible," she said.

Gaglianese is also at a loss to explain the absent apostrophe.

"That is where all of the controversy comes from. The sign was incorrect," he said. "I think they didn't put one on because it would have been harder to build the sign."

When it comes to questions about the other two words in the theater's name, both Noonan and Gaglianese answer a little more amenably. It was common to place "Schine's" before the name of the city, Noonan said, but the style was so elastic that one group, Friends of Auburn Schine Theater, arrived at that usage just because it made a better acronym. And "Theater" and "Theatre," Gaglianese noted, have long been used interchangeably in the Auburn Schines' name.

However you say it, the name of the theater is not nearly as important an issue as its restoration, Noonan said.

"The real urgency is to get this project done," she said. "There's so many people watching and waiting for it to take its rightful place in Auburn."

When it comes to the Auburn Schines Theater, that's something people of all its grammatical persuasions can probably agree on.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. Los
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    Los - August 19, 2013 9:08 pm
    The Schine's Auburn Theater, or whatever variation you might use, is an irreplaceable art deco masterpiece that cannot be replaced once it's lost. Here in "sophisticated Rochester," we lost all our great downtown movie palaces - mainly to such wonders as parking lots. Auburn has a unique opportunity to preserve and restore something that will make its own citizens happy even as it attracts visitors.
  2. constitution1
    Report Abuse
    constitution1 - August 19, 2013 3:37 pm
    For full proof of the original name, look at the Citizen itself, from Sept 13, 1938: Start with PDFs 630 and forward! Actuall original name: Schine's Auburn Theatre! Or even more correctly at the time, Schine's New Auburn Theatre!

    http://fultonhistory.com/my%20photo%20albums/All%20Newspapers/Auburn%20NY%20Citizen%20Advertiser/Auburn%20NY%20Citizen%20Advertiser%201938.pdf/index3.html
  3. Maizy
    Report Abuse
    Maizy - August 19, 2013 8:40 am
    Put the wrecking ball to that dinosaur.
    Let Wegman's expand. Take the money that will be thrown at this decades old project and use it to build more places for senior citizens to go. Perhaps a modern playground would be nice.
    Just give up the ghost on this misguided project.
    Maybe Wegman's would make giant murals of those pics and use them on the South Street as décor.
  4. constitution1
    Report Abuse
    constitution1 - August 18, 2013 4:17 pm
    Actually, in the late 30s through 50s the theater was referred to as "The Auburn". Schines was on top of the main Auburn lettering on the marquee, as Schines was a small though decorative accessory of the very large and bold "Auburn" blade. This was consistent with the signage on the other theaters that the Schine brothers owned across the region, including other theaters in Auburn at the time. I once did a lot of research on the theater, and I remember newspaper articles describing what was playing at the Jefferson, the Palace, and the Auburn. Even the original congratulatory advertisements by the various shops downtown in the Citizen's insert (part of the Pageant of Progress, the big downtown festival that occurred that September) refer many, many times to the theater as "The Auburn Theater". "Schine's" became more popularly used much later, and sticks to this day, of course... but to be a historical purist, "The Auburn Theater" is THE correct historical name! Joe Graney
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