Seeking partners to reopen Ridgewood Theatre
RIDGEWOOD, NY — Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave) patrons, locals, and preservationists are disheartened that the historic theater shuttered last week without warning, marking the end of its nearly 92 years as a first-run theater. Opening its doors on December 23, 1916, it was considered the longest continuously operating neighborhood theater citywide, and potentially throughout the U.S. It staged Vaudeville, silent films, saw the advent of photoplays, & the first “100% All-Talking” feature, Lights of New York (1928). Its original seating capacity was 2,500, but currently contains 5 screens and seats 1,950.
Modeled after Times Square’s (former) Strand Theatre, the $250,000 gem was designed by the prolific Thomas Lamb & built by the Levy Brothers. The 3-story Indiana limestone & terra cotta facade is highly ornate, incorporating unique geometric patterns, medallions, a frieze, pilasters, and proudly boasts Ridgewood Theatre across the top. Interior murals originally depicted the history of Ridgewood.
Preservationist Michael Perlman explains: “Theaters are the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which bridge the generations, as they foster community growth and pride, harbor countless memories, and often exhibit the work of our country’s most skillful architects. Commissioned architects hoped to leave a long-lasting impression of grandeur, confidence, serenity, and comfort; a bold step away from the pressures of society.”
Perlman further explains, “With the onset of DVDs, and vastly improved home entertainment centers, movie theaters with a minimal number of screens are a highly endangered species citywide. When sacrificed in the name of progress, their loss is most heartfelt. Local theaters with an unfortunate fate include the Oasis, Parthenon, Irving, & RKO Madison Theatre (retail), but the Ridgewood Theatre can be economically viable if preserved and adaptively reused for theater-related purposes. If the owner respectfully held back from selling out to a typical chain store, and considered Producer/Director Albert Allie’s proposal, it would not only complement the theater’s architectural & historical significance, but be highly beneficial for a much-needed arts & entertainment venue that would touch numerous lives. It would also contribute to an up & coming neighborhood and a diverse borough. Al and I are determined to continue our partnership in making a proposal a realization.”
Mr. Allie is considering partnering up with fellow non-profits that share common cause. Text from his proposal is as follows:
The Purpose of this proposal is to obtain funding to start up a non-profit community theater and independent film screening house with acting classes, utilizing the Ridgewood Theatre. Funding will cover the cost of building rental or purchase, equipment, employees, renovations/restorations to the property, and to help cover the costs of operations for at least the first year.
Our mission is to serve the community of Queens by offering quality theatrical performances, acting classes and independent films, both contemporary and classic for children and adults. We will provide an excellent opportunity to bring the love of theater and independent film, to the community along with cultural awareness, by attending performances, taking classes, coming out to view independent films and taking part in our film and theater festivals. They also have the opportunity to volunteer their time to the theater, and become personally involved in the whole arts experience. Besides our regular ongoing acting courses, we will set up an after-school youth program teaching drama. We will also offer discounted rates for families with low or moderate incomes, who may be receiving assistance from the city, i.e. Public assistance, food stamps or Medicaid. People dream, but that doesn’t mean their dreams should cost them everything.
To provide the Queens Community with quality theatrical productions and acting classes at affordable prices.
To introduce children and adults in the community to the theatrical and visual arts.
To encourage participation in theater by the community.
To provide people of all ages with an opportunity to develop theatrical talents by participating in acting and other technical aspects of theater.
To provide a venue (space) for fledgling repertory companies and filmmakers, to rent out for their upcoming productions and film screenings at affordable prices.
To implement acting classes for the youth in the community, both ongoing and as an after- school program.
To collaborate with other non-profits, and find ways to join their programs with ours.
To help raise funds to keep our theater running, and to raise funds to make charitable donations to other non-profit organizations that deal with children, including but not limited to those that help children that have leukemia, or other terminal and non terminal illnesses. We will raise funds through our theater festivals and special run live shows.
To create Jobs and employment opportunity for the community.
RATHER THAN A TYPICAL RETAIL ESTABLISHMENT, IF YOU’RE A THEATER NON-PROFIT OR SOMETHING RELATED, & INTERESTED IN LEASING THE RIDGEWOOD & POSSIBLY PARTNERING UP, PLEASE E-MAIL and
Ridgewood Theatre recent & vintage visuals:
http://flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/2340129010/ (Courtesy of )
http://flickr.com/photos/kencta/181107127/sizes/o/ (Ken Roe, cinematreasures.org)
http://flickr.com/photos/kencta/116481293/in/photostream/ (Ken Roe)
Although I work in the industry as an IATSE projectionist and stagehand, I wish I had money to help. But I have viewed pictures of this glorious theatre on their CT site, and please please please, somebody step in and save it. NO MORE RETAIL, SAVE THIS CINEMA TREASURE!!!!!
It would be a travesty if the Ridgewood Theater, having survived so long, and against all odds would now be lost. Perhaps this great letter written by nativeforesthiller should be forwarded to the www.timesnewsweekly.com local paper, local public officials and politicians, etc. It is still not too late, but we are approaching a major point where we could have no return. Let’s not see what happened to the Trylon Theater, and so many other theaters. We MUST get local government and people involved, we are fast approaching the point where we could lose this theater.
Does anyone know of any historic interior photos of the Ridgewood Theater? Much of the original interior plasterwork survives, even though multiplexed in the 80’s. There are some photos of the Strand on that theater page, so those images may give us a clue as to what the Ridgewood looked like as one large theater. I don’t remember the interior from before the multiplexing.
RECENT PRESS COVERAGE & PETITION
“Queens Residents Push For Landmarking of Ridgewood Theatre,” (Interview with Michael Perlman, Chair of Friends of Ridgewood Theatre), NY 1 News, Jan 23, 2009:
“Ridgewood Theatre May Be Landmarked: LPC To Hold Hearings In Near Future,” Times NewsWeekly, Jan 15, 2009: View link
“City Eyes Ridgewood Theatre Landmark,” Ridgewood Ledger, Jan 15, 2009: View link
**Please sign the petition to Landmark the historic Ridgewood Theatre, post a comment, and forward link to all of your contacts. Your help is crucial & much appeciated: View link
UPDATE: Great News, but your help is still essential, so please continue signing our petition and posting a comment! On Tuesday, February 17, 2009, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will make a motion to calendar the Ridgewood Theatre’s facade. This is the first step, and then comes a public hearing at a later date, followed by a motion to designate the theater an Individual Landmark. Testimony will be taken during a future public hearing. Stay tuned!
The Landmarks Commission today voted to formally consider the designations of West Park Presbyterian Church, Fort Washington Presbyterian Church and Audubon Park Historic District in Manhattan; Ridgewood Theatre in Queens, and Brooklyn Union Gas Co. Building in Brooklyn.
The press release in its entirety is as follows:
Sadly , it hardly seems likely that The Ridgewood Theatre will ever reopen as there just isn t enough interest locally to do so . Even if there were , it s still doubtful that it could turn a profit in today s economy . I m sorry – I m so sorry .