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The Empire will never be a theater again, but the auditorium is alive and well as the loppy of the plex. An escalator even goes through the old procenium arch.
If they moved it one street over, it would have been a real acomplishment!
200 feet is quite impresive in itself though.
This link may be easier than trying find the video in the yahoo site.
Well, I just spotted the Commodore theater in the new video by Avril Lavigne, “My Happy Ending”. If you go to the following URL, and look for Avril Lavigne, “My Happy Ending”, it will give you a link for the video. Right now it’s the #1 video on the page, but of course that will change. Once this post gets older, and you want to try it, click the url below, and search for either Avril Lavigne or “My Happy Ending” in the search engine, and it will bring you to the video.
My question is this, the video shows Avril running under an elevated structure which is the Broadway EL at the Commodore Theater (Marcy Ave Station). Then there is footage of her singing in what looks to be an old abandoned theater. Is that in fact the interior of the COmmodore, or if it isn’t, any idea what theater it is?
Here’s the link:
Actually, I am also against having Spanish subtitles at the Ridgewood, but Warren, I think you brought it up in the first place! I brought up “Polish” and the other Eastern European residents of Ridgewood just because the non-Hispanics still make up the majority of Ridgewood, even if there is a high population of Hispanics too. The Ridgewood is the only theater in the area, so find it would do more harm than good if they did such a thing.
Anyway, personally, I would not go to a theater that had subtitles (any language). I find it very distracting.
Ridgewood does have a high Hispanic population now, however, there is also a very large and noticable influx of Polish people also. That mixed with a high population of other Eastern Europeans too, especially Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
The theater would do almost as good with Polish subtitles at this point.
I’m also a St Matthias graduate (a decade later though…)
Anyway, the Madison Theater closed in 1978 to movies. It then burned, but the building became Consumers, then Odd Lot, and now “Liberty Dept Store”. When it was Odd Lot, they had a fake ceiling over auditorium area, and you could actually make out the former line of the balcony. I have never been in Liberty Dept store, so don’t know what they have up there now (although I’m sure still a fake ceiling). I don’t know what if anything remains of the glory of the Madison theater’s plasterwork above the fake ceiling what with the fire, neglect, the ravages of time, etc.
See more about the Madison Theater by typing “Madison” in the theater search engine above.
I will ask him when I see him for sure. The Madison was always his favorite theater. I know it was more popular for stars to come to premieres at the Madison in the early 60’s and earlier, but it did happen in the late 60’s yet every so often too. My mother and father were dating in the late 60’s, and they went to one such premiere then. How sad that just a decade later the madison would be considered an “eyesore”. The 60’s and 70’s made NY loose so many beautiful buildings (not just theaters). It’s too bad some didn’t make it to the 80’s when people started rediscovering them. I would even have accepted (grudgingly) if the Madison had been “multiplexized” like the Ridgewood – it’s certainly better than it’s actual fate. Unfortunately the neighborhood around the block where the Madison is was already getting sort of grungy when I was a kid in the 70’s. If it had been a bit further east on Myrtle, around where the Ridgewood theater is, it may have lasted a bit longer as a theater – enough to keep it’s lights on (or off so to speak for a theater) a bit longer, at least to escape the “dismal 70’s”.
By the way, judging from Monica’s photos, although the curtain I decriped from inside is long gone, the colorful mosaic tiles are still at the entrance just like I remember them as a kid in the 70’s when it was just one theater!
I found the link Monica added to the link section of the site, and thought I should post a link to it here of the comment I made there:
I really have to stop and see a movie in there again one day. I no longer live in Ridgewood, but do visit often.
By the way, I wish I had a photo to share with you from when I was a kid in the 70’s.
Wow, Monica, you almost brought a tear to my eye with your description of the Ridgewood Theater! And seeing the photos of the exterior brought so many memories flooding back. What memories! And what you said is absolutely true!
I just wanted to comment on some of your comments:
“I’ll be the first to admit that this theatre is in desperate need for renovation / restoration, with the help of some exterminators…propably for the reasons listed above, but everyone who goes there, or has gone there, will tell you that it’s not necessarily where you go, its who you go with that makes your memories precious. If nothing else, the Ridgewood, is a nice, secluded place to talk, laugh, cry, and even snuggle up with your sweetie a bit. Its dim lighting, and the variety of music (mostly 90’s Latin, Pop, and R&B) it plays prior to the movie, puts you at ease. If you hear a song you recognize, memories will start flowing back, and you can share them with the people you are with. The 91 year old Ridgewood Theatre is a special place to come share, and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Absolutely!! And let me tell you Monica, if you have all this in your memory at 18, just wait till you are in your early 30’s like me, and see what a great place in your heart the Ridgewood will hold. I have not seen a movie there in 15 years, but when I was growing up in Ridgewood, I saw so many. I started going to the Ridgewood when I was a small child with my mother to see Disney movies when it was still one screen. The last movie I saw there as one theater before it was spit up downstairs was E.T. around 1982. (I think the balcony was already partitioned off though).
Yes, I have to admit that the Ridgewood is a “dump”, but it holds SO many memories for me, probably more than any other theater. I remember going there with my mother, I remember going to see a double feature at the Ridgewood with my father seeing “Alien” and the “The Fly”. Then came my teenage memories which are the best! I went with a high school girlfriend once, and saw a movie in one of the balcony theaters. It was a bright sunny day, and our eyes had not adjusted to the dim theater, and we were a few minutes late as the line for popcorn was long, and entered the theater as the opening credits were on. We could not see a thing! We stumbled all the way up the aisle (which of course is a steep incline of stairs as it was the balcony). We kept trying to sit on people because we couldn’t see! Then about 15 minutes later after finally settling down we glanced at the aisle we had so much trouble climbing, and we began to laugh hysterically, as our “stumbling” spectacle was all in clear view of the people already in the theater and used to the dark! We must have given all those people quite a show!
That’s just one of MANY great memories of that theater. It means a lot to me.
Once I was about 16 or 17 and in my early 20’s, my friends and I abandoned the Ridgewood for different areas once we could ride the subway and ride to Forest Hills, Manhattan, etc for other theaters, but the Ridgewood Theatre does hold a large spot in my heart. The last movie I saw there was about 15 years ago.
I just wanted to let you know about the rush of memories that came flooding back when i saw your photos of the exterior of the Ridgewood. In a quick slideshow in my head after seeing that, I saw all the images of the interior I remember at the Ridgewood….right down to my real early memories of the 1970’s when I was a kid, from the colorful mosaic square tiles on the wall by the ticketing area to the curtain used to open and close in front of the screen in the huge downstairs auditorium screen before the theater was broken up…yes a curtain at the Ridgewood – hard to believe isn’t it!?
It was probably way too big, it was just wishful thinking, as I am sorry it is gone. Although the large and ornate Valencia in Jamaica become a church, so I guess it would have been possible, although unlikely.
This site lists the Madison as 2760 seats! Wow, I wasn’t too far off saying “5 Rivolis”. If you take into consideration the much higher roof of the Madison too, it just may be that much bigger! In the link above that I posted, it also shows the Madison way in the distance. It looks like a monster it was so big! It does sort of dwarf the modest Rivoli in that photo.
Thanks, I will be interested in what your uncle says about the theater.
My father told me that when he was a teenager, and young adult in Ridgewood, the Madison was quite the place. Many times stars of certain movies would arrive at the Madison when their movies were playing in the theater. He had seen quite a few people at the theater. Even if he didn’t go to the movie, he said you could wait out front of the Madison and see the stars come out of their limo (or whaterver) and see them walk into the theater. This even lasted into the late 60’s!
You are very welcome.
By the way, do you or anyone else know when the Rivoli closed to showing movies?
Speaking of churches, I wish the Madison Theater a bit east on Myrtle Ave would have been converted to a church. What a shame that beautiful theater’s interior was destroyed. Although not a theater, a church at least preserves a theater in the short term.
Do you know anything about the interior of the Rivoli when it was a theater? It couldn’t have been all that big, as when seeing it right before driving by the Madison Theater (Liberty Dept Store) this morning, it almost seemed that 5 Rivolis could fit into the Madison, both in height and width!
I was in Bushwick today, and decided to drive past the Rivoli Theater. The building is almost unrecoginzable as a theater. It’s exterior has been heavily altered. I couldn’t even tell on the ground if the theater originally fronted on Myrtle Ave or the side street the way it’s been altered! The only thing giving it’s status away is the high roofline (as seen in the above link).
Anyway, the marquee is long removed, and a sign above the nondescript door reads “Iglesia Pentecostal”. So obviously, the Rivoli has a similar fate as many other old theaters….it’s now a church (Iglesia is Spanish for “church”).
I guess that may be good news. While it’s not a theater, churches are usually very “kind” to the integrity of an old theater as it’s one of the few post-theater uses that does the least harm to an interior of a theater as theaters lend themselves very well to churches. Of course, I have no idea if it’s been maintained well though on the interior. Although the exterior has been heavily altered, it is in fairly good shape.
I just remembered the movie with John Ritter and the bratty son….Problem Child, which came out in 1990, so I was right about the date! The last time I was in the theater was in 1990 for that movie. Friday the 13th Part 6 was the movie I saw before that, and that came out in 1986. Between 1985 and 1990 was when I was old enough to ride the subway “without adults”, and that’s when my friends and I abandoned the Ridgewood Theater for the theaters in Forest Hills: The Midway, the Continental, The Trylon, and the Elmhust.
We usually would tell my mother that we were going to the movies to the “in walking distance” Ridgewood theater, but usually would head for the other theaters without telling her….
From the Midway section on this site, apparently that theater is unrecognizable now from around 1993, the last time I was at that theater.
Possibly, however it was very grungy the last time I was inside (again, that was around 1990 or so). If it was worse than that in 1979, it had to be REALLY bad then, because I couldn’t picture it being worse than the last time I was there.
I saw quite a few movies in the theater when the downstairs was still one theater. The last movie I remember seeing there before they split the main floor up was E.T, and that must have been around 1982. I believe the balcony was already partitioned off then. I don’t remember it being extremely dirty when I was there for E.T.
I can’t remember the countless movies I had seen there since then. I had previously though the last movie I saw there was one of the Friday the 13th movies (part 5 or 6?). I just remembered that horrible experience with that John Ritter movie I mentioned above, and I think that was after the Friday the 13th movie.
Here’s a photo of the el next at Knickerbocker Ave station, and the Rivoli is in view to the right of the el:
The Ridgewood Theater wasn’t “that” bad in the 70’s, while it was still one screen. However, of the three theaters still operating in the immediate area; the Madison, the Oasis, and the Ridgewood, thet Ridgewood seemed to be in the “worst” shape, but still not terrible. Ironically, the Ridgewood is the only one still operating of those three.
The Madison was the was the first of those three to go (and was the most ornate). The Oasis was next to go around 1980. The Oasis seemed well-maintained right to the end. The Ridgewood started to get grungy in the early 80’s around when it was split up into three theaters (and then later 5). I haven’t been there in probably 15 years. I love the Ridgewood dearly, but the last time I was there (to see some John Ritter movie – I forgot the name but it’s the one where he had a bratty son), the seats were ripped, you got stuck to the floor, it smelled, and I got sick on the popcorn.
I prefer to remember it like my early experience, which I already mentioned way up higher in this thead (when my friend and I couldn’t get adjusted to the darkness, and were tripping over the stairs in the balcony theater and laughing hysterically trying to hind a seat).
I don’t know if it had gotten better since my last visit inside, but hopefully it has.
Ah yes, the Ridgewood Savings Bank. A building almost pretty enough to be a theater….
It certainly is not a shame. It’s a perfect example of using an old building for a new use. It makes the new AMC unique, and not another uninteresting new multiplex, and perserves a piece of history at the same time. This is certainly better than if they had razed the Empire theater, and just started from scratch to build the multiplex, which is exactly what would have been done in decades past.
Oh, that is the Playpen. I walked by there so many times wondering what the history was behind that theater. I looked so sad on the exterior with the marquee with the blinking porn “XXX”, etc on it.
Here’s a photo taken the other day of the Broadway’s site and the unfortunate fate of the beautiful building. In the background is the shantytown that sort of took up residence in the former stage area.
I only wish I had my camera with me the day I was there when they were demolishing the building, the whole interior was visable from the el station platform at Myrtle-Bway.
I was sad to see it go, although it had been in shambles for years. A shame.
Camden, I have a question for you. Since you seem familiar with the area, do you have any idea what is in this theater shown below the Marcy Ave station in the photo linked below?
Do any of you know if the Aster theater was also known by another name, as I can’t find any information on this site. There is also a Williamsburg Playhouse, a “Marcy Theater” and a “Square” Theater that also has a Broadway address that is in the 300’s or 200’s. which is correct for around the Marcy Ave station. So were there four theaters near that station, or is the Aster another name for one of the above.
Oh, and by the way, here’s a photo of the Commodore I took from the J train the other day. Sorry it’s not “the best” photo because the window was very scratched:
Yeah, me too.
Although it’s even worse than my “dirty mind” even thought it meant! Poor theater!
What is in the building now? I know that since ex-mayor Guiliani expelled all the port out of Times Square and the 42nd St area, much of it moved to 8th Ave (although even that’s cleaned up now). There is still a theater or two on 8th Ave that has porn in them, although I don’t know what their original names were to be able to look them up for history on the site (although maybe one of them may be the Cameo). What was the cross-street for the Cameo?
Does anyone know the names of the other theaters on 8th that are somewhere between 34th St and 42nd St?