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Excellent point well taken, Jim, however depressing a dose of reality it might be. The TV ads for LIU from the last couple of years contain a wonderful (albeit brief) shot taken from the floor looking straight up at a player attempting to dunk a shot in the basket against the background of that magnificent grilled ceiling. I’ll have to see if I can get in there with my camera one of these weekends. Are they still playing games there? I tried recently to get in one Saturday, but the gym was closed. The security guy told me that the team would be practicing that Monday and I might be able to get in, but of course I had to be at work.
Thanks JohnG for confirming that. That’s the one I was most confident about. Still searching here and on those other theater’s respective pages for confirmations on the other titles.
Geoffrey… Thanks for all that detail. I wish my memory were half as good!!! I need to get down there and take a look around. Last time I was there (many moons ago), I was so impressed with the ceiling and the proscenium arch and that the balcony was still there, I didn’t really take time to look closely at the alterations. What a shame there couldn’t have been more of an effort to preserve the interior while installing the courts, but I suppose the University could have just as easily gutted the entire space and installed a conventional gymnasium and all would have been lost.
So… I guess that means that whatever remains might be ripped out now that a new gymnasium has been built. I wonder if there are plans to somehow move the organ to the new facitlity of will it be sold off to restored theater in the mid-west?
I understand that Abbott and Costello are considered “low comedy” but, as stated above, they were pretty high box office and many of their earlier films could have topped some bills. I think “The Time of Their Lives” would have been a wonderful Music Hall feature. As for Martin and Lewis, they were box office champs for a few years, weren’t they?
Your point is taken, Ron… But then, look at the drivel the Hall booked in its later years. Certainly, films like “Paper Tiger” and “Mr. Billions” weren’t considered “prestige”… nor, I’m sure, were any of the live-action Disney films to play here.
Ahhh… Great. Thanks for clarifying that part of my memory. Now if I could untangle my confusion over where I saw those movies. I love this site!
I saw the very light French sex-farce called “The Gift,” which featured the very lovely Clio Goldsmith (the main reason this 17 year old took a solo trip into the city to see this flick), here in 1982. On the same day, I took in the movie “Frances” starring Jessica Lange on the east side (I’m thinking the 68th Street Playhouse or the Beekman, but I can’t recall). I remember planning the day out carefully so that I could hit three movies in Manhattan (movies my friends would ever agree to see) on the same day and had to travel by bus and subway between theaters. I forget the 3rd movie, but I seem to recall one of the 3rd Ave theaters near 59th street (Coronet, Baronet, Cinema 1 & 2) might have been involved.
That was a fun day. I miss those times!
I’m also looking for any information on a movie I saw in 1982 or so by the name of “Not a Love Story” at either this theater, the Festival, the 57th Street Playhouse, the Plaza or the Cinema III in the Plaza Hotel. It was a graphic documentary on the porno industry that was un-rated by the MPAA but would have definitely garnered an “X” rating itself. Strike a chord with anyone?
I’m not sure that I ever attended this theater, but I’m trying to track down if a movie named “Not a Love Story” played here around 1981? This was an un-rated (but definitely graphic) documentary about the porno industry that I definitely saw in one of the small mid-town theaters in the upper ‘50’s. I originally thought I saw this at either the Festival or 57th Street Playhouse but then I got to thinking it might have been here at the Plaza or maybe even the Paris Theater or the Cinema III in the Plaza Hotel.
Does the movie ring a bell with anyone? Anyone familiar with midtown bookings for the film?
I’m almost positive I saw “The Complete Beatles” here in 1983, but as I posted on the DGA Theater site (former 57th Street Playhouse), I get the two theaters confused in my memories. There was also a very graphic Canadian produced documentary on the porno industry entitled “Not a Love Story” that was released in 1981 or so that I remember seeing either here or at the 57th or maybe even the Plaza on 58th? (I’m now even thinking it may have been the Paris Theater or the Cinema III which was located below the Plaza Hotel). Can anyone verify the midtown bookings for this film?
Did this theater have a flat marquee almost flush with the facade? I seem to recall a blue banner with the theater’s name flying from a flagpole on the 2nd or 3rd floor above the entrance, but, again, I might be thinking of the 57th Street Playhouse.
In my memory, I always confuse this theater with the Festival Theater, further to the east on 57th Street. To add to the confusion, I’m not entirely sure that the Plaza on East 58th Street isn’t also entering into the fray! Anyway, between these three theaters I saw a gorgeously restored 35 mm print of Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” sometime in the mid-to-late ‘80’s, an interesting and very frank documentary on the adult film industry entitled “Not a Love Story” and the 1983 documentary “The Complete Beatles.” I’m almost positive that “The Complete Beatles” played at the Festival and that “Strangelove” was at the 57th Street Playhouse, but, as I said, my memories are a bit muddled.
Did this theater have a marquee projecting out over the sidewalk, or was it a flat marquee over the entrance similar to the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx? I might be thinking of the Festival again, as I seem to recall that theater anounced its existence via a large blue banner that hung from a flagpole from the 2nd floor above the entrance.
Can anyone out there help me sort out these memories?
I disagree with that last statement, Ron… Why would A&C or M&L be inappropriate fare for the Hall? Both produced the sort of clean and family-freindly entertainments that were a hallmark of Radio City programming in it’s prime. And “Double Indemnity” is one of the all time great film classics, never mind it’s esteemed place within the film-noir genre. How could these possibly have been bad choices for the Hall during their original release? What would be your criteria for a good choice?
Saw “Stomp” here a couple of years back. This is a small, narrow little theater of mostly exposed brick, far as I can recall the interior. Both the orchestra and the tiny balcony have center aisles and the proscenium runs wall to wall. The rows of seat don’t hold many seats on either side of the aisle, maybe 10 to each side. The balcony is maybe 5 or 6 rows deep and is reached by an ordinary case of stairs on the right side of the theater as you walk in to the tiny “lobby area.” Any ornamentation or architectural detail appears to have been stripped. It’s hard to imagine this space held nearly 600 seats at any time. Perhaps the interior was gutted and the auditorium space reduced at some point? It has the feel of a theater that was cut right in half.
If you do make your way down to the Orpheum’s neihgborhood, there is a wonderful old church on the next block of 2nd Avenue to the south and a fantastic corner shop across the street called “Love Saves the Day” (or something) that buys and sells all sorts of old toys, magazines, models, games, lunch boxes, vintage used clothes and other artcles of ephemera. One can spend hours just browsing the shelves.
Oh, and by the way… shouldn’t this entry be updated to include the Queensboro Theater as a previous name? I’m surprised that wasn’t done a while back.
Thanks for that update, Warren. I’m guessing you weren’t able to take any photos… was this because you didn’t bring your camera or because they wouldn’t allow photographs?
And I’m glad you enjoyed the story, NativeForestHiller. My memory is often quite hazy, but I love sharing what I can recollect from my movie-going experiences.
R.H…. Any idea what the plans are for the Paramount auditorium? This might actually be an exciting bit of news, although I’m nervous that this could easily go the other way and spell a complete gutting of what’s left of the old theater.
I wonder how many folks today would be willing to pay the same $100 for a top priced seat in a typical Broadway musical if they knew going in that there would be no orchestra, only pre-recorded musical accompaniment. With the reduced overhead of not having to provide salary and benefits for, say, a 12 piece orchestra, do you think people would demand a reduction in ticket prices as a trade-off should this become an inevitability? I don’t know that I’d have any interest in attending a production with canned music, but I surely wouldn’t want to pay the same exorbitant prices for such a diminished production.
But, I’m sure the producers would just take the opportunity to line their pockets a bit thicker than before. Just as they are doing with the Radio City Christmas Show. Unless I missed the part about Cablevision arranging for a fair partial refund for those who attended affected performances and a full refund for those ticket holders who elect not to see the show without the orchestra? This is one of the main reasons I see so few movies in theaters these days… It really gets me in a twist that in addition to paying ever-increasing ticket prices, I am forced to sit through several commercials (be it for Reebok, Coca Cola or Fandango.com) before the previews and feature presentation – something I might not mind as much if their inclusion in the program would subsidize reduced admission fees.
It’ll be a tougher sell on Broadway, I think. While the theater does depend a lot on tourism, I believe there is a very serious group of devoted theater enthusiasts from the Metro area (I include myself among them) who will demand that their music be performed live. These sentiments will have the the support of the critics, particularly the influential staff at the New York Times. At least, I like to believe that would be the case. However, I do realize that contractual concessions over the years have reduced the minimum number of “required” musicians in theatrical presentations and that many recent revivals of older musicals have significantly cut-back on the size of the orchestra and ensemble players when compared to the original productions. Most notable are two streamlined prodcutions of Stephen Sondheim works: the 2001 revival of “Follies” and the current revival of “Sweeney Todd.” “Follies” was a B.O. failure that wound up closing many weeks short of its originally intended limited run at the Roundabout and some hey has already been made over the fact that the actors ARE the musicians in this current version of “Todd.”
I still think that the patrons who attend shows on Broadway are a touch more sophisticated (and therefore more demanding) than the tourists and young families that tend to fill the vastness of Radio City Music Hall for 225 performances each Holiday season.
Your thoughts resonate with me, Vito… I feel like I didn’t appreciate the beauty of those old Times Square theaters either. I was mostly attracted to the more lurid double-bills presented at the grind houses on 42nd Street, but I did make my way to a few of the old “roadshow” palaces on B'Way from time to time during the very late ‘70’s and early '80’s. The Loew’s State was already a twin by that time as was the RKO Cinerama (former Strand) so, much of their beauty was obscured by the conversion – although I do recall admiring the upstairs theater at the State. The Rivoli was the only one of these theaters that I can remember seeing before it was cut up or altered in any way. The movie was 1979’s “Dawn of the Dead” and I remember the place was immense.
I wish I could say that I recall with clarity any details of the interior design and architecture, but I really don’t. I took it all for granted. I know for sure I came back here to see Sylvester Stallone in “First Blood” but I think the place had been twinned by that time. I don’t think I started appreciating the magnificence of some of these old theaters until the last time I visited the RKO Keith’s in Flushing around 1986. I felt as though I was in a place that was “out of phase” with the rest of the world… It was as if I had been transported to a place where time stood still and the world outside had completely passed it by (despite the fact that the theater had been already been converted to a triplex). But it was obvious that time had caught on to this forgotten space and was quickly closing in. The smell of death was on the old place and I thought I’d better have a look around and drink it all in before it was too late.
Unfortunately, by then, my trips into Times Square were few and far between and I don’t think I had the same opportunity to “drink in” and appreciate those old palaces as I had with the Keith’s. And now they’re ALL gone. I’m thankful that the redevelopment of 42nd Street has allowed me to finally visit the New Amsterdam Theater (which was either already shuttered or about to be when I started attending movies on the Deuce in ‘79-'80) and the New Victory (which was porn at the time and me and my buddies weren’t into that). Plus, I get to go back and revisit the Selwyn Theater with some frequency as a subscriber to the Roundabout Theater. I’ve also visited the AMC Empire 25 and tried to remember, as I ascend on escalator through the preserved proscenium arch to the modern auditoriums beyond, what the old Empire felt like back in the grind-house days. I hope someday that I can get back inside the Liberty and Times Square theaters after their refitting for “adaptive re-use” is complete, but I wonder how much will remain for me to reflect back upon my youth.
I just wonder why did they forget about the big first-run houses on the Square itself? Why do cinematic landmarks take a backseat to theatrical ones? Particularly when some of these theaters might have been refurbished for live performance?
Anyway… enough of my lamentations. Does anyone know what the last film was to have a splashy Hollywood-type premier in one of the old palaces on Times Square? I know from the DVD that “Jaws” premiered at the Rivoli in 1975, and as we know, began the whole “blockbuster imperative” that changed the way films were marketed and distributed. I also know that many films have had big premiers at the modern Loew’s Astor Plaza, but was “Jaws” the last hoorah for the old-time theaters?
Next to the recently demolished Cinema City 5, I believe this is the worst movie theater I’ve ever attended. The now gutted Movies at Bayside would probably come in third. Someone above compared it to a “horrible Times Square theater before Disney took over”, but that’s an insult to those delightfully dilapidated fun houses which while dirty and uncared for at least had the charm of their age, history and faded beauty. This complex opened on the cheap and went downhill ever since, despite whatever overhauls might have taken place to install preview monitors and stereo sound. Many of the auditoriums are just long and narrow white boxes with low cielings and a center aisle. The last movie I saw here was “Pulp Fiction” and I swore the place off after that.
Korvettes is long gone… I only hope and pray that this dump will soon be gone as well.
This double bill must be the reason my grandfather had once told me that the Rialto Theater was where all the Universal monster movies of the ‘30’s played. I’ve seen copies of advertisements for those movies here that would evidence otherwise, but the one you posted, RobertR, vindicates my grandfather’s recollections to some degree. He’d have been 16 or 17 at the time, depending on the month it was released. He grew up in Harlem and Washington Heights, but made his way down to Times Square as often as his means allowed (“I would take the subway downtown for a nickel, kiddo!!! Then 10 cents got me a ticket and another dime some candy and a soda pop!!! The world was mine for two bits!!!”)
My mistake… that should read that “they decided to cancel the 11:30 show” in the 3rd paragraph. The word “not” doesn’t belong.
I remember there was a karate school in the offices above the lobby. As I stated way back in 2003 at the top of this entry, my Junior High School graduation ceremonies were held here in June of 1979. Odd, since my school was all the way in Fresh Meadows (but the Century Meadows was already a twin by then). The movie that was playing at the time of the graduation was the rather poor nature-gone-wrong horror flick “The Prophecy” (which I actually saw at the Meadows).
I remember seeing several of the “Star Trek” movies here, including the first one (my second time seeing it, since I had seen it opening day of the Sunrise Cinemas multiplex in Valley Stream). The very last movie I ever saw here was also a “Star Trek” movie – “First Contact” in ‘96. It was after a holiday party for the office that a bunch of us decided to head to the Elmwood and see if we could catch a flick. We settled on “First Contact” (which I had seen already). There was a showing starting up in a few minutes, but we were hungry and needed to eat first. So, we decided to buy tickets for the next showing about 45 minutes later (it was playing in two separate auditoriums) which was the last scheduled screening at like 11:30 or something. So, we chowed down at the pizza place (or small diner, I forget) located next to the lobby and then headed back in for the movie.
When we got inside, the ticket taker told us that the movie had already started and was about 35 to 40 minutes in already… We looked at him puzzled and said that we had tickets for the 11:30 show… But it turns out they decided not to cancel the 11:30 show because the theater was completely empty and it was a Thursday night and they were closing up early! The manager was very nice and apologetic and explained we had the only 3 tickets to any of the 3 movies that were scheduled to start after 11 pm that night. So, he gave us a refund and offered to let us into the theater anyway to catch the end of the movie. We were still sort of intoxicated and up for the movie, so we took him up on his offer and settled in for the last hour or so of the flick!
That was my last time inside the theater. I look forward to visiting again soon as the renovations progress. I’m dying to see what they’ve recovered and what they’re able to restore of the original Queensboro design! I hope they plan on keeping the huge rooftop sign in place. It’s a local landmark.
The following link brings you to a panaramic photo Times Square (using your mouse to move left, right or up and down within the photo) that shows the Criterion still in business (when it was under UA as the Criterion Center). The image isn’t the sharpest so I can’t really make out what’s on the marquee to properly date the photo, but MTV is clearly in business which probably places this during the Criterion’s last days.
Anyway… here’s the link: View link
One of the films (advertised in the top right corner of the marquee) might be the Sharon Stone remake of Cassavete’s “Gloria” which would date this to early 1999.
The comments in the opening are a bit misleading… the Beacon is still very much set up as a theater rather than a nightclub. When I think of a nightclub, I think of a tables and chairs with a dance-floor. The stage has a rounded lip that might have meant the removal of seats in the first few center rows of the orchestra, but other than this the interior seems to be intact. The local opposition had more to do with rowdy rock-concert crowds streaming through the neighborhood back to their cars then it did with any alterations to the theater itself.
“Art Deco” is probably the last phrase I’d use to describe any of the architectural styles or motifs of the Beacon. The interior is certainly far too baroque to be termed Art Deco, as described in those virtualnyc photos. I’ve always thought of those statues on either side of the stage more like sentries than Godesses. Aren’t they each holding a long spear in front of them and maybe even a sheild close to their breasts? It’s been a couple of years since I last took a close look.
I believe the only movie I ever saw here was the dreadful remake of “King Kong” that Dino DeLaurentiis foisted upon us in 1976. I saw the film with my friend Matthew and his Dad and I seem to recall that we drove into Astoria to see the movie and remember it being a very big theater.