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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.
If you go to the “about us” page on the catering hall’s web site (see the link below) you’ll find an exterior photo of the hall in 1965 as well as a current 2005 photo. In the older photo, it appears that the catering hall was built right up against and to the left of the old theater and that the new sign over the entrance was built right over the old marquee (or at least on it’s frame).
The introduction above should be corrected to indicate that the theater closed in the 1960’s, not the 1990’s.
The address should be corrected to read “Hempstead Turnpike.” Also the write up is a little misleading. This was a quad before it was a sixplex. As described above in other posts, the 3 newer theaters were added by expansion to the original auditorium, which remained intact with balcony. Some years later, the original auditorium was split down the middle (with the balcony closed to the public due to ADA access problems) and the largest of the 3 add-on theaters was split as well, resulting in a total of 6 screens. I never attended the theater after this last renovation.
The Fox was located on the north side of Nesconset Highway (Rt 347) just west of the intersection with Old Town Road. The Blockbuster Video that used to be here is still listed on Mapquest at 4032 Nesconset Hwy with a zip of 11733, so that is probably the theater’s old address as well. From the outside it was a big white box (like a lot of free standing suburban theaters built in the 60’s). I can’t recall much about the interior appointments, but I do seem to recall this being a large theater with a balcony.
My cousins lived on Possum Lane in East Setauket and we visited this theater on a number of occasions. I believe the 1st time was for “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” in 1973 or so. I also saw the original “Star Wars” here in ‘77. I believe this theater also hosted the somewhat infamous “Go Ape” marathon in the late '70’s where all 5 “Planet of the Apes” films were shown in order for a single admission. I seem to recall the “Go Ape” quintuple feature was booked into the Century’s chain for the most part.
Did this share the same parking lot as the strip mall where the Good Skates rink was located? The rink hosted some concerts in the early 80’s and I can remember seeing the Jerry Garcia Band around ‘81 or so.
I came here for a few of those midnight shows in the ‘80’s but never made it down for a “normal” first run booking as I lived on the Queens/Nassau border and would more typically go to Valley Stream or Lynbrook to catch a first run. I definitely saw “Eraserhead” here as well as “The Kids Are Alright” and “The Song Remains the Same.” I didn’t know that theater 1 at the time was the original auditorium! The midnight showings we attended were usually in a smaller auditorium and I wasn’t as savvy about theater architecture then to have realized we were in an extension of the original building.
I remember when I saw “The Kids Are Alright” with my friends Mike and Kevin, we had loaded up on a quart of beer each and a small fifth of our favorite poison (Southern Comfort for me and Kev and Rum 151 for Mike). We were sitting in Mike’s Datsun 280Z (really a two-seater, but Kev would scrunch down into the small space behind the seats!) and figured that we’d never get the liquor snuck into the theater (it being a warm night and all) so we figured we’d better just down it all right now before the show! Oh, the abuse my body could take when I was 19!!! Needless to say we were happily lubricated, but you can imagine the many trips to the bathroom after about an hour into the movie!!!
Never saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show” here… I caught that one a few times at the 8th Street Playhouse and then once or twice at the UA Midway.
Anyone remember those ads for UA’s Midnight Madness on the back page of the free Island Ear weekly newspaper? As someone said above, “good times!”
This listing should be updated to include Big Apple Theater as a previous name. I had beent hinking about creating a new listing because I couldn’t find “Big Apple” with the advanced search feature until I was drawn to read the “recent comment” by Warren.
If I remember correctly, this theater had a split balcony, with each section seperated by the projection booth. The theater itself was rather long and narrow with the twin balcony sections being rather shallow (maybe a dozen rows at most with 6 or 8 seats in a row on either side of the aisle). I remember seeing “Car Wash” here with my Uncle Eddie when it was a single screener. When they twinned this, did they split it right down the middle so that each theater has it’s own balcony?
I also remember the parking lot to the right of the theater (just out of frame in the image above) where the driveway was a steep hill up to the lot that ran behind the building back to the LIRR tracks beyond. Sometime after this theater was twinned, they opened the Continental III in a retail space across the street. Immediate competition in this busy and congested shopping area was the old Forest Hills Theater around the corner on 71st Ave (also twinned in the 80’s and now a drug store) and the UA Midway (a single and then a quartet before being gutted and renovated to an all-stadium 9-plex) on Queens Blvd.
I think this quote from Marylin Bitterman, the district manager of Community Board 7, is my favorite:
“We were thrilled when the developer purchased it and decided to develop it while keeping the integrity of the theater and enhancing the landmarked portion of the building”
I may actually bust a gut from laughing at that one.
Here’s the passage that might get people’s hopes up:
“Â The site offers tough design problems for many reasons, not least because the theaterâ€™s interior, which is landmarked, has been badly trashed. (Though designed by a famous architect, Thomas Lamb, the theaterâ€™s exterior was not landmarked at the request of then-borough president Donald Manes, who later committed suicide amid financial scandals.) Calling this part of the site â€œthe egg,â€ a principal of the V Studio, Jay Valgora, testified that preserving it while trying to build on top of and around it presented him with the â€œmost complex job of sequencingâ€he had ever faced as an architect.”
This excerpt makes it seem as if the entire interior is landmarked and will be preserved in “the egg.” What is not made clear is that only the lobby is landmarked and not even all of this will survive the alleged “restoration” as the southern wall on the Main Street side of the property will have to be demolished so that the proposed glass curtain facade may allow the lobby interior to be exposed to passersby, as has been part of the design plan for the Boymelgreen project. Anyway, looks like yet another Board meeting and vote will be held tomorrow to finalize everything (for what seems like the 97th time).
This listing needs to be updated. The building has been completely leveled to the ground. I for one am not at all sad to see it gone as it may be the worst theater I’ve ever attended (Movieworld in Douglaston comes in a close 2nd). RCDTJ posted that almost every old theater becomes a church. This was not an old theater. This was a low-rent multiplex of no-frills shoe box theaters carved out of an existing retail space where presentation was routinely sub-standard. Good riddance. I wasn’t even a fan of the mural that faced Horace Harding. And the parking lot was a nightmare. The Fresh Meadows multiplex in the shell of the old Century’s Meadows Theater on the other side of the Long Island Expressway is a vastly superior facility.
They would have to find a new place for their basketball team to practice and play in order to follow through on your recommendation, ERD, but I would love to see it happen. It is a beautiful space right now, when one shuts out of one’s mind the architectural detailing that was lost at court level. To see the entire room restored would be miraculous. I don’t think much, if anything, survives of the lobby. Is the mezzanine intact?
I was wondering the same, Warren. So, I placed a call to the number listed on the marquee. It seems the theater is pretty much in the same shape as it was the day it ran its final screenings. The gentlemen I spoke with mentioned that “somebody did a half-ass job of triplexing the place” but that the cost would be insignificant to have the partitions removed. He also mentioned that the stage would have to be extended to accomodate live shows because at some point the stage was cut, but that there were still dressing rooms and fly space. I assume he meant that it was cut downstage to accommodate a movie screen. He gave me the seating capacity as 1100, which is a far cry from the 1735 listed above. Perhaps he was speaking only of the orchestra seating? The rent, in case we’re all interested in pooling our funds to run our own movie theater, would be $1.5 million per year “to start.” There are no plans to demolish or gut the theater at this time and a deal could be struck for a long term lease of 10 to 15 years, but no more than that.
I wonder how serious I’d have to prove myself to get a glimpse of the interior (and some photographs, naturally)?
I looked up “Phantom of the Opera” on imdb.com, which lists an initial release date of August 27th, 1943. Would the day have been as dark at 6:40 whether am or pm in late August early September? Did they set clocks back and forth for Daylight Savings at this time? Maybe the dates on imdb are wrong. Unless this was a 2nd run… “Phantom” was a Universal Pictures release – did their product generally run on the Loew’s circuit? And a Blondie flick on the same bill?
Isn’t this a wonderful country where such minutia can be dissected and debated? In any event… another wonderful photo, Warren. Thanks!
Jack McCarthy… of course. Good point about the lobby, PKoch. Of course, better still that the whole building be preserved and used as originally intended, but those days are gone. While a few of these magnificent showplaces might have been successfully saved and returned to theatrical use – or at least public space – the days are long gone when one can expect every abandoned 2800 seat theater be restored to former glory. Particularly those situated in residential neighborhoods. If there is no church in need of a space that large, what else can be done with such a structure, unless it is in a viable “downtown” area? This City has already pounded into dust all the viable old palaces it had in the Times Square and mid-town area. Those that remain on the fringes that are not already occupied and cared for by one church or another (Loew’s Valencia, Regent, Loew’s 175th Street, etc) hang on thin threads of hope. So far, the Loew’s Paradise in The Bronx seems to be the only one to break from that paradigm. Only time will tell what kind of a run the Paradise will have in the 21st Century. My fingers are crossed.