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Stevebob… you make an excellent point. There is something about that clock and signage that tugs at my heartstrings — as a veteran of the Deuce’s grindhouses from 1979 to ‘86 or so. But I find it completely at odds with the magnificent restoration within. I think it would have been nice to have the restored art-nouveau exterior of the New Amsterdam as compliment to the vintage exterior restorations to the New Victory and Lyric facades directly across the street.
Bway… do you feel claustrophobic when you walk around the area these days? Besides the blinding barrage of lights and video-feeds from all the modern signage and displays, Times Square has completely lost its sense of scale at street level. It’s all so vertical now… they’re just developing everything straight up. Think back to the Square and 42nd Street about 15 or 20 years ago – even amidst the shuttering of the grind houses, the squalor of the uncleaned streets and the come-ons from the live-porn barkers there was at least a sense of space and scale. I miss the days when you didn’t have to crane your neck to appreciate the character of the place.
I saw Jerry Garcia play at the Lunt-Fontanne in October of 1987 – with his acoustic bluegrass-inspired band playing “Act One” and his electric rock band playing “Act Two”. Rock impresario Bill Graham booked Garcia and Company into the theater for almost a full month’s engagement (including Weds and Sat matinees). Anyway, I seem to recall there being a lot of standing room at the rear of the orchestra and for some reason I seem to remember columns holding up the balcony along the far side aisles. Is this possible?
I can’t recall too much detail about the decor… even though I did take my son to see Beauty and the Beast just a few of years ago. I do recall that Graham had festooned the upstairs lounge with a lot of wonderful photographs from his archives and he had the concession stand selling Egg Creams (as I believe had been his policy downtown at the Fillmore East – nee Loews Commodore). I actually met Graham during the Garcia show. But that’s probably a story for a different web site.
Was the original lobby on Broadway converted to office space or otherwise demolished? At the moment, I can’t think of what exactly stands on the west side of Broadway between 46th and 47th.
BobT… I agree with you. A magnificent interior restoration, but – as I commented way back in Feb of 2003 – the decision to go with the refitted art deco marquee rather than replicate the original 1903 exterior facade ornamentation and signage was highly questionable. Perhaps they figured that the clock and illuminated vertical sign have been associated with the New Amsterdam for so long now (at least back to the mid-30’s, no?) and fit in better with the current environment of 42nd Street. The folks who run the New Victory across the street did a wonderful job of recreating the original 1900 entrance while incorporating appropriate modern-day signage. Disney should have taken a cue from them.
I had to do a double take earlier tonight as I noticed the ad for a new movie called “Dirty Love” in the New York Times… the list of theaters at which the film is being screened included the “Cinemart Twin” in Forest Hills!!! For a few brief confused moments I wasn’t sure if it was 1985 or if the theater had been miraculously reduced from 7 screens to 2!!! Of course, I quickly realized this was nothing more than a common printing error… but figured this was as good a place as any to make note of it.
Call it a slow Friday evening…
Sad story, Mike69… gutted right down to the steel beams and bricks with not a lick of original interior work remaining. For all intents and purposes I would suggest this be listed as a complete demolition, but since the original exterior structure still exists, I suppose “the building” is still there. Are you able to categorize the type of decor, Mike, or recollect more specific details about it? You mentioned the Keith’s, but surely this wasn’t an atmospheric room (courtyard setting with painted “night sky” ceiling). Was the balcony still there or was this demolished at the time of quading (assuming there was a balcony to begin with)?
As lostmemory posted, the Certificate of Occupancy was issued in 1925 for a movie theater. There was a new C of O issued in 1993 for a Bingo Hall on the 1st floor with capacity of 525 persons, plus offices and stores. It also lists “Classrooms” use in the “Mezzanine” story of the building. Looks like this C of O was issued pursuant to alteration permits filed to convert the use from church to meeting hall (Bingo Hall) without any construction work required. The name of the church is (was) listed as “Upper Room Christian Assembly.” I guess they had classrooms upstairs?
The theater is located at the corner of Kings Hwy and East 7th street.
Agree William. Times Square doesn’t have the same sense of space it once did. While it is still a pretty spectacular sight, it might as well be in Tokyo with its barrage of colorful and brightly lit displays and advertisements. It’s become too, I dont know… vertical. Not to mention the loss of all the great movie theaters that once dotted it’s landscape.
I have to dig around and see if I still have some of the seasonal flyers the Hollywood used to publish and distribute with its upcoming film schedules. This was a real dingy place to see a movie. As Richard Haine posts above, this had to be the worst of NYC’s repertory cinemas. I seem to recall that you entered the theater into a very tiny “lobby” where a ticket taker (usually a very tall and pale bald fellow) was stationed in between the two doors that led to either theater. I think there was a small candy counter tucked around the corner to the right. The theaters themselves were long and narrow with a center aisle and no matter where you sat, you could hear the sound of the 35 mm projecter clacking away behind you!
Prints varied wildly in quality, as Richard also points out, but the programming kept me coming back… very eclectic. Classic noir (a twin bill of Double Indemnity and Murder My Sweet sticks out in my memory), kitschy horror (The Hills Have Eyes, The House of Dark Shadows), imports (Antonioni’s Blow Up on the same bill as his The Passenger) and even a John Belushi triple feature (Animal House, 1941 and The Blues Brothers) one particularly long afternoon. I also saw The Wild Bunch on the big screen (well… bigger than a TV anyway) for the first time here.
If you’ve seen RobertR’s photobucket scan of a newspaper ad for Lewis' Bellboy tour… doesn’t it make you wonder if Lewis made it exactly on time to all of his scheduled appearances? How long were these appearances, exactly? Can you imagine trying to keep such a hectic schedule running around the Loew’s circuit having to deal with NYC traffic? I think the ad has Lewis going from the Kings or Oriental in Brooklyn to the Valencia in something like 45 minutes, mid-afternoon! Maybe it was Saturday? Still… that’s cutting it close if you ask me. And where’d he fit in lunch?
I saw a similar ad in RobertR’s collection for the Dave Clark Five who made the rounds on the RKO circuit just a few years later for their film “Catch Us If You Can.” The timing for their slate of appearances was on a par with Lewis' schedule and I have to wonder if they merely appeared to wave their hands and say “hello” to the crowd… surely they couldn’t have set up to play a song or two at each appearance! Anyway… they appeared across the street from the Valencia at the RKO Alden as part of the promotion.
These days, it seems, personal appearances are limited book signings at Barnes and Nobles or the odd CD-signing by an up and coming recording artist. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of “showmanship” left to the art of motion picture marketing.
Warren… Regarding your “mystery theater” on Willis Ave in “The Hub”… I did some poking around online (NYC OASIS project for satellite imaging of building and lots, plus NYC Building Dept property search) and it doesn’t look like this was ever a theater at all.
The intersection depicted on that website you referenced (which has since been archived under “Street Scenes” on that site) is Willis Ave and 148th Street. The satellite image I saw pretty much confirms that. The buildings that share that green awning for the discount store all belong to Block 2293 Lot 23. The records show that there are actually 3 buildings included on the lot (one of which is a small structure that fronts Bergen Avenue) all built in 1931 and zoned “commercial and office building” with an address of 522 Willis Ave. The original building behind the facade on the left (which has that movie theater look) was trapezoidal in shape and actually narrowed as it proceeded back from the street. The adjacent building with which it was merged had a similar shape, insufficient for use as a theater. There are no certificates of occupancy online that I could view to confirm its history prior to 1993 or so (when it seems it was at least partially a Pizzeria).
The taller building that rises behind at an angle and looks like it could be the shell of an auditorium actually fronts Bergen Ave (the address is 521 Bergen) and is listed at 6 stories, built in 1904 and is zoned “industrial and manufacturing.” It is also owned by a different entity than the other buildings.
My services are free of charge!
Thanks Warren. Nice contrast to the current marquee shot. You can see that it is pretty much the original except for the replacement of “Mayfair” with “Bombay” and some metal flashing and shielding around the edges and the bottom of the marquee to mask the lightbulb sockets that helped illuminate the sign at night. All these modifications were made when the theater went Bollywood… was that back in the very early ‘90’s? Can’t say exactly when the outside ticket booth was put to rest. I don’t ever recall it being there in the '70’s and '80’s, but my memory could be faulty.
The opening date was December 7th, 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture the sole feature presentation as CConnolly described above. I was in attendance that night. The first of many, many nights my close freinds and I spent in one (some nights even more) of it’s ever expanding # of auditoriums. We had our favorite seats almost every time out (dead center of the 4th row) and saw just about everything here through the early ‘80’s from Star Trek to Roller Boogie to One Trick Pony to Airplane to Altered States to Excalibur to History of the World Part One to Stir Crazy to Chuck Norris flicks, slasher-flicks and Bruce Lee re-releases. I remember going to opening night of the Sean Connery flick Outland (a sci-fi remake of High Noon) and having to settle for 1st row seats due to being one of the last in the capacity crowd to arrive. That movie (and one or two others I can’t recall exactly) was presented in some sort of new sound system (not Sensurround) that required about six huge speakers placed on the floor of the theater right under the screen (and about 6 feet away from our seats) that nearly blasted us out of the theater!
There is a photo in the Cinema Treasures book that features the very large sign that stands near the curb of Sunrise Highway advertising the attractions at the theater and I figured out that I had seen every single title up on the marquee! And by the time of this photo, I believe the complex had been expanded to 8 auditoriums… and one was playing a double feature! We were definitely movie hounds back in those days. Easily going out to one movie theater or another once or twice a week.
As I recall the expansion of auditoriums here, they initially started dividing the outer theaters first (those being farthest to either the left or right of the lobby area which was dead center in the complex. At some point, just about all but the 2 center theaters had been divided and then, eventually, the building was physically expanded for a couple of extra screens.
One last note… a lot of teen agers seemed to show up to this theater just as much to play the arcade games that were situated in the lobby as to see the movies themselves. I seem to recall that some of the early hints of “trouble” in this theater originated with disputes between the rowdies that often crowded out the smaller children who wanted to play those games while Mom and Dad waited on the ticket-holders' line.
Wait… I lied…. Just one final related memory… the image of the old Sunrise Drive-In just before it was razed to make way for this theater remains indelibly etched in my mind… with a chain link fence surrounding the stripped down base of its hulking screen where someone had scrawled in white spray paint large enough to be seen from the passing cars on Sunrise Highway, “Goodbye Cruel World!”
P.S. The status should definitely be changed to Demolished.
CConnolly is right. On the north side of West Merrick Road somewhere between Fletcher and Central Avenues. The theater was back in the corner of an L-shaped shopping plaza (I believe it was called the Belair Shopping Center). Currently, the configuration of the shopping center has been expanded north of Merrick Road with a big King Kullen and Pet Supplies Plus outlet serving as anchors. The address for the King Kullen is listed as 227 W. Merrick Road and he pet store is 225 W. Merrick. I saw a number of movies here while it was a twin in the late ‘70’s and early '80’s, since I lived in nearby Laurelton over the County border in Queens. I don’ believe there was a balcony, just an auditorium divided down the middle into side-by-side twins. Completely unremarkable in every respect.
With competition from the Century’s in Green Acres Mall (which was triplexed not too long after the opening of the neighboring Sunrise Multiplex in December 1979) as well as the much larger Valley Stream on Rockaway Avenue and the quad Lynbrook futher east on Merrick, this dinky little place couldn’t have stood much of a chance. I don’t know when it closed, but I’d be surprised to learn if it survived the ‘80’s at all.
Wow… looks like whatever is going on in the Dupage and Wheaton sites has spread to this thread! Anyway… I am recently guilty of sharing a number of photographs via links to Photobucket within my posts on the appropriate theater pages. I’d love to share more of these in the future (especiailly since Add a Photo is out of commission) so, I’d really like to know from Patrick or Ross if adding a link to an image within a post poses a problem with bandwidth or system response time. If so, I’ll stop doing this until such time as any problems are resolved.
I’d also like to say that Ross and Patrick (and their small army of volunteers) have done a fantastic job at building and maintaining this site and I’ve been enjoying the free ride for about 2 years now. If a reasonable membership fee is required to keep it going and enhance its functionality, then I’m in full support. This site is indispensible to me.
Again… thanks guys, for everything!
Does anyone know if all 4 of the Wonder theaters in NYC have been given full and proper landmark status?
Thanks for the encouragement, PKoch. And have no fear… I am imune to religious indoctrination! Ironically, my father was raised Jehovah’s Witness (but abandoned it in adulthood). Maybe I can use that somehow to curry favor with those who have the authority to let me in with my camera.
There was someone there behind the counter when I was poking around, definitely a woman, but I didn’t take too long of a peak (and the glass in the booth was a bit, shall we say, opaque). Nice to see the old booth was actually still in operation, however… cluttered as it appeared to be. And did you notice that (as with the Fair) there were faded posters in the display cases with the current feature attractions advertised only by a handwritten piece of looseleaf paper scotch-taped on the glass? At least the posters here at the Polk were for porn flicks. Over at the Fair, the poster is for a mid-70’s Lee Marvin action flick – of the variety you’d find playing at one of the 42nd Street grind houses!
Thanks for the tip, Warren. I’d also love to get my camera inside the old Valencia on Jamaica Avenue, one of these days. Presently, the level of nerve I can work up on these excursions only allows for exterior shots. But, when I stop to think about it… what have I got to lose?
I attended 7th through 9th grades at George J. Ryan Junior High School (I.S. 216) just a few blocks north of the Mayfair from 1976-1979. I used to commute by bus from Laurelton and would often get off a stop early to grab a snack at the candy store that was on the corner and across the street from the theater at the time (the candy store is now a Health Food Restaurant). In my adulthood, I lived for over 10 years in the neighboring Electchester development and passed by the theater frequently. I used to love the way the original marquee looked when illuminated at night – indeed, one of my regrets is never having photographed either the Mayfair’s or it’s cousin the Utopia’s beautiful neon signage while they were still in operation.
Unfortunately, the Utopia is long gone… but to make some amends to myself, I did snap the following exterior daytime shots of the current Bombay Theater just a couple of weekends back:
Took a quick photo of the old place just a couple of weekends ago. I grew up in Elmhurst in the 70’s and had an Aunt who lived in Woodside. I also remember taking the 7 train to the 61st Street station located above the theater for transfers to the LIRR station that ran in a trench below street level. I have a vague recollection that there was a movie theater here, but I never gave it much notice. The building that stands there now doesn’t look anything like a movie theater, and I’m not convinced it is the original structure at all. However, the Mexican restaurant that occupies the spot seems to follow the old footprint of the theater. I walked inside and could envision the narrow lobby going back off the street at a fairly obvious angle (which is noticeable if you look at the exposed interior wall on the left in the photo below). The restaurant then opens up on the left side and is quite roomy with a dance floor towards the rear that opens up yet again towards the street. If you can imagine a long and wide corridor (the width of the entrance you see in the photo) and then a big, open “L” shaped space off to the left of the corridor about 20 or so feet from the entrance… that’s the basic layout.
Anyway… here’s the photo:
Here are some exterior shots I took a couple of weekends ago:
I wonder if the Church would allow me to take some photographs of the interior one Sunday after services (or perhaps on some other day of the week)? Next time around, I’ll give it a try.
Here are a couple of current shots of the former Steinway. Warren… if you look at the 2nd shot, you’ll see that the false Dr. Jay front goes right to the brick of the side wall, sadly spelling out what appears to be the complete the obliteration of any original terra cotta work:
The site is currently occupied by a discount clothing store. Here are some photos I snapped a couple of weekends back:
This one is from up the block on Broadway looking somewhat downhill at the former theater’s roof line:
These two are taken around the corner and seemed to be the rear of building but I’m not so sure now. You can see where the theater roof ends, but I’m not entirely sure if the brick face we see here is newer construction or conversion of part of the Strand’s former space:
Here’s a current view of the former Grand taken from the municipal parking lot at the rear (where the profile certainly betrays the building’s origins) as well as from under the El on Steinway:
There’s also a website for the Gym that occupies the 2nd level above Key Food: http://www.therockhealthandfitness.com/ There’s a slide show of photos for the gym that would indicate all traces of theatrical use have been completely eradicated.