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Hey folks… I can’t find a good spot on this site to pose this question, but it seems this page gets hit a lot so I’ll give it a shot: There used to be a restaurant in mid-town that was located in a sunken plaza (like the concourses at the McGraw-Hill or Paramount Plaza buildings). The place had an automotive theme where patrons would dine at tables fashioned after varying makes and models of vintage cars. There was one particular room towards the back that was set up like a drive-in theater and all the “cars” faced a screen and you could watch a movie while you ate.
I remember going there with my family when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old and the movie we saw was “Airport” – which would have been 4 or 5 years old at that point and I can recall having already seen the movie on Network Television. In fact, I remember thinking that the version I was seeing was somehow different from the one I’d seen on TV because of it’s widescreen use of split images. This was probably the very first time I remember being aware of the concept of aspect ratios and how certain films were somehow not being presented on TV as they were originally intended.
Anyway… does my description of the restaurant jog any memories? I’ve asked my Mom about it, but she doesn’t really remember the name or location. Unfortunately, my Dad is deceased, so I can’t ask him. BoxOfficeBill… perhaps if you flip through one of your mid-70’s era RCMH programs, you might find an ad for this restaurant? I want to say the name had something to do with Ford or had “Ford” in the name, but I really can’t be certain.
This site could use a forum for questions such as this. Maybe even a “mystery theater” page where folks can post recollections about theaters they’ve been unable to identify and employ the collective memories (and detection skills) of Cinema Treasures members as a useful resource. I’ll have to email Ross or Patrick with the suggestion one of these days.
Going back to Ian’s August 18th… can anyone confirm that original elements of Henry Miller’s Theater will indeed be used in the creation of the new space? One evening a couple of weeks back, I attended an “open house” of the Repertory School of New York (a new dramatic arts High School) with my daughter. The school occupies space a couple of floors above Town Hall across the street from the remains of the Henry Miller. As has been mentioned here before, it is quite an odd site to see a single facade wall standing (well, supported by scaffolding and some sort of reinforcement skeleton) in the middle of the block with absolutely nothing but a big crater all around it.
Was the theater completely gutted for the TAO restaurant? I understand the food there is good, and might be interested in making some dinner plans, with camera on hand, particularly if any of the original decor remains.
As hardbop mentioned back in April, there is confusion regarding this theater and the one that was actually located within the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. I was confused myself about it. That theater (in the hotel) was called Cinema III and was also turned into a restaurant! Here’s the cinematreasures page: /theaters/6461/
Talking about the trashing of original exteriors, didn’t the Broadway Theater get the same treatment? I remember seeing Les Miserables there in 1988 and the exterior was under scaffolding. I believe the facade was completely modernized (removing all traces of character, taste and architectural merit) to fit in with the new hi-rise that was constructed above and around the theater’s shell. I just took a peak at the Broadway’s page and there is very little information about its architectural style. If anyone has any recollections, please add to the page: /theaters/2250/
I might be attending a performance of the new musical The Color Purple at the Broadway in the coming months so I’ll try to make some mental notes (and see if I can’t grab some photos).
Don’t get me wrong, Vincent… I take issue with it as well. We all probably would have been very sad had the developers kept the Rivoli’s interior but obliterated it’s colonaded facade, but better to have the theater preserved to such a large degree than to have it permanently eradicated from existence as it was. Since most Times Square facades were (or would have been by now) completely obscured by billboards, electronic signage and other forms of over-the-top advertising, I’m quite satisfied to trade off the loss of the original neo-classical limestone facade for the preservation of the Palace’s gorgeously opulent interior appointments.
As for those free programs… were they like the Playbills you get at a Broadway theatrical show? Or like the programs at RCMH? Perhaps towards the end of the roadshow era, not every theater had them. Maybe only the Roxy and RCMH. Perhaps others can elaborate here?
Another great photo, Warren. I guess all things are relative however, huh? You rightly point out how sad it was that such a magnificent showplace be reduced to second-run grind… I’m sure the notion would have sent Flo Ziegfeld into an apoplectic rage, but how many of us would have back that time when Loew’s ran the theater in this manner? “Reduced to subsequent-run movie ‘grinder’” is certainly more palatable than “reduced to rubble” – which describes the sad and unfortunate fate this theater ultimately met.
Going back to Gustavelifting’s post in August… those souvenir booklets were not exclusive to classic “roadshow” engagements. I grew up and started going to movies after the “roadshow” era had ended and can recall being able to purchase souvenir booklets for all sorts of movies even at the local neighborhood twins and quartets. Throughout the 70’s and well into the 80’s I was able to purchase these booklets at the candy counters of theaters like the UA Midway, the Lynbrook, the Meadows, Century’s Green Acres Theater and other cinemas. I have booklets for movies like “Moonraker”, “Rocky 2”, “Hair”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and all three original “Star Wars” films.
Free programs are another matter alltogether and were probably restricted to the finest first-run theaters back in the “roadshow” heyday… but those souvenir booklets were definitely available on wide release with good regularity through, say, 1983 or 84 when they seemed to just tail off rather rapidly. I remember when I saw “Apocalypse Now!” at it’s first run engagement at the Ziegfeld, the film was presented without any credits or title sequences at all and, instead, patrons were handed a bi-fold that listed the full film credits. I don’t think “Apocalypse Now!” had an exclusive engagement at the Ziegfeld – at least not for long – but that was the only theater in NYC that presented the film in that way, as far as I can recall. The neighborhood showcases ran a version of the film that included the end titles sequence superimposed against the footage of nepalm explosions that you now see when the movie runs on TV (I assume the DVD presents it the same way).
Anyway, the Palace Theater presents a fine example of how developers were able to take advantage of a classic theater’s air rights yet still be able to build over and around to preserve the complete interior of the theater. The Liberty Theater on 42nd Street is another example, sitting silently within the structure of the recent Hilton Hotel and awaiting completion of renovations for adaptive re-use. Too bad the Rivoli Theater just up the road from the Palace couldn’t have been treated with as much respect. Or the old Strand across Duffy Square… Or the Capitol and Astor or ANY of the old palaces that once proudly anchored Times Square. Not to mention the RKO Keith’s in Flushing.
You think word ever got back to the director of “Dear Brat” that his work had been mutilated by Lewis? I say that as facetiously as one can imagine!
Mike69… I am right there with you, brother. While I haven’t been on the inside of the theater since it was last open in ‘86, I can’t imagine it to be in that much worse shape than, say, the New Amsterdam was in the mid '90’s when Disney took it over for renovations. That theater’s interior was exposed to the elements due to holes in its roof and suffered major water damage, yet it was still somehow salvaged. It’s all about location, timing and opportunity. Flushing is not Times Square and a deal has already been finalized. I fear that there is really nothing else that can be done at this time. But I sure wish more of an effort had been made by the City while it had the chance to protect the entire building.
Even so… had they held out for complete renovation, I wonder how many developers would have been attracted to the site? It probably would have taken some philanthropical intervention to restore the building to theatrical use – a Queens Center for Performing Arts or some sort of adjunct to nearby Town Hall (as had been rumored at some point a few years back)? I wonder if that could have worked in this location… parking is a real problem and the local streets are highly congested. And I’m not sure what kind of support a project like this would have had from the immediate surrounding community.
Still… I feel your pain, mike69. This whole situation is painfully frustrating.
Warren… take a look at my photos from September 6th. Looks like they’ve added a fresh coat of baby blue paint to the roll gates and plywood that seal off the former street level store fronts since then. I still love best the vintage exterior photo you posted on September 26th, which really brings out how handsome the facade of the Keith’s once was. I’d love to find some crisp interior photographs one of these days.
I have some current exterior shots (night and day) posted below. There isn’t much of interest inside the theater to capture on film – at least from a historical perspective. As has been written above, the building was gutted right to the outer brick walls for the multiplexing back in the late 80’s. Only the outer lobby (basically a plain glass enclosed space) remains more or less as it was prior to the gutting. You purchase your tickets at either of two exterior booths located at the front entrance under the marquee. You then proceed into the outer lobby and a ticket taker is stationed at far left of the 2nd set of doors leading into the theater. Once beyond those doors you are in the space where the inner lobby was – which featured a large candy counter at the rear wall and a big L-shaped stair case on the right that ascended to the mezzanine.
Today, you’ll find some coin-operated snack machines, a video game or two and, on the right, at least one small auditorium (I believe this is theater #1). On the left side of this street level lobby, there is a long escalator leading to an upper lobby and 2 or 3 auditoriums on that level (there is a candy counter up there as well – though it never seems to be open). Dead center is a short set of stairs that brings you down to the lower lobby and the remaining 3 auditoriums (#’s 2, 3 and 4, I believe).
The big candy counter is located in the lower lobby on the left and entrances to two mid-sized theaters are on the right. At the rear on this level is the big auditorium (#4) which occupies the space where the front of the original orchestra was located. I try to make sure the movie I want to see (and the particular showing I want to attend) is in this auditorium whenever I go to the Meadows. It has a nice sized screen and high ceiling giving the room a comfortable sense of space. At all costs, I avoid that small street level room, which is cramped with a postage stamp screen, low ceiling and a center aisle arrangement of seats, as I recall.
A problem with the theaters on the upper level is that the ONLY bathrooms in the place are located under the staircase on the lower level, meaning you have to come all the way down the long flight to street level and then down the other flight to the lower lobby and then a few steps down farther still and all the way back again for a mid-movie break. You miss a lot of action in that time!
Anyway… the exterior is largely unaltered from prior to renovations. Even the old balcony fire escapes are still there and in use – they are contained within the cream-colored protrusion at the left end of the building shown in the 2nd photo below. The signage was a bit different in the old days… the “Fresh Meadows” logos above the marquee and on the rear of the building were not there. There used to be big letters (where they green?) on the side of the building facing the Long Island Expressway that read “MEADOWS”:
Forgot to add this additional exterior photo from the small employee parking lot in the rear:
I snapped these night shots of the illuminated Bombay marquee a couple of weeks back:
I was also able to take my camera inside for a few shots. The theater manager was very nice and accommodating, though he really didn’t know any history about the place. He wasn’t even aware it had been a porn house for so long. He has been there for 5 years and he confirmed that the theater operates on a pretty irregular schedule. They had a few local teens working in the theater to sell admissions and concessions and when I arrived (just before 8pm) there were maybe 3 or 4 people sitting in the auditorium awaiting the screening. The interior is kept clean, but there are definite signs of wear and tear particularly in the auditorium. The ticket booth is set up on the left wall of the outer foyer, which you can make out in the 2nd photo above through the doors. From the foyer, you walk through a 2nd set of doors into the small lobby (about the same size as the foyer), which has a fairly large glass display case set into the left wall, a small snack bar at the rear and rest rooms on the right. You enter the auditorium on the left through glass doors next to the display case. Once inside you can proceed to orchestra seating (center aisle set up) or make a u-turn up the stairs for the loge.
I took two pictures of the foyer below, but they really didn’t come out very well. This was my first time taking interior photos of a theater and I think that I rushed myself, feeling a little sheepish and self-conscious about what I was doing. I didn’t get any shots of the lobby at all! I was able to grab a few shots of the auditorium – but the flash from the digital camera was not enough to light the entire space (and there was insufficient ambient light to get a satisfactory exposure without the flash). I lightened up the image as best I could. I really need to start using my SLR for interior shots – I can take a longer exposure and take advantage of the wider angled 28mm lens – but it’s not digital and I’ll have to scan. Anyway… here’s what I got:
If you look closely at that shot of the screen (the 3rd photo) you’ll see a video projector hanging from the ceiling. Looks to be mounted pretty close to render a quality image on the screen. I forgot to ask the manager if this was how they presented their movies or if the projection room was still in operation. I know I sort of muffed my opportunity here, but I figured I’d share the results with everyone all the same. Hopefully, I’ll get it better the next time around.
Warren… that photo link you provided from back in August no longer works. Any chance you have an updated link?
That’s a great “death row” photo, Bryan… It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten how many building sites occupied the location where the E-Walk and the Westin Hotel were constructed. I love how they painted all those shutters in bright primary colors and how the Modell’s and Harem signs were still in place. Since there is no entry on this site for the Harem, I’ll ask here if anyone knows the history of that theater? I assume there is no great history and that it was simply carved out of existing retail space, but was it ever used for anything other than a porn house? It’s one of the few 42nd street theaters that I was never able (or perhaps more accurately, willing) to attend. Never got into the Anco or Cine 42nd either.
Hopefully a strike is averted. My Mom plans on splurging for a fistful of tickets to take me and my kids, my brother and his kids – the whole clan – to this year’s X-mas show. I’ve explained to her that it just aint what it used to be – and particularly at these stupifyingly high prices – but, she wants a nice family holiday excursion into the City and who am I to spoil her plans?
My parents never took me to Radio CIty. Nope. It was my Aunt Lee (and later my Grandad) who always took me into Manhattan for shows and special nights out. The first movie I remember seeing here was Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and then back again a couple of years later for their animated take on “Robin Hood.” I remember they showed the coming attraction reel for “Mame” at either “Robin Hood” or the ‘73 musical “Tom Sawyer” and it seemed like it was a 10 minute preview. I can still see my cousin leaning in to me and saying, “We won’t have to come and see that one, they’re practically showing the whole movie right now!” Of course, we went back and saw “Mame” anyway. I also recall a movie with David Niven as a tutor for the children of a Japanese ambassador – I think it was called “Paper Tiger.” I also saw the reissue of “Fantasia” here (I posted on the Ziegfeld Theater site that I thought I saw it there, but I’m obviously mistaken).
The last movie I saw at Radio City was a version of the Prince and the Pauper entitled “Crossed Swords” – a lighthearted all-star costume adventure in the same vein as the recent (at the time) pair of Richard Lester Musketeer films. It had been billed as the Hall’s last attraction (in fact, I have to dig around for the souvenier booklet I kept that has a sticker on the cover with the words “Final Attraction”), but I remember the Anthony Quinn flick “Caravans” playing there afterwords. Anyway, someone else noted here that “The Promise” in 1979 was the last first run movie and stage show attraction.
I remember the line to get in would stretch down 50th Street and then zig-zag on the plaza behind the building like the queue’s at Disney World (though this was several years before I ever made it down to Disney World and – I suspect – lines such as this had been forming in the plaza long before Walt Disney ever conceived of his first amusement park). I never saw a movie from any of the three balconies… we always seemed to get relatively decent orchestra seats, even when the crowds were large.
In 1980 I caught 5 of the 10 concerts held here by the Grateful Dead (including the Halloween show that was simulcast via satellite to theaters in other parts of the country). In celebration of their 15th anniversary at the time, the Dead played an acoustic set as well as two electric sets for some 5 plus hour evenings. Good times. The owners of the Hall were not thrilled that a poster for these shows depicted a giant skeleton leaning against the famed marquee of the theater… Perhaps they should have just been happy that the place hadn’t been gutted for office space or a parking garage at this point! I know I was and still am.
I didn’t make it back to Radio City for nearly 20 years, by which time I was a father of two and had taken my kids to see a live Barney the Dinasaur show of all things! That was after the ‘99 renovations. Finally sat in the balcony for that one. Caught the Christmas show a couple of years back and was even able to snag tickets for the Tony Awards in 2001 (saw Mel Brooks accept his record number of awards for The Producers). Being in the place nowadays – particularly up in one of the balconies – it’s hard to imagine how a movie would play here. I mean it is so vast and the balconies are set so far back. I remember the screen being nice and big when I was a kid in attendance, but it would have to be enormous to satisfy the desires of today’s moviegoers if you were planning on filling the theater right up to the third tier. And would there be an acoustical challenge with DTS surround sound in such a space?
Amazing photos. I only wish there were more. I can sort of guess which theaters are which – the smoking room of the New Amsterdam, the fire curtain at the Liberty and the green interior of the Times Square are all instantly recognizable – but some of the other shots are harder to place. The “crooked stairs” for example and the ripped red plastic seats. Are these from the Liberty? A few of these, I believe, are hanging in the lobby of the 42nd Street Hilton where the Liberty auditorium is now entombed and undergoing renovations.
Thanks Warren… The ad is a little fuzzy and it might actually read “64th” which would make sense being near Lincoln Center.
On enlarging the ads… From home on my Mac, the images open up quite large, but on my Windows XP computer in the office they tend to open at a much smaller resolution. If you hover your mouse cursor over the image and you have Windows XP on your computer, you should see a small box with arrows pointing out from each corner appear in the lower right portion of the image. If you click on this, the image will enlarge to its full size. Clicking on the same box (which should now have those arrows pointing inward from each corner) will reduce the size back again.
Is this now the UA East 85th Street theater?
Regarding that last ad… what exactly was the “Cinema Studio” at B'way and 44th Street in Manhattan? No listing here under former or current names. Was this a retail space that had been converted to movie theater for a while? Perhaps on the block where the office building containing the National Theater would be built a year or two down the road?
Interesting, then, that it was called the Academy of Music. Could this be only because of the previous Academy of Music that had been located across the street from this theater?
Here’s the only image I could find online regarding the proposed “RKO Plaza” development on the Keith’s site. It reveals nothing regarding what elements of the lobby will be preserved as the angle of the image shows only an exterior rendering of what the undulating glass curtain facade might look like from down the block.
This is from the architectural firm’s official web site.
I saw many, many movies at the Midway in the 80’s. I remember liking the upstairs theaters best because the slope of the balcony gave the audience “stadium style” seating some 15 years before the phrase entered into common usage! Also, the balcony railing was still in place in front of the 1st row of seats and the screens were set back from the railing about 20-25 feet or so making for some very comfortable 1st row viewing.
In the early 80’s, the Midway would often play double-bill horror films much like those that played on The Duece in Times Sqaure, making it a pleasant alternative to the often menacing grind houses in Manhattan. Not to mention that the Midway always listed its attractions in the newspaper movie timetables (unlike the theaters on 42nd Street, where one had to just show up hoping to find something that suited one’s mood). Some of these titles I recall from the Midway include Black Magic, Friday the 13th:The Orphan (not to be confused with the neverending saga of Jason Voorhees), Beyond the Door 2, The Brood, The Dark, Without Warning and Humanoids from the Deep (which recently played on IFC to my great amusement).
This was also a fairly easy quartet to sneak in from one auditorium to the next (particularly if you used the back staircase that was located on the right side of the lobby). Hey… I was 15 or 16 years old. I had to get the biggest bang out of my $3.50 admission that I could. Of course, perish the thought today…
If you look at lostmemory’s last photo (with Cats on the marquee) towards the right side looking down Broadway, you’ll see the hi-rise monstrosity that replaced the great Rivoli Theater in mid-construction.
If you take a look at the third photo in Jerry’s post of July 27th, you can also see a “Soda Fountain” sign for the Grand Luncheonette that was located (as discussed above) under the marquee sharing the 1st floor of the now-collapsed Selwyn building with the theater’s outer lobby. The Grand might have operated under a different name at the time this photo was taken.
I recently found the negatives for a series of photos I took on 42nd Street and Times Square in October of ‘93. I’m going to have them transferred onto disc and will link to them on this site as soon as I can post them on my photobucket account.