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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.
I remember watching Officer Joe Bolton on Channel 11 when I was a boy. And who was it that hosted Popeye on WNEW, Eugene McCarthy? I remember years later he was the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Avenue. Does anyone remember the episode of The Honeymooners where Ralph and Norton are in the house of a deceased rich dowager who has just left “her fortune” to Ralph… and Norton comments that the place is “even nicer than the lobby at the Loew’s Pitkin!”
What a pity to think that lobby has been gutted for retail space!
God I love that sort of stuff, RobertR! Even the schlock was sold with panache! What’s become of showmanship in the industry?!?
Warren… I was thinking the same thing about the lack of people and cars when your shot was taken! I can understand how with a long exposure people hustling by might have blurred themselves out of the image, but what about car headlight streaks?
Where is everybody?!?
Hmmmm. That’s a shame, Warren. Public access is certainly something to consider. I hope it’s something that is in the AMMI’s future plans. Perhaps they are waiting to amass a sufficient amount of material to warrant some sort of Library? They might consider a partnership with Lincoln Center since they already have facilities – though I know how bad the politics can get sometimes between these kinds of institutions.
Turner Classic Movies just held a week long retrospective of the films of Alfred Hitchcock that included a documentary on the making of “North By Northwest.” There is some brief footage of the film’s World Premier at the United Artists Theater in Chicago, a week or two before the film opened in New York at Radio City Music Hall. The marquee depicted at the top of the page dates from 1958 with a Cinemascope presentation… However, “North by Northwest” was filmed in VistaVision and released the following year. Did they install a VV screen somewhere in between or was the screen already there for some time and used for Cinemascope presentations with some sort of masking?
Just a thought, but it occurs to me that the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria Queens might also be interested in ActorGuy’s collection of material on the Paramount. They have a reasonable collection of material on display regarding the theatrical presentation of film over the last century. The collection includes tons of advertising material (programs, magazines, matchbooks, posters, lobby cards, etc.) and scores of photographs from the Loew’s organization. They also have an incredible cutaway scale model of the Roxy Theater on display that will absolutely knock your socks off if you ever make it down to Astoria to visit the Museum. I highly recommend it.
Anyway… they might be very interested in ActorGuy’s documentation.
Well… I must admit, the devestation of New York City never entered my mind as a factor to consider in this matter! Hee hee… My tongue is firmly planted in cheek, Jim. Seriously, you do make some valid points. Does the Theatrical Historical Society offer remote access to its archives so that folks from New York – who may have personal experiences having attended the Paramount and other theaters – might peruse its collection? After all, there is still the matter of local heritage. I’ll leave Warren to defend the merits of the Lincoln Center Library, which, after all, is dedicated to the Performing Arts and would seem to have a narrow enough field of focus to do well by the material. I like your final suggestion that copies of the material be scanned and burned to DVD so that they might be shared across multiple institutions… but I’m not sure ActorGuy is looking to make that kind of investment in the material.
ActorGuy, I have to agree with Warren that the material should remain in New York, but then I am a rather biased native New Yorker. I urge you to contact Warren and consider his suggestion before you take the material elsewhere. The New York Historical Society or even the Musuem of the City of New York come to mind as possible alternatives to Lincoln Center, should they elect to pass on the material.
I love the box at the bottom of that ad offering free admission to “Freedomland” for the first 25 kids to show up at the 9:30am showing. Freedomland was a short lived disaster of an amusement park in The Bronx that celebrated American History. It was demolished in the mid ‘60’s to make way for the sprawling Co-Op City apartment complex. Here is a very cool site about Freedomland (and some World’s Fair content as well): View link
Stan… “Mame” was released in 1974. It played with the Easter show on the Great Stage. I saw it here as well.
By the by… the rooftop observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Center (across 51st street from RCMH) is set to re-open on November 1st after being closed to the public for some 20-odd years. If anyone plans on making it in to NYC for the Holidays, a trip to Radio City should be paired with a trip up to the top of the former RCA building. It offers spectacular views from a comfortably open space. I remember visiting when I was a child and was floored by the views of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Bieng not quite as tall as the more famous deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State, you don’t get the feeling so much as being high above the city but more that you’re skimming the top at eye level with all the other mid-town skyscrapers. You might recall that a portion of the “New York, New York” number in “On the Town” were filmed here (most people outside of NY might assume the shot is of Kelly, Sinatra and Munchin singing atop the Empire State, but they’d be wrong). I’m anxious to have a re-visit myself after all these years.