Loew's Valencia Theatre

165-11 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Tierney on December 7, 2004 at 1:27 pm

I am still hping somebody knows about the all brown(sepia ) films by MGM circa 1939-40.Otherwise I will thinkI imagined it Also does anyone remember the poor sister movie house about 5 blocks past the end of the EL and the Valencia and Alden. It became a catering hall.
David Robertson

Tierney on December 5, 2004 at 1:51 pm

I guess it’s time to showoff my age. TheValencia was a wonderful kitcsh theatre.My most fond memories were some of the second features—Dr.Kildare with Lew Ayres-Lionel Barrymore-Laraine Day also all those Andy Hardy series with Mickey Rooney Lewis Stone Fay Bainter and up and coming starlets like Lana Turner Judy Garland ——Travelogues(“As the sun sets in the west we bid fond farewell to——-we will return again”) always the same line! But since we have experts on tech I saw 3D with glasses as a short in about 1940 also I never found anybody who knew about the sepia movies of MGM around the same time -short lived and used with western – I partcularly remember one with Wallace Berry.Berry seems to be forgotten in film showings.P.S Idid see The Good Earth with Paul Muni after a 1 hour wait in line my parents got 2 seats and I sat on the steps
David Robertson

EMarkisch on November 19, 2004 at 12:38 pm

It is kind of odd that jwood’s grandfather sort of looked down on the Alden. I did too and really cannot give a valid reason. I was a frequent moviegoer to the Jamaica theaters during the 50’s. Most frequently at the Valencia, Merrick, Savoy and Hillside. I only went to the Alden once and the feature was “Moby Dick”. Probably because I was reading the book in school at the time. However, I do recall that the theater was quite nice inside and that it had box seats.

jwood on November 19, 2004 at 12:25 pm

Peter –

I remember the Hillside (just north of Jamaica, actually on Supthin), and I’m pretty sure that we saw some films there. If my memory is correct (and I’m going to take a peek at the Hillside Theatre page), at one point it became sort of a burlesque house. Was this in the early sixties? Guess I’ll find out soon.

My grandfather just didn’t think the Alden was up to the standards of the Valencia, or that the films were as good. I’m sure that we did go there, but rarely.

PeterKoch on November 19, 2004 at 12:17 pm

Jwood, did you ever see a film at Loew’s Hillside, with or without your grandfather ? There’s a page for it on this site.

Why did your grandfather look down on the RKO Alden ? What about the nearby Merrick ?

jwood on November 19, 2004 at 12:12 pm

I was born in Jamaica, N.Y. in 1947, and lived in my grandfather’s house on 139th Street north of Hillside Avenue until 1952. After moving away, I still often spent weekends with him (until he passed away in 1956), and we went to the Valencia quite alot.

We always walked along Supthin Boulevard down to Jamaica Avenue. At that point, I’d whine enough to get him to take me on the El. It couldn’t have been more than a station or two down to the Valencia, and he always tried to get me to walk instead, but I’d have none of it. I loved riding the subway, and the El was even better, as you could actually see where you were going. I always stood at the front window, playing engineer.

At the Valencia (never the Alden, he looked down on it), we’d sit in the balcony, where my grandfather would smoke two cigars, one for each feature.

bzemanbz on November 16, 2004 at 1:36 pm

To find out all you wanted to know and more about the Wonder Morton organ, check out the postings above from late May and early June 2004.

Ziggy on November 16, 2004 at 12:50 pm

Thank you Jim and Warren. Somehow I knew that one or both of you would fill me in. I figured that it was meant for exiting patrons, but wasn’t sure. As you said Jim, most exit passages, and almost all the ones I’ve seen, are placed beneath mezzanine level promenades, and separated from incoming crowds by gates or velvet ropes. Thank you Warren for your personal memories of the place.

In anwer to Bway’s question about organs. I don’t know about the Valencia’s, but I believe that the 175th St. still has its organ in place.

Bway on November 16, 2004 at 12:41 pm

Oh, and one more question. Does the Tabernacle of Prayer use the old Valencia’s organ, or was that removed many years before the valencia stopped showing movies.
I would assume there is an organ in the “church”. Do any of the other theaters converted to churches like the Loews Gates and the 175th Street in manhattan (or others) still use the old theater organs?

Bway on November 16, 2004 at 12:34 pm

Yes, while it’s great that the theater is being maintained. The church sure picked some hideous and gaudy colors when they painted the place! Again, it’s certainly better than the alternative, at least for the most part the theater is intact, even if it’s gaudy now….it’s only paint. I only wish the RKO Madison’s glorious interior or other theaters still existed, even if in a hideous and gaudy paint scheme.

I have a question about the Valencia’s screen. Was the screen contained within the procenium arch, or was the screen placed in front of it? From the photo of the “altar”, it doesn’t look like it was all that large (although the theater is so vast that it may just be perception.

JimRankin on November 16, 2004 at 11:01 am

Technically, that “ornamental barricade wall” is just that and is called a COLONNADE, but here it does not support anything aside from its conjoined columns which are in a non-classical styling according to the Orders of Architecture. Most theatres had some provision like this to divide the exiting audience from the incoming audience who stood in rows between the STANDEE RAILS shown in the view on this page: http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=9940 . In most movie palaces, the space above such a colonnade was a promenade or gallery off of the balcony or mezzanine lobby, as at the MICHIGAN theatre in Detroit where the columns were actually marble-clad piers and between them on the lobby floor level were HOLD OUT GATES of ornate metal that were closed to make the EXIT PASSAGE separate from the incomers on the lobby side of the gates. Here in the VALENCIA, there were probably ropes between the columns put up by the ushers just before a show would let out, and opened when a show was in progress. Thus, traffic pattern or crowd control was just the idea in a time when there were thousands of people that could be milling about a lobby at any one time which would have created tremendous traffic jams without such devices. Because the VALENCIA’S lobby is rather narrow, the architect no doubt thought it best to create such a unique barrier as opposed to a much more closed wall both for aesthetic and ventilation needs. Thus the exiting audience would be directed to the set of doors that led to this EXIT PASSAGE between the colonnade and the outer wall with various exits.

Ziggy on November 16, 2004 at 10:34 am

I have a question about the Valencia’s lobby. What is the large ornate barricade type wall that encloses about one third of the lobby floor on the right hand side? You see it in every photograph, and I’m not sure what it’s for. Some sort of traffic control maybe? If anyone knows, please tell me. I’ll look here for the answer.

RobertR on November 1, 2004 at 11:41 am

No I meant the Stanley Warner in Jersey City

Bway on November 1, 2004 at 11:31 am

The “Tabernacle of Prayer” is a Jehovah’s Witness group? I thought it was just some “sotrefront” group of Evangalists.
They must have a huge following if they outgrew a 3500 seat mega-theater!!

RobertR on November 1, 2004 at 11:24 am

Someone just told me the Jehovah’s have outgrown the theatre and plan on building a new structure.

MarkA on September 30, 2004 at 9:30 am


Indeed, Wonder Mortons were 4m/23r as you said. BTW, the prototype Wonder Morton was said be the Morton still playing in the Saenger Theater on Canal Street in New Orleans. Two pieces of trivia here. Radio City’s is a 4/58.

You mentioned C.A.J. Parmentier. Not only did he open the Roxy but he was at the other console at the opening of Radio City Music Hall, along with Dick Leibert. I heard “Cass” Parmentier share a concert at the Music Hall with the late LeRoy Lewis in November 1974 with both of them at either console. It was a tribute to the 25th Anniversary of Ray Bohr’s tenure at the Music Hall. It was a concert not to be soon forgotten. I knew Ray and his impersonation of Parmentier was hoot.

Robert Morton organs, once located in Van Nuys, California, were also built under license by the Wicks Organ Company. The Free State Theater Organ Society has Baltimore’s Metropolitan Theater organ, Morton built by Wicks, up and playing with a WurliTzer console and relay. One look at the pipe work and one will see the Wicks influence.

JimRankin on September 25, 2004 at 4:55 am

Warren writes in his Sept. 24 post: “The Stanley Theatre in Jersey City, NJ, now a Jehovah’s Witnesses church, still has cloud machines. I don’t know if they’re used during services, but they are operated during public tours of the building. Visitors are shown a short film in the darkened auditorium.” Just to clarify for those not familiar: The STANLEY in Jersey City is now an Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they do give free daily tours at which color postcards of the venue are available, but, no, they do not use the darkened auditorium with the cloud machines during their “services” which are instructional meetings needing bright light to read the Bible. At those times (usually on weekends) they turn on the many metal halide up-lights hidden in the area behind the building facades along the walls. These thousands of watts of light then reflect downward off of the now off-white painted ceiling. They have preserved much of the theatre’s original decor.

BobFurmanek on September 24, 2004 at 8:11 am

75 years ago, the Wonder Theaters were built and became prime showcases for all the great MGM product over the next 3 decades. The only Wonder Theater showing film today is Loew’s Jersey but, sadly, they are not playing any MGM product in their 75th anniversary programming.

However, the beautifully restored Lafayette Theater in Suffern, New York salutes the Loew’s Wonder Theaters by presenting a newly restored 35mm print of one of MGM’s greatest musicals, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” It will be shown this Saturday, September 25 as part of their weekly Big Screen Classics series. They will also present a vintage MGM short, and will play live music on their magnificent Wurlitzer organ.

For more information, visit their website at www.bigscreenclassics.com

JimRankin on September 21, 2004 at 1:23 pm

The photo that Bryan Krefft links to does indeed show the clouds as ‘painted’ upon the ceiling of the auditorium, but for those not familiar with the practice, these ‘clouds’ were actually retouched upon the photo negative since the PROJECTED clouds in a real theatre would have been much too faint to show up on the film of that day. And the clouds were not supposed to be vivid, since actual clouds are usually wispy to some degree, and doing them vivid in paint would not only make them unmoving and static unlike real clouds, but it would take a most skilled artist to reproduce wispy clouds in the dim light of a normal atmospheric theatre.

For those not familiar with ‘cloud projection’ let me explain that it was accomplished very much the way the movie was projected: an image is moved across a source of bright light and focused by a lens upon the ceiling. Often it was by means of special ‘cloud projectors’ which were lamp houses having a glass disk painted with clouds, mounted in front of the light on a motor-turned shaft but behind a lens such that the light from the lamp (as much as 500 or 1,000 watts!) would pass through the rotating disk and pass through the images of the clouds and thus cast their whitish image upon the ceiling in a moving way. Just how realistic this looked depended upon the place of mounting in the theatre, and oftentimes the architect failed to provide a proper angle to mount the projector in relation to the ceiling, and the clouds looked too faint our odd in appearance.

In many smaller theatres, the clouds were projected from a special port in the wall of the projection room by means of what was known as the ‘Effects Projector’ which was also used to cast special effects (snow storms, lightning bolts, even clouds of butterflies!) upon the screen. Few of us have seen the results of such projectors since most of them have perished with the palaces, and few of the survivors work any longer or have their hundreds of hand-painted glass slides anymore. A photo of one is on page 201 of the late Ben Hall’s “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” (1961 and later editions) at many libraries and still at www.Amazon.com . There are few theatres still with operating ‘cloud machines’ the only two I have seen being the wonderful CORONADO in Rockford, Ill. and the PATIO in Chicago. In the recent book about the CORONADO, there is an image of the ‘cloud projectors’ there, and while the imperfectly silhouetted image shows two machines, the woman who wrote the caption mentions it as though it were only one. It would, of course, be silly for the VALENCIA church to return such projections upon its ceiling, since with a chandelier there now, they would hardly be convincing. As I had mentioned once before, had the church also painted an angel on the ceiling with his arm outstretched as though holding up the chandelier, it would have been a lot more convincing and less an insult to the observer, as it would perpetuate some of the illusion of the theatre.

Bway on September 21, 2004 at 1:12 pm

Thanks Erwin for the information. Sad to hear that. I figured as much, because I never heard that they did that like the 175th ST Theater church.

Bway on September 21, 2004 at 1:08 pm

Especially with these type of congregations that is especially true. The owners of the Valencia did cover/remove some of the “nudity”, etc from some of the Valencia’s ornamentation.
Wouldn’t be ironic if when the Valencia closed around 1977, one of it’s last movies was “The Exorcist II” released that year. Ironic enough if the Exorcist itself was played in the Valencia in 1973….

EMarkisch on September 21, 2004 at 12:56 pm

To answer Bway’s question…I do not believe that the theater is capable of showing movies anymore. I took a tour of the Valencia as part of a walking tour of downtown Jamaica a number of years ago. At that time, it was explained to us that the projection booth had been turned into a radio broadcasting studio used to broadcast church services from the Tabernacle of Prayer.

PeterKoch on September 21, 2004 at 12:33 pm

It just occurred to me that there is an irony in many old movie palaces like the Valencia in Queens, and the Loew’s Gates, the Empire, and the Colonial, in Brooklyn, having become churches, in that many conservative congregations and denominations have preached, and warned against many, if not all, movies, for some time now.

PeterKoch on September 21, 2004 at 12:27 pm

Exactly the images I was referring to ! Thanks for re-posting the link !

PeterKoch on September 21, 2004 at 12:10 pm

The brownish, sepia tint of the vintage photos I have seen would also make it difficult. Ditto Loew’s Pitkin.

I have a friend at work, who’s 7 years 8 months older than me, who went to Loew’s Valencia as a kid. The ceiling was so realistic looking, he thought it was the sky !

My dad has similar recollections of the Valencia.