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I lived on Junction Blvd. from 1963 to the mid-70s, and my parents always checked the papers to see what was playing at the Elmwood, Drake, Trylon, Midway, and Continental. My most vivid memory of the Elmwood is seeing Woodstock there…I was totally unprepared for the volume; don’t know if they beefed up the sound system for that or what, but it almost literally blew me away! Also saw Chinatown there — for the second time.
(Besides the theaters mentioned above, there was another local venue at that time: The UA Theatre on 99th St. in the Lefrak City shopping center. It opened some time in the late 60s and never seemed to have a name — it was just “UA Theatre.” And it didn’t last very long.)
I found two references in Jack Sanders' Ridgefield (CT) Time Line 1900s:
1976 – The owner of the Ridgefield Cinema at Copps Hill Plaza promises in December that he wonâ€™t book any more X-rated movies after a storm of protest over showing of Emmanuelle.
1990 – Ridgefield Cinema, the town’s last movie house, closes in August.
(See “Ridgefield Playhouse” for Ridgefield’s only other theater.)
I note that Kevin51 above said the management company will not lease this out because the whole plaza is being sold to redevelopers? I was wondering what was going on, because most of this plaza has been sitting empty for years — not just the theater. In fact, the only stores that remain, unless I’m forgetting one, are I think possibly a hair salon, Jo-Ann Fabric, AutoZone and John’s Best Pizza. The “plaza” actually consists of three separate buildings; the theater is part of the end building in which the only active business is John’s Best. (A corner store in that building appears to be rented as some kind of office or warehouse space.) It’s part of the continually mystifying process whereby existing viable retail space sits empty, while new comparable space is constructed nearby. Years ago, when I worked for Caldor (not in this location) I was aware that Caldor, or at least Carl Bennett who founded the company, owned this shopping center. It was my understanding that he retained the real estate holdings even after he sold the company back in ‘81, but I don’t know for sure if that’s the case or if he still does. Another odd thing is that between the bank and Burger King on Federal Road, there’s a “driveway” that appears to be an unfinished road ending in the high weeds; it looks like if that road were ever completed, it would lead right to this theater. Does anybody know if there was a problem at some point with building a new access road, or if that’s part of the reason this plaza has been in limbo for so long?
I posted under the Kent Theatre that I thought I’d seen my first movie there, but it’s possible it was actually here. We lived off of E. 167th St. on the other side of the Concourse, so the Kent was closer, but I definitely remember walking down the hill on the other side to go to “Low-ees” as my father for some reason always pronounced it. And for some unknown reason, I have a distinct memory (suspect, as all memories from over 40 years ago are) of getting Raisinettes at the candy stand in the lobby of this theater.
My “uncle” Louis Weiner (not really an uncle, but that’s what he was called) was manager of this theater back in the 1940s, before I was born. Around the corner on Belmont Avenue was the apartment building where my aunt and grandparents lived. I saw the theater whenever we visited them in the early 1960s (we lived a couple of miles away) but I never went inside.
The first movie I ever saw was at the Kent — I think. I could be wrong, because I was only about 4 at the time, but I know the movie was “The Mouse That Roared” with Peter Sellers, and at the time we lived several blocks down the hill, off E. 167th St. And I know I did see other movies there, but I’ve forgotten what they were. The theater could be seen out of our sixth-floor apartment window. I have no recollection of the inside of the place, but after seeing the photos linked to above, I was brought right back to my childhood, and that distinctive narrow art deco facade.
I’ve found a slide of the exterior of RKO-Keith’s taken June 25, 1968 on the day of my Intermediate School graduation. It is of virtually the exact same angle as the vintage postcard view shown at the top. What is most striking is that, even by 1968, with the theater essentially intact (single screen) and the interior not yet having gone into decline, the exterior had already been horribly diminished. All of the intricate carvings surrounding the windows are gone. The ornate curved arch marquee had been replaced by a generic, boxy marquee. An ugly rectangular two-sided “RKO” sign had been affixed to the center of the facade, sticking out in the middle of the moorish arch at the top; rust stains from the sign ran down to the center window. In short, it’s easy to see why the building’s exterior was not given landmark status: It was already relegated to a nondescript commercial facade by the late 60s.
Reading all of these posts has certainly stirred up a feeling of nausea, not quite on a scale with the destruction of Penn Station, but of similar quality. I feel fortunate that my graduation from Intermediate School 61 in Corona was held in this theater in June 1968, so I got to see it in all its glory. Unfortunately, what I also remember is that the joy of our graduation was tempered by the overwhelming fact that Martin Luther King (in April) and Bobby Kennedy (on June 6) had just been assassinated, something that cast a pall over everything at the time. My recollection is that I sat in the balcony and when we received our diplomas, we had to walk down a long series of carpeted stairs to make it to the stage. But we were in awe, sitting up amidst the stars — it was much more impressive than any other graduation I subsequently attended. Somewhere I probably have photos taken at that ceremony, that I’ll have to dig up; not sure how much detail of the interior they would show, but if I find anything I’ll let you know!
What exactly happened to this theater remains a mystery to me. I recall that it was still in operation when there was a major storm in 1999 and the theater suffered flood damage. But other businesses that were damaged by the flood reopened; the Cine just never reopened, so I think they decided not to put the money into repairing it and trying to compete with the Loew’s multiplex. The fact that the freestanding theater sign is still standing there — and was illuminated for years after the theater closed — is just bizarre!
The Ridgefield Cinema — if it’s the one I’m thinking of (and it must be because it was the only one open in Ridgefield in the 80s) — was not a classic theater. It was built as part of the Copps Hill Plaza shopping center in the early 1970s. The center was anchored by a W.T. Grant, which soon went out of business and was replaced by Caldor and, in turn, Kohl’s, and a Stop & Shop supermarket. The theater closed in the 1980s and its space was used — ironically — by a Blockbuster Video. Two years ago, in a major reconstruction of the shopping center, the entire leg of stores that included the old theater was demolished to permit Stop & Shop to increase parking and expand to a Super Stop & Shop. Smaller stores that remained were moved to a new satellite building. All traces of the theater are gone, but I recall it being a totally nondescript, charmless, beige box. But I did see Mel Brooks' “Blazing Saddles” and Woody Allen’s “Love & Death” there.