RKO Alden Theatre

165-16 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Ed Miller
Ed Miller on July 13, 2011 at 11:26 am

I was no longer traveling in the Jamaica area in the early 80s, and I distinctly remember the Alden being closed soemtime in the 70s. This can all be easily explained, however. Maybe it was closed for a time, and then reopened as a multiplex.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 8, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I’ve seen the same RKO block ads from 1980 and 1982 and also found the Alden missing – but the Alden still shows up in movie clock listings in those same newspaper editions. It is entirely possible that the Alden was operated independently its last few years. The listing I referenced above did not cite “RKO Alden,” merely “Alden 1,” “Alden 2,” “Alden 3” and “Alden 4.”

robboehm
robboehm on July 8, 2011 at 4:19 am

I found a ad for RKO Century Warner which is laden with theatres from RKO, Mann, Prudential and whatever, circa 1981. RKO Keith’s in Flushing is on but not the Alden. Also, among the missing from earlier ads are the Merrick (Jamaica) and Queens & Community (Queens Village). The Lynbrook by that time had reverted back to Skouras/UA.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

The Alden was definitely divided in four at some point and lasted several years beyond the Valencia. I have clippings from the Daily News in March of 1982 that show the Alden 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the movie clock listings. By October, 1985, the Alden has dropped off movie clock listings in both the News and Newsday.

robboehm
robboehm on July 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I believe rafaelstorm may be right about the Alden remaining a single screen to the end. The Valencia, Merrick, Savoy, Hillside and all the others theatres along Jamaica Avenue in Queens and Jericho Turnpike in Nassau went out as single screen theatres.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 6, 2011 at 3:43 am

The bus terminal behind Loew’s Valencia is still there and operating. That site is now directly opposite the chief branch of the Queens Public Library, whose Long Island Reserch Division is a great place for finding information about Queens and Long Island theatres.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on July 5, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I have to take exception to the profile that states that the Alden was turned into a quad. Not in my excellent memory bank, it wasn’t. It closed around the same time as the Valencia, across Jamaica Avenue, but while that theater was given a rebirth as a church, the Alden just remained a hulking derelict, without ever being divided. I used to catch the Q-5 bus at Hillside and 169th, and ride it all the way to the end of the line, in Rosedale, and the bus route passed right next to both theaters. As a matter of fact, there was a bus terminal behind the Valencia, and the Q-5 would sit there for about ten minutes, before moving on its route. Gone are the days!

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 12, 2010 at 4:53 am

I just came across this very interesting page. I especially liked the great photo posted last June 4th by J.F. Lundy. As one who frequently rides the Q-54, the current embodiment of the old trolley line depicted in this picture, I could just imagine traversing the long, Jamaica to Williamsburg Bridge Plaza route, in that ancient tram.

A question that came to mind while perusing this page is why more modest movie houses like the Alden survived longer than their more elaborate competitors, like the Valencia. The same point can also be made regarding the Astoria and the Ridgewood on the one hand and the Triboro and the Madison on the other.

My guess is that the more elaborate palaces were initially considered just “too beautiful to twin” – a paraphrase of “too big to fail” – at the same time that their more modest competitors bent to the economic realities and sub-divided themselves. This bought the latter some additional time, while the uneconomical single screen marvels just could not survive the modern era. This reminds me of something I learned years ago in my college geology class. In studying the old fossils, I noticed that the most elaborately developed species also proved to be the ones that were most vulnerable to extinction when climactic conditions changed. The less elaborately developed species, on the other hand, adapted to these changes far more successfully.

While exceptions to this “rule” certainly exist – I remember seeing a film at an already divided Bronx Paradise during the mid-1970’s – I thing it stands up pretty well – especially in Queens. Any ideas?

Bway
Bway on December 12, 2010 at 2:24 am

David, there were photos of the current interior posted in the past above, but I didn’t check to see if the links still work. In the meantime, here’s a link to one photo, the top photo is the Valencia as a church:
View link
The theater is completely intact, and well maintained. The colors they have chosen to paint the interior is a little garish, but it’s better than the alternative, which would be not maintained. It still looks good.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on December 10, 2010 at 7:52 am

The Carlton was also originally a “legit” playhouse and known as the Cort Jamaica, but larger and more ornate than the Alden. But it was too many blocks from the heart of the shopping district to ever be succssful with plays, vaudeville, or movies.

DLC
DLC on December 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

Interesting comment by T'toes. Thanks. My recollection is that each theater had its own magnificant architectural feature. Sounds, however, like the Lowes Valencia was the architectural winner. Has anyone posted interior photos of any of the theaters?

There has been some mention on this site of the Carlton Theater, several blocks to the east on Jamaica Avenue. My family went there back in the ‘50s to see the Red Badge of Courage. The total admission cost for the four of us was less than a dollar. The cost for my sister and me was, I recall, 9 cents and probably 25 cents for my parents. Years later, my sister’s wedding reception was held in that recycled theater, which by then was a catering hall.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on December 10, 2010 at 4:45 am

David, the Valencia was the one with the gold fish pond, as well as the magnificent ceiling with twinkling stars. The much smaller Alden was a rather plain theatre built originally for “legit” plays as the Shubert Jamaica.

Bway
Bway on December 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I have no idea what remains of the Alden, but the Valencia is fully intact, and used as a church.

DLC
DLC on December 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

The two theaters (Lowes Valencia and RKO Alden) were directly across from each other on Jamaica Avenue. One had a magnificant ceiling with twinkling stars; the other had a beautiful goldfish pond in the lobby.

As a kid in the 1950s I would walk with my friends on Saturdays to partake in the current fare: cartoons, the news, coming attractions, and a double feature, usually westerns.

When technicolor films started to become more common it was always a treat to see a movie “in color”.

Since we never paid attention to scheduled starting times, we would arrive whenever and then leave when the picture re-played and remind each other that “this is where we came in”. It never bothered us that we did not have full continuity in seeing the day’s movies.

It would be wonderful, if there is anything left to preserve, if those magnificant old theathers could be restored to their former glory.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 5, 2010 at 4:54 am

Great photo! That day was part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Directly across the street, Loew’s Valencia had another return of “Gone With the Wind” in an exclusive Queens engagement.

jflundy
jflundy on June 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm

November 28, 1947 photo by Ed Doyle with Metropolitan Avenue Car on Jamaica Avenue running to 168th Street.
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297maujer
297maujer on May 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I think this became a DMV.

RobertR
RobertR on April 17, 2009 at 7:34 am

Jamaica Avenue entrance
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The side marquee after the closing
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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 14, 2009 at 10:25 am

Just re-registering for alerts with this link:
View link

Bway
Bway on April 6, 2009 at 4:22 am

Do any of the architectual features of the Alden remain in the store is being used as? What is it today?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 10, 2008 at 10:39 am

Here’s a new link to an image of the auditorium in 1943. Very little had been changed in the fifteen years since the Alden first opened as a playhouse called the Shubert Jamaica:
View link

PKoch
PKoch on September 25, 2007 at 11:40 am

Try this, also see links in my post of May 12 2004 :

http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?24041

Asher
Asher on September 25, 2007 at 11:32 am

I am in need of pictures of this theatre badly. Please respond if anyone has any original pictures of this theatre.

Asher
Asher on September 19, 2007 at 7:23 am

I would like to know if anyone has original pictures of the theatre and the building on 165th Street. The picture from WARREN which is a clipping of a newspaper article is great!

www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/shujam28.jpg

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 9, 2007 at 7:14 am

The Alden started its RKO affiliation on October 5th, 1934, which coincided with the annual “Jamaica Day,” when all the stores offered huge bargain sales. The RKO Alden’s opening week attraction was the Ann Harding soaper, “The Fountain,” supported by four short subjects and an RKO Pathe newsreel. At the time, Loew’s Valencia presented a stage show as well as a feature movie, so the RKO Alden was forced to charge lower admission prices, which were from 10 to 20 cents less, depending on time and day of the week. The RKO Alden’s highest price was 35 cents on Saturday nights, when Loew’s Valencia charged 55 cents. On weekdays, the Alden opened at 10 in the morning, and charged 15 cents for all seats until 1 PM, while the Valencia opened at 11 AM and charged 25 cents until 1PM. While those prices seem ridiculous now, don’t forget that 1934 was one of the worst years of the Depression.