Jamaica Theatre

155-16 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Showing 26 - 34 of 34 comments

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 27, 2005 at 8:21 am

Here’s a 1941 image of the facade. By that time, the Fox logo had been removed from the top of the vertical sign. The double feature had previously played at the nearby Merrick. I think that the vaudeville was only part-time (weekends and some evenings), but I’m not sure:

EMarkisch on July 11, 2005 at 8:45 am

Warren…Many thanks for the splendid photo of the interior of the Jamaica Theater circa 1947, as well as all the other theater interior photos and newspaper ads that you have been sharing with us of late.

The photo was probably taken during the period when the Jamaica was presenting “third rate” vaudeville during the late 40’s. It was also during the time when they were part of the “subway circuit” of touring Broadway shows during the summer months. The increased use of the stage in both instances probably accounts for their springing for the new stage curtains.

My recollections of the Jamaica go back over 50 years. I am amazed at how vivid the murals appeared in 1947. I still remember the one above the proscenium arch in a rather faded condition around 1953/54, but not the ones on either side of the arch. But then it could have been the lighting and tricks of memory after all these years.

Can you post any interior photos of the Carlton, Alden, Merrick, Rialto/Savoy and Hillside?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 11, 2005 at 7:00 am

Here’s a 1947 image of the interior. I doubt that the stage curtains were the original from 1913, but the rest of the decor probably is:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 15, 2005 at 7:06 am

In February, 1931, the Jamaica Theatre was being advertised as “Formerly Fox” and home of Mutual Burlesk. The current attraction was “Banner Burlesquers,” featuring comedian Rags Ragland, with two performances daily at 2:30 and 8:30 PM. The Jamaica’s competition included “The Bat Whispers” and vaudeville at Loew’s Valencia, “Passion Flower” and vaudeville at the Alden (not yet RKO),
“Little Caesar” with shorts at the Merrick, “The Boudoir Diplomat” with shorts at the Savoy, and “The Royal Family of Broadway” with shorts at Loew’s Hillside. Brandt’s Carlton was presenting the stage play, “Father’s Footsteps.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 30, 2004 at 4:40 pm

After the Fox bankruptcy, the Jamaica Theatre fell under Skouras management. When Skouras took over the better situated and larger Merrick Theatre, the Jamaica was downgraded to a second-run situation. The Jamaica was “modernized” in the late 1940s, but the changes were mainly to the marquee, entrance and lobby.

Bway on August 30, 2004 at 4:23 pm

Thanks Erwin. Your description of it does sound very similar to Fox’s other theater, the Ridgewood. Before it was “multiplexed” into 3 and then 5 theaters, the Ridgewood also was “nothing really special”, but did have a “certain ambience” to it, as you describe the Jamaica, and the Ridgewood also was in need of repairs before it was cut up.
If the Jamaica was already “needing maintenence” in the 50’s, it sadly didn’t have a long life as a viable and well kept theater, probably because of all the competition in the Jamaica area.

EMarkisch on August 30, 2004 at 3:20 pm

Bway…The former elevated station was the 160th Street station. The theater was located in essence near the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard. The rear and stage housing was on Archer Avenue. The stage door was on Parsons Boulevard up from Archer going toward Jamaica Avenue. The entrance to the theater was a few doors west of Parsons. There was a long inner lobby which led to the auditorium. If memory serves correct (after 50 years), the interior was not too exciting. The overall color was brown with some faded murals above and to the sides of the prosenium arch. In retrospect, the theater may not have been taken care of all that well at that time since it closed in 1957. It was also located on the same block due east of the Savoy, which was directly across from Kings Park.

I have fond memories of the Jamaica. 21 color cartoons on a Saturday matinee, touring Broadway shows on the “Subway Circuit” during the summer and vaudeville in the late 40’s. The theater may have been old, but it had a certain ambience to it.

Bway on August 30, 2004 at 2:10 pm

Which former elevated station was it located near – Sutphin Blvd or 161st St?
What is on the former site currently if anyone knows? I’m trying to picture where this theater was located before being demolished.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 20, 2004 at 3:37 pm

This was originally the Fox Jamaica Theatre. Designed by Thomas W. Lamb in the Beax Arts style, it first opened in 1913 and was the first “deluxe” theatre in Jamaica, with around 1,750 seats. When Fox went bankrupt, it fell under Skouras management as simply the Jamaica Theatre. After the heyday of vaudeville, what passed for it at the Jamaica Theatre was third-rate, supporting late-run movies and just to compete against the Valencia, Alden and Merrick, which were the area leaders. The address was 155-16 Jamaica Avenue. The entrance was adjacent to an elevated subway station.