Laurelton Theatre

227-10 Merrick Boulevard,
Laurelton, NY 11413

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Showing 26 - 43 of 43 comments

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 25, 2007 at 11:01 am

I think that some degree of upward slope in theatre vestibules and ticket lobbies was a rather common feature. The terrain around the Laurelton Theatre is pretty flat. It was probably necessary to raise the floor of the foyer and rear orchestra for the slope down to the screen. This way, fire exits behind the screen would let out right at ground level. If there were no slope up on the way in, the slope down towards the screen would put the screen end of the auditorium several feet below grade.

PKoch on September 25, 2007 at 7:24 am

Yes, I DID enjoy, Ed Solero. Thanks.

“Castle” as in “Castle Of Frankenstein”, if not “William Castle” ?

I remember those films advertised in the backs of those monster magazines. I feared disappointment because they were not the entire film, but when I finally saw the “Bride of Frankenstein” excerpt, I enjoyed it. Running through your entire catalogue reads like watching lots of trailers, which try to pack the most exciting moments of a film into about thirty seconds.

Did your mother throw out all your old monster magazines ?

I read this page on the way home last night. Good work by all who posted on it. My only other comment is about the steep slope of the floor in front. Natural ground ?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Glad you enjoyed, PKoch. Those Castle Films, by the way, had no connection at all to William Castle. I used to think they did, but after looking it up on the internet a few years back I learned otherwise.

I remember those Castle films came in both 8mm and Super 8 and some had sound! I never had a sound projector, so that latter option was never a consideration. They also came in varying lenghts – the small reels that ran about 4 minutes and the larger reels that ran about 8 or 10 minutes. Whenever I passed a camera store with my folks or grandparents (or in a department store with a film or camera department) I’d beg them to let me go pick out a new film! The covers were great because they used the original poster art for the films. I had a bunch of the old Universal horror flicks in varying lenghts. “The Invisible Man,” “Frankenstien,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” “Son of Frankenstien,” “Frankenstien Meets the Wolfman,” “House of Frankenstien” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstien.” Also had “Dr. Cyclops” with Albert Dekker (and in color), “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and the 1950’s sci-fi flick “Tarantula” with Leo G. Carroll. Because they were so condensed, we could run through our entire catalogue at the block parties in just over an hour! What fun that was! I’m sure I still have some of those films in their original boxes stashed away somewhere in my basement.

If I could only find my old Monster Times newspapers and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines!!!

PKoch on September 24, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Ed Solero, thanks for all the details of Laurelton. Yes, I remember those 8 mm projectors and excerpt reels. A Middle Village boyhood pal of mine had them : we watched Karloff in “Bride Of Frankenstein”.

Let’s hear it for William Castle gimmick movies ! It would have been fun duplicating the gimmicks ! Percepto, Emergo, Punishment Poll, ambulance waiting, blood pressure taken …

I’m reminded so much of Ridgewood and Bushwick in the ‘50’s, '60’s and '70’s.

“As pride of ownership went by the boards, the remaining white families moved out and a number of concerned black families followed suit.”

Blacks as well as whites : interesting !

That’s quite a front of opposition to the Laurelton Theater showing porno !

The community history from the Queens Library site reminds me of those excellent N Y Times articles about NYC neighborhoods :

“If You’re Thinking Of Living In Laurelton ….”

The only person I know from Laurelton is a Patricia Barnes, about 5 to 10 years my senior, an earlier baby boomer, born 1945-1950.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Just to correct an error from my post above. It was not the “Neighborhood Association” that picketed the Laurelton Theatre for showing porn, but a “Federation” of some 180 block associations from the community!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2007 at 11:42 am

Warren, a definite possibility. However, while my area of Laurelton was not developed until the 1930’s, the area to the west in the 220’s had been developed by the 1920’s. The theater is located in this older section, so may have been completed by the late ‘20’s in anticipation of plans for further development to the north and east. According to the local library’s website, there were 3,000 residents in Laurelton by the 1920’s. However, that number would increase tenfold over the next decade.

Also interesting to note on the library site that development of the area had begun as early as 1905. The community history detailed on that site provides a more thorough dissemination of facts than I did above.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2007 at 11:30 am

The Laurelton that my family moved to in 1973 was a quiet tree-lined neighborhood of tidy mostly detached Spanish-inspired stucco two-story homes. My understanding is that this section of homes (south of Merrick Blvd and east of 230th) was built in the 1930’s on the site of a former golf course. North of Merrick Blvd, the homes were mainly capes and colonials built of brick and on the western edge near 225th Street were the larger (and older) frame-construction colonials that dated to the early 20th century when the former farmland was first developed.

The area had a large African-American population (probably 50% or better by ‘73) but still had a reasonable mix of other ethnicities – including those of German, Irish, Italian and Jewish descent that had dominated the neighborhood in earlier decades. I remember the Jewish Synagogue on 228th Street was still a very active facility when I attended grade school across the street at PS 156. Today it is a Church. There was a very strong and active PTA at 156, with many parents also involved in the Neighborhood Association (the very same organization that had picketed in protest when the Laurelton Theater briefly switched to a XXX porn program). Block parties were an annual summer tradition throughout the nabe. My mom would run a cord from the stoop-light outlet of our home to power our 8mm home movie projector at the curb, where she’d run my collection of Castle Films titles (remember them before home video?) for all the kids on the block. Great times.

Merrick Blvd was the main commercial strip – with plenty of shops and services within easy walking distance of our house (which was three blocks from the strip on 231st Street near Francis Lewis Blvd). Not only could I walk to the Laurelton Theatre near 228th Street, but there was an awesome German deli on 230th, the Public Library on 225th, Stan’s Hardware on 229th, Martin Paints on the next block, the great Twin Ponds Bakery off 234th, the Bike shop on the corner of 233rd and – best of all – Gail & Larry’s Candy Store across 233rd from the bike shop, which had an old fashioned counter where one could order real fountain sodas, ice cream floats and egg creams (Yum)!

I remember before Merrick Blvd was completely re-paved and the traffic islands were added, one could still spot the old trolley car tracks and ancient paving stones peaking through spots were the road had been worn down.

The community had always been well-kept because most of the folks living there were property owners. Laurelton had been subject to the nefarious real estate scheme known as “blockbusting” that had been perpetrated by unscrupulous brokers who would exploit racial fear among the white homeowners in the area, convincing them that the influx of blacks to southeast Queens (which had begun after WWII but really picked up in the early ‘60’s) was bringing land values down. The whites were scared into selling and fleeing to more remote suburbs while the brokers themselves would steer prospective black homeowners to the area. I feel that the real problems began when investors starting buying up a number of homes in the neighborhood and started renting them out (often illegally letting individual rooms to low-income tenants and welfare recipients). As pride of ownership went by the boards, the remaining white families moved out and a number of concerned black families followed suit.

Bway on September 24, 2007 at 11:01 am

These are very interesting photos! I wish I could see some historic ones to compare to, but it looks like most of the theater is completely intact in the church conversion. it’s a shame that the original ceiling partially collapsed, and they had to be a drop ceiling in, but most of the detail aside from that appears to survive.

PKoch on September 24, 2007 at 9:46 am

Hi, Ed. Here I am, here’s a “bro” hug for you, haven’t had a chance to read this page yet, carefully and in depth, but I will, on the way home this evening. As a Ridgewood boy, fresh from near the centroid of Brooklyn + Queens, “spoiled” by having lived in a “packing crate” over a major mass transit hub, it will be interesting to take a trip to a small neighborhood movie house (there’s that term “nabe” again, rearing its ugly head !)in deepest, darkest southeast Queens.

I’ve passed by Laurelton many times by car and on the LIRR but have never walked its streets.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 22, 2007 at 7:42 pm

That’s what I figured, Lost. I was just curious since an organ installation would have likely dated the theater at least 4 or 5 years earlier. I find that theaters built in the ‘30’s are typically more streamlined and deco-inspired than the Laurelton appears to be.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 21, 2007 at 7:59 pm

The build date for this theatre is listed as 1932 on (a site maintained by CUNY Center for Urban Research with data drawn from various agencies and City departments), but those are usually just estimates. The only C/O I can find for this building was a temp issued in 1978 when the theatre was converted to a church. The architecture – at least in my mind – would seem to date the theater at least a few years earlier. Unless, the designers were simply not enthusiasts of the art deco movement. The interior looks more like a restrained Greek revival perhaps? There are exposed ceiling beams with decorative molding and carving in the lobby/foyer space. It is now painted a thick coat of white – I can’t recall how these were painted when I attended. The auditorium walls are now mostly stucco with a drop ceiling installed after the original plaster started to fall. Luckily, the forward walls around the proscenium are original (albeit thickly painted in white with gold trim) and notable for four fluted Corinthian columns and decorative medalions.

Lost Memory… Would you happen to know if and when a theatre organ was ever installed here? There are decorative arches between the columns on either side of the proscenium that might have once housed organ grills – but I’m not entirely convinced of that.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 30, 2007 at 8:44 am

And I forgot to welcome you, Lost, to yet another in the series of long conversations I’ve been having with myself in the pages of Cinema Treasures!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 30, 2007 at 8:13 am

Lost… It must have been for a very brief period of time. I lived in the neighborhood from ‘73 – '84 and I can’t really recall it as a porn theater, though one of my childhood buddies seems to recall it as such. I know I saw some legit films there as late as 1976 and that by 1978, alteration permits were already filed to convert to house of worship.

Here’s a passage from the full article you posted:

“The owner of the theater was told by federation officials that the block associations and their captains, who meet every month, were unhappy about the pornography. The theater owner said he had no choice. He had to play the pornographic films because he had to make a living.

The federations’s representatives, who prefer conciliation to confrontation, said they understood. They persuaded him to change his bill and got a bank to buy tickets for children for Saturday matinee movies. Another bank agreed to make available a bus for elderly people during the week.

The federation said that, if pornogrpahic movies were shown, one or more residents would be outside the box office with cameras all the time, photographing anyone who bought a ticket. So the profit went out of pornography."

Well… Obviously the bank couldn’t buy enough children’s matinee tickets to keep the theater afloat for very long.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 11, 2006 at 6:44 pm

Here’s my new Laurelton Theater photo album. I reorganized my photobucket account and the links I previously posted no longer work.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 24, 2006 at 10:29 am

Correction – obviously, the church took over in the late 1970’s (based on the C of O for altered use issued in ‘78). I also should have noted that all of the chandeliers hung throughout the auditorium were done so by the church and were not a part of the original decor.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 24, 2006 at 10:18 am

So, I took my son for a tour of the old neighborhood with camera in hand and saw that the front door to the former Laurelton Theater was open. We poked our heads in and a very nice gentleman by the name of “Valentine” (I believe that’s what he said) asked if he could be of help. I explained about my growing up in the area and how I used to attend this theater with some regularity back in the ‘70’s and wondered if he might let me take some photos once the congregation had finished with its prayer meeting – which he was more than happy to allow. I came back after 20 minutes or so (took the time to poke around my old grade school) and met some of the congregants who were wonderfully receptive – and with whom I shared some neighborhood memories.

Anyway… I was surprised to find that there was some significant architectural detail to the place that I just didn’t remember as a kid. It’s all been painted a thick coat of white (save for some gold paint at the top of the 4 corinthian columns in the auditorium) and the old plaster ceiling fell in on the place about 3 years ago (no one was hurt) and replaced with the drop ceiling depicted in the shots below.

The lower facade and entrance seen in the 1st photo was built out sometime after the church took over in the 1980’s. Behind that new wall is a small outer vestibule on a steep incline and the original glass theater doors. There is a hole in the drop ceiling in the vestibule (the last photo below) where some of the original plaster detail is visible. Beyond these doors one is in the former and fairly deep ticket lobby/vestibule, in which is displayed a model of the planned renovations to the church (which will incorporate some attached store fronts on Merrick and remodel the facade to a more sleek and modern design). The floor here continues the steep slope of the outer vestibule – in fact, one of the glass doors is severely cracked from a recent incident with a runaway piece of sound equipment.

Through another set of glass doors lies the old foyer where the concession stand used to be (the outline of which can still be made out in against the left wall in the “Foyer” photo below) and where a set of stairs at the far end leads up to the rest rooms and projection booth (there was no balcony). The photos of the auditorium speak for themselves. Note the “overhang” pictures from the rear of the auditorium. Apparently, the projection booth level hung over the last few rows of the orchestra (which might explain why I thought there might have been a balcony). Some coat closets installed in the foyer have encroached a bit into this area, but the decorative molding is still in view and in pretty good shape under the paint.

Here are the photos:

Exterior shot
Rear view 1
Rear view 2
Church signage
Rear auditorium & projection booth
Left arch & columns
Right arch & column
Rear auditorium overhang
Overhang molding
Molding detail
Panel over proscenium
Foyer ceiling molding detail
Ticket lobby/vestibule
Behind drop ceiling in outer vestibule

There was never a stage here, but the church was able to make use of some utility space behind the old screen to build their pulpit area. NYC records show that the structure was built in 1932 (though I would have guessed the ‘20’s) and that a C of O altering the use to “church” was issued in 1978. The proposed renovations for the building will not alter what is left of the auditorium at all – the church plans on keeping it more or less as it appears today. The bulk of the remodeling will include a redesign of the facade, refurbishing the foyer, replacing the doors and breaking through into the adjacent store fronts. The church is on a tight budget.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 28, 2005 at 4:12 am

Passed by the other night, but didn’t have my camera. The address should be corrected to 227-10 Merrick Blvd, Laurelton, NY 11413. The marquee is gone, but the building is still there and in use as a church. A large illuminated white cross hangs perpendicular to the facade above where the marquee used to be – I believe the lettering reads “Evangelical Temple.”

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 8, 2005 at 9:03 pm

The Laurelton theater was a small neighborhood cinema on Merrick Blvd (it doesn’t become Merrick Road until it crosses East over the Nassau County border and out of New York City Limits) on the South side of the block between 227th and 228th Streets. This being Queens, the address would have been 227-something as the first set of numbers before the dash always represented the cross street in Queens. I lived in the area in the 1970’s and early 80’s. The building is still there and a friend of mine said recently that it is used as a church. I recall that this theater showed double features for a time in the mid-late ‘70’s and would often show vintage cartoon or live action short features before the features. The double bill would often feature a recent hit film on it’s 2nd or third run backed up by a action flick (often one of the so-called “blaxploitation” films of the early '70’s, I suppose to cater to the largely African-American population in the neighborhood). I recall seeing “Jaws” in the summer of '75 along with a Woody Woodpecker cartoon and the Fred Williamson actioner “That Man Bolt”. I also saw a reissue of “The Taking of Pelham 123” a year or so later along with a Three Stooges short and a B-flick called “Framed” starring Joe Don Baker. You walked in to a small and rather dark narrow lobby with a candy counter against the left wall and the doors leading you in to the back of the auditorium were along the right wall. There was a balcony, if I recall, though I never sat up there.