Loew's Valencia Theatre

165-11 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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PeterKoch on May 13, 2004 at 11:25 am

Thank you Warren. I may post that and other comments, like the date of the image of the active Hillside theater in Jamaica, Queens, on nycsubway.org.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 13, 2004 at 11:21 am

I believe that the date of 9/10/1972 on image 5557 is incorrect. Loew’s Valencia didn’t close until 1977 or thereabouts.

PeterKoch on May 12, 2004 at 5:16 pm

Part of the facade, and /or the vertical sign, of Loew’s Valencia, on Jamaica Avenue, is visible at the left side of the following images :


Some of these photos were taken in the late afternoon. It is interesting to see how the direction of the shadows changes with the date (time of the year). These photos face east, and the sun is clearly to the northwest in August 1970 and clearly to the southwest on New Year’s Day 1977.

Image 5557 shows the cross-shaped sign for the “Tabernacle Of Prayer” church attached to the baroque facade.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 27, 2004 at 12:22 pm

Loew’s took over this multi-theatre project from Paramount-Publix after the first two, the Brooklyn Paramount and what became known as the Valencia, had already started construction. The BP opened November 24, 1928, but remained with Paramount-Publix because Loew’s already had a big theatre, the Metropolitan, in downtown Brooklyn. But Loew’s took over the theatre in Jamaica and opened it on January 12, 1929 as the Valencia. Paramount-Publix had also intended to build a large theatre in Flushing and had already purchased a site at the intersection of Main Street & Roosevelt Avenue. Loew’s decided that Flushing was too close to Jamaica, so it canceled those plans and sold the site to a real estate developer, with the proviso that it could never be used for a theatre. Retail stores were eventually built there.

mahermusic on April 25, 2004 at 10:06 pm

Thanks for the info, Warren. Rechecked the books today, and we DO have articles about the Valencia’s opening. I believe I was reading about the Kings, perhaps. (four of the five theatres would then have been correct now, wouldn’t it?)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 25, 2004 at 11:09 am

Please consult microfilm of The New York Times circa January 12, 1929, for advertising about the Valencia’s opening. The theatre was also reviewed in Variety shortly thereafter. A long article about the Valencia with many photographs appeared in the April 1929 issue of Motion Picture Review & Theatre Management…You say that foundations for “four of the five” Wonder Theaters were being poured at that time. Obviously, there weren’t five out of five, because the Valencia had already been built!

mahermusic on April 24, 2004 at 10:54 pm

The opening of the Loew’s Valencia was September 29th, 1929. We hold the Loew’s theatre information ledgers from that time period, which are from the Loew’s Jersey. Furthermore, there are no newspaper articles listing any of the five Loew’s Wonder Theaters before September 7th, 1929.

Which newspaper is your article from that claims the Valencia opened? What is the date of the newspaper? Can you provide a scan of the article/advertisement to back this up? (We find this incredulous because the foundations for four of the five “Wonder Theaters” were being poured in January, 1929…

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 17, 2004 at 4:52 pm

I prefer the vintage photo. The “more current” one suggests that the church is doing minimal maintenance of the Jamaica Avenue facade above the marquee, which is also a travesty of the original.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 7, 2004 at 11:19 am

Please see my comments above about the opening date of Loew’s Valencia as January 12th, 1929. I have newspaper advertising to prove it. The September date is an error that started in a magazine published by Theatre Historical Society of America and has since been corrected by them. The Valencia was actually the first “Wonder” theatre to open if you don’t count the Brooklyn Paramount, which had already started construction when Loew’s took over the project from Paramount-Publix. Loew’s didn’t want the Brooklyn Paramount because it already had the Metropoltian in downtown Brooklyn.

mahermusic on March 7, 2004 at 11:02 am

The Loew’s Valencia, one of the 5 Loew’s “Wonder Theaters” in New Jersey and New York, opened on September 28th, 1929. It was actually the 4th of the five theaters to open. Loew’s Paradise and Loew’s Kings were the 1st and second Wonder Theaters to open, both on the same day, September 7th, 1929. The Beautiful Loew’s Jersey was the third Wonder Theater to open, on September 28th, 1929. The Valencia opened the next day, on the 29th. Loews 175th was the last and final Wonder Theater theater to open, in 1930.

rbarry on February 8, 2004 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for clearing up the mystery of “Mr. Z”. Different era, different time! Thanks!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 8, 2004 at 4:25 pm

“Mr. Z” was Bernard Zelenko. He was the manager who hired me for the ushering staff in June, 1953. About a year later, Zelenko was promoted to district manager, and Edward Brunner was brought over from Loew’s Paradise to replace him as the Valencia’s manager… About thirty years later, I went to the tiny, rundown Thalia Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and found “Mr. Z” selling tickets in the boxoffice! He was probably the manager and filling in for the cashier during his or her break. I didn’t let on that I recognized him, and I doubt that he remembered me. I suspect that he probably lost his job (and tenure) at Loew’s Theatres during one of its changes of ownership

rbarry on February 8, 2004 at 1:55 pm

I also worked as an usher at this beautiful theatre at the age of fourteen I remember the manager known as Mr. “Z”. I then worked at the Astor theatre in New York City for the remaining period of my High School days. I remember as it was yesterday the magic that theatre had for everyone who entered that massive lobby. The box office always made me feel that you were entering a new world. Great theatre!

Roy Barry

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 22, 2004 at 10:50 am

Yes, it could be used as a cinema again, but I doubt that it ever will for as long as the current church owns it. Their services are usually packed to capacity. I’m sure that some people go just to see the theatre’s interior decor, which is mostly intact though garishly re-painted in colors that would probably make John Eberson turn over in his grave. There is also a huge chandelier hanging from the center of the auditorium ceiling, which ruins the “atmospheric” effect.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 18, 2004 at 2:09 pm

Loew’s Valencia first opened on January 12th, 1929, and NOT in September of that year. The opening program was MGM’s “White Shadows of the South Seas” on screen and an elaborate stage show comparable to the best being offered on Broadway. Early in 1935, stage shows were dropped and replaced with double features, which was true of all other Loew’s theatres except the flagship State on Broadway. For several decades, the Valencia was the most successful theatre in Queens, due partly to its location in Jamaica, then the shopping hub of Queens and Long Island, and its “exclusive” status. The programs were first-run for Queens, and shown at least a week ahead of all other theatres in the borough. That began to change in the 1960s with the introduction of “Premiere Showcase,” where the new movies opened simultaneously city-wide. The Valencia was suddenly sharing movies with several other Queens theatres, and also could no longer count on a weekly change of program, which was another reason for its success. The Valencia was also hurt by the decline of Jamaica as a shopping and business center…I’m happy to say that I worked at Loew’s Valencia as an usher from 1953-57 while I was attending college and the theatre was still in its prime. Even though the Valencia seated about 3,600 people, we usually had waiting lines in the enormous “hold-out” lobby on Friday and Saturday nights and all day Sundays. On blockbusters like “From Here to Eternity” and a revival of “Gone With the Wind,” the lines were out on the sidewalk and around the corner on Merrick Road.

William on November 15, 2003 at 1:32 pm

The address for Loew’s Valencia Theatre is 165-11 Jamaica Ave..

Theatrefan on November 2, 2003 at 12:49 pm

The Valencia opened in September of 1929 in Jamaica, Long Island. Architect John Eberson based his design on Spanish architecture motifs. Extensive use of wrought iron railings, ornate tile work, sculpture and murals created a Latin illusion. Eberson deigned the auditorium to resemble a moonlit Spanish garden in festival regalia. Loews closed the Valencia in 1977 and donated it to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 17, 2003 at 1:46 am

The former Loew’s Valencia (one of the 5 Loew’s “Wonder” theaters in NYC) is now known as the Tabernacle of Prayer. The church has done a great job of keeping the interior in immaculate condition (although, I believe some of the nudity and more risque depictions in it’s statuary and ornamentation have been discretely concealed). The intricately detailed exterior facade of the theater was obscured by the elevated tracks of the J train for just about it’s entire existence as a movie theater. Around the time of it’s closing, the tracks along Jamaica Avenue were removed and the glory of the theater’s exterior architecture revealed.

The location is Jamaica Ave just West of Merrick Blvd. The last movie to play here was “The Greatest” starring Muhammad Ali.

JeffLaffel on July 18, 2002 at 10:43 pm

This was a truly magnificent theater! Designed in Moorish architecture,it was long acclaimed as one of the most beautiful theaters in the five boroughs of New York. The Valencia’s ticket booth was under the marquee outside the theater. After buying a ticket, one walked through a long wide hallway, lined with one sheets of coming films. The uniformed ticket taker took your ticket at a bank of doors that opened onto a huge and magnificent lobby. The concession counter was on the left (looking into the theater ) with goldfish pools dotted around the lobby. Inside, the theater was designed to look like Valencia, Spain. On either side of the orchestra section, shadowy silhouettes lined the proscenium, and, best of all, clouds floated slowly across a ceiling sky dotted with twinkling stars. There was a loge and a huge balcony that seemed to go on forever. (If I am not mistaken, the Valencia was the twin to the Paradise Theater in the Bronx.)

The theater offered many sneak previews (at least in the 50’s and 60’s when I knew it), such as FRIENDLY PERSUASION in July of 1955, four months before the film opened its regular run, and hosted personal appearances by such stars as Joan Crawford (with STRAIT JACKET) and Paula Prentiss with THE HORIZONTAL LIEUTENANT.

Many times, when a double feature that had been booked in for a week wasn’t doing well enough, the management would change the show on Saturday afternoon, meaning that if you came for the first movie you could stay for all four!!! (I remember one Saturday in particular when we were treated to NIGHT OF THE HUNTER with Robert Mitchum, DESERT SANDS starring Ralph Meeker, GENTLEMEN MARRY BRUNETTES with Jane Russell and a western!!

The Valencia is now a church, but it will remain always in my memory as one of the magic places.