Loew's Valencia Theatre

165-11 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 19, 2004 at 12:50 pm

The first program shown on the Valencia’s new “panoramic wide screen” in July, 1953, was a double bill of “The Juggler” & “Last of the Comanches.” It was actually the last day of that show, but the new screen was installed the night before and tests were done all day to make sure that the projection lenses and the adjustable masking surrounding the screen were working correctly. Everything was being shown with a 1:85 to 1 ratio. The “official” unveiling was the next day with the debut of a double bill consisting of “Sangaree” & “Girls of Pleasure Island.” “Sangaree” posed an additional problem, because it was shown in 3-D with Polaroid glasses. But I don’t recall any mishaps. All I remember are Arlene Dahl’s heaving bosoms practically bursting from their low-cut gowns into the audience.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 19, 2004 at 6:58 am

Peter, “The Ten Commandments” was still a Broadway “roadshow” by the time that I stopped working at the Valencia in June, 1957. But it did eventually play there as a single feature at slightly “advanced” admission prices.

BoxOfficeBill on August 18, 2004 at 2:18 pm

O, and “Strategic Air Command” with “Moonfleet”: a good example of how a second feature could sometimes tower over the top billing (though Anthony Mann has his fans, as many currently at Lincoln Center will surely attest).

BoxOfficeBill on August 18, 2004 at 2:11 pm

That’s a wonderful list of double features—I’d forgotten most of the second-billings. Did “Member of the Wedding” accompany “On the Waterfront” the first time around? or was it a re-issue for both? (I remember seeing “Waterfront” at the B'klyn Fox on New Year’s Eve ‘54, but definitely not with “Member”; sometimes Loew’s changed the second feature after the main attraction left the Fox or B'klyn Paramount.) And “Fear Strikes Out” was a pretty classy (though incongruous) accompaniment to “Funny Face” (I remember the latter as the Easter show at RCMH in '57—sublime!) As a Brooklyn kid, I never visited the Valencia, not even after I grew my own wings thanks to subway tokens. I definitely missed out on something good.

PeterKoch on August 18, 2004 at 1:50 pm

Warren, what about “The Ten Commandments”(1956) ?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 18, 2004 at 1:47 pm

During the 1953-57 period that I worked as a part-time usher at the Valencia, these were some of the most heavily-attended double features. (Bear in mind that in those days, the Valencia did not show releases from Warner Brothers, 20th Century-Fox, RKO Radio, or Disney-Buena Vista, which were divided up between the RKO Alden and Skouras Merrick.)
“War of the Worlds” & “The Big Leaguer"
"Roman Holiday” & “The Last Posse"
"Stalag 17” & “Francis Covers The Big Town"
"Mogambo” & “Affairs of Dobie Gillis"
"The Caddy” & “The Vanquished”
“The Long, Long Trailer” & “Tennessee Champ"
"Living It Up” & “Southwest Passage"
"Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” & “Go, Man, Go!"
"Rear Window” & “Pride of the Bluegrass"
"Sabrina” & “Yellow Tomahawk"
"On The Waterfront” & “Member of the Wedding"
"The Barefoot Contessa” & “Operation Manhunt"
"Three Ring Circus” & “Crest of the Wave"
"Vera Cruz” & “Twist of Fate"
"Bridges At Toko-Ri” & “Hell’s Outpost"
"The Country Girl” & “Geraldine"
"Blackboard Jungle” & “Top of the World"
"Strategic Air Command” & “Moonfleet"
"Love Me Or Leave Me” & “Canyon Crossroads"
"We’re No Angels” & “Far Horizons"
"Not As A Stranger” & “The Big Bluff"
"To Catch A Thief” & “The Gun That Won The West"
"Desperate Hours” & “Lady Godiva"
"The Tender Trap” & “Crooked Web"
"Marty” & “Top Gun"
"I’ll Cry Tomorrow” & “No Man’s Woman"
"The Rose Tattoo” & “The Houston Story”
“Man With the Golden Arm” & “Timetable"
"Picnic” & “Uranium Boom"
"Godzilla” & “Quincannon, Frontier Scout"
"The Man Who Knew Too Much” & “Lawless Street"
"Forbidden Planet” & “Thunder Over Arizona"
"Trapeze” & “Hot Cars"
"Pardners” & “The Leather Saint"
"High Society” & “Showdown At Abilene"
"The Solid Gold Cadillac” & “Storm Center"
"Teahouse of the August Moon” & “The Cowboy"
"Funny Face” & “Fear Strikes Out"
"Gunfight at the OK Corral” & “The Buster Keaton Story"
"Lust For Life” & “Accused of Murder."
During that period, there were occasional single features with "selected short subjects,” including “Moulin Rouge,” “From Here to Eternity,” “The Caine Mutiny,” “White Christmas,” War and Peace,“ "Knights of the Round Table, "Guys & Dolls,” and a revival of “Gone With The Wind” (sans short subjects).

Bway on July 20, 2004 at 2:19 pm

I remember walking by on the sidestreet in the early 80’s, and the side doors to the “Tabernacle of Prayer” being open. I couldn’t believe the ornateness of the the theater. Unfortuntaely, I had never seen a movie there.

PeterKoch on July 20, 2004 at 2:01 pm

Jim Mannix, I will look forward to you posting your mother’s memories. “Gorgo” must have been awesome, on the Valencia’s huge screen, and booming sound system ! My dad was going to take me to see it at the Ridgewood Theater (which see on this site), in the Queens neighborhood of the same name, where we lived, but I was only six, and he was afraid I would be scared, so he didn’t.

Good comment about the ceiling ! The Valencia was one of those extremely ornate movie palaces in which, if the film was of insufficient interest, one could always enjoy looking at the decor !

My dad remembers the Valencia’s beautiful ceiling, as does a friend of mine, age 56, who, as a small boy, thought it really was the sky !

JamesMannix on July 20, 2004 at 1:03 pm

I visited the Valencia many times as a child, my grandparents lived within a somewhat long walking distance…my mother recalls seeing lots there..once I get more of what she remembers I will supply. Last film I saw there was Gorgo but like any film I wistnessed there it had better be good as most of the time I gazed at the ceiling with wonder.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 11, 2004 at 7:25 am

The idea for a large “super” theatre in Jamaica actually started with a group of local businessmen who tried to interest the major movie companies into building one. Paramount-Publix was the most excited, and the project was announced to the trade press on March 12, 1927, nearly two years before the Valencia finally opened on January 12, 1929. In the interim, Loew’s took over the project…For those with access to microfilm, a review of the Valencia’s opening and first stage show can be found in weekly Variety’s issue of January 30, 1929, page 45.

George11433 on June 26, 2004 at 7:19 pm

gb My own Valencia Excerpt

My grandmother and mother used to take me to the Loews Valencia on 165th St. Jamaica Avenue. I don’t remember much about our trips. The last involvement my mother had was when she sent me with my buddies and the oldest brother; Vic, Ant and Johnny. Johnny was older; he was about 16 and knew the security guard. We kept the money for food.
I remember the smell of beer and weed. The food was great; the rest rooms were better kept ten I expected. My mother also took me regularly to Radio City Music Hall at Rockafeller Center, for under $3.75 back then. There, and the Valencia were my favorites. The movie we viewed was a Karate flick, where they completely dismembered their victims in mid air. I don’t remember the name.
The last flick I remember seeing was with Ant and Vic. It was King Kong. We admired the gold fish, ate our pop corn, and walked back home. The afros were thick, the velvet black art was popular, Evil Kenevil was on the model Zenith System III, and Fly Robin Fly was the hit, followed by Twenty-Five Miles from Home… Sneakers were only $8.99, for the popular Keds, the Uptown model…
Then it seemed that crime was taking over and the economy was loosing. Radio City Closed down, I kept the program. The Valencia closed. I was just a kid and didn’t know why. Then The Jamaica Tabernacle of Prayer opened up, starting a new development trend that is still booming. We all know Radio City doesn’t have a show with a movie anymore, and the price all over town jumped. The little spot in front of the store, for the man to display a cardboard box with cologne, is worth $400 per month this year 2004.
The Jamaica Tabernacle is rollin’… Community service, outreach, ministry, in beauty… I understand there are historians who would expect other forms of maintaining the edifice. Now, this is me thinking, why don’t you pay for the work to be done? Otherwise, it is still a church. I don’t know about the finances in this church or your church, but as a visiting deacon who visits many churches, even the rich churches have their finances limited.
Santa Monica Church by York College was demolished, but they preserved the face of the building to be the entrance of what I believe will be the nursery. Mario Cuomo was an alter boy there, and I was baptized there. I remember the pews and furnishings had hand carved paws for feet.
Presentation of the BVM Church on Parsons Blvd. once boasted the best pipe organ with music I used to hear when I walked by. I know it’s not only expensive to maintain as an instrument, but the temperature and humidity had to be maintained as well. The pipes are velvet coated from the interior, as you experts know, and for it to work properly, the environment had to be perfect.
I plan to visit the Jamaica Tabernacle this coming month, July. It started about 9 am, praise and worship started when the first person showed up and grabbed the mic. By the end of two hours, the whole choir and band joined in. Then the first speaker was an hour. Offertory was an hour, where you get a chance to eat. I snuck out for a street shish-ke-bob, or a hot Jamaican beef pattie in cocoa bread.
Then the next speaker had about an hour, before the main speaker came out. Pastor Ronnie Davis is a mighty man of God. You may think that’s long. We’d get out at about three or for in the afternoon, but it was a blessing. After all, it is a Sabbath “day”….


Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 24, 2004 at 12:04 pm

The Alden first opened as a Shubert playhouse and wasn’t intended for movies. RKO eventually took it over because it was the only way for the circuit to enter downtown Jamaica. No space was left for the building of a new theatre. Unlike the Valencia, which was exclusive first-run for all of Queens, programs at the Alden were only first-run for the Jamaica area. You could also see them at the RKO Keith’s Richmond Hill, RKO Keith’s Flushing, and some Century and Skouras houses that played day-and-date with the RKO circuit.

rbarry on June 24, 2004 at 11:29 am

I to remember the cartoon Satuday’s at the Alden. I’m going back to 1946-48. yes the Valencia was just across the street. And a good thing that was!

KenF on June 23, 2004 at 7:56 pm

The splendor of the Valencia stood in stark contrast to the drab and uninviting Alden directly across the street. What disappointment we felt when a picture we wanted to see was booked at the Alden! After the long bus ride from Bellerose, and the permanent gloomy twilight under the Jamaica Avenue el, we often abandoned our plans and went to the Valencia, regardless of what was playing. The Alden used to sponsor special showings for kids sponsored, I guess, by local merchants. We were never too eager to attend, knowing we would sit there in the dank auditorium and dream of the Valencia, so near and yet…

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 23, 2004 at 6:45 am

In the “old days,” Loew’s had its own shop in the Bronx where all posters and display materials were custom made. In the case of the Valencia, after use, all the lobby posters went to the Hillside, which ran the same programs two weeks later. In the long lobby that led from the street to the auditorium, the Valencia also had back-lighted display cases built into the side walls for signs (hand-painted on canvas and attached to wooden frames) that announced the coming attractions for the next several weeks. Since none of the other Loew’s theatres had these display cases, the signs were eventually thrown out with the trash. On major movies that had opened on Broadway at the Capitol or Loew’s State, the Valencia inherited the big “overhead” signs that were designed for display across the street entrance and above the boxoffice. They were delivered by truck and required several workers to install them…As I might have mentioned before, the Valencia had a full-time engineer whose only responsibility was to take care of the heating and cooling systems. During the air-conditioning season, he reported to work at 7AM to start the “plant” so that the theatre would be cooled by the time of the 11:15 boxoffice opening. Wet-bulb thermometers were placed throughout the theatre to keep track of the temperature. Every hour, the engineer or chief usher would make the rounds and mark down the temperatures in a daily record book. (It should be noted that there were actually two engineers, one on the day shift and the other replacing him in the late afternoon. Once a week, they worked both shifts to give the other a day off.)

EMarkisch on June 22, 2004 at 4:23 pm

My first encounter with the Valencia was in the summer of 1950, when they played “Scared Stiff” with Martin and Lewis. The stars twinkled and the clouds drifted across the atmospheric sky…a first time experience not to be forgotten. Other memorable films that come to mind were the 1956 reissue of “Gone With The Wind”, a reissue of “Duel in the Sun”, “La Strada”, “Two Women” and the special reserved engagement of “The Ten Commandments”.

The Valencia had the best air conditioning of all the Jamaica theaters. Whatever their system was, the whole theater was like a giant meat locker. Still remember waiting in front of the theater for a bus on a hot summer’s day and feeling a blast of cold air every time someone opened one of the lobby doors.

Also recall that in the early 50’s, before using studio generated posters in their display cases, posters were created by either an in house art department at the Valencia or, more likely, an art department within the Loew’s Theaters organization. Some were quite unique and certainly added a touch of class to the whole operation.

JimRankin on June 19, 2004 at 5:35 am

While the VALENCIA was not Eberson’s greatest work, it still stands as one of the largest and nicest former movie palaces in the nation, and when I saw the modern color photos of it on page 188 of David Naylor’s “American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy” I was intrigued to see the draped plaster figures of ladies inside niches forming the vault of the proscenium arch, but horrified by the treatment of the giant chandelier then suspended directly above the balcony rail, just as though it were hanging in nothingness from the ‘sky.’ They may not use the little electric ‘stars’ anymore, but the very least they could have done when installing the scaffolding to drape the figures and hang the chandelier, was to paint on the ceiling an angel with his hand outstretched to appear to be holding up the chandelier!! Without this little touch, the huge fixture just falsifies the interior. Church or not, they could do something as small as this to retain some of the imagination of the artists who conceived the place. By the way, Naylor’s book can sometimes be obtained at www.Amazon.com or via Inter-Library Loan at most libraries.

jflundy on June 18, 2004 at 4:57 pm

During the Second World War there was a tremendous increase in movie going in North America.

Thaters which had closed during the Depression were reopened and the number of daily showings increasded in the busiest areas. In Canada children were banned from theaters for the duration to free up seats for adults involved in the war effort. Some theaters ran the program around the clock to cater to defense workers working the swing and graveyard shifts. ( Canadian comic books went to black and white printing, producing copies of USA color comic books for local consumption to save resources for the war).

Circa 1943 Loews paved over the orchestra/organ pits in several theaters to allow more revenue producing seats in response to demand. You had to see the crowds lined up in the lobbies and out onto the street waiting for a seat.

Back then, people would come in at any time during a show and leave when they reached the part they came in at. This was common, the way it was done, incompehensible to today’s people but part of the movie culture back then.

The Valencia was altered at this period in history, burying the organ console.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 18, 2004 at 1:42 pm

The vintage postcard, which was obviously hand-colored, gives a rather idealistic view of the Valencia’s entrance. The marquee was smack up against the framework for the Jamaica Avenue elevated subway, which was apparently airbrushed from the original photograph. Fortunately, the Valencia’s auditorium was far enough enough removed from Jamaica Avenue that you couldn’t hear the trains when performances were going on.

bzemanbz on June 3, 2004 at 12:12 pm

Warren, you’re right about the placement of the console. It was in the far left portion of the orchestra pit. The pit had a concrete floor built over it, but if you went down under the stage, you could still get through a small doorway into a chamber under the floor which was where the orchestra lift and the organ console lift were still extant. The console was there, although in very poor shape. The pipe chambers up in the auditorium were on either side of the stage in the large structures that resembled Spanish Villas. The chamber on the left was entered from backstage, but the one on the right had to be entered via a door on 165th Street.

PeterKoch on June 1, 2004 at 12:35 pm

Thanks, guys, Warren and elliston and brother. Wow, ushers two to three years before I was born ! You read like contemporaries of Carol Burnett ! I remember her saying she saw “Strangers On A Train” hundreds of times due to her job as an usherette / candy girl, and that was 1951.

My favorite line from “Moulin Rouge” (I saw it at Thalia Soho, Fall 1987), the REAL “Moulin Rouge”, with Jose Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec, both father and son, not that putrid farce of a remake with “No Coal Kid Me” (see it with “Eyes Tight Shut”), was when that ingenue, or whatever she was, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor, says, “Dahling, zey come to luke at my bwoken heart !” and Toulouse the son, the artist, says, with perfect insouciance and world-weary ennui a la George Sanders, “But my dear, it’s been broken SO MANY TIMES !!!”

Reminiscent of Johnny Carson needling her to her face, “Any gal with a drip dry wedding dress can’t be all bad !”

Of actors working today, I think Alan Rickman could best deliver that line now. Similar to how he said, “By Grabthar’s Hammer … what a saving !” in 2000’s “Galaxy Quest”.

Yeah I know this comment belongs on the Internet Movie Database but I wanted you guys to read it.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 1, 2004 at 12:04 pm

Elliston, I vaguely remember you and your brother. I started on the day shift, and I think that you were both on the night shift. Ida Magerkirth was the daytime chief of service, and Frank Keane at nights. You must have left soon after I arrived. The first show that I worked on was “Sombrero” & “The Girl Who Had Everything,” followed by “Small Town Girl” & “Remains To Be Seen.” “Moulin Rouge” came right after that, playing as a single feature with short subjects added. The opening date of “Moulin Rouge” was June 10, 1953.

rbarry on June 1, 2004 at 11:43 am

I was an usher at the Valencia in winter of 1952 to June of 1953 with my twin brother. The movie playing was “Moulin Rouge”, “I Love Melvin!” and numerous others I have since forgotten. Mr “Z” was the Manager. We were both freshmen at Boy’s High in Brooklyn. In July of 1953 we both worked at the Astor and Victoria theatres in Times Square. Stayed there until graduation in 1956.. Great time!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 30, 2004 at 9:19 am

I was obviously misinformed about the organ at the Valencia. When I first started working there as an usher in 1953, an electrician told me that the organ was buried under cement when they filled in the orchestra pit to make room for more seating. I was horrified, and thought he might just be joking, so I asked the manager for confirmation. Perhaps to make me feel better, as well as to protect those responsible, he told me that the organ had been sold to someone who installed it in their home on the North Shore. In the four years that I worked at the Valencia (the last three as chief of service on the evening shift), I had unlimited access to the theatre, including the walk-in safe in the manager’s office, and I never saw any evidence of an organ being on the premises. And it was certainly never played, or I would have known about it. Presumably, it was encased in some sort of protective covering before the cement was installed. Photos taken of the Valencia’s auditorium when it first opened in 1929 show that the organ was at the far left of the stage opening, and had a separate lift from the one for the orchestra.

bzemanbz on May 28, 2004 at 1:13 pm

I would think it was a 4/23 or 4/28 rather than a 4/73 (which would make it bigger than the Wurlitzer in RCMH! It definitely was not removed in the 30’s; it went to his studio in Rosedale in 1965 where it remained until the house was sold after he passed away. I was there with Pete and others who removed it in ‘65 and helped to releather the combination action and chest pneumatics to make it playable. It had a Wurlitzer roll player, Moller roll player and Aeolian Duo-Art roll player attached so it could be played in the absence of a live organist since neither Pete nor most of the guys who restored it played. Needless to say, there was never any lack of ways for it to be heard. Gaylord Carter, Jeff Barker, Calvin Hampton and C.A.J. Parmentier (of ROXY fame) were among the many well-known organists who visited.
The last I heard of it was that it was going to the Sanfilippo residence, but I’m glad to hear it will stand on its own eventually. ‘nuff said…