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I agree that the Duffield was no movie palace— not ever. It was just a side street movie house with second or third run movies. The “Big Four” in downtown Brooklyn were the Albee, Metropolitan, Fox, and Paramount, with the Strand just a notch below that.
Designed by Thomas Lamb with 2,900 seats, it first opened in 1920 and was the largest theatre in Queens until the building of the Keith-Albee, Flushing, and Loew’s Valencia, Jamaica, near the end of the decade. Originally owned by the vaudeville chain of Ward & Glynne, the Astoria Theatre was purchased by Loew’s in 1923. In 1931, when Loew’s opened the larger and more spectacular Triboro Theatre only a block away on Steinway Street, it continued to operate the Astoria to stem competition. Unfortunately, Loew’s had to reduce the Astoria to move-over status, playing the same movies as the Triboro but two weeks later. That continued until 1940, when Loew’s entered into a secret “pooling” arrangement with Skouras Theatres, which took over the ownership of the Astoria and returned it to first-run status with films that normally played the RKO circuit (which had no outlet in Astoria). The boxoffice takings of the Triboro and Astoria were combined and shared equally by Loew’s and Skouras. This continued into the early 1950s, when, as a result of the federal anti-trust action against most of the major movie companies, the Astoria Theatre landed under the sole ownership of Skouras Theatres (a name eventually phased out in favor of United Artists Theatre Circuit)…I recently visited the Astoria Theatre site and seriously doubt that anything of the original interior remains. Even the backstage area has been converted to stores or offices.
The theatre was designed by Herbert J. Krapp and first opened in December, 1928, as the Shubert Jamaica, presenting stage plays direct from Broadway or in trial productions. Barely a month later, the spectacular Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened directly across the street. Attendance fell so drastically at the Shubert that its lease was sold to Mutual Burlesque, which was soon shut down by the police after complaints from Jamaica’s many churches. With the onset of the Depression, the theatre went dark until October 17, 1930, when it re-opened under local ownership with movies and vaudeville. To expunge its slightly notorious past, it was re-named the Alden Theatre in honor of John Alden, one of the Puritan fathers. Several years later, RKO Theatres, which had no outlet in Jamaica, took over the Alden and also built a new entrance and marquee on Jamaica Avenue directly opposite the Valencia’s. Previously, the Alden’s entrance had been on 165th Street, though a marquee remained there in addition to the new but smaller one on Jamaica Avenue. Unfortunately, the RKO Alden had to contend not only with competition from Loew’s Valencia but also from the nearby Century’s Merrick, which had contracts with some of the studios that normally played the RKO circuit. A compromise was made whereby Skouras Theatres, which had ties to RKO, took over the Merrick’s operation and the boxoffice takings of the Merrick and Alden were shared equally by RKO, Skouras, and Century. Thus, program changes at the Alden and Merrick tended to be every other week, rather than weekly as at the Valencia.
The Willard Theatre first opened on November 26, 1924, and was the first theatre that the Loew’s circuit actually built in Queens. Its only other theatre in Queens at that time was the Astoria, which Loew’s purchased from its original owners, Ward & Glynne, in 1923. The Astoria first opened in 1920…The shell of the Willard still stands, but the interior was completely gutted in the 1950s for a catering hall that remains in business to this day.
The Canal was in Spanish baroque style, but it did NOT have the “atmospheric” touch of an auditorium ceiling decorated like the midnight sky with floating clouds and twinkling stars. As far as I know, only two theatres in Manhattan were in the true “atmospheric” style, RKO Proctor’s 58th Street (Third Avenue), which was designed by Thomas Lamb, and Loew’s 72nd Street (Third Avenue), which was mostly by Lamb but with some contributions by John Eberson…The Canal was built by Loew’s Theatres, which operated it until the 1960s when it became an “indie” before its eventual closure. As Loew’s Canal it was never successful, probably due to its location east of the Bowery. The movies that played there were usually at the end of their circuit run.
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.
The 2,200-seat Elmwood was designed by architect John Schladitz and first opened in 1928 under the name of the Queensboro Theatre. It was the first theatre in Queens in the so-called “atmospheric” style, with the auditorium walls similar to those of a medieval castle, and the ceiling like the midnight sky, with twinkling stars and floating clouds. Due to its independent ownership and the then under-populated neighborhood, the Queensboro was never successful and was closed more often than open during the Depression and the WWII era. In 1946, the Interboro Circuit purchased it and re-opened it as the Elmwood Theatre, with slight change to the auditorium but with a new and modern marquee, boxoffice and entrance lobby. As the neighborhood rapidly grew after WWII, the Elmwood began to prosper, mainly because it could offer free parking in the empty “lots” behind the theatre…The new church ownership seems “solid as a rock,” and I doubt that there is any chance of the building being re-converted into a theatre. But I do know that the new owners are trying to restore some of the original interior decor, which was heavily damaged during the multiplexing.
This is NOT an atmospheric theatre.
Designed by Thomas Lamb, it is similar in decor to Loew’s State, New York City, and Loew’s Metropolitan in downtown Brooklyn.
This is NOT an atmospheric theatre. You possibly have it confused with the atmospheric Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.
Some of this information is incorrect. The Sutton was built before WWII, though I don’t have an exact date. At the time, it might have been the only movie theatre on 57th Street, but there were eventually others: the Festival, south side of 57th between Fifth & Sixth; the Normandie (later Playboy and now Screen Directors Guild) and Little Carnegie, both south side between Sixth & Seventh Avenues); and Lincoln Art (later Bombay and Biograph and now a Morton Williams Associated supermarket),north side between Seventh Avenue & Broadway).
The Universal Theatre was the first atmospheric in the Greater New York area and was designed by John Eberson. It was supposed to be part of a national circuit owned by Universal Pictures, which unfortunately couldn’t get product other than its own and after just a year sold the theatre to the Loew’s circuit, which re-named it the 46th Street Theatre. As both the Universal and Loew’s 46th, it housed vaudeville + movies until the introduction of talkies, when it started showing movies only.
This theatre was designed by Thomas Lamb. Much of your info is incorrect. It was only briefly known as the 51st Street Theatre during some of the Depression years, when Warner Brothers sub-leased it for plays, concerts, etcetera. As soon as the Depression was over, Warners re-claimed it as the Hollywood and made it a showcase for its most-important releases such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Casablanca.” When the movie of “Life With Father” in 1947, it was re-named the Warner Theatre and then the Mark Hellinger when it was sold to house stage plays. The Warner Theatre name was then transferred to the Strand Theatre (B'way & 47th Street) when it dropped its stage show + feature film policy for movies only.
Loew’s State was designed by Thomas Lamb in the Adams style. For many years, it was the most famous vaudeville theatre in the USA except for the nearby Palace.
The movies shown at the State were always secondary to the vaudeville program and for the most part were “move-overs” from the Capitol, Paramount, or other Broadway houses. In 1946, vaudeville was finally discontinued at the State and it became a first-run theatre, mostly for MGM product until the studio and Loew’s circuit were “divorced” by Federal decree.
This theatre is an atmospheric design by Thomas Lamb and first opened on Christmas Day, 1928. Lamb built it simultaneously with Proctor’s 58th Street in Manhattan (now demolished), which was also an atmospheric but different in decor from Keith’s Flushing.