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Wasn’t the Austin on Austin St. In Kew Gardens Qns? It was a porno joint in the mid-1980s – I knew someone who worked there, he said an old woman owned it at that time…
Patsy- sorry for delay in responding – While I have been to RCMH, I have never been to the Christmas Show there – I didn’t grow up in NYC and therefore never was taken there as a kid, as were most kids who did grow up here – as an adult I’ve never gotten around to it.
At Loews we had a ‘Code of Conduct’ poster that was posted near the entrance and ticket taker, but we only put it up when we had a picture that attracted a particularly raucus crowd.
According to the 1999 Loews directory, the correct address is 290-4 Walt Whitman Mall, Huntington Station NY 11746 – 1 screen – 770 seats – with a mono sound system – highest ticket at the time was $7.25 – Manager was J.P.
The Ziegfeld Theatre on Sixth Ave. only had 1660 seats?? I think that seat figure has to be incorrect… from photos I’ve seen in the book “Lost Broadway Theatres” by Nicholas VanHoogstraten it has to have somewhere in the neighborhood of three or four thousand seats, however the book doesn’t list seating capacity. Other major theatres of the era like Loew’s State, The Strand, Capitol and Roxy had huge capacities. Consider that the late Loews Astor Plaza (opened in 1971) that we are all familiar with, had 1528 seats at opening – and the old Zieg had only 132 seats more? Can’t be. Does anyone from the THSA on this site have a more realistic seat count?
WHO WAS MARCUS LOEW?
Born May 7, 1870 to immigrants from Germany and Austria, Loew’s childhood was mired in the same poverty that gripped most of the community around him in New York’s Lower East Side. His fatherâ€™s income as a waiter could not adequately support the family so at the age of six years old, Marcus began working selling lemons and newspapers.
At the age of nine, he quit school and held various jobs until he opened his own company at the age of 18, buying and selling pelts. Unfortunately, Loewâ€™s new business was destroyed in less than a year, with $1,800 left in outstanding debt. Loew paid back the debt by becoming a fur salesman, a position he later held with Herman Baehr. Under Baehr, Loew made frequent trips around the country, including several in the Midwest where he met two other furriers, Adolph Zukor and Morris Kohn. Loew and Zukor soon became lifelong friends.
In 1903, Zukor and Kohn joined forces with penny arcade operator Mitchell Mark and opened Automatic Vaudeville, a penny arcade on 14th Street in New York City near Loew and Zukor’s fur businesses. The venture was an immediate success and when Automatic Vaudeville decided to expand to other cities, Loew and his friend David Warfield purchased a single $20,000 share in the company.
Loew and Warfield sold their stake in Automatic Vaudeville in 1904 and founded the People’s Vaudeville Company. With $100,000 invested in the business, Loew opened his first arcade at 172 West 23rd Street near 8th Avenue.
Loew opened three more arcades in New York and another arcade in Cincinnati, Ohio. On a trip to visit his Cincinnati location, the Penny Hippodrome, Loew was invited to visit nearby Covington, Kentucky where he witnessed his first motion picture show in a converted arcade. Loew immediately decided to open up a similar venue on the second floor of his Penny Hippodrome and the 110-seat venue attracted 5,000 patrons in its first day alone. Following its success, Loew returned to New York and converted his arcades to nickelodeons.
In April 1907, Loew purchased a disreputable Brooklyn burlesque house, known as Watsonâ€™s Cosy Corner, and after refurbishing it, reopened it as the Royal Theatre for vaudeville and motion pictures, a combination exhibition policy that dominated the companyâ€™s venues through the 1920s. By mixing lower priced vaudeville with the growing popularity of the movies, Loew was able to attract a wider audience than either format could draw alone.
In 1910, Loew’s first newly built theater, Loew’s National in the Bronx, opened with a seating capacity of 2,397 patrons at a cost of roughly $400,000. Meanwhile his Marcus Loew Booking Agency, which booked vaudeville artists into theaters across the country, was also yielding a tremendous profit.
By the end of the decade, Loew formed a new corporation for all of his many companies, Loewâ€™s, Inc., valued at $100 million. In 1920, 80 million patrons had visited Loewâ€™s 150,000 seats in theaters across North America.
With the development of Paramount and First National as vertically integrated companies, Loew could see that access to product and talent was becoming more and more critical to his future success. In January 1920, Loew purchased the Metro Pictures Corporation and began his foray into the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was an early success and movies now became the primary source of amusement in his theaters, with vaudeville taking second place in importance.
By 1921, Loew’s unveiled the first of many movie palaces to be built around the country during the 1920s. Loew also ventured into radio, taking over WHN in New York, which broadcasted out of the newly opened Loewâ€™s State building at 45th & Broadway.
As Loew continued to open more and more theaters, he quickly found himself needing more and more films to fill the screens of his theaters. In April 1924, Loew solved this last piece of the Loewâ€™s puzzle when he created Metro-Goldwyn, a $65,000,000 merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and the Louis B. Mayer Company. The merger with Goldwyn Pictures not only brought with it the studio in Culver City, as well as the production company and its assets, but also a group of theaters including the 5,300-seat Capitol Theatre in New York City, and other theaters in the Midwest, the Rockies, and California.
At the peak of his power, just as MGM was in its formation and the Loewâ€™s chain was expanding, Loewâ€™s health began to fail him. In 1924, he gave up the day-to-day operations of Loewâ€™s, Inc. to longtime general Nicholas Schenck and sought rest, primarily on his sprawling Pembroke Estate on Long Island.
On August 12, 1926, Loew was honored by the Consul General of France with Franceâ€™s Legion of Honor for his contribution to film production and exhibition.
On September 5, 1927, Marcus Loew, after a long period of illness, had a heart attack and died in his Pembroke Estate. Variety wrote famously at the time, “Show business is prostrated, in sackcloth and ashes”.
Although Loew died at the age of 57, he had already been working for more than five decades and in that time had helped elevate movies from their early position as a crude form of entertainment to become both a respected art form and one of the most powerful industries in the country.
A position, thanks to 100 years in the movie business, Marcus Loew and the company he founded have helped maintain to this day.
—from the Loews website
Correction on the previous post – the California circuit that Anschutz bought out of backruptcy was Edwards, not Act III – sorry for the error….
That is an opening in the curtain with the fire exit doors inside. If you look close you can see the push-plates on the doors. These doors have since been painted black, as has been the ceiling.
This link is also posted on the Loews State (New York City) page, but there are pics of the interior and exterior of the Tower East (72nd St. East) taken when it was new in 1962.
The 2 Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 35mm/70mm projectors and the Dolby mag-stereo equipment from the then-closed Murray Hill were brought over here and installed for ‘The Last Emperor’ when the film moved over from Cinema I.
Regarding the table-tops mentioned in the description above – In those days when General Cinema was using the Griggs pushback chairs, they used 4 or 5 different width seats, and the little ‘tables’ were actually spacers – in a space not wide enough for a seat but too wide to leave it empty. That way, all the aisle-ends were the same distance from the aisle carpet, even though the rows of seats were offset from one row to the next so you wouldn’t have the head of the person in front of you blocking your view. When Griggs went out of business and GCC switched to other seat manufacturers, the spacers were eliminated.
…and lets not forget the turnstile at the lobby entrance, adding to the subway atmosphere….
What the Ziegfeld has is a stadium, which is the technical word that theatre architects used. Today the public thinks of that word meaning the entire auditorium on steps.
Years ago when big-splash premieres were done as a reserved-seat benefit with hard tickets at the Ziegfeld and Cinema I, the seat locations on the ticket were “Orchestra” or “Loge” and the row and seat number.
In the big old palaces where there was a real balcony (a cantilevered structure over the orchestra with the seats on steps), the seats were divided into loge (in the front), mezzanine (middle) and balacony (at the top), with the sections divided by cross-aisles.
They want the theatre owner to pay for the equipment (last I heard, about $60,000. per screen, probably less now) that will enable the distributor will save the cost of manufacturing, shipping and storing prints – and that is not going to happen. Even if they get it to look exactly like film, the theatre has nothing to gain other than saving the cost of having an usher make up a show. Plus, they are going to have to have all the bugs worked out of it – theatres that got burned with the original SDDS unit, a $15,000. piece of junk, are going to be wary…
As long as it still stood, there was a chance, granted a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless, that it rediscovered and have a new life.
Nick and Justin had the Adonis? I knew they had the D.W. and the Cinema Village, and that little porn joint on 3rd ave & 12th, and the Cinemart in Queens, but I didn’t know about the Adonis.
Porn saved the Tivoli for 20 years more or less intact. Otherwise it would have been demolished or gutted and converted to a supermarket as soon as they stopped showing general release film in 1970. In the end, it did come down, but it’s life had been extended.
CConnolly – there was a good thing to an old theatre going porn – as long as the owner was able to make a few bucks with porn the theatre at least remained in existance with hope that it would be rediscovered. Without porn houses these days as soon as a theatre becomes obsolete for regular film they are either gutted for other uses or demolished.
Nobody has said that the Cinemas is being torn down – only that they are altering it possibly to prevent landmarking. True, without landmarking and given their track record you could assume that it may be torn down in the future, but at this time that has not been stated.
The D.W. is still open under a different name and showing an Asian film series.
Today only megaplexes are being built by the major exhibitors, and require a huge site, something else in short supply on the upper east side. A small chain or independent operator who wanted to build a 3 or 4 screen art house on a modest sized site or convert an existing space would probably not have enough clout to get the zoning changed.
I should have said ‘4 screens’. The Manhattan Twin, though I forget the name of it at the time, had regular porn on one side and gay on the other. The D.W.Griffith was the Cine Malibu and played porn. Closer to 3rd Ave on the north side of the street next to McCreedys shoe store was the Lido East, another porn house. After it closed they made a Mexican restaurant called Zona Rosa in there, and now I think it is a carpet store.
As far as changing the zoning back to allow theatres, I would imagine it would have to be done the same way as it was done earlier – the residents would have to get the local community board to prod the city council to make the changes. A developer of a large project may also be able to petition for a zoning change on a particular piece of property.
br91975 – As I recall from conversations with Mr. Geller, the architect of the Cinema 1 2 3, the zoning area applied to the area of 1st Ave. west to Madison, and 57th St north to 79th St. The First & 62nd theatre sits on the corner, yet the entrance and address is on the side-street, instead of the more desirable avenue.
When we were renovating the C1&2 in ‘87, the projection booth for the third theatre was to have been centered on a mezzannine above the auditorium entrance. This was disallowed by the DOB as it was adding square-footage to the building. We were allowed to put the booth on a raised platform 5’ off the floor since the space below, a little more than 4' high, was not considered “usable” space, therefore it did not add square-footage.
sethkino, there will be no new movie theatres in the neighborhood due to the fact that in the late 70s or early 80s the area was re-zoned to prevent it, at the insistance of the local community board. At that time there was concern about the area becoming another Times Square, the 4 theatres on 59th St. were all porn operations. The new zoning probibited any new theatres from built, and the existing theatres could not add any square-footage to their premises, and if any of the existing theatres were heavily damaged due to fire or some other disaster they were not allowed to be re-built. As far as I know, that zoning is still in effect.
The last time I was there this was a working-class neighborhood, old, but well-kept, not far from downtown Pgh via the Fort Pitt Tunnel or Liberty Tubes. Potomac Ave is a very steep street coming up from Banksville Road – so steep in fact, that there is no sidewalk – it is a stairway next to the avenue up to the top of the hill. And TomB is correct – parking is a big problem in the area.
Pacific Theatres, owners of the Cinerama Dome in L.A. also owns the Consolidated Amusements chain in Hawaii, so the movement of equipment from this theatre to the Dome was basically an internal transfer.
Pacific Theatres, owners of the Cinemrama Dome in L.A. also owns the Consolidated Amusements chain in Hawaii, so the movement of equipment from this theatre to the Dome was basically an internal transfer.