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This must have been some theater; especially for Camden! I suppose we couldn’t expect Camden to retain their movie thaters when even Philadelphia, right across the river, has only been able to keep one: The Boyd. And even that one is hanging by a thread.
Unfortunately, Camden is so far gone that even if a theater had survived, it is unlikely it could ever survive any economically feasible alternate use. The city is a pit and not many people seem to care about it.
Even on CT, it’s amazing how few comments there are from people who might have attended these theaters in their youth.
At least Jersey City managed, miraculously, to keep not one palace but two: The Loews Jersey and The Stanley. Even better; they’re right across the street from one another.
It’s such a shame. There were many bustling small towns/cities in the 40’s and 50’s and it’s amazing to see how far some have fallen. Specifically, in New Jersey, Camden and Patterson. Other cities like Jersey City and Newark fell pretty hard too, but their geographic nearness to New York is allowing them to rebound as they share in New York’s prosperity. I’ve never been to Camden, but it doesn’t sound like there is much hope there.
Ken, are there still many beautiful old buildings in downtown Camden that someday could be restored like in Detroit and Buffalo or is it a total lost cause like in East St. Louis, Illinois and Gary, Indaina?
Ken…I have a question about the aerial photo. I don’t know if you are familiar with Camden at all, but in the photo it looks like there are two very impressive buildings just across the street from the Stanley. I assume one is City Hall. Are they both still standing or has Camden become one big barren wasteland? (With the exception of the riverfront aquarium and the Campbell Soup Headquarters).
Who isn’t!!!! :)
Also, the intro says that this theater “may be declared a landmark”. May be? If it hasn’t happened by now I can’t imagine that it will be in the future. There appears to be virtually nothing left to this sad city. Regular St. Louis must appear to be Emerald City in comparison.
Wow, I thought Camden, NJ and Gary, Indiana were dumps. East St. Louis seems to outdo them both in urban devastation. If there was ever a city that needed to be leveled and replaced with a park, this would seem to be it. How awful that this is what is directly opposite the St. Louis Arch. What a shame since The Majestic appeared to be such a beautiful structure.
Some possible good news to report! I saw this article below on curbed.com (a major real estate news website in New York) commenting on a potential theater operator interested in The Kings. The source of the article is a local paper called The Brooklyn Junction. The source of the actual information is not provided though they say it is not the NYC Economic Development Authority. Please see below….
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Major theater operator expresses interest in Loew’s Kings Theater redevelopment
A ranking city official told Brooklyn Junction that he has personal knowledge of a “Major theater operator that has expressed interest in redeveloping the Loew’s Kings Theater.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the proceedings.
The source is not an employee of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the body which is in charge of reviewing responses to the RFEI (request for expressions of interest) the city put out on the Loew’s Kings back in September, 2006. He has, nonetheless, been privy to official conversations on the matter.
The “major theater operator” currently expressing interest has, according to the source, enlisted a marketing company to hold focus groups and to study what sort of programming could be supported at the theater.
The source suggested that the EDC, before announcing anything about this proposal, “is trying to put everything together—dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s—because of how previous proposals for the redevelopment of the theater have fallen apart in the past.”
Magic Johnson, the former NBA star, had a plan in 1999 to redevelop the theater as a multiplex. That proposal, which you can read about from the New York Times archives here, is probably the best known plan that fell apart at a late hour.
The estimated cost to physically renovate the theater, which has been lying dormant for approximately 30 years, and shows it in mold, dampness and other wear and tear, is in the neighborhood of 20-40 million dollars.
Brooklyn Junction was unable to independently confirm this report, and would therefore urge readers to consider it to be the reporting on one source’s information, credible though that source is.
If any readers can confirm, deny, add, subtract, or opine on this report, please do so in the comments.
Read some of my other posts on the subject
A&E Video on Loew’s Kings
Loew’s Kings, the plot thickens
Loew’s Kings Theater: Is there hope?
posted by Brooklyn Junction at 8:00 AM
There is a really old church on the corner of 20th St and 6th Avenue in Manhattan that dates to the 1800’s. The congregation dwindled and the curch was abandoned. It sat empty for years until, in the early 80’s, the church was turned into a disco called The Limelight. The church was saved! It was cleaned up and restored where appropriate. The crucifixes and the altar were removed though the beautiful stained glass windows remained and were now lit from the outside so that you could see them clearly from within at night. What an incredible dance space! Dancing under the stained glass gaze af saints! Some people found it disrespectful. I certainly did not. I spent many a fun evening there. It WAS a church that was decommissioned and now found an alternate use and was saved from demolition. Today, some 20 odd years later, the disco is now called Avalon and is still very much with us. The early controversy died down rather quickly. I say Hooray!
Back to the Stanley……
When the JW’s saved The Stanley, they did an incredible thing. They saved this building from destruction. Do I wish that someone other than a religious institution had done it. Yes, but only if the other organization was as determined to restauration as the JW’s were. There are many examples of Churches saving palaces: The Hollywood in Manhattan, The Metropolitan in Brooklyn, The Valenica and The Elmwood in Queens and, of course, Loew’s 175th Street masterpiece. I’m sure there are many others, but these might be the best examples.
I understand that they changed the JW’s changed the serpents heads in The Stanley into roses. Do I like it? Absolutely not! But what I wouldn’t give to have a slightly altered Roxy Theater in Manhattan! How I wish a church had stepped in and saved that greatest of all theaters from destruction even if they had to have a few alterations.
Hopefully, someday, the good lord will tell the JW’s to sell The Stanley and use the proceeds to help the poor and be like their brethren in plainer worship structures. Get them out of the buildings and back to door to door! Then, maybe we can have two Movie Palace/Performing Arts Centers in the gentrifying Journal Square!
The intro says that this theater was remodeled in the 1940’s (auditorium and lobby) but there is no mention of the style or quality of the work. Would a renovation take the theater back to the way it was on opening day or from the 1940’s? I would assume it would be cheaper to get it back to the condition at it’s “modernization”.
Great thought TomR. I would hope that a celebration of Rock Center’s 75th anniversary would include Radio City as well. I would doubt that the Center Theater would even be mentioned as so few people even know that it ever existed. I only found out about it after discovering the CT website a few years ago.
The Beacon is suppossed to be getting at least a $10MM renovation from Cablevision. I haven’t been to the Beacon lately, so I don’t know if that has been done, or more importantly, if it was enough.
Don’t forget the St. George Theater in Staten Island, a 3,000 seat palace a 5 minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry terminal. I’m not sure if they give tours, but it is a beautiful theater.
Hi Geo, I totally agree with you! I think Radio City is spectacular, but I don’t think that you could fairly compare it to theaters like the Uptown or The Roxy. I too find these theaters much more elaborate than Radio City. That is why I have to put Radio City in its own category.
I do plan on touring th Loew’s Paradise in The Bronx as you suggest. I’m facinated by Loew’s Wonder Theaters. Loew’s Valencia was one of my neighborhood theaters growing up and is an increbuly beautiful structure. I had a chance to tour Loew’s King’s last winter and even in its decayed state, it is one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever seen. I’ve attended a film at the renovated Loew’s Jersey and was very impressed. I’m very much looking forward to taking the tour of The Paradise in the Spring and finally visitng Loew’s 175th Street which has become a big concert venue.
I wonder what kind of construction. This theater was spectacularly renovated. The only issue that I had was that all of the orchestra seats had been removed. Maybe they’ll put the orchestra seats back in and enable this theater to actually show movies again. Per my post above from the grand opening, I didn’t see how the theater would make money based on the presentation they had opened with.
So, should Hood & Foulinex be added as the archtictural firm under the Radio City site? Currently, Stone is listed as architect, but the firm is listed as unknown.
I just want to comment on the statements above as to which theater was more beautiful: The Uptown, Radio City or The Roxy. I’ve thought about that many times and I just can’t compare Radio City (which is Art Deco and dates from the 30’s) to The Roxy and The Uptown (which date from the 20’s and were Spanish Designs). They are just too different in style to properly compare. They are all the best of their class and so I chose not to choose. I have not had the opportunity to visit either The Uptown or The Roxy so I can only go by the pictures I’ve seen on CT. As such, I think it is an incredible draw between the two. Radio City stands in an Art Deco league of its own. Another contender would be the Art Noveau masterpiece New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd St; another theater with no equal.
Shouldn’t Donald Desky be added as a joint archtitect to both Radio City and The Center? It is now apparent that Edward Durrell Stone only designed the exterior of both theaters and, though significant, it is the Interiors of these theaters that are the true treasures. Donald Desky should be given his due, if only on this website. Doanld Desky does not appear as an architect for any other theater on this website.
Thanks Warren. Your point would make sense. That would most likely account for why we don’t see any other theaters designed by Stone. He may, in fact, not have had as big an impact into the design of Radio City and The Center as CT implies with the credit above.
I just saw The Kathy Griffin special “Going Straight To Hell” and I was struck at how beautiful the theater was. I waited for the closing credits and saw that it was indeed The Chicago Theater. It was great to see this theater full and looking so beautiful.
I just noticed that Edward Durrell Stone was the architect of both Radio City and The Center Theater. Radio City, of course, is one of the most beautiful theater palaces ever built and The Center appeared to be a stunner as well. It appears that Stone did not design any other theaters (according to my architect search on CT). I wonder why not. I assume both of these theaters (certainly Radio City) were universally acclaimed by architecture critcs at the time. I would assume that Edward Durrell Stone would have been deluged with theater commission offers. I guess the depression would have greatly dampened the demand, but nonetheless, I still find it surprising that he never designed another theater. Any insights are appreicated.
I have many memories of the Palace. I saw one of my first Broadway shows at The Palace; a performance of Man of La Mancha in the late 70’s with Richard Kiley. I remember that it was a Tuesday evening and I was in high school. I was wearing a tie and was horrified that virtually every other man was wearing a jacket and tie. I have never felt more undressed than that evening.
Years later in the mid 80’s I went to see La Cage Aux Folles and it was apparent that audinece dress codes were dropping. This time I was appropriately dressed in a jacket and tie. I remember seeing a couple walk in dressed in JEANS and t-shirts! I couldn’t believe it. The were sitting directly in front of me in the front mezzanine. Just before the end of the first act, as the show stopper “I Am What I Am” is being sung on stage, the woman throws up in her seat! My first thought was, “well I guess that’s why she wore jeans.” They managed to clear out of their seats just before the lights went up for intermission. The girl I was with said to me, “I hope they clean that up before they get back.” I said to her, “They’re not coming back! I wouldn’t come back to my seat if I just threw up into it!” Anyway, the theater staff was excellent and cleaned up the mess before the start of the second act.
No, the underdressed couple didn’t come back.
How times change! Nowadays, people wear jogging outfits and flip flops on planes and are just as bad at the theater. The only night of the week that you see people dress up somewhat is on Saturday nights. However, I did go to see the god awful “Lestat” at The Palace and remember that there was some guy wearing a Tank Top (no it wasn’t summer) and he was sitting in one of the boxes. No Class.
I also forgot to mention in my post above that one of my favorite parts of the show was the mini history lesson on the History of the Music Hall. It actually brought a tear to my eye when they talked about how close the Hall came to being closed forever back in ‘78. Luckily it was saved, literally at the last minute and many generations to come will be able to enjoy this grand theater as we have.
After the show, I walked outside and tried to imagine what it would have been like to have had not just Radio City, but The Roxy down the Street and The Capitol one block away. All with a minimum of 5,000 seats and all with stage shows. All within a single block! Radio City is truly the last of its kind. Since it is the last theater in the world that still presents a stage show, it is the last theater where a patron can truly imagine what it must have been like way back when. The only disappointment is that they don’t have periodic movie engagements.
Nor I! That’s what I mean about the Ziegfeld’s audience enthusiasm and that is what made Dreamgirls such an incredible movie going experience that I will never forget; seeing a film with a thousand other strangers that are truly excited to be there.
I attended the Radio City Xmas show last night and it brought a tear to my eye when they did a little history montage noting how close this theater came to actually closing its doors for good. I’m so glad that we still have Radio City and, more importantly, that future generations will have it as well.
I would hope that The Ziegfeld would be spared as well. It’s coming up on its 40th anniversary and I believe that that is the minimum age for a structure to be landmarked by the City of New York. There is so much movie history in this building and it is worth saving the last true movie palace built in New York. Especially, since we know that they will never be built this way again.