Loew's Triboro Theatre

2804 Steinway Street,
Astoria, NY 11103

Unfavorite 10 people favorited this theater

Showing 76 - 100 of 105 comments

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 23, 2005 at 10:27 am

BoxOfficeBill: Thanks for the Mickey Rooney suggestions. I looked up “Quicksand” on Amazon, and it doesn’t seem to be the movie I’m thinking of. I wonder if I’ve mixed up Mickey Rooney with another actor? Or perhaps it wasn’t a carnival or circus, but something else that seemed to me — a kid — to be a carnival or circus side show? (Maybe it was a horse racing stable?)

It’s funny how memories are, though. In my mind it is a relatively vivid image (I can see them in some kind of hayloft), and I distinctly remember being none too pleased with the fact that my father seemed to be laughing so much and so thoroughly enjoying this scene in the movie (as though he was putting all kids — including me — into the same category as the kid on the screen).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 22, 2005 at 11:31 am

The Grand is probably the theatre mentioned by Benjamin. It was operated by the Skouras circuit for almost all of its theatrical life. The Ditmars was not far away, but a much smaller “indie” theatre. Both theatres were close to the Ditmars Boulevard station, which is the first/last stop on the elevated BMT subway (current N and W trains).

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on March 22, 2005 at 11:17 am

Benjamin— here’s M. Rooney’s filmography for ‘53-'57: “Off Limits” (a Bob Hope service comedy), “Drive a Crooked Road” (M as race-car driver), “Atomic Kid” (M filled-up with uranium), “Bridges at Toko-Ri,” “Bold and the Brave” (war action), “Francis in the Haunted House,” “Operation Mad Ball” (Jack Lemmon service comedy),“Baby Face Nelson” (gangster bio). None of these fits your description. In 1950, Rooney acted in “Quicksand” as a hapless car mechanic needled by Peter Lorree, who runs a penny arcade. I don’t know whether the arcade bursts into flame at the end, or whether there’s a child actor involved.

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 22, 2005 at 9:59 am

Ken: From reading that webpage, the “Grand” seems to be the theater I’m thinking of (e.g., 2,178 seats seems about the right level of grandeur).

Sorry, that was my mistake regarding the addresses. Although I grew up in Queens, the street numbering system has always given me a problem, and with my map being cut in half, I read the map wrong.

Looking at the map again, Ditmars seems to be the equivalent of a 22nd Ave., and the next street to the south is 23rd Ave. I think the hyphenated addres works as follows: the first number reflects the number of the cross street at the north end of the block, and the number after the hypen relfects how far that building is from the northern end of the block (with odd numbers being on the eastern side of the street).

So, if I’m reading the map correctly this time, an address for the “Grand” at 22-15 (closer to 22nd St. and on the eastern side of 31st St.) and for the “Ditmars” at 22-68 (further away from 22nd St. and on the western side of 31st St.) would seem about right. (Although I don’t have any personal recollection of the “Ditmars” at all.)

Thanks again for your help! It seemed so strange that such a large theater (which was so bustling and full of life in my memory of it in the mid-1950s) was so much “under the radar.” But since it apparently closed in the mid-1950s, one can see how it more or less fell off the map. But I guess it’s the same as the Jamaica Theater west of Parsons Blvd. on Jamaica Ave. — except that that one closed before I ever saw it in operation.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 22, 2005 at 8:34 am

Benjamin;
Try looking at the Grand Theatre /theaters/630/

I was just about to add the Ditmars Theatre but have now held back. My F.D.R. actually gives an address as 22-68 31st Ave but thats quite a way from Ditmars Blvd so I thought it could be a mis-print? Reading what you have just posted here and whats said about the Ditmars on the Grand Theatre page, i’m not so sure now. Maybe as a local you will know better than me and post a correct entry for the Ditmars.

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 22, 2005 at 8:21 am

P.S. — I haven’t been to that area in ages, but looking at the Hagstom, the particular block that I’m thinking about seems to be a double-sized block. (For some reason, 32nd St. discontinues at 23rd Ave. and then starts up again at Ditmars.)

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 22, 2005 at 8:17 am

Ken:

Looking at my Hagstrom, I get the impression that 22-68 31st St. would be approximately one subway stop further to the south from where I think the movie theater I’m talking about was. (It’s hard for me to read this particular map in my Hagstrom atlas because, wouldn’t you know it, the area is interrupted by the book’s spiral binding.)

It’s funny, and I may be way off, but in my recollection this theater is a “major” movie theater with a big marquee (in my mind, it is just one step below the Triboro in grandeur) and just about at the end of the line of the “elevated” along 31st St. (which even as a kid seemed too “delicious” for a disaster movie scene — with the “el” trains shooting off the end of the elevated structure).

In my memory the theater is on the corner, with the big marquee facing the elevated on 31st St. and the left side of the auditorium running along Ditmars. I think there was a “tunnel” foyer/lobby running east-west, until it hit a north-south “real” lobby running across the back of the orchestra level.

2) The Mickey Rooney movie (if there was one, and I haven’t mixed different movies/TV shows together in my mind) would have been around 1954, 1955 or 1956. (I once tried looking it up on Imdb, but it was very difficult to do — it might have been an earlier movie of his that was re-released or on a double-bill?)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 22, 2005 at 7:45 am

Benjamin;

  1. The closest I can get to your 31st St and Ditmars Boulevard address is in my 1950 Film Daily Yearbook, the Ditmars Theatre, 22-68 31st Street which had 597 seats listed. This is not currently listed on Cinema Treasures.

  2. Approx what year was the Mickey Rooney movie?

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 22, 2005 at 6:52 am

Thanks (yet again!) Warren and BoxOfficeBill for the helpful info.

Since I’m not sure where else to place these questions, the Triboro site seems as good a place as any:

1) Does anyone know the name of the movie theater in Astoria on, I believe, 31st St. and Ditmars? I remember being taken there in the mid-1950s by some older neighborhood kids to see some kiddie matinee movie — maybe even “Our Gang” comedies.

2) Does anyone remember a Mickey Rooney movie where he plays a guardian of a young boy. The boy is rebellious (sp?) and uncooperative. But the kid becomes cooperative all of a sudden when they go to some kind of carnival or circus and get caught in a fire.

Thanks in advance for any info anyone has!

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on March 22, 2005 at 5:14 am

Benjamin— Abbott and Costello’s final film, “Dance with Me Henry,” opened on 26 December 1956, so it might have been that film you saw. The juvenile roles in it were played by Gigi Perreau and Rusty Hamer.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 22, 2005 at 4:51 am

The Olympia is listed here under its original name of Cameo.

Benjamin
Benjamin on March 21, 2005 at 12:12 pm

I think the Triboro was the first atmospheric theater I was ever taken to — maybe I was four or five. Since my father took me to it on a nice clear Spring or Fall night (when the temperature inside was about the same as the temperature outside), I couldn’t figure out if we were really outdoors or whether the inside of the theater was just designed to look that way. I think I tried to ask my father if we were really outdoors or indoors, but he was such a “kidder” I don’t think I trusted his answer — whatever it was!

Thanks mike j h for the name of the Olympia. I remember being taken to it to see an Abbott and Costello movie about 1956 or so. (I think the movie ends with them on some kind of train.)

I liked the movie so much, I asked my father if we could stay and see it again. He “warned” me that if we did, I’d miss the Mickey Mouse Show. (Obviously, we went to the theater in the afternoon.) I heard him, but it didn’t really “sink in.” So I was upset at myself when we got home, and I realized that I really didn’t want to miss the Mickey Mouse show! Ah, another childhood lesson learned!

MIke042955
MIke042955 on March 21, 2005 at 11:40 am

I grew up on 41st St. between Astoria blvd. & 25th Ave.
I used to attend the Loews Saturday matinees and once a year they would raffle 2 bikes (girl/boy). My friend “Steve” won the boy’s bike 2 years in a row. What are the odds on that? There used to be another Theater on Steinway & 25th Ave named “Olympia”. I saw a lot of movies there also. It later turned into a porn theater. The parents on my block would march in front on Saturday mornings with protest signs. That theater was eventually gutted for a clothing & electronics store. Yes, a clothing & electronics store. I don’t know what type of business occupies the space now. Right now the most unique theater is in Suffern, NY. (Layfette theater) which still has the original decor and shows big screen classics, including silent films accompanied by a live pipe organ on Saturday mornings for only $6.00. Search for details online.

Barbara50
Barbara50 on February 10, 2005 at 8:21 am

I can still see it in my head – the artificial sky, with the stars and drifting clouds. If the movie was boring, I would always look at that sky and be entertained. Also, that red velvet curtain in front of the screen. It was all so gorgeous, and I miss it to this day.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 4, 2005 at 8:00 am

Marquee, the quarterly journal of the Theatre Historical Society of America, has four pages of B&W photos of the Triboro in its issue for the Third Quarter of 2004 (Volume 36, #3). Thomas Lamb’s design is described as “schizoid,” since the Triboro’s exterior was Aztec, the lobby French, and the auditorium Spanish atmospheric. The Triboro’s organ, a Wurlitzer 3/11, Style 235, Op. 1699, came from Loew’s Canal in Manhattan, which by the time of the Triboro’s 1931 opening no longer had use for it…The original vertical sign carried the theatre’s entire name, but it was later reduced to half that size with just Loew’s (and no Triboro) to save on electricity and maintenance.

FrankCastle
FrankCastle on May 17, 2004 at 1:03 pm

I am a bit younger than you guys (42) but still remember the great times we had going to the Loew’s Triboro. Seeing movies from the early 70’s like “5 Fingers Of Death”, “Mark Of The Devil”, “The Chosen Survivors” etc, in that big theatre always brings back great childhood memories. People my age always talk about it being torn down as one of the first bad things we can remember that happened in the community (“remember the Loews Triboro?..”). We’re STILL pissed that they built a couple of 2 family homes there… What a slap in the face. The Astoria Theatre was kinda nice back then, but nowhere near a classic like the Triboro. It was more like the first big screen TV you’d ever seen! Then there was the Strand Theatre down on Broadway and Crescent St. It was small but a bit nicer than the Astoria. Until they closed it and made it a furniture store, then a deli.. Hopefully someone will reopen the RKO Keiths in Flushing in it’s full glory one day. That was one of the last amazing theatres I was able to go to as a kid. I can’t even begin to describe how cool that place was! Apparently some oriental guys have been trashing that one too.. These money grabbing multiplexes of today are one of the reasons that I only rent movies now. Kids growing up today don’t know what they missed!

JohnRAllman
JohnRAllman on February 20, 2004 at 12:25 pm

I think Warren is right about the elevators in the Loew’s Triboro being put out of use by the early 1940s. I started going to the Triboro in 1943 and don’t remember ever having seen those elevators. But then I wouldn’t have been allowed to go to the mezzanine or balcony unattended. But the restrooms were on the 2nd floor, as I remember. Who could forget all that faux Renaissance interior.

RobertR
RobertR on February 20, 2004 at 6:06 am

The Astoria theatre which just closed last year could also have been used for live shows, but it has been destroted also. I was amused when I read about the Queens Borough President fighting the Landmark designation. The one who replaced him was no better. I am not sure if you are aware of the Amphitheatre from the 1939 Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows park. It had been unused for a few years and finally there was alot of intrest in restoring it and even a promoter willing to contract to put on shows there. Because of a fear from some well connected residents in affluent and somewhat nearby Forest Hills and Kew Gardens all of a sudden an aspestos issue was brought up and the BP used a special fund that required no community board approval to have the structure torn down. These residents were concerned about what kind of concerts would be given there. Meanwhile the amphitheatre is in the middle of a park and not close by to any homes. All this was carried out despite ongoing plans drawn up, meetings and negotiations with the concert promoter. Another Queens landmark destroyed.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 20, 2004 at 5:48 am

A descriptive article published in Motion Picture Herald at the time of the Triboro’s 1931 opening claims that the exterior facade was in Aztec style, not Mayan (as reported in later generations). The interior, including the atmospheric auditorium, was Italian Renaissance. The cost of the land site, construction and furnishing amounted to around $2 million. Thanks to favorable weather conditions, the building was completed three months ahead of schedule…An unusual feature was two elevators, each capable of taking as many as 55 patrons at a time from the ground floor to the mezzanine and balcony levels. Their use must have been discontinued fairly early because I don’t remember them from Triboro visits in the 1940s…The Triboro had a Transvox Enlarging Screen, which was Loew’s own version of the Magnascope. Using a special lens plus adjustable masking around the screen, the projected image could be enlarged and shortened at will.

JohnRAllman
JohnRAllman on February 16, 2004 at 2:37 pm

Warren, Thanks for that on the old Steinway building. Next time I’m there, I’ll look for it. You’re right about the uses they might have put the Triboro to. A great loss. The interior of the Triboro is still very real in my head.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 16, 2004 at 11:53 am

John, the exterior of the Steinway Theatre still stands, but the interior was entirely gutted for a clothing store with two floors. I believe it’s called Brothers, or something like that…Had the Triboro survived, I’m sure that it would be used for concerts catering to the many ethnic groups of the area. One night Greek shows, another Italian shows, Hispanic, or whatever.

JohnRAllman
JohnRAllman on February 16, 2004 at 11:15 am

SWarren, you’re right in my zone, even down to calling your grandmother Nana (my mother’s mother we called Big Nana, my father’s Little Nana). Anyway, I remember, certainly, the Steinway and the Astoria (which closed only couple of years ago). Where the Steinway used to be is now ,I believe, a parking lot. We saw old movies at the Steinway, including some horror classics. The first time I ever went to a movie at night by mself was at the Steinway. And I remember that long walk from the subway which I used to use for commuting back and forth to my job around 1952-1954.
I saw most of the films you mention at the Triboro. “Jungle Book” (with Sabu, right?) and “National Velevet” and “Two Years Before the Mast” (with Alan Ladd) for sure.
Once in a great whille I’m on Steinway Street and marvel at how even more crowded it is than it used to me, esp. on week-ends. And there’s a much greater ethnic mix as well. Still a vital place to live.
John

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 15, 2004 at 7:43 am

John, it seems possible that we attended the Triboro at the same times. My grandmother often took me there on Saturday matinees circa 1942-49. Some of the movies that I vividly recall seeing there are “The Jungle Book,” “The Harvey Girls,” “Son of Lassie,” “National Velvet,” and “Two Years Before the Mast.” We always took the subway from Elmhurst. After leaving the station, it was still quite a long walk up Steinway Street to get to the Triboro. I would always insist on stopping to look at the posters and “stills” that were displayed by two theatres that we passed along the way, the Steinway and the Astoria. Nana would get annoyed because she was very punctual and afraid that we’d miss the start of the movie.

JohnRAllman
JohnRAllman on February 15, 2004 at 6:44 am

Many thanks to Warren and William for their info on the Loew’s Triboro. I lived on 28th avenue, between 41st and 42nd Streets. The Triboro was only a breath away. I started attending Saturday matinees in 1943. My collection of poems, LOEW’S TRIBORO, will be published by New Directions in April 2004. On the cover is a picture of the Triboro marquee, and inside on the frontispiece is a picture of the entire building. JohnAllman

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 7, 2004 at 11:50 am

Loew’s Triboro first opened its doors to the public at 12 Noon on February 21, 1931, with Marie Dressler & Polly Moran in MGM"s “Reducing” on screen, and six acts of vaudeville topped by Mitchell & Durant, Artie Lewis, Peggy Ames, and the Neal Sisters. Advertising claimed “3,800 seats in a palace of dreams!” Amusingly, an ad photo showing part of the stage and adjoining side wall is actually of Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx! The two “atmospheric” theatres do have some similarities, but the Triboro was designed by Thomas Lamb, and the Paradise (which opened in 1929) by John Eberson. The Triboro had a complete change of program every Saturday and Wednesday. Its “loew” admission prices started at 25 cents for weekday matinees and ascended to a high of 50 cents at night and all day Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Not surprisingly, the Triboro proved an instant disaster. It was the height of the Depression. Astoria already had about six other theatres and not enough resident population to keep them filled. The area was also too close to Manhattan to be considered for first-run bookings, even for the borough of Queens. Loew’s had already given that right to its own Valencia in Jamaica, which was exclusive first-run for Queens. The Triboro would get the movies a week after the Valencia, but at least exclusively and a week ahead of the remaining Loew’s theatres in Queens. Vaudeville was quickly dropped from the Triboro in favor of double features. By the end of the Depression, business did improve at the Triboro, as it did for the movie industry generally, and held up through the WWII years and until around 1950 and the onslaught of home TV.