Arion Theatre

73-26 Metropolitan Avenue,
Middle Village, NY 11379

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Showing 76 - 99 of 99 comments

JerryH
JerryH on May 25, 2005 at 8:14 pm

Yeah, those were the days. … I saw quite a few double features myself in the late 60’s and the 70’s. However, I remember one occassion where we had spent all our newspaper and soda bottle recycling profits at Nick & Andy’s on candy, and we had to resort to hoolaganism to get in. We pooled all our change, so that one person could buy a ticket, go up to the front row, and then open the door to the left of the screen, so the rest could sneak in from the alley.

FrankSepe
FrankSepe on May 2, 2005 at 8:05 pm

I lived several houses down on 74th street and could see the Arion from my stoop (YES we all had stoops back then).The Arion was a staple growing up in MV,on saturdays all the kids on 74th street went to the matinee’s which were usually cartoons or Disney movies.The 1st movie I can remember seeing was “Chitty chitty bang bang” with my grandfather. I was in the Arion with my father when the big blackout of ‘77 hit,ironically the movie that had just started was “Black Sunday”. On saturdays at midnight in the 70’s they showed XXX movies for a time. The last movie I remember seeing there was a midnight showing of “The rocky horror picture show” when it 1st came out (stupid us thought it was a horror movie…who knew? )Movies were only $1 and I think I still have a ticket stub around. We used to sit on the steps to watch parades or just to hang out until we got chased away when it opened. We lovingly referred to it as “THE ITCH”. It was a sad day when the theatre closed,multiplexes like the Midway were the new thing and single
screen theatres were no good any more. I remember the bldg sat empty for some time because the price tag at the time was so high ($600,000 …hind site is 20/20 huh?) The whole “Avenue” as it was know has changed,I miss the old neighborhood.

FrankSepe
FrankSepe on May 2, 2005 at 8:04 pm

I lived several houses down on 74th street and could see the Arion from my stoop (YES we all had stoops back then).The Arion was a staple growing up in MV,on saturdays all the kids on 74th street went to the matinee’s which were usually cartoons or Disney movies.The 1st movie I can remember seeing was “Chitty chitty bang bang” with my grandfather. I was in the Arion with my father when the big blackout of ‘77 hit,ironically the movie that had just started was “Black Sunday”. On saturdays at midnight in the 70’s they showed XXX movies for a time. The last movie I remember seeing there was a midnight showing of “The rocky horror picture show” when it 1st came out (stupid us thought it was a horror movie…who knew? )Movies were only $1 and I think I still have a ticket stub around. We used to sit on the steps to watch parades or just to hang out until we got chased away when it opened. We lovingly referred to it as “THE ITCH”. It was a sad day when the theatre closed,multiplexes like the Midway were the new thing and single
screen theatres were no good any more. I remember the bldg sat empty for some time because the price tag at the time was so high ($600,000 …hind site is 20/20 huh?) The whole “Avenue” as it was know has changed,I miss the old neighborhood.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 25, 2005 at 3:16 pm

Some exterior photos of the Arion can be seen in the new feature story about Middle Village at www.forgotten-ny.com

gharris36
gharris36 on April 15, 2005 at 3:27 pm

That’s hilarious to me that somebody else still living was at that same exact showing of the Poseidon Adventure! (unless, of course, the Arion had the reels in the wrong order during the entire week’s run, which would not have been out of character for the Arion’s crack staff). I have a vague memory of the Arion’s Festival du Apes, but I DEFINITELY remember the blue banner of the penguin on the iceberg advertising It’s Cool Inside, or something like that. Like many, my house had no AC and that banner was most attractive on some of those hot humid NYC days. Several times during the summer my friends and I would ride our bikes to the Arion and go see whatever they were showing. One thing I recall from that era is that blinding, jarring sensation you get when you leave a dark, air conditioned movie theater in the middle of the day, and emerge into bright sunshine (and, the Arion’s case, the hub-bub of Metropolitan Ave.)

I also remember people smoking at the Arion (and the Drake, where when I was a kid they allowed smoking on the left side of the theater (as if it made a difference)). To this day, I still think when I look up during a movie that I’m going to see that swirling prism of smoke you would see in the illumination from the projection. It is funny how, for moviegoers at least, you carry the images from those first theaters.

As for the movie matrons, it is strange that such a rewarding, fulfilling profession could just vanish.

RobertR
RobertR on April 6, 2005 at 8:19 pm

WOW, I wish I had a picture of the place for old times sake. Remember their marquee letter’s were the old metal ones?

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on April 6, 2005 at 8:02 pm

Robert R… Here’s a bit of Arion trivia for you.

The entrance to the theater was framed by two showcases on the right and a single showcase on the left. The one on the left was actually a disguised door. When opened, it revealed a staircase which led to an apartment above the area over the outer and inner lobbies, the rest rooms and the boxoffice. Sporadically, one would see the tenant coming and going.

RobertR
RobertR on April 5, 2005 at 3:58 am

ErwinM
Thanks for reminding me about the oval design in the ceiling, I had forgotten all about that. I still miss this place.

tomcory
tomcory on March 20, 2005 at 3:08 am

GarrettH—You’re not going to believe this, but I WAS AT THE VERY SAME SHOWING OF THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE at the Arion where they had the reels out of order. I remember everyone making fun of the fact that the Shelley Winters character was dead, and then we saw her swimming around ten minutes later!

I too grew up in Middle Village (in the 60’s and 70’s), and spent many a happy hour at the Arion. Of my many memories, my favorite is the week (usually once a year, in the summer) when the Arion would “Go Ape”—that is, they aired all 5 of the “Planet of the Apes” movies back to back over the course of a single week.

I loved the double features, and discovered some of my favorite movies quite accidentally because of them. I remember going to see a version of “The Three Musketeers,” (starring Michael York, Richard Chamberlain, etc.) and having to first sit through the B-feature, a film starring Jon Voight entitled, “Conrack.” Well, this many years later, I can’t remember a single thing about that version of “Musketeers,” but “Conrack' remains a film that changed my life forever.

Something else I remember about the Arion… in those days, most of us in Middle Village DIDN’T have air conditioning in our homes. Come summer each year, the Arion would hang out a banner with a picture of a penguin sitting on an ice block, and the advertisement to come see a movie in “air conditioned comfort.”

I remember the matrons shining the flashlight at us as kids, and telling us to be quiet. Whatever happened to matrons in movie theaters??

And I remember, as a teenager, smoking cigarettes—legally!—in the last ten rows of the Arion.

It’s funny the impact such things as a small neighborhood movie house can have on us, especially while we’re young. To this day, every time that I dream I’m in a movie theater (a frequent scenario for me), no matter where I’m “supposed to be” in that particular dream, I realize—it’s always the Arion. If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget the place.

Tom C.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on March 2, 2005 at 7:54 pm

Robert…There was little decoration inside or out. The outer lobby with the flower boxes that stood between the doors to the rest rooms on the right as you entered, was more square than long and narrow and was where the ticket taker stood. The inner lobby at the back of the auditorium was on the long and narrow side and was where the concession stand was. This area or inner lobby was separated from the seated area by 4 ½ foot high marble dividers topped by another 2 ½ feet of clear glass and nothing above that.
The walls were painted plaster on the lower approximate 5 feet with the balance up to the ceiling being covered in a red damask for acoustical purposes. Wall sconces provided illumination. The ceiling had a huge oval plaster decoration. As far as I know, no
chandelier(s) ever hung from the ceiling. Huge radiators spaced along the side walls provided steam heat, which, at times, clanged merrily away during the show. That is when management decided to provide some heat!

RobertR
RobertR on March 2, 2005 at 6:52 pm

Erwin
I am trying to remember what decorations there were. I know the doors were set back so there was an open area outside and then the outer lobby was long and narrow. I think there were flower boxes on one side with artificial plants in them. Posters on the walls and some old sconces and an ugly chandelier which was changed sometime in the 60’s.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on March 2, 2005 at 6:44 pm

Meant to add to my last posting….Isn’t it odd that the image of “Arion, the Greek musician riding on a dolphin” was never visible in any part of the theater’s decor? Perhaps there was something prior to the late 40’s, when I started going there regularly, that was covered over or removed in a renovation of one kind or another.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on March 2, 2005 at 6:35 pm

GarrettH….Finally, another Middle Villageite has made it to this page. I too graduated from PS 49. I was in the last 8th grade graduating class. That was way back in 1953, when dinosaurs roamed Juniper Valley Park.
Yes, in its final years, the Arion left quite a bit to be desired in the cleanliness department and it got worse as time went on. Remember the men’s room with those gigantic smelly urinals? They had to date back to when the theater was built in 1921.
Thanks for the explanation of where the name “Arion” came from. I wondered about it all these years, but never tried to research it. Now I am finally in the know.

RobertR
RobertR on March 2, 2005 at 6:24 pm

Hey Garrett

The funny thing is that even as a dump I loved this place. There was just something about it. I grew up in Forest Hills and went to Christ the King HS. I actually went after school one day and saw a Russ Meyer double bill at the Arion with some of my buddies. Catholic school taught us well :)

Rob

gharris36
gharris36 on March 2, 2005 at 6:04 pm

Wow! A website devoted to the Arion Theater! I grew up in Middle Village (went to PS 49), left for college in 1979 and have only been back a few times since. Hence in my memory the Arion lives on in all its double feature glory. I saw dozens of movies there in the 70s including Taxi Driver, Rocky, Night of the Living Dead, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and many others. I don’t mean to offend anyone else’s memory but by the 70s the theater was an unqualified dump. The joke was always that there was no need for a concession stand since you could get all the gum, popcorn and candy you could possibly eat right off the seats and floor. I can recall leaving the theater with gunk stuck to both shoes and the seat of my pants. Another memory is the not always reliable projection and sound system. Once, I went to see The Poseidon Adventure, and they had the reels in the wrong order, going direct from the opening scenes to the climax near the end (where Gene Hackman opens a valve by hanging from the wheel). Stangely, the audience, perhaps not expecting better, did not object, and we all just watched the movie with the scenes in the wrong order.

P.S. I learned many years later that “Arion” was a musician in Ancient Greece who is often depicted riding on a dolphin. It was a popular image in Elizabethean times, and is referred to in a few of Shakespeare’s plays.

RobertR
RobertR on October 15, 2004 at 9:04 pm

In 1954 for a theatre to have no curtain was really odd wasent it? I remember years ago every theatre, even the dives had a curtain. Its funny I cant recall if there was a curtain or not in the 70’s & 80’s. One hysterical thing the footlights under the screen or curtain were fluorescent, which I have never seen before because they make an ugly light. Well the bulb all the way to the left was green and all the other ones were white. It used to cast the ugliest green hue that looked so out of place. Also when the side maskings opened the screen had a patch that only was obviouse when a Cinemascope movie was played. They did put in a new screen however about 5 years before they closed.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on October 14, 2004 at 8:27 pm

RobertR is right. The Arion was never dirty and they did have great double features. The theater was a Middle Village fixture since 1921.

As I recollect, from the late 40’s (and most likely earlier)through the early 60’s, a different double bill ran Sun to Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday. Wednesday’s double feature was usually revivals. When Dominant Pictures had theatrical reissue rights to the pre ‘48 Warner Bros. library, a great many played the Arion on Wednesdays. For a while, Wednesday’s were also a revival of “Dish Night”. Up until the late 50’s, they also had printed programs advertising two weeks worth of programming. These were available at the theater or could be mailed to your home, if you put your name on their mailing list.

Management always tried to run things on the cheap. I was once told that when they used carbon arcs in the projectors, they would buy half used ones. These were the ones from RCMH, the Roxy and other prestige first run Manhattan theaters that used a new carbon rod for each reel change and discarded the previous one. The Arion and probably other thaters were able to buy them at a discount.

In 1954, when they installed their CinemaScope screen, they really splurged and went for 4 channel stereo, which really sounded great.
However, as the supply of 4 track magnetic striped prints dried up over the next few years, the stereo equipment was removed and it was back to mono for the rest of the Arion’s life. Showmanship was also out the window with the advent of CinemaScope. The screen curtain, which opened and closed each show was removed and never replaced.

By the mid 80’s, the air conditioning and the heating system barely functioned and the Arion was driven into the ground. Too bad they did’t go for the triplex idea, which would have meant a complete redo of the place.

RobertR
RobertR on October 14, 2004 at 5:38 pm

The Arion was always a run down theatre but it was never dirty. They ran the greatest double bills here. When I would miss something first run I knew it would come sooner or later to the Arion. They also ran offbeat and foreign films.

bonnietylin
bonnietylin on September 25, 2004 at 2:12 am

I went to this theater many times after moving from Ridgewood to Maspeth. It was not a very nice theater in the late sixties so I went more to the Oasis.

DonNovack
DonNovack on September 22, 2004 at 2:18 am

Around 66 I used to go here and it was an ok place nothing to brag about

RobertR
RobertR on March 31, 2004 at 8:17 pm

Another renovation in the early eighties announced new seats but this time it was only about 15 rows toward the back of the theatre. They used to still fill this place even though it was so run down and clearly had seen better days. I spent a lifetime going here, so I guess I have fond memories of the place.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on March 24, 2004 at 1:03 am

About 90 % of the Arion theater building is still standing. The auditorium portion remains behind the row of stores that lines Metropolitan Avenue. When the theater closed and was taken over by Jamron Drugs, at the time, the portion of the structure that held the outer and inner lobbies was demolished. The outer lobby, which held the box office and showcases, was two steps above the level of the sidewalk. The small inner lobby had more showcases, the ticket taker’s stand and the rest rooms. This was replaced with a structure that is even with street level.

The Jamron, then Genovese and now Eckerd drug store was built in the shell of roughly the back half of the auditorium. Recently, I caught a glimpse of the ceiling of the theater when some of the drop ceiling tiles were removed for some repair work. How much of the original theater exists is anybody’s guess.

The Arion was the theater of my youth in the 50’s and was where I got my weekly dose of cartoons, serials, Abbot and Costello and that lady in the white uniform who kept us confined to the children’s section. Mr. Rabinowitz, who’s daughter I went to school with, was the projectionist for many years.

Sadly to say, the owners ran the place into the ground. At one point around 1960, the theater closed for renovations. About a month later it reopened with great fanfare announcing “gallery seating – the most comfortable seating in all of Queens”. What a disappointment that was. What they had done is take out every other row of seats for plenty of leg room and replaced the remaining seats with seats that looked like they were discarded from a theater built in the teens â€" hard leather seats with wooden backs. The seating capacity of some 970 was reduced to about 500. Things went downhill after that until the inevitable closing.

Orlando
Orlando on March 5, 2004 at 10:16 pm

I believe the original building which had the ARION name engarved on it was demolished for the current store front now. I couldn’t find the actual building 4 years ago.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 5, 2004 at 5:22 pm

The Arion’s address was 73-26 Metropolitan Avenue. In the heyday of double features, it was under the same management as the Drake Theatre on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park. They used to play the same late-run programs, but not at the same time. The Arion, for example, would show them Thursday-Saturday, and the Drake from Sunday-Tuesday, or whatever. Film Daily Year Books claim that the Arion’s seating capacity was 970, as opposed to the Drake’s 570, but the Arion was built in a more populated area than the Drake, which probably explains the difference.