Polk Theater

93-09 37th Avenue,
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

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Showing 101 - 125 of 170 comments

BoxOfficeBill on May 18, 2006 at 5:07 am

I’ve mentioned this before, but James McCourt’s “Queer Street” has a terrific account of the Polk as a teenage hangout in the 1950s. McCourt does a few spots as a confidante and former interviewer of Bette Davis in Turner Classic Movie’s tribute to the star, “Stardust,” airing this evening at 6:30 pm.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 18, 2006 at 4:56 am

Among other things, the VV article reveals that the boxoffice cashier that I described in my 9/7/2005 post as a “blonde in red tanktop and bluejeans” is actually a trans-gendered male!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 18, 2006 at 3:40 am

A long and fascinating article about the closing of the Polk can be found in the May 17-23 issue of The Village Voice. The bottom line is that the theatre has been sold and will probably be demolished to make way for an apartment building:

RobertR on May 17, 2006 at 2:08 am

With the Jackson having only three screens this could book first run.

Altoblanco on May 17, 2006 at 12:54 am

It seems suspended in time. It has been closed since mid-February. In all probability, it will never reopen. Eventually, a buyer will come along and either make new use of tne space or demolish it.

The “status” in the profile is incorrect – it needs to be changed to “closed”.

Scholes188 on May 12, 2006 at 8:36 am

I passed by on Wednesday and the theater is still closed. I guess the Polk has reached the end of the line.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 12, 2006 at 8:28 am

Here’s my new Polk Theater album where I’ve reorganized the photos I previously posted in September and December. I also have a couple of vintage shots I stole from Warren, which he already posted above.

VillageVoice on May 4, 2006 at 6:24 am

Warren — I am looking for historical photos of the Polk Theater and the ones you posted would be perfect. I know you posted them a long time ago, so it would be great if you could get back to me as soon as possible. My email address is Please email me!!


Jeffrey1955 on April 19, 2006 at 9:30 am

Aw, don’t be too hard on Kevin. He tries hard.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 19, 2006 at 9:00 am

I’m happy one of the photos found some good use on that wonderful site! They also snagged one of my night-time shots of the Fair Theater (via a link to my photobucket page). Surprisingly, there is no mention of the Jackson Theater (now a triplex) on 82nd Street nor its old competitor, the now converted-to-retail Colony Theater just across the way. And what about the former Boulevard Theater on Northern? The forgotten-ny website is usually more thorough in its neighborhood coverage.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 19, 2006 at 8:26 am

A photo by our own Ed Solero is among several of theatres shown in a new feature article about Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst at www.forgotten-ny.com

Jeffrey1955 on March 18, 2006 at 5:06 pm

The second post from the top — posted by Warren on Feb 18, 2004 at 11:05am — has all these details and more.

Altoblanco on March 18, 2006 at 9:46 am

I passed by the theatre again yesterday afternoon – nothing has really changed â€" it is still closed. There was no signage of any kind indicating what its status is. I looked inside and the double-doors were open, but the lobby was so dark that I could not make out any details. By all appearances, everything looked intact â€" no signs of major demolition going on (I even checked around back for dumpsters or debris â€" nothing).

The only things I saw (in the entry hallway, against a wall) were some open buckets filled with garbage, a big old round air-conditioning vent, and a very large, tall white metal “box” (with small vents on the bottom and an electrical cord) that resembled a refrigeration unit (?) of some kind. I could not make out the labels on the buckets, but they looked like they contained some type of black liquid, perhaps tar or asphalt sealant (which makes sense, since the roof leaked) â€" if this is the case, then they could be making repairs to the building (as opposed to demolishing it), but for what ultimate reason is anybody’s guess

Jeffrey1955 on February 26, 2006 at 9:49 am

If the Polk really is to disappear, I wish there were some way to at the very least save that marquee — even uncover the original Polk Avenue sign, if it’s still hiding underneath — as it appears to be a true treasure of Art Deco design.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 26, 2006 at 3:59 am

Alto, you neglected to mention that the venerable Jackson Theatre, probably the most successful cinema that Jackson Heights ever had, is still operating as a triplex with the latest Hollywood movies (some, if not all, with Spanish sub-titles).

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 25, 2006 at 2:58 pm

Well… I’m glad a few of us got to post some photos here – and thanks Warren for the vintage shots of the marquee and auditorium. I just wish we had some photos of the place as it currently exists.

RobertR posted that he knew the owner of this theater. Perhaps he could settle whether or not that obscured “Renovations” sign is legit or not.

Altoblanco on February 25, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Intuition is a funny thing, but this is downright creepy…

I was informed that as of Monday, February 20th (Presidents’ Day), this theater was closed. I passed by on Friday the 24th at 6 p.m. to investigate further, and by all appearances, it is true. All entry doors were locked, and the entire place was dark (except for a small lamp left on in the lobby, visible through an open inside door). All display cases, inside and out, were emptied of their ancient faded movie posters and hand-written notices. The box office booth was “de-cluttered” of items, and the hours of operation were no longer posted.

The only “official proof” of closure that I saw was a small, hand-made “sign”: an 8.5”x11” sheet of plain paper with a message scrawled in marker ink “CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS â€" OPENING SOON”. However, it was casually placed on the counter, out of general view and difficult to see through the dirty glass (I had to squint to read it).

I do not believe there is any validity to this claim. If the owners were sincere in their attempt to publicize genuine changes or improvements, they would have conspicuously posted larger, more informative signs on the doors and the box office window, clearly visible from the sidewalk and street.

Renovating this facility (in its current condition) into a presentable, legitimate theatre operation would require MILLIONS of dollars and MONTHS of planning, inspections, permit approvals, and reconstruction. I just don’t see it happening. This neighborhood’s demographics simply do not support the need for any cinema, let alone a 599-seat movie theatre. Consider the following:
(1) Area residents are predominantly low-income or working class immigrants (mostly Mexican and other Spanish-speaking) who do not have the disposable income necessary for today’s ridiculous movie ticket prices.
(2) There is a huge Hollywood Video store located two blocks east on Junction Blvd, not to mention numerous small “mom & pop” convenience stores and even bodegas that rent or sell movies dirt cheap. And let’s not forget Queens Library’s Jackson Heights branch and its extensive DVD collection on loan for free. An affordable night at the movies for an economically disadvantaged family is a TV set and an inexpensive DVD player.
(3) The nearby Plaza Twin in Corona tried to make a go of it, showing first-run films with Spanish subtitles (this after converting half the space to a Walgreen’s drug store, then investing in downsizing and reconfiguring). Attendance was poor, the owners took a financial bath, and it closed. Having worked in areas where Spanish is the primary household language, I can tell you that most Hispanic customers do not want to read subtitles â€" they want their movie soundtracks IN Spanish, even if it’s dubbed (DVD-video has both capabilities, another reason for this medium’s immense popularity with this audience).
(4) The only [modestly] successful old-time movie house left in Jackson Heights is the Eagle (a former XXX theatre) that now plays Indian movies (a tremendously loyal fan base for “Bollywood” fare exists in the shopping area around 74th St. known as “Little India”)
(5) The Polk is located in an area that has an intimidating reputation, especially after dark. The Corona-Jackson Heights area is known for its Mexican and Columbian gang turf wars and drug peddling (especially along nearby Roosevelt Ave, where I’ve actually witnessed drug pushers, fights, police busts and a crime scene investigation that included yellow “do not cross” tape and a body bag).

It looks like this place is finished. Polk Theatre…1938-2006…R.I.P.

bradyc on February 20, 2006 at 4:48 pm

Well, I’d like to applaud the initiative and curiosity of all here for sparking my curiosity in this theater. As mentioned in my earlier post, I came upon this site in a roundabout way, but it sparked my interest and I made a pilgrimage there this past weekend. I wasn’t sure if I’d go in, but that was decided for me. The Polk hadn’t yet opened for the day when I got there. I grew up just around the corner but hadn’t been out there (on foot) in 20-25 years. The posts on this site most definitely piqued my curiosity. I’m especially fascinated by the references to the McCourt book (had no idea he grew up on 94th St), which I haven’t read, but just bought, thanks BoxOfficeBill.
Alto, you mention the owner being in his 80s. I’ll bet it’s the same guy I remember owning the place when I was a kid. I think he first started running the “XXX” flicks around 1969 or so

Altoblanco on February 20, 2006 at 3:43 pm

In response to Jeff:

“Initiative”? Yes…right…that’s it…“initiative”.

In response to Ed:

As for “curious”: can’t answer that (I’d be telling if I did).
As for “young”: why…absolutely! :–)

Altoblanco on February 20, 2006 at 3:43 pm

In response to Jeff:

“Initiative”? Yes…right…that’s it…“initiative”.

In response to Ed:

As for “curious”: can’t answer that (I’d be telling if I did).
As for “young”: why…absolutely! :–)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 20, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for that information, Alto.

Altoblanco on February 20, 2006 at 3:01 pm

The Polk is a straightforward, single-screen operation showing “straight” porn. Its configuration has not been changed. The only significant alteration is a panelled privacy wall built on top of the original half-wall in the rear of the auditorium.

Altoblanco on February 20, 2006 at 2:56 pm

The Fair’s original single-screen main auditorium is basically intact, including its balcony (which, by all appearances, has been declared “off-limits” for quite some time), with only minor aesthetic modifications. Expansion of the facilities to include additional smaller XXX theatres and private viewing booths was achieved by acquiring space from adjoining box stores on the west side of the building (if you look carefully, you can figure out where the walls used to exist).

The two Greek brothers who manage the theatre also run the adjacent Stella D’Argento Italian Restaurant located on the east side of the theatre (a convenient “walk-through” entry provides direct access to its “bar lounge” by theatre customers). The lounge menu offering “specials for theatre customers only” has proven popular and provides additional income for the restaurant.

The owners have provided amenities and reasonable levels of comfort and cleanliness that are unexpected in an establishment of this type. The décor, although somewhat tacky, sets a pleasant and inviting tone. The fish tanks bubbling away in the lobby are particularly unique. The relaxed, non-intimidating (even social) atmosphere will surprise adult theatre “veterans” and “novices” alike.

Ironically, the same block-long building housing the theatre and restaurant also provides storefront space to a black “church” (I use the term loosely) on its northwest corner! These are same wonderful people who have repeatedly tried (thankfully without success) to curtail or close down the theatre’s operations.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 20, 2006 at 10:46 am

Alto… Are you a building inspector? Or just one of those “curious” young men? As dilapidated as the Polk and Fair may well be, they may also be two of the very few neighborhood theaters in NYC to remain more or less intact from their days of legitimate operation. The former Mayfair and Earle Theaters (both having survived their XXX porno days and now showing Bollywood fare) are the only others that come to mind.

How are the interior configurations of the Polk and Fair, beyond their advanced states of disrepair? Does the Polk operate like the Fair with video projected action films on the main screen and adult fare in private viewing booths? Where are the booths located?

Jeffrey1955 on February 20, 2006 at 10:39 am

My interest is purely historical, so the theater, definitely. Unless the iniquity is of historic proportions. !–))