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Great photos, memories and info on this page.
When I was growing up I didn’t do my chores or something, and I wasn’t allowed to go see “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” when it played here in 1971. My father drove us all to the theater and dropped my sisters off, but I had to stay in the car and go home. I guess he was trying to make a point, but I never really forgave him and never forgot it. And to this day I have never seen that movie.
Bloop, I also worked here in the late ‘70s. Who’s your friend? (You can click my name to get my email.)
By the way, for many years the lobby also had a soda machine, which dispensed soda and ice in paper cups. The only drinks available at the candy counter were fruit punch and lemonade. Buyer beware!
In the summer of 1976 the theater upgraded from second run double features to first run (but second rate) Paramount “Flagship” features, starting with “Lifeguard” and including “The Big Bus.” After that experiment was over, they went back to sub-run.
All screens will be equipped with Odorama. Oh, wait, they already are.
My family often went to Commack Drive-In in our station wagon. One night we went to see “Willard” and when it was over the second feature began, one we’d never heard of, in black and white, called “Night of the Living Dead.” My mother said, this is going to be very good or very bad, so we stayed to check it out.
In a word, wow! We were all petrified. At one point someone tapped on our window (causing us all to jump!) to ask my father to stop stepping on the brake pedal, as it was lighting up the tail-lights!
The ride home was extremely spooky, as we took an unlighted route. Just out luck, it was also foggy that night. Yikes.
I loved that fucking place.
I saw that Trog/Dracula double feature. Trog was my first Joan Crawford picture, and her last. Thanks for the flashback.
So where will the exhibits go if not the auditorium? (Odditorium is also apt!)
I visited the Ripleys in Key West a few years ago, and it was located in the old Strand theater. They did a good job there, but I heard that it has since closed is now a Walgreens.
I’m answering my own question: Yes, it seems so. The address is the same: 234 West 42nd Street. This is good news. Here’s the link to Ripleys: http://ripleysnewyork.com/
Is this the location of the new Ripley’s museum?
The piece that’s missing in the center of the marquee used to say something like “Loew’s 42nd Street” so I guess they are still waiting for the replacement part that will say “Regal.”
That said, the big Regal letters atop the marquee really brighten it up; now they need improved video monitors (that tell the names of the features, etc.) and the outside will be all spiffed up.
There’s a construction shed up under the marquee, so maybe they’re replacing it. It always looked like an bulky afterthought, anyway, compared to the elegant facade and vertical sign, so anything else would be an improvement.
Wareen, another fantastic photo — it practically sizzles off the computer screen. It feels like I’m there.
Yeah, just scroll through 2000 posts, I’m sure you’ll find it.
Anyone see the show? How’s the auditorium looking nowadays?
Interesting article in today’s New York Daily News.
Here’s the link View link
and here’s the article, copyright NY Daily News.
“Paramount gets to rock all over”
BY DENISE ROMANO
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 5:10 PM
“Most of us…consider this the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll shows.”
The Brooklyn Paramount Theatre – which some consider to be the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll concerts – will once again echo with the sweet harmonies and guitar riffs of rock royalty.
Legendary acts such as Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Drifters and the Penguins will take the stage Sunday at the ornate downtown Brooklyn theater, which is now used as a college gymnasium.
“It will be a very historic moment for me and my audience to go back there where it all started,” said radio personality Bruce Morrow, better known to his listeners as Cousin Brucie.
Morrow will host the event, which is being co-sponsored by Long Island University and the Daily News.
“My belly feels good when I walk into the building,” said the Sirius Satellite Radio disk jockey, who stumbled upon the theater while filming a show.
The building, at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Aves. and now owned by Long Island University, was built in 1928 by its namesake studio to screen talking pictures, the first theater of its kind.
Over the next 30 years, it served as a venue for such live performers as Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman.
But it did not earn its claim to fame until the 1950s.
“Most of us who are considered to be rock ‘n’ roll mavens consider this the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll shows, and the first place where there was an interracial audience,” Morrow said.
The famed deejay and concert producer Alan Freed, often credited with coining the term “rock ‘n’ roll” in 1951, began staging performances at the Brooklyn Paramount in the mid-50s. The 1989 movie “Great Balls of Fire!” about Jerry Lee Lewis, starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder, includes a scene set in the Paramount.
“It was a great mixture for all kinds of acts,” Morrow said of the famed theater. “It was a melting pot. It taught people how to get along. Music is a balm; it’s very soothing in all kinds of ways.”
University officials said the theater’s ceiling and the walls have been preserved, and the basketball hoops that now hang on the walls do not diminish the nostalgia of the space.
“You can never erase or destroy emotions,” Morrow said of the golden ceiling. “Thank goodness we have something in this world that survives – and that is rock ‘n’ roll.”
There will be two shows on Sunday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30p.m. There are $40 bleacher seats still available for both shows, and some $100 seats are available for the 7:30 p.m. show. To buy tickets, call (866) 468-7619. All proceeds will go to scholarships for LIU students.
(I wonder if the basketball hoops are still there, since I believe the new gymnasium is open. I won’t be at the show, but any first hand reports will be greatly appreciated!)
Kind of amazing article in today’s New York Post
Here’s the link and here’s the article, copyright NY POST:
SCHLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK
INSIDE N.Y.’S LAST MOVIE GRINDHOUSE
By LOU LUMENICK
Rose McGowan stars in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ode to grindhouses.
Rose McGowan stars in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ode to grindhouses.
PrintEmailDigg ItStory Bottom
March 28, 2007 — IF you want to sample Times Square moviegoing in all of its raffish glory from the 1970s and early 1980s, you don’t need a time machine – just take the M60 bus out to East Elmhurst, Queens, and be prepared to watch your back.
On a shabby stretch of Astoria Boulevard near La Guardia Airport, the Fair Theatre is the city’s last grindhouse – a successor to the tradition of the crumbling, grimy showplaces that used to line both sides of 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
They were called grindhouses because they grinded out often-battered prints of movies practically around the clock. Mainstream movies shared double and triple features with violence- and sex-drenched, low-budget exploitation films you could see nowhere else in the pre-VCR era.
Today these films – with lurid titles that invariably promised more than they delivered, like “Jail Bait Baby,‘’ "Blood Spattered Bride'‘ and "Revenge of the Cheerleaders’‘ – have found a cult following on DVD, where new schlockfests continue to thrive.
These original flicks also inspired “Grindhouse” – a new faux double feature paying homage to cheesy exploitation films of the era from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez that opens April 6.
But to experience an actual grindhouse requires a trip to the 70-year-old Fair Theatre – named in anticipation of the 1939-40 World’s Fair in nearby Flushing Meadows – which sits in the middle of a blocklong two-story building between 90th and 91st streets.
The curved, art-deco marquee is coy about its offerings:
FIRST RUN IN QUEENS
2 TOP HITS R
NEWSHO W SUNDAY & THUR
Inside, a vintage sign proclaims “Fair Theatre Proudly Presents New Show Every Sunday & Thur 2 Big Features” – and, below that, an ominous warning that the premises are being watched by surveillance cameras.
A dusty board lists titles on six screens – among them “Legs Between,” “The Last Hunter” and “Mark of the Beast” – that look like they haven’t been changed in months. A printed flier on the wall lists the current attractions as “Daisy Chain” and “Eastern Heroes.”
Admission is $15, strictly cash, and the first thing you pass is a refreshment stand selling candy, cookies, soft drinks and coffee right behind the ticket booth.
The lobby is incredibly dim, but it’s hard not to make out the large signs that say “Prostitution and Lewdness are Prohibited” – or the three even larger security guards, one of whom follows me when I inadvertently wander toward the men’s room.
Suddenly I had visions of Jon Voight’s Joe Buck and his balcony scene with a teenager played by Bob Balaban in “Midnight Cowboy,” which took place in one of the 42nd Street grindhouses – known as much for their action off the screen as on.
It’s around 11 on a Friday morning – the Fair opens at 10:45 and stays open until 3 a.m. – and there are perhaps a dozen middle-age male patrons inside. Most of them are huddled in a vast, dark lounge decorated with enormous fish tanks, floor-to-ceiling lava lamps, and Christmas lights.
It’s totally empty in the main theater, which is even darker, but which appears to be a totally intact auditorium from 1937, complete with a small stage and a large closed-off balcony – and, more incongruously, rental lockers at the back of the room.
Feeling my way into a seat, I watch a few digitally projected minutes of the Hugh Jackman magician drama “The Prestige” before checking out the other attractions.
To my surprise, the floors aren’t sticky – whatever is going on at the Fair, it appears to be notably cleaner than the 42nd Street houses I visited in the early ‘80s, and odor-free.
In a pair of alcoves that appear to have been carved from a closed adjoining store, no one is watching either of a couple of “Star Wars” movies.
There appears to be more activity in neighboring rooms; one was showing straight porno, the other gay porno. The latter, I am told, is equipped with private booths for patrons' use.
When I begin asking the ticket-taker questions, he summons an assistant manager who said he needed to check with his lawyer. He later told me he was advised not to talk about the theater “because of the lawsuit.”
The Post could find no record of a suit involving the theater, but an employee at a nearby business said an African-American church that also occupies the building – an Italian restaurant adjoining the Fair recently closed – had been trying for years to get the place closed down. (The church did not return messages.)
Under laws enacted during the Giuliani administration, businesses within 500 feet of churches or schools cannot offer more than 40 percent adult wares. A Queens judge ruled in 1998 that the Fair complied and allowed it to remain open.
The Fair’s history and current activities have been extensively chronicled in dozens of posts on Cinema Treasures, a Web site run by theater buffs, who marvel the Fair hasn’t been carved up into multiple screens, converted to retail use or torn down like most of its contemporaries.
What was originally a 599-seat theater opened on Christmas Day 1937 with a double bill of “Dead End” with Humphrey Bogart and the Bing Crosby musical “Double or Nothing.” It was one of perhaps 500 neighborhood theaters in the city that showed movies at greatly reduced prices, weeks after they played in Manhattan and Queens movie palaces.
Some of those theaters, like the Fair, turned to XXX-rated fare as moviegoing declined by the early 1970s. The Polk, in nearby Jackson Heights, designed by the same architect as the Fair, closed last year as a porn house and will reportedly be torn down.
Another Jackson Heights theater, the Earle, switched after decades of porn to show Indian films under a slightly different name, the Eagle (as did a Fresh Meadows theater, now known as the Bombay).
The Fair’s practically nonexistent public profile was raised in early 2006 when it begin placing ads in the Village Voice announcing a “new policy” of “2 action films at all times” and listed obscure ‘70s titles like “Street Crimes” and “Pay or Die.”
The marquee was refurbished and new carpeting installed, but the ads stopped after a few months – and more contemporary mainstream fare was brought in to apparently legitimize the porn.
Still, the action films continue to be listed on the board outside the oddly cosy Fair. “Grindhouse” may evoke the movies of that era, but the Fair is the closest thing around here to those 42nd Street grindhouses of yore. At least until gentrification hits East Elmhurst.
Additional reporting by Ikimulisa Livingston.
I saw a movie at the Lynbrook this weekend and when I asked if Tom the projectionist was working that night, I was shocked to learn that they have fired all their projectionists, and now the “managers” are running the show. I spoke to a manager and she told me it happened about a month ago, to save money, and was happening at the smaller UA sites. This was always a union shop and I dread that the quality of presentation will now deteriorate. The night I was there, they couldn’t get the sound to work on the pre-show advertising (a blessing?) and I guess it’s all downhill from here.
Meredith, what say you?
I’m sure you’re correct — the upper right corner of the pic shows the Art Moderne windows of the Rialto Building.
Anyway, the Ziegfeld screen IS too small, but I don’t see how it can be enlarged without re-designing th entire proscenium.
I started going here in the early 1970’s. I think the first one I saw was “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.” My father dropped me off, and I went in alone. Excellent!
Or maybe he was referring to the obscene prices at the concession stand.
I don’t believe it either.
I don’t believe it either.
And neither do I.
Maybe the extra 25 cents was for a packet of tissues or wet-naps.
Alto, you’re preaching to the choir. I guess that most people reading this website come on time.
And you can’t bring a case about what “might” happen to others — but you can if you have personally missed a bus or train connection.
Anyway, I like the late starting shows. It gives me the chance to wander around a bit, or to sit in my seat and soak up the atmosphere.