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Here’s a curious ad for “Quo Vadis?” from October, 1913, when the picture was making its rounds in markets much smaller than New York City. This particular ad is for a small theater, in a tiny western New York state hamlet, and it exclaims the feature was to be shown “in Talking Pictures.” I imagine this bit of showmanship was accomplished by having actors speaking the lines (and perhaps with a few select sound effects produced) from behind the screen, in accompaniment with the exhibition. I wonder if this gimmick was featured at any time during its engagement at the Astor – or if it was dreamed up by exhibitors on the road for secondary and tertiary markets (and beyond)?
The former site of the theater was incorporated into the Sumner Houses apartment complex, which runs several square blocks on the north side of Myrtle Avenue, from Throop to Lewis Avenues. The project was completed in the spring of 1958 by NYC Housing Authority.
Video story and regular article from February about the pending opening. Still hasn’t happened. Appears the new name will be The Space at Westbury. There is a website and a facebook page. There are a couple of interior photos on the home page to the website, plus a gallery of images showing interior renovations in process. The events page, however, still seems to be a clean slate…
Let’s not forget the exclusive engagement of newly restored and reissued Marx Brothers classic, “Animal Crackers” in 1974 or so.
I sorta did, rlr2010. I usually planned my viewings at the Hollywood during daylight hours. Particularly, since the majority of the time, I went there alone. When I used to go catch movies at the 42nd Street grind houses, it was typically with friends, so I wasn’t quite as concerned about the hours – although, even there, we always tried to get an early start! Particularly after our first couple of visits.
The Holiday Inn is what I was remembering, thanks rlrl2010.
I don’t recall Seventh Ave or Broadway being so dangerous back in those days, either. It was definitely more tawdry, and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting, but I wouldn’t call it dangerous. Aside from the porno theaters and adult book and video shops, there were also the noisy (and more dangerous than the street) pinball and Fascination arcades, the dance-hall barkers, strip joints, greasy-spoon holes in the wall, tourist-trap gift and electronic shops, street drummers, street dancers, street corner preachers, three card monte rip-off artists, and the pose-for-a-portrait artists – the last of these may be the ONLY group that seems to have survived the transformation to “Family Destination.”
There was a period in the late ‘80’s, before the area had “bounced back,” where I found certain stretches along those two thoroughfares to get a bit more intimidating. I remember once going to a play at the Virginia Theatre on W. 52nd, just off Seventh – this is maybe 1988. After the show, I wanted to walk with my date down to Times Square proper and take a poke around my “old stomping grounds.” As we crossed into the upper 40’s, the pedestrian traffic along Seventh really thinned out, and it was quite eerily dark and quiet for a block or two. The site of the old Rivoli Theatre was a vacant and fenced in lot, and the sounds of the usual city hustle and bustle just sort of fell away behind us, so that all we really could hear were our footsteps. I remember finding myself nervously looking over my shoulder until we got to 47th and the crowd thickened again by Duffy Square.
As for the side streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues – well, this is where the overwhelming majority of legitimate theaters were located. I don’t know that they were ever all that dangerous, really, except for maybe the darker streets, like 41st and 43rd. I seem to recall a lot of dope dealing went on down those quieter side streets. Forty Second was anything but dark, but was certainly notorious as a rather threatening strip. It never stopped me from going to see a double feature there, but I was certainly sure to have my wits about me and tended to be even more cautious about approaching the western edge of the block near Eighth Ave. Things definitely got more dicey down by the Harem, the Empire and Anco theaters.
Eighth Avenue, where the Adonis was located, while not technically a side street, was definitely more peripheral to the theater district – and decidedly more dangerous and foreboding a place. There was (and still is) but one, lone, legitimate theater located on the west side of Eighth Avenue, the former Martin Beck at W. 45th Street. Aside from that theater, the strip was mostly porn palaces, adult shops, old bars, crappy diners, flop houses, strip clubs and hookers. Lots and lots of hookers. From the dirty 30’s, past the Port Authority, and right up through the ‘40’s and lower 50’s. I rarely found myself on Eighth Avenue, except to catch some flicks at the Hollywood Twin, when it was a revival house for a few years. And aside from a family dinner on Joe Allen’s once or twice when I was a young child, I don’t remember ever venturing west of Eighth in that part of town, until maybe 10 or 12 years ago.
Here’s a direct link to Uwe’s most excellent series of images. Thank you, sir, for documenting this historic building just before it would have been too late!
When I passed by just a few days ago, on Thursday, the building appeared to be about completely down. The blue construction shedding that surrounds the property, still had the protrusion along Sunrise Highway that allowed for the marquee, but the lot behind the shedding looked completely leveled, save for a bit of steel framework that supported what would have been the theater’s western wall, adjacent to the HSBC branch.
I remember that Ramada Inn from back in the ‘80’s… I think it was a Days Inn for a while before Hilton Garden took over. I used to imagine that the Ramada was likely booked by tourists, coming to New York for the first time and familiar with the hotel chain’s name – not imagining for a second the tawdry nature of its location. What they must have thought upon arrival! Eighth Avenue was rife with flea-bag SRO hotels in those days, but wasn’t there also another, smaller legitimate hotel, on the west side of the avenue, that was a national chain? Like maybe Holiday Inn? Can’t pinpoint the location in my mind’s eye, but I could swear there was.
This theater should be listed as demolished. The portion of the block where the Shore was located, is now occupied by a large steam and water supply plant, built in 1998 by a company called Conectiv. The facility is shown in the street view above, and is called the Midtown Thermal Control Center.
That’s a fair point, robboehm… Can’t be much more than a mile away, if that.
Good catch, Bway. Looks like they lopped off about a quarter of the building’s width! It’s remarkable how often that practice occurred over the years in NYC, as thoroughfares were widened to increase traffic capacity. Perhaps it speaks to the quality of construction from the early 20th century, that these structures could withstand such alterations.
They should be there for you, techman… Just checked and they are the 1st five images out of the 12 that are uploaded for this theater.
Posted a few pics I took today of the building’s exterior. I realized, as I was uploading them, that the most recent exterior shot we had here on CT was the one I took back in 1993 (on actual film – imagine that!?), so these pics illustrate the dull “modernization” of the main facade, the removal of the fire-escapes, and cutting away of the marquee and its framework.
Passed by this theatre today and the snapped a couple of pics. The blue paint on the “COMMUNITY” sign atop the marquee has just about peeled entirely away. The building’s facade doesn’t appear to have had any maintenance performed since the last pics I took back in 2005.
Drove past on my way home from the office this on Friday, April 19th, and snapped 5 quick shots with my cell camera. The place looks ready for business. There was an older, well-dressed gentleman and a much younger woman who accompanied him, walking the perimeter of the theater as I approached the block. I saw them turn the corner from Post Ave onto the northern side street, where the man checked that the two doors located just off Post were locked. Not sure what that was about.
Also struck me that there are no display cases along the main facade – though, I suppose, those could be easily anchored onto the wall at a later date, easily enough. However, there are two rectangular recesses in the wall at new side entrance on the southern facade, that appear to be intended for poster displays. Through those doors, one can also make out a mural depicting what seems to be a man on stage playing to a house of empty seats! Hopefully, not a prophetic image!
As MissVicki noted, the marquee lights are in – and I’m happy that they appear to be the old fashioned screw-in bulbs, rather than some modern LED type of affair. I’m sure the display panels will include some sort of modern animated signage, but at least the framing and undercarriage are to be lit incandescently!
Hopefully, the next time I snap some pics, there’ll be an attraction listed up on those boards!
No sure those are water-tight, Tinseltoes. I can tell you from experience, excessive amounts of “buttery topping” are apt to leak through right on to your trousers!
Matt, I know it’s not necessarily your thing to photograph adapted-use theaters, but were you ever inside the Savoy with your camera?
Harris Theatre, last of the originals still in business on the block. Titles on the marquee would date this sometime after April 29th, 1994, when “No Escape” opened in the U.S.
Movieman… bring some clorox wipes along with you.
I have been up to the left balcony auditorium twice in the last 6 months or so, most recently for “Django Unchained,” and I noticed that there is some sort of housing in front of the screen that noticeably cuts a small notch a few inches deep and several feet wide along the bottom edge of the image – dead center, too! Wonder what this is and why it was so poorly placed with respect to the audiences sight lines towards the screen?!
I forget which movie attraction it was (maybe “Tom Sawyer?” or Disney’s “Robin Hood?”) but I can recall seeing the trailer for “Mame” at the Hall, and it was so long, that I remember my aunt rhetorically asking, “why come to see the movie, they’re practically showing the whole thing right now?!”
Ironically, we did go back and see “Mame” at the Hall, anyway!
Paktype, I think “Return of the Jedi” played the Sunrise Cinemas multiplex down the road. In 70mm, too, if I recall. Trying to remember what summer flick I may have seen at Green Acres that year… Maybe “Wargames?” That played here for sure that year. And I recall seeing “The Right Stuff” here, too, but I’m not sure when exactly that came out.
Amazing! I never really stopped to consider the elaborate mechanical and electrical engineering that went into the installation of these remarkable – and now, sadly, rare – instruments. Somehow the word instrument seems woefully inadequate! I am really appreciative to all involved in assembling this video – and keeping these magnificent organs in tune and in shape!
What an absolutely gargantuan proscenium!