Queens Theatre

219-36 Jamaica Avenue,
Queens Village, NY 11428

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Showing 151 - 159 of 159 comments

gregwalsh on December 22, 2004 at 2:55 am

I remember the ushers' room very well. But sharing it with bags of popcorn?? That’s disgusting!

In my five years with Century, all popcorn was REALLY fresh-popped. And for a small premium (I don’t recall how much) the container of popcorn was then sprayed with freshly melted butter and sprinkled with extra salt.

Part of my job as Chief of Service was to fill in as others took scheduled breaks. This included the Children’s Matron, the Doorman, and the Refreshment Stand Matron. Consequently, I occasionally made, and served, the popcorn. To this day, whenever I smell freshly popped popcorn, my thoughts drift back almost 50 years…

That “clunky metal door” and the asbestos fire curtain suspended above the stage (immediately in front of the main curtain) were, of course, part of the fire containment system dating back to the Vaudeville days (late-20’s). That ebony switchboard, with its myriad of switches and huge dimmers, was a beauty. I often tinkered with the dimmers during intermissions to subtly vary the colored lights playing on the main curtain.

Speaking of intermissions, I tired rather quickly of the typical “elevator music” played. As I had (still have) a rather large collection of “sound track” and “musicals” (e.g., Picnic, Guys & Dolls, Giant, etc.), I prevailed on Sy Samuels to allow me to bring in, and play, some of those LPs; particularly when the music neatly fit with a current or future billing. Other times I played classical music, especially Baroque, and got a lot of good comments from some of our patrons.

I too was a smoker; but I don’t ever remember doing it “on the sneak.” I DO recall, however, that smoking in full uniform (i.e., with jacket on) was strictly forbidden. As I hated those white dickies, I normally wore my own white shirt, and simply took my jacket off when on break.

Ahh, the memories…

KenF on December 22, 2004 at 1:08 am

Ah yes, the rope hoist. Part of our Tuesday night close routine was helping the operator lug the cans down to the lobby, where the movie fairy would swap them overnight for the next double feature. Meanwhile the electrician was up on a 15' ladder changing the marquee. We also changed the printed schedules in the little wall slots.

The “ushers” room was on the mezzanine under the left balcony staircase. We shared it with huge bags of “fresh-popped” popcorn. On the many afternoons when the balcony was empty, you could scrunch down in the far left corner of the loge and see the manager’s office — and sneak a smoke.

Backstage was fascinating — the clunky metal door, and the huge dimmers that you needed both hands and feet to operate.

Ah, yes.

gregwalsh on December 22, 2004 at 12:13 am

Ken – Yes indeed, I remember that vertical ladder to the projection booth.

On rare occasions I had to schlep those heavy lead cannisters of 35mm film – a holdover from the nitrate film days – to the top of the balcony. I’d then climb the ladder and summon the projectionist to get them up into the booth.

I have a vague recollection of a rope hoist for the cannisters… Do you recall?

KenF on December 21, 2004 at 11:40 pm

Warren, that’s a great story about the fight in the projection booth. As I recall, the only access to the booth was via a vertical ladder up the wall after climbing stairs to the top landing of the balcony. No wonder those guys got testy.

Greg, those were great days indeed — and I learned more about movies from watching them 20 times than from any textbook. Our Asst. Manager part of the time I was there was Tom Bien, a Hungarian stage actor who had fled Hungary after the failed revolution of ‘56. I ran into him a few years later, managing the movie house that used to be next door to Maxwell’s Plum in Manhattan (anyone recall its name?).

gregwalsh on November 1, 2004 at 6:56 pm

Having started as an usher in Century’s Floral Theater (Floral Park) in 1953, I transferred to the Queens as “Chief of Service (Head Usher)” in 1955; working there for three years under Manager Sy Samuels and his assistant, Art Ringfield. Ken, at $1.15 you were lucky! I made $0.85 an hour in 1955, rising to $1.00 when I left in 1958. Bess, your brother’s friend was pretty lucky. Any usher foolish enough to open an emergency exit to let someone in free was summarily fired. Particularly dumb was to do it during the day. Opening ANY of those doors would instantly flood the entire theater with light. Nevertheless, they were great days… if you didn’t mind seeing the same movie for 20 to 25 times!

Bess on July 17, 2004 at 4:24 pm

I have wonderful childhood memories of Saturday afternoon admissions (50 cents for a double feature with newsreel) at the Queens Theatre just several blocks down from my dad’s drugstore on Springfield Blvd. This was in the late 40’s, early 50’s and we looked forward to this every Saturday; one such memory was of my brother getting in free because his friend was an usher and let him in through the second floor fire escape door. (I think he only did that a couple of times just for the ‘fun of it’– as for me, I was too frightened of being caught and that walk up the fire escape looked very precarious!)

KenF on June 19, 2004 at 8:28 pm

I ushered at the Queens from 1963-65, in maroon double-breasted jacket and pants, for $1.15 an hour. It was a blast. On the rare weekend nights we weren’t working, we took our dates there (for free). When I started, the double bill was KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and FREE, WHITE AND 21. This last item was quickly replaced by, I think, THE KING AND I. My swan song as an usher was the first-run Showcase booking of IN HARM’S WAY.

RobertR on May 6, 2004 at 5:00 pm

I think its still open, it appears that way from the front.

RobertR on May 6, 2004 at 4:35 pm

This theatre managed to stay in pretty good shape even after all the years showing porno. It’s too bad the live shows did not work out or that they did not give it another chance showing movies.