RKO Alden Theatre

165-16 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Showing 151 - 167 of 167 comments

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 19, 2005 at 3:42 pm

The theatre may have started construction in 1927, but it didn’t open until December, 1928. It was built by an investment group that had no intentions of operating it and first leased it as a playhouse to the Shubert Organization, which is why it was originally known as the Shubert Jamaica. The one and only entrance was on what’s now known as 165th Street. All of the frontage on Jamaica Avenue had already been developed into stores. When RKO took over the theatre, by which time it had been re-named the Alden, the circuit purchased a store on Jamaica Avenue and converted it into a new entrance, with a new and much smaller marquee. The original marquee and entrance on 165th Street remained for many years, but were used only for display purposes and a side exit.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 19, 2005 at 1:39 pm

According to property records, the RKO Alden was built in 1927 and occupies the address of 9211 to 9225 165th St. The original deed lists 165th St as “Puntine Street”. There is no Jamaica Ave address given. On Sept. 16, 1986 ownership was transferred from RKO Century Warner Theatres (formerly known as Century Theatres) to Cineplex Odeon Corp. of Delaware. The address used for real estate purposes is:
9211 165th St
Jamaica, NY 11433

iemola1
iemola1 on February 26, 2005 at 10:36 am

Valencia-
I’m pretty sure Mr. Astaire made some other films after Francis Ford Coppolla’s film version of FINIAN’S RAINBOW in 1968. Remember his romancing Miss Jennifer Jones while trying to fleece her out of her money in Irwin Allen’s THE TOWERING INFERNO? I do. Saw it back when at the KINGSWAY.

GeorgeStrum
GeorgeStrum on February 25, 2005 at 5:46 am

The last time I attended the Alden was in 1968 to see Fred Astaire’s last film “Finian’s Rainbow”. The years passed and the Alden demised. However I did hear a “rumor” about the still remaining auditorium behind the present retail spaces that a poor Pentecostal church was looking to rent the space for their services. Evidently the rumor has been proved false or the deal never went through.

AlanShore1
AlanShore1 on December 31, 2004 at 4:18 pm

Well, it’s refreshing to find that there are people who remember and value this treasure. I grew up in Jamaica in the fifties and all of Jamaica Ave. was filled with gems of one kind or another. Anyone remember the Savoy theater? A slightly more run down sibling of the others, but they had contests with prizes in addition to triple features. The Valencia had live acts, including The Three Stooges in about 1961.

Alan M. Shore

joemasher
joemasher on May 13, 2004 at 6:24 pm

I’ve been in the Alden recently—the manager took me to their storage room which is the balcony and proscenium. There’s a drop ceiling from the balcony front to the stage, and the seats have been removed. Other than that, it is very much intact!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 13, 2004 at 2:02 pm

The original side entrance on 165th Street is occupied by a “bargain store” that takes up two floors. On the second floor, you can see remains of what was once the theatre’s mezzanine promenade. The back walls of this store seem to stop at the auditorium, which would be behind them. The short lobby on Jamaica Avenue was also turned into stores, but at last visit they were unrented, so I can’t say how far they extend into the auditorium, if at all.

Bway
Bway on May 13, 2004 at 9:57 am

This is very interesting that the theater may still be sitting there behind all of the retail in the lobbies. What stores currently occupy the lobbies of the building?

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on May 13, 2004 at 8:26 am

Thank you, Warren, for this information. I am pleased that the links to images I have posted are “provoking” the posting of this new information.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 13, 2004 at 8:12 am

The portions of the RKO Alden that appear in these photos are of the “new” entrance that RKO built on Jamaica Avenue when it took over the theatre in the mid-1930s. Prior to that, the Alden’s only entrance was around the corner on 165th Street, in the middle of the block. After RKO took over, that entrance was closed, but the large marquee remained and was kept active with the current attractions.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on May 12, 2004 at 1:58 pm

The Alden is visible on the right side of the following images :

http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?6367
http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?6397
http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?24041

Loew’s Valencia (q.v. on this site) is also visible in image 24041. The pointed top of the baroque facade is visible in the upper left corner.

RobertR
RobertR on March 25, 2004 at 7:08 am

I think the whole theatre is still there behind all of the retail

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 25, 2004 at 7:05 am

You can still see portions of the Alden’s interior in that store around the corner from Jamaica Avenue on 165th Street, especially on the upstairs level. But the store’s management is not receptive to curious visitors and won’t let you linger or take photographs. Most of what I saw seemed to be portions of the theatre’s lobbies and mezzanine promenade. Nothing was visible of the auditorium itself. I pass the area often on the LIRR, and the upper exteriors of the building look in serious need of repair.

RobertR
RobertR on January 29, 2004 at 10:41 am

I remember the last year or so RKO-Century did not renew the lease on the Jamaica Avenue entrance and it was turned into a store. The 165st entrance was opened for the first time in decades. They half assed re-lit the 1930’s marquee. After a shooting in which a security guard got killed the theatre closed. It seems like retail is in the lobbies only and the theatre may be intact inside.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 18, 2004 at 12:50 pm

The theatre was designed by Herbert J. Krapp and first opened in December, 1928, as the Shubert Jamaica, presenting stage plays direct from Broadway or in trial productions. Barely a month later, the spectacular Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened directly across the street. Attendance fell so drastically at the Shubert that its lease was sold to Mutual Burlesque, which was soon shut down by the police after complaints from Jamaica’s many churches. With the onset of the Depression, the theatre went dark until October 17, 1930, when it re-opened under local ownership with movies and vaudeville. To expunge its slightly notorious past, it was re-named the Alden Theatre in honor of John Alden, one of the Puritan fathers. Several years later, RKO Theatres, which had no outlet in Jamaica, took over the Alden and also built a new entrance and marquee on Jamaica Avenue directly opposite the Valencia’s. Previously, the Alden’s entrance had been on 165th Street, though a marquee remained there in addition to the new but smaller one on Jamaica Avenue. Unfortunately, the RKO Alden had to contend not only with competition from Loew’s Valencia but also from the nearby Century’s Merrick, which had contracts with some of the studios that normally played the RKO circuit. A compromise was made whereby Skouras Theatres, which had ties to RKO, took over the Merrick’s operation and the boxoffice takings of the Merrick and Alden were shared equally by RKO, Skouras, and Century. Thus, program changes at the Alden and Merrick tended to be every other week, rather than weekly as at the Valencia.

William
William on November 17, 2003 at 1:40 pm

The RKO Alden Theatre is located at 165th Street & Jamaica Ave..

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 16, 2003 at 11:24 pm

A quick ride around the block shows that the shell of the theater is still pretty much intact. It closed not too long after the nearby Valencia (just across Jamaica Ave and over a block or two) stopped showing movies in the late ‘70’s.