Showing 151 - 175 of 3,319 comments found
That’s exactly right, bigjoe59. If the air rights for the theater were used by the developer to build a bulkier and taller neighboring edifice than zoning regulations would normally allow, then nothing taller than the structure that currently exists could be erected on the Ziegfeld’s site.
The building in question, by the way, is the Burlington House (not sure if that is still its name), a monolithic, black glass tower that sits right on Sixth Avenue, between W. 54th and W. 55th Streets. The southern half of the tower, closest to W. 54th, actually occupies the space of the original Ziegfeld Theater, with the current incarnation sitting back aways off Sixth Avenue, behind the skyscraper.
Thanks, Movieplace, for this and that.
It’s too bad that there isn’t a way for CT to notify when there is an update (such as new photo upload) for specific theaters, in addition to notifying when a new comment is added to a subscribed thread.
Many thanks for this, Matt Lambros! How’d you manage to convince the owners (who reportedly have been very hostile towards inquiries regarding the building’s theatrical past) to let you photograph the interior?
I suppose that’s possible, CaptRonLI. It’s far enough away that it seems feasible. I have some more recent images on my cell phone that I’ll have to upload when I get a chance from home. They have completely dismantled the old lumber on Post Avenue and, last I saw (about a week or so ago) they were well on their way to re-framing the entrance structure anew.
The new addition on the southern side of the auditorium was still clad in its insulation boards, looking quite the same as it did in my photos from January 9th. Of course, I have no idea what the progress has been inside the theater.
Interesting, unless it’s merely a typo (1904 vs 1914 only a matter of a single slip on the keyboard). It certainly warrants further investigation. Good luck, and keep us apprised.
I wonder to what extent the original Bryant Theatre was remodeled (if at all) when the Selwyns purchased the site and built the Times Square Theatre around and adjacent to the original entrance. Perhaps the auditorium was preserved and only the lobby foyer reconstructed with the new colonnaded structure? The foyer still exists, seemingly intact from its Apollo days, at least. It serves as an alternative exit from the Foxwoods.
The storefront currently at 1408 St Nicholas Ave is occupied by a clothing shop called Top Gun – at least as recently as the Google street-view is dated. It is a few doors down from the sign that says “chocolate,” in a narrow 2-story building with a large window and red & black vertical stripes painted on the upper facade. That is actually part of the Gem Theatre structure, I’m not sure if it was originally an accessory exit for the theater at some point (since it would have surely backed up to the rear of the auditorium), but it was at least partially converted to that small store I mentioned above, according to the 1924 alteration permit.
Bigjoe59… I fear we’ll never have a definitive date or location of the very first up-from-the-ground purpose-built movie theater in New York City (whether you consider that to mean Manhattan or any of the five boroughs). Given that building records from this period are sketchy at best – particularly in the outer boroughs before 1936-38 (when the department and its building regulations went City-wide) – the identity of that landmark structure may be forever lost to antiquity. It is a worthy pursuit to try and track it down, regardless.
The age of this building makes it difficult to find much information via an online search of the NYC Department of Building records. It seems the structure was erected around 1913-1914, but none of the older documents are viewable.
There is an alteration for a portion of the building that fronted at 1408 St Nicholas Avenue dated April 3, 1924, for a very small store with maximum occupancy of 8 persons.
Another alteration dated August 4, 1952, shows 1st floor occupancy for “stores” and 2nd floor “offices.” This certificate covers the entire building, listed as 564-566 West 181st Street and 1408 St Nicholas Avenue, and may indicate when the theater itself was first converted to retail space – however, I have my doubts since occupancy for the store space is listed as 50 persons. This may have applied only to a portion of the building which may never have been a part of the theater’s operations.
A temporary permit was approved on January 20, 1955, at 564 West 181st Street for a synagogue on the 2nd floor. A final approval followed on September 7, 1955, noting stores on the 1st floor and “offices, synagogue and social room” on the 2nd floor. Certainly, by this point, the Gem Theatre must have been closed and gutted.
No doubt due in part to the age of the building, NYC Department of Building records on this theater are sketchy. I could find no viewable online documentation from its years of operation as a theater. Much of what is viewable relates to one of the other storefronts along West 181st Street.
There are a couple of violations from July 1988 that note construction work without a permit at 544 W 181st. The owner is listed as Astroc Enterprises. This may have been related to the renovations that converted the theater space to retail stores. A renwal of a work permit is noted from June 30, 1991, to renovate the “existing theater into stores.” It also notes “No structural changes. Add partitions, new vinyl floor, new lighting fixtures.” Alteration permits are listed from 1986, but they are not viewable and, again, may apply to one of the other storefronts within the building block.
My guess is the Astral was probably hastily converted into a store in the late 1980’s and may have even operated as such illegally, until the proper permits were obtained and work completed and approved in the early 1990’s. Interestingly, annual “illuminated sign permits” are still being renewed for an 81 square foot sign that the DOB still notes as being worded for “Astral Theatre Inc.”
Further online research shows that paperwork for the formation of Astral Theatre, Inc, was filed on December 1, 1966, with New York State Department of State. The entity was dissolved at the end of 1982. This might be a good indication as to when the former Empress Theatre re-opened as the Astral. We know from ads I posted in this thread that the Astral was still in operation as late as 1985, so that would make nearly 20 years of operation (possibly more) under that moniker.
As for ownership, the earliest deed available for viewing online was recorded April 23, 1970, and passed title from Audubon 181st Street Corp to Jeffries Enterprises, Inc. Jeffries Enterprises then deeded the property to Astroc Enterprises on April 11, 1975, and Astroc, in turn, deeded to the current owner, Won Merchadise Corp on August 14, 1984. Astroc might have retained a lease on the theater portion of the building after the sale. In fact, Astroc had originally leased the building from Jeffries Enterprises in March, 1972, prior to acquiring actual ownership a few years later.
If you were on West 180th between Audobon and St Nicholas, you were definitely looking at the auditorium wall of the Lane Theater, Guarina. I think we have the location nailed down. Just a bit of research on NYC Department of Buildings website found the following:
On March 22, 1918, an alteration of an existing building at 549-559 West 180th Street was approved as a skating rink, with an entrance at 560 West 181st.
On October 2, 1928, the same buidling was again altered, this time with a restaurant and cabaret (as well as with stores and “passage”).
On November 1, 1933, a new alteration at the same location for a motion picture theater (with max capacity of 1570 for fire code – not necessarily the number of seats) on the first floor and offices & restaurant on the 2nd floor.
Finally, on August 4, 1959, the alteration to Post Office in the 180th Street “wing” and stores & offices in the 181st Street portion.
Since all of these were alterations, we know that the theater was not purpose built, nor was it demolished. Seems that, at worst, it was gutted to the steel and repurposed. This also supplements br91975’s original comments from 2004 with some actual dates.
If musicom67 is correct about the theater’s location (Merrick Road at Fox Blvd), then the street view is off by a number of blocks. Can anyone confirm what the nearest intersection was?
Sounds like a match, Al. I hastily accepted the “575 West 181” that shows up when you point the street view correctly without being more diligent. There is no address on the awning, but it appears all the storefronts at ground level in the adjacent apartment building to the left share the address 558 West 181st, according to the awnings. That would make the CUNY building number 560. Come to think of it, 575 would have been located across the street on the odd-numbered side.
In any event, I see the site administrators (that you, Ken?) jumped all over this info and set it all straight. Well done, all.
Despite what the (now defunct) Washington Heights/Inwood website might have indicated, according to br91975’s opening comment on this page, I wonder if the entrance to the Lane wasn’t located a bit further to the west on this block. The address of 550 W 181st Street would put it in the same storefront building as the entrance to the former Empress Theatre (later known as the Astral). The auditorium of the Empress sat right behind and parallel to the this row of storefronts. There would have been no access to any other auditorium from the space at 550 W 181st.
If one moves down the block past the 3 identical 6 story apartment buildings to the west of #550, there is a 2-story building with an awning that reads “City University of New York” at 575 W 181st Street. A satellite view of the block shows that this structure reaches all the way back to the US Post Office that is located on 180th Street, and the two lots have that familiar flag-shape shared by many urban theaters of this size. I would suggest that the Lane Theatre occupied this site, with an entrance at 575 W 181st Street and its auditorium demolished to make way for the Post Office location. Of course, I can’t support any of this as fact.
I think the street view clearly shows that this theater has been demolished. The view evidences a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Pitkin Avenue and Hendrix Street, where the Lyric once stood. A status update is in order.
The street view is pointed at the wrong side of Third Ave. The apartment building that now rises on the site of the Juliet I & II may be seen by swinging the view across the street to the right. It is the tall thin tan-colored structure, 2nd from the corner, with its long rain canopy extending almost to the edge of the curb.
Hey! What happened to DEFG? I just noticed that all his photos are gone from the Photo directory and now it seems that his entire profile and all comments posted have completely vanished? That is a crying shame!
Also, I notice that someone posted a photo of the Frisco and Avon 7 Theatres, which were located across Seventh Avenue and a block to the south of the Paree. I guess any old porn marquee will do?
Listen, I’m only a cheerleader, but I spent many hours in the movie houses that once lined W. 42nd Street, Broadway and Seventh Avenue back in the ‘80’s. Pornography was never my thing – Kung Fu and horror films were my usual vices. I enjoyed seeing films at these theaters for a variety of reasons, including the fact that admissions were cheap, the bill of fare included double and even triple features along with red-band trailers (never got those in Queens!) and the often hilarious running commentary from folks in the audience. And, yes, I would sometimes find myself looking past the grime and decay and admiring some of the stunning architecture within those dirty walls.
For a budding cineast such as myself, Times Square was a wonderland. The history of the area is frequently sordid but it is also endlessly fascinating – and I’m happy to have been able to experience some of it while I was able. In fact, I still patronize many of the surviving and re-born establishments whenever I get the chance.
Thanks for the info, CSWalczak!
Bigjoe59… I’ll leave it to others more knowledgeable than myself to answer your question, but I don’t believe an original roadshow print of “Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” has existed in many decades. While bits and pieces have shown up here and there, a complete restoration has never been completed. The early “complete” versions of that film released on home video, included outtakes and trims that Stanley Kramer himself never intended to include in the finished product, and was cobbled together to approximate roadshow length.
Damn! A new 70mm print of “2001: A Space Odyssey” on that giant Cinerama screen! Did they strike a custom print for this? One that is suitable for exhibition on the curve without distortion? Or is it an un-rectified print that can be exhibited on any regular sheet? This theater only has the Cinerama screen installed, is that correct? Or does it also have a standard screen for non-Cinerama bookings?
Well, as of yesterday, the studs and beams forming the gabled roof of the Post Avenue mixed-use structure have been removed. This is the first sign of new work to the exterior that I’ve seen in many weeks. That is not to say work has not been proceeding on the interior. In fact, I’ve noticed that the various openings from the auditorium to the street have all recently been closed-off with plywood, suggesting that work is at a point where the builders are concerned about exposure to the elements.
I’m still unable to find any internet news regarding an updated completion or opening date.
That is definitely a view looking east down W. 42nd Street from around Eighth Avenue. In that first pic, the marquee of the Anco Theatre is in the foreground on the right, with Bruce Li on the marquee – as Al points out. The marquee for the Empire can also be seen, just beyond the glimpse of the Roxy Burlesk and behind that the side board of the old billboard signage that used to be mounted on the facade above the Liberty marquee.
On the left (north) side of the block, Modells is indeed a sporting goods store that still dots the landscape in NYC (currently they occupy a site across the street from this old location). And the marquees of the Selwyn, Times Square and Lyric Theatres can be made out going off into the distance. The Apollo marquee is probably in the mix as well, but the image is a bit too murky to make out the detail.
I can’t really distinguish much of the New Amsterdam marquee or vertical, which would be on the right side of the street in this image, and off in the distance at the other end of the block.