Elmwood Theatre

57-02 Hoffman Drive,
Elmhurst, NY 11373

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Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 8, 2005 at 5:13 am

In these two panoramic shots from December 1968, you can see the Elmwood, though not very well. In this one, View link it’s at the extreme right, in front of the then-ubiquitous Elmhurst gas tanks. EdSolero, if you look very closely at the exact center of that photo, you can just make out a slanted roof with orange trim — that’s Wetson’s. In the second photo, View link the Elmwood is just right of center. St. John’s Hospital is the large building in the middle. Both of these photos show the largely empty area on Queens Blvd. across from the Elmwood — then occupied by the big-boxy Food Parade supermarket, Fairyland Amusement Park, and some gas stations — that would become Queens Center Mall within a few years. The majority of the foreground is the large commuter parking lot on which I think the mall was later expanded. I’m not that familiar with what they did there; is that where the multiplex is now?

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 8, 2005 at 4:42 am

EdSolero, I also remember eating at Wetson’s, both in that location and others. I think they went out of business in the mid-to-late 70s…in fact, I seem to recall that whoever owned them turned many of the Wetson’s locations into Nathan’s franchises, but those didn’t really pan out either, and now Nathan’s locations are mostly in malls. I’m pretty sure the Queens Blvd. Wetson’s was indeed a little to the east, on an “island” between St. John’s Hospital and the Long Island Expressway service road. I’ll keep looking through my photos…it’s possible more Elmwoods or a Wetson’s might show up!

Warren, the 2002 photo looks like the marquee had been replaced; I’m assuming they changed it when the theater was divided. Was there really anything left of the one from 1946, other than the underlying steel?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 8, 2005 at 4:07 am

Native… Wouldn’t the missing interior elements hinder any efforts to convince the LPC to designate this building a landmark? Not that I wouldn’t want to see it happen.

Nice photo, Jeffrey… if you had another shot that panned to the left, you’d see one of my favorite places to grab a burger when I was a kid – Wetson’s! Anyone remember that burger joint? When I was a kid living in Elmhurst in those years (say ‘68-'72) it wasn’t McDonald’s and Burger King but Wetson’s and Jack in the Box. I had this memory as a child that the Wetson’s was on the median in the middle of Queens Blvd right where it intersected with the LIE, but later realized that it couldn’t have been. I think it was located on the small strip between Queens Blvd and Hoffman Drive a couple of blocks to the east of the Elmwood. Anyway, that chain is long gone and probably isn’t coming back, but hopefully the Elmwood will be back (though not as a movie house) in all its original beauty and will be around for years to come.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 8, 2005 at 3:55 am

The facade is little changed since the theatre first opened as the Queensboro in 1928, which is 77 years ago! Even the roof sign is the original framework built for the Queensboro. All that was changed was the name. The marquee, however, is from 1946, though it was installed over the framework for the Queensboro’s. I don’t know whether the church intends to remove the marquee. So far it remains in place as work continues on the Hoffman Drive entrance, which is still closed for renovations. Parishoners have been using the side exit doors on 57th Avenue.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on December 7, 2005 at 8:59 pm

Hi Jeffrey (& other Cinema Treasures fans)! Thank you very much for a great contribution. What a treasure! It is remarkable as to how little the facade has changed over the past 3 decades. Recently, the new owners removed aluminum siding to reveal the original facade on the first story. After I finish pursuing my Committee To Save The Trylon Theater preservation effort, I will try to assist the owners of the Elmwood in the restoration of the exterior & nomination for the Nat'l Register of Historical Places, which may assist them with grants & tax credits. The NY Landmarks Conservancy has some worthwhile programs as well. At some point, I hope to convince the LPC to designate this unique gem!!! My fellow members should encourage the same.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 7, 2005 at 6:01 pm

Here’s an exterior shot of the Elmwood in early 1970, when it was still a single-screen theater and the feature was Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run.” What’s amazing is how little the facade has changed in 35 years!
View link

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 1, 2005 at 7:10 pm

I lived on Junction Blvd. from 1963 to the mid-70s, and my parents always checked the papers to see what was playing at the Elmwood, Drake, Trylon, Midway, and Continental. My most vivid memory of the Elmwood is seeing Woodstock there…I was totally unprepared for the volume; don’t know if they beefed up the sound system for that or what, but it almost literally blew me away! Also saw Chinatown there — for the second time.
(Besides the theaters mentioned above, there was another local venue at that time: The UA Theatre on 99th St. in the Lefrak City shopping center. It opened some time in the late 60s and never seemed to have a name — it was just “UA Theatre.” And it didn’t last very long.)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 7, 2005 at 10:51 am

Oh, and by the way… shouldn’t this entry be updated to include the Queensboro Theater as a previous name? I’m surprised that wasn’t done a while back.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 7, 2005 at 10:41 am

Thanks for that update, Warren. I’m guessing you weren’t able to take any photos… was this because you didn’t bring your camera or because they wouldn’t allow photographs?

And I’m glad you enjoyed the story, NativeForestHiller. My memory is often quite hazy, but I love sharing what I can recollect from my movie-going experiences.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 5, 2005 at 4:13 am

I visited the theatre several weeks ago during a church service. Progress is slow, but original details of the stage and the right turret are becoming more obvious. Their biggest problem seems to be what to do about the left turret, which was destroyed during the multiplexing. A church usher told me that they hope to build an exact replica, but that it will take time for them to raise the money to do so. At present, there is no seating on the ground floor except for folding chairs. The balcony has apparently been returned to its original formation, but no visiting is allowed for the moment.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 4, 2005 at 7:54 pm

Interesting story, Ed! Thank you for sharing it!!! It will be great to find out what they unearth while attempting to restore the Elmwood to its original Queensboro design. I will try to assist them in the near future, after my Committee To Save The Trylon Theater’s endeavors. The Elmwood is a local landmark, but technically speaking, every building is especially endangered in Queens, without official landmark status. My committee will encourage it to be designated!!!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 4, 2005 at 5:33 pm

My mistake… that should read that “they decided to cancel the 11:30 show” in the 3rd paragraph. The word “not” doesn’t belong.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 4, 2005 at 5:31 pm

I remember there was a karate school in the offices above the lobby. As I stated way back in 2003 at the top of this entry, my Junior High School graduation ceremonies were held here in June of 1979. Odd, since my school was all the way in Fresh Meadows (but the Century Meadows was already a twin by then). The movie that was playing at the time of the graduation was the rather poor nature-gone-wrong horror flick “The Prophecy” (which I actually saw at the Meadows).

I remember seeing several of the “Star Trek” movies here, including the first one (my second time seeing it, since I had seen it opening day of the Sunrise Cinemas multiplex in Valley Stream). The very last movie I ever saw here was also a “Star Trek” movie – “First Contact” in ‘96. It was after a holiday party for the office that a bunch of us decided to head to the Elmwood and see if we could catch a flick. We settled on “First Contact” (which I had seen already). There was a showing starting up in a few minutes, but we were hungry and needed to eat first. So, we decided to buy tickets for the next showing about 45 minutes later (it was playing in two separate auditoriums) which was the last scheduled screening at like 11:30 or something. So, we chowed down at the pizza place (or small diner, I forget) located next to the lobby and then headed back in for the movie.

When we got inside, the ticket taker told us that the movie had already started and was about 35 to 40 minutes in already… We looked at him puzzled and said that we had tickets for the 11:30 show… But it turns out they decided not to cancel the 11:30 show because the theater was completely empty and it was a Thursday night and they were closing up early! The manager was very nice and apologetic and explained we had the only 3 tickets to any of the 3 movies that were scheduled to start after 11 pm that night. So, he gave us a refund and offered to let us into the theater anyway to catch the end of the movie. We were still sort of intoxicated and up for the movie, so we took him up on his offer and settled in for the last hour or so of the flick!

That was my last time inside the theater. I look forward to visiting again soon as the renovations progress. I’m dying to see what they’ve recovered and what they’re able to restore of the original Queensboro design! I hope they plan on keeping the huge rooftop sign in place. It’s a local landmark.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 6, 2005 at 10:57 am

Here’s a 1946 image, taken about two months after the Queensboro opened under its new name of Elmwood. If I recall correctly, the name on the marquee was in reddish orange neon, and all the flashing neon borders were in that color and green. In later years, all of the neon was removed except from the name. The borders were covered over in chrome steel. The Elmwood’s boxoffice was moved to the sidewalk. The Queensboro boxoffice had been in the entrance lobby:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/137-3773_IMG.jpg

VincentPrice
VincentPrice on August 20, 2005 at 7:26 pm

saw king kong, indiana jones and the temple of doom, broadway danny rose, fun with dick and jane, blue thunder, pulp fiction, one of teh freedy kruger flicks, menace to society and many others there. almost saw the crow there. but i got there too late. boo hoo.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 11, 2005 at 3:47 am

Here’s an ad from 1930. By the time of the Fox Kew Gardens' conversion to a miniature golf course, the Queensboro was also tottering. Vaudeville had been withdrawn, and the late-run movie programs were changing three times a week. For the next 16 years, the Queensboro would be closed more often than open. And its open periods were usually devoted to stage plays or rentals as a bingo hall:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/132-3263_IMG.jpg

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 3, 2005 at 3:14 am

The church has limited funds, so the repair work is an ongoing project and may never be finished, or will at least take many years. To the best of my knowledge, it is not a “restoration.” They are trying to keep some of the original Queensboro decor when they find it, but some was lost forever and it would be too expensive to duplicate. What do you mean by “as a work in progress?” What has been done since the church took over the Elmwood, or what was done since the Queensboro was renovated into the Elmwood in 1946?

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on August 2, 2005 at 9:16 pm

For my collection, it would mean a lot to me if someone can please send me some scans showing the Elmwood Theatre as a work in progress. My e-mail is The Rock Community Church is doing a superb job in preserving & restoring the Elmwood, but does anyone have an idea as to when work will be completed? Wooden boards surround the front for a while now. I hope to see the base restored as well, & the graffiti on top eliminated. Thank you, RCC for reusing the old theater space, & embellishing its ornate character & Queensboro Theatre day’s glory!!! Any chance of designating it a landmark?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 10, 2005 at 4:01 am

Here is a rare image of the theatre’s original atmospheric decor as the Queensboro. The stage is bordered by two castle turrets, with a bridge with stained glass windows connecting them. The safety curtain depicts the entrance to the castle. The castle motif was also used in the advertising logo for the Queensboro:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/123-2399_IMG.jpg
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/124-2415_IMG.jpg

hardbop
hardbop on April 4, 2005 at 9:47 am

I like in Astoria and would head out to The Elmwood when there were two movies playing I wanted to see because Queens theaters, unlike Manhattan theaters, have bargain matinees on weekday and Saturday afternoons. So it would pay for me to go the the Elmhurst and see two movies. I too caught “Pulp Fiction” the day after it opened. I remember suffering the ignominy the night before of not only not getting into the Angelika to see the film, but of getting stood up by my date. Oy vey. That “Pulp Fiction” screening I attended was on 10/22/94. The other film I caught that day there was “The Shawshank Redemption.”

JKauf
JKauf on March 26, 2005 at 10:58 pm

The Elmwood was a magnificent theater. I lived in Forest Hills and we had The Midway, Forest Hills, Inwood (later; Cinemart) and Continental so ot had to be a good movie to be worth a subway ride.

I recall the stars on the ceiling and castle on the walls from my earliest visits to The Elnwood. Later on, the theater was much more plain after it had become what I think was a triple.

Better a church than torn down.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 7, 2005 at 7:26 am

It’s now a place of worship known as The Rock Church, which has a predominantly Hispanic membership. It will not be re-opening as a theatre, although groups connected with the church will sometimes use it for concerts, meetings, etcetera…From its opening in 1928, the Queensboro was a flop and often closed during the Depression years. When the Interboro Circuit took over in 1946, it probably decided that it was best to start fresh with a new name. Many theatres had name changes over the years. Another in Elmhurst started as the Victoria and ended as the Newtown.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on March 7, 2005 at 7:08 am

Is this theater reopening?

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on March 7, 2005 at 6:59 am

Ahhh! Yes, I dimly recall the original name. One of my aunts and her family lived in the neighborhood on 61 Road near Woodhaven Blvd. At some early point in my annals of visiting her, I remember the theater took on a new identity, but I was never quite sure why. You’ve solved the mystery for me! And, yes, it’s a miracle that the theater still stands and its decor is intact.

Did many other theaters undergo a change of name as the Elmwood did?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 7, 2005 at 6:25 am

The “Also known as” listing above the theatre’s name should include Queensboro, which was its original from 1928 opening to 1946 re-christening as Elmwood.