Elmwood Theatre

57-02 Hoffman Drive,
Elmhurst, NY 11373

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Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 17, 2005 at 12:00 am

EdSolero: I certainly do recall that pizzeria. It was called Pizza Pit, and was indeed in from the corner on Junction. I have quite a few photos of that corner. I will let you know when I can get them onto PhotoBucket — but in the meantime, check out the Photo Gallery at The Queens Board (http://queensboard.com/) — especially pages 3 and 4; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. (However, I’m not familiar with any P.S. 16. I attended P.S. 13, which was between 55th and 56th Aves on 94th St., from 1963-66; it sounds like I was about 10 years ahead of you.)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 16, 2005 at 6:51 pm

The marquee installed for the Elmwood in 1946 is still there (until the church decides on its future). The only changes have been removal of neon borders, which were replaced by stainless steel or chrome, I’m not sure which.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 16, 2005 at 6:15 pm

Jeffrey… I attended P.S. 16 on — was it 57th Ave? — for 3rd grade in ‘72-'73. I remember I used to take the city bus down Junction Blvd by myself from the house on 41st Avenue to get to this school. The principal was Mr. Zoller. After school, I used to go across Junction Blvd to the pizzeria that was right off the corner there and, with a dollar bill, I’d order two slices, a small coke and have a dime left over for the juke-box. Just about every day I would play one of 3 tunes: “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John or “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” which was The Beatles’ B-side to the “Let it Be” single.

Do you recall that pizzeria? I can’t think of the name. It may have been right on the northeast corner of Junction and 57th, but in my memory it was a door or two up Junction from the actual corner. I remember that 57th didn’t quite line up plumb as it crossed Junction, with the east side of the intersection shifted slightly to the south from the west side. You could have probably seen the joint from your apartment windows.

As I write this, it also strikes me that I was of an awfully tender young age to have been riding a city bus and crossing a major thoroughfare like Junction Blvd all by myself, but those were different times. The streets of Elmhurst were a bit safer than they probably are now and parents weren’t quite as overprotective of their children as they most certainly are these days. In any event, I survived the daily routine for an entire school year and can’t recall a single untoward incident. It’s amazing how visiting this site and thinking about a particular movie theater can stir so many unrelated memories. I love it… keeps me sharp! Thanks for indulging me once again.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 8, 2005 at 5:01 pm

My remark about the multiplex was based on the comment at the top, “A plan to demolish the theater after the creation of an 18-screen megaplex nearby stalled,” and I wasn’t sure if what had stalled was the plan to demolish the theater, or the creation of the multiplex. However, after re-reading the subsequent posts, I see that the plan to build a multiplex—which had grown to 30 screens!—was abandoned.

The ground floor of the white building, around the ‘68 period, housed a Chemical Bank, a Chinese restaurant, and an “Anna Kalsø’s Earth Shoe” store. I think I remember the Sam Goody’s coming in a bit after those, although I’m pretty sure I bought a replacement phonograph cartridge in that Goody’s. (As I write these sentences, I’m wondering if anybody under 30 will understand a single reference other than “Chinese restaurant”!)

I lived on the 4th floor of the 6-story Rego Park Gardens building at 57-10 Junction Blvd., but my windows faced the Junction Blvd. side. I took these photos on what might have been the only occasion when I was in our next-door neighbor’s apartment, which faced the rear of the building. As best I can recall, when I saw the view out of their window, I raced back to get my camera. (Anticipating, of course, the development of the Internet and how useful the photos would become!)

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

Jeffrey… thanks for those images! I am not aware of a multiplex in this vicinity. The 6 story white building on the left in both photos (it is partially obscured by a foreground apartment building in the 1st photo) is still there right where the Queens Blvd exit ramp on the westbound LIE leaves you. There used to be a Sam Goody as well as a big chain bookstore (can’t recall which one) located in the ground floor of that building. Anyway, everything to the right of that building along Queens Blvd (and directly facing the Elmwood and St. John’s Hospital) was part of the original Queens Center Mall construction. The Mall has since been expanded to the east (covering the parking lots in the center of each photo), but there is no multiplex within the center.

Were these photos taken from the Lefrak office building on Junction Blvd or perhpaps from one of the apartment buildings across the steet from it?

As for the marquee… the one depicted in your 1969 image was still intact when my Jr High graduation ceremonies were held at the Elmwood in 1979. I have a photo or two somewhere from in front of the theater that might show a glimpse of the marquee and facade… but then, if I scanned and posted them, eveyrone would see whatever dorky hairdo and period clothing I was wearing at the time!!! I’m not sure the marquee was ever entirely replaced with the multiplexing, but at the very least some flashing was installed to obscure the original neon trim and red “ELMWOOD” lettering.

You’re right about Nathan’s taking over Wetson’s! That didn’t last very long, although there are still a couple of standalone Nathan’s on Long Island (right outside the Herricks Theater on Hillside Ave for one). I remember a Roy Rogers restaurant occupied that spot for a number of years. Not sure what’s there right now. And Jack in the Box became Jack’s – where they specialized in taco’s and other fast food variations on Mexican fare – which was in turn put out of business by the success of Taco Bell. Last Jack’s I recall was on Norhtern Blvd in Flushing/Auburndale.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on December 8, 2005 at 2:30 pm

Hi Ed! To answer your question, landmarking would automatically apply to the exterior of the Elmwood, unless the interior was emphasized in a Request For Evaluation (RFE) form.

Enjoying my trip down memory lane!!!

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 8, 2005 at 1:26 pm

Sorry about that…I don’t know why those links aren’t working. Let’s try that again.
First Photo:
View link
Second Photo:
View link
According to my preview, these should work.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 8, 2005 at 1:13 pm

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 12:42 pm

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 12:07 pm

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 11:55 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 8, 2005 at 4:59 am

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 8, 2005 at 2:01 am

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 2, 2005 at 3:10 am

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 6:51 pm

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 6:41 pm

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 12:13 pm

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 5, 2005 at 3:54 am

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 5, 2005 at 1:33 am

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 5, 2005 at 1:31 am

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 6:57 pm

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 21, 2005 at 3:26 am

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 11:47 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 11:14 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 3, 2005 at 5:16 am

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?