Showing 201 - 225 of 3,380 comments found
For some reason, the street view is off by a block to the east. The theatre was located near the next corner to the right, adjacent to the Radio Shack.
Hey RobertR… You posted a photo for this theater, but the image is actually of the Trans-Lux 49th Street, which later became the Grand Pussycat Cinema porn-house in the ‘70’s.
This is a pic for the Trans-Lux 49th Street just a few blocks away on the west side of Broadway.
Ratkat… If you are still following this page, you can upload your photos from the “Photos” tab near the top of this page. You simply need to have them saved on your computer, then you can use the “Add New Photo” function to browse your hard drive for the photo files and upload them. I hope you take advantage of that feature and share your images with us!
I’ll give you this much… that it is certainly not a mere unadorned box, like most theaters built after it (including its one-time rival, the Loew’s Astor Plaza). Over the years, I have come to better appreciate the theater’s appointments, and did not necessarily intend to denigrate it’s architectural merits – which are not particularly to my own liking. I suppose I’m not enough of a modernist enthusiast to have much of an informed opinion, but it doesn’t seem to me that the Ziegfeld’s design and decorative motifs will make the basis of a strong landmark case. I believe that its significance and worthiness of preservation go beyond the mere brick and mortar.
And, as usual, Al brings up a good point regarding how long Cablevision has been looking to bail on the theater chain. It may well be several years before any deal is completed. And what of the 15 year term remaining on the lease? I suppose a lease could be bought out, if it came right down to it.
I would probably stop well short of calling the Ziegfeld a palace (perhaps, at best, an ersatz palace), but that doesn’t mean I don’t support a full court press to try and save it from closure. Pale as it may compare to the legion of true palaces that have been pounded to dust just around the corner along Broadway and Seventh Avenue, it does stand alone, sadly, as the sole surviving single screen premiere house in New York City (like LuisV, I discount the art-house Paris, too). If it were to be proposed for landmark status, I’m not so sure anyone would be able to rest its case purely on its architectural merits.
That great Post fact-checking apparatus at work… 3000 seats?
Anyway, does anyone think a conversion to IMAX is realistic? The place is configured all wrong for IMAX. Seems way too long and narrow, neverming that there’s no significant rake to the majority of the seating. Unless a sympathetic benefactor picks up the pieces of Clearview, this doesn’t bode well at all. I would also fear for the fates of the “art-house” locations along the chain, such as the Roslyn and Manhasset Theatres.
I posted 2 images I snapped from my copy of the NY Times from February 12, 2012. They are images that accompanied the article I referenced in my last post.
Typo… this is actually from April 10th.
Updated photos from several different days in April have just been posted, showing dismantling of original Post Avenue facade and framing for new structure going up.
And that would mean an average ticket price of $10.44 in 2012 grosses. Not as far off the current price in NYC for a standard (non-IMAX, non 3-D) movie ticket, at least at first blush, as one might have thought. But, if there were still a movie and stageshow policy at a theater like the Music Hall today, I’m sure a considerable premium would be charged!
Hey Guarina, the building lot for the theater that I researched on the Department of Buildings' website includes both the entrance and row of stores on W. 181st Street as well as the auditorium on Audubon Avenue.
Another tidbit from that research evidences that there was a fire that started in one of the adjoining storefronts in 1993, which caused damage to most if not all the stores in the row. One filed complaint notes damage to “seven stores,” in the cellar, first and second floors including “badly charred” floor joists.
Bigjoe59… A digital version of “Titanic” is being shown at the 34th Street. Press a button and you could play an 8 hour film straight through, if you have the memory capacity in the hard drive. With actual film, there is a limit to the amount of footage that can be held in the platter (which is massive and weighs a ton, by the way). An intermission was placed at a reasonable point in the film to allow the changeover at the Lincoln Square IMAX.
I should amend that last comment to read that nothing taller could be built on the Ziegfeld’s site UNLESS the prospective developer were to apply with the Department of Buildings for a variance of some sort. Such variances and exceptions have been known to occur, since all such decisions are driven by matters of money and revenue – particularly in mid-town Manhattan!
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.