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If you can find The Last Action Hero a 1993 film with Gov. Arnold you get a great view of what 42nd St. looked like prior to the Disney gentrification.
Back in the 1990’s when the renovation of 42nd St. started I was on a cross town 42nd St. bus headed East and at the corner of 42nd and 7th Ave there was an old Daily News front page that had come to view since it had been pasted on the wall of a newsstand that was being demolished, it said…Carol Lombard Killed in Plane Crash. I guess no one thought it was worth saving.
In the early 1990’s I had a friend who worked as a grip in the film industry. I was working in NYC in construction and he invited me to meet him after work at the Amsterdam where he was working on the film Uncle Vanya. They had built a platform over the orchestra seats and the action was being filmed there at a small set of couches and chairs. The theater was in very bad shape with mushrooms growing up through missing pieces of flooring. The actors each had a camping tent set up in the area behind the orchestra. As with The Victory across 42nd St. these old theaters made excellent sound-stages and movie sets since they were insulated from the outside noise and had very good acoustics. A famous rock group performance was being filmed at the same time at the Victory across 42nd Street.
I just found this site while doing some research on my old Astoria neighborhood, the best times of my childhood until we moved to NJ in 1955.
Back in the late 40’s early 50’s both the Ditmars and the Grand had Saturday matinees for kids that certainly gave you your 12 cents worth, most of us brought a sandwich since you would be there from 10AM to at least 2 or 3PM. The Ditmars was a small theater that was on one level and traded luxury for inexpensive admission prices and two current films along with cartoons, short subjects, and the all important coming attractions. During WWll they sold War Bonds and gave out dishes. A friendly place.
The Grand was larger, more palatial, with a balcony and ushers who lit the way to a seat if the film was in progress. They also had stern looking older women wearing starched white dresses who served as matrons during the Saturday kid’s show and kept the peace during the times the screen action slowed down and the sugar candy high kicked in resulting in things being thrown among the audience and scuffles breaking out. A matron could get you banned for a week or two which was bad news since every kid in the neighborhood was either at the Grand or the Ditmars and being out on the street was like being in solitary.
There was a bowling alley operating at the same time as the Grand. It was below ground in the small office building on the East side of the Ditmars station that you passed through on the way to the street. Instead of exiting to 31st St. you went down another flight to Lou’s, (I don’t remember the real name). About a 16 alley down and dirty dungeon that was not a family place but served as a great place to learn to bowl and hang out watching some money games going on among the local hustlers. Lou closed in the summer because without A/C the wood in the alleys would swell and buckle.
There was also a pool room across the street level with the station that was entered by a stairway from 31st St. Another definitely non-family type hangout that had so much smoke and grime on the inside of the windows you could not see out. Hanging out there was considered by parents to be the quick path to jail and eventually Hell so you watched to see if there might be someone who knew you nearby before ducking into the doorway and the stairway. Thanks for a place to unpack some memories. Is there an Astoria nostalgia site to trade tall tales about the good old days? Hank
I saw the original “This is Cinerama” film at the Broadway Theater in 1952. One of my Astoria neighborhood friend’s father was a box office treasurer at the Broadway and he was kind enough to introduce a few of the local kids to this latest and greatest innovation in the film world.
It was a fantastic experience and we all swore that the roller coaster sequence was every bit as real as the rides in Coney Island or Rockaway’s Playland.