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I worked at this location for many years as a contractor when it was a UA (going back to even before it was tripled), and the market place has changed tremendously over the years. There’s really nobody to blame here: Main Street style theaters are really just a thing of the past. Years ago, larger towns could have many theaters of this style (Patchogue and Bay Shore, as examples, had many movie theaters like this one), and support every one of them; but nowadays, these theaters are a dying breed. And forget about it: if you don’t promote birthday parties or group sales with this type of theater, you’re finished. Everybody talks a good game that they like the classic old-styled movie house: then they run down to the newest behemoth stadium seating theater and pluck down the $13 for a ticket, and then they toss $15 down on the candy stand, and then they wonder how come the Babylon or Lindenhurst theaters closed.
I’m not blaming the public for liking the newer stadium theaters (it is nice not to stare at the back of someone’s head, while sitting in a very comfortable rocking seat; and that’s with the picture and sound quality being exceptional!): just be intellectually honest, and realize that many of you voted with your wallet at the box office and candy stand for the newer stadium theater over the old Main Street type theater. 2013 was the largest revenue year for the movie industry, so when I hear people try to rationalize that the industry in-general is in a steep decline, and that’s what’s causing these theater closures, I know that they aren’t living in the real world. The customer’s choice is what’s relegating these movie houses into ancient history.
It’s rather amazing how many years they got out of those Heywood-Wakefield seats that were in those auditoriums. When UA sold that theater in the mid-nineties, it still had those old HW seats, though I know they were re-covered and painted many times. I really liked the “finger” design that HW used on the seat pans: it made them really easy to remove from the floor standard for service (didn’t need a wrench). The HW achilles' heel was the use of springs below the cushions for support, and the use of springs for the pan riser function (the better seats of today are “gravity risers”, hence no springs to break). The riser springs would fatigue and break, and the seat pan would then flop down; but I guess that was better than a malfunctioning cushion spring that would pop through the seat upholstery and snag a patron’s clothes. An argument could be made that if the seats weren’t used in excess of their normal service life (I don’t know, perhaps 20 years or so?), these malfunctions probably wouldn’t happen. All this being said, when you look at old pictures of auditoriums from the 50’s and 60’s, chances have it that the seats were Heywood-Wakefield. I can’t even imagine what HW’s market share was in their peak years!
Wally- Islip isn’t long for this world. There simply isn’t any money to be made there. Believe me, JL would have never walked away from that theater is he could have made some money with it. Between the energy costs, town resistance to any true upgrade/expansion, existing leaking roof, etc., let’s turn the page and move on.
I remember Angelo. Our DI (BSDI) beat their DI in a softball game back around ‘83-'84. If I remember correctly, Angelo’s Mom was the manager of the Coram Drive-In, also. Coram was a crappy Drive-In because the field always had flooding issues. The abandoned building now at that location should be sinking into the earth, at this point. A Drive In that I really liked was the Jonny All-Weather in Copaigue. What a huge theater, and Victor was a great manager.
Joe V., would have liked to see that cover for Boxoffice Magazine. I guess you took it down?
I don’t know why the opening synopsis usually has inaccuracies on this site, but here we go again. This theater closed in the mid 1980’s, and the location remained empty for a long time. I know it closed in the 80’s, because I remember getting off work at the Bay Shore Drive In (closed in 1990), and having to go Farmingville to assist in the closing (basically, get UA’s stuff out of the building). I can say this for certain, the manager Lee L., who went over to UA Babylon after the closing, was one of the best theater managers that I’ve ever met. Any theater she was at was so clean, you could eat off the floor. While I’m at it, her husband Joe was a hell of a manager also. Mr. L. we miss you- RIP.
Yes, I remember UA calling this theater “The Syosset”, after being the UA Cinema 150 forever. It didn’t make a difference: my invoices were always addressed to the UA Cinema 150, and they always got paid. UA used to have a strange way of naming theaters incorrectly back then: “The Syosset” was actually in Woodbury; and the Smithtown Drive-In was actually located in Nesconset. I would think somebody would have looked at the zip code before naming (or re-naming) a location. Funny stuff and yes: this was the absolute premiere showcase house on Long Island. Like the many drive-ins that once were here on LI, there will never be a beautiful showcase theater like this ever again.
Robert- Nice picture of Yvette! She was one of the better theater managers I’ve ever met: great at this theater, Manhasset and Lynbrook. I’m sure Jerry S., the regional GM from UA’s home office when it was off the parkway in Westbury, would disagree with my assessment of Yvette. How’s that crappy weather in the Midwest treating you, Jerry?
This theater and the Bay Shore Cinema actually did make it to the 90’s- I don’t know why there should be so many inaccuracies in the opening theater descriptions on this site(I quit working there in 1987- so I don’t think it closed in 1985!). I’ll look up my old invoices, but the Home Depot on the site opened around 1991-1992. It was the last Drive-In in Suffolk County, that’s for sure, but was outlived by it’s Nassau County UA counterpart, the Westbury Drive-In by many years.
I reckon uarules could give you a more accurate date, but I know the building has been razed: I’m guessing before Christmas 2007. The irony of it’s closing in September 2007: the land now sits totally undeveloped and vacant (probably a victim of the lackluster economy). I guess the owner is now looking for new town building permits: there’s a few of those “Public Meeting” signs in front of the property right now, on Sunrise Hwy.
It’s the Home Depot/Shop Rite property. Best Buy is the old Bay Shore Farmer’s Market location.
Violet and Jolly-
The tall dark-haired man you’re speaking of worked at the UA Patchogue on Main Steet, before it became the Performing Arts Center. We used to refer to him as “Clark Gable” (it was the hair, I guess), but his name was Charlie. After UA closed that theater, perhaps a year after the Patchogue-13 opened, I remember I had to go back and retrieve some door hardware to use over at the Patchogue 13. I went into the building, and Charlie was there reading the paper! Scared the hell out of me. He had a key to the building, and continued “hanging out” there, though the theater was closed for some time. I do have it from a reliable source that he is no longer with us.
As far as the Plaza, UA did hold the note on this building, though it’s closing operator was RKO or Almi-Century. I remember doing inspection reports at this theater when it was open, for UA Real Estate, with the manager of the Bay Shore Drive-In (around 1983, I would guess).
There never was a Bay Shore Cinema on Main Street. The Bay Shore Cinema and Drive-In were both at 1881 Sunrise Hwy. The YMCA was known as the “Bay Shore Theater”. It was a real show palace, so I’m sure there’s some pictures hiding somewhere on “the web”.
BMitchell, I just noticed the initial description stating a capacity of 950 cars. You guys were bigger than that, I’m sure. We were listed around 800 cars in theater #1 and 600 cars in theater #2, over at Bay Shore.
Once again, an incorrect opening description of the theater. It was taken over in the mid-1990’s by an individual, from United Artists who was having a fire-sale at the time, before their bankrupcy. WW did a fantastic job renovating the building, after many years of disrepair. Clearview Cinemas took it over soon afterwards.
Gimbels shopping center. Saxon @ NY 27A. I hated the flat floors!
I appreciate this website, but they have to work on running correct initial desciptions of the buildings. This was a UA Theater before Clearview took it over in the mid-90’s.
When Lee was the manager here in the 80’s, you could quite literally eat off the floors. It’s was one of the cleanest theatres I’ve ever worked in. Her husband Joe was also an incredible theater manager. Real theater people like that are tough to find today.
It’s great having those pictures on the site. Thanks Ed and B Mitchell. I really enjoyed doing maintenance work at this theater, in the 80’s and 90’s. This was a cool theater, and actually had the unusual duty of being the UA Nassau DM’s, office, many years ago (very rare for a DI: most DM’s wanted their office to be in an indoor theater). That’s a rather useless fact; but more seriously, there’s a whole generation out there that has no idea what a Drive-In Theater is. It’s a shame.
BMitchell, did you ever think the nearest DI would be in Orange County? Also, I’m guessing you don’t have a white Mustang anymore?
Bway, your point is well taken. But my point is that a vintage 50’s- 60’s indoor-outdoor (ala Smithtown DI and Jonny All-Weather) have very little to do with the multiplex-styled theaters of the 1980’s. Even #13, for the most part, was brought into the ‘80’s, when the Patchogue-13 was built. The ADA improvements (circa 1994) have also somewhat brought #13 into the 1990’s. However, that being said, “they” deserve a tremendous amount of credit for realizing the value in retaining the old indoor: there simply aren’t that many mutiplexes with such a sizeable auditorium, repleat with stage and curtains. What that auditorium is lacking is the old Haywood-Wakefield seats with painted concrete floors, and “tectum” (shredded-wheat) panels on the walls. A couple of old “art-deco” chandeliers wouldn’t hurt, either!
Bway, I like this site because it gives me an opportunity to “mix it up” with real movie theater people, like yourself.
I belive I did meet her at one of the Mgr’s meetings, though I really didn’t know her. Will M used to speak highly of her. I worked there when Kim S, Joe L and finally Marge S ran the place. A lot of quality people honed their management skills at the UA Northport!
I agree with Warren’s March 12th statement. This site has a nasty habit of combining theaters that just happen to operate on the same piece of real estate, but at different times. This theater has nothing really to do with the Patchogue Drive-In. The Patchogue DI has it’s own storied history.
Anyone remember the dark burgundy red color of the exterior of the building? Most of the people I spoke to after opening in November of 1986, really disliked that color. The story I heard at the time was that the color was actually chosen by Salah H. himself. I think it was rather ironic that Salah was involved in such mundane details, but Sal, one of the original theater managers, told me that Salah only actually visited the theater once after construction. Soon afterwards, he vacated his position with United Artists (this is back when TCI didn’t really want anything but bean-counters in the home office. Gee, I’m so glad that’s changed!).
The real problem with the burgundy color was with all the salt in the mortar joints that were used to build the concrete block exterior. They couldn’t stop the salts, which manifested itself as whitish streaks, from running down the sides of the building. This was due to the exterior moisture getting into the cured mortar (a condition known as “efflorescence”). Priming and re-painting was a temporary solution, at least until the next rain storm. We used to laugh and say that they must have used beach sand in the mortar; hope they got it cheap! Well, a couple of years after construction, they gave up on it, and painted the building a color remarkably similar to the annoying salt stains. It’s been the same exterior color ever since.
The intro needs some minor amending. The last drive-in operating in Suffolk was the Bay Shore Sunrise Twin Drive-In (closed in 1990, with the Bay Shore Cinema). In Nassau, I’m glad the Westbury Drive-In held on as long as it did (closing 1998), but it would have been nice if it never closed. The kids of today have no idea what a drive-in movie theater is. A real shame.
I haven’t seen Steve in years. Yeah, he is a great guy. I think his dad used to work the booth down at the Mall. I also liked Barbara: I’m sure running this theater was a picnic for her, compared to the rougher crowd she was used to over in Brentwood. I think Clayton M. worked the booth here also, at times, though his regular shift was at the Mall. Everyone that I ever met from 640 were quality people.
I liked working at this theater back in the mid ‘90’s. I did contract work, and found out the hard way that parking is closely monitored in Forest Hills (NYC parking tickets are outrageous, but I guess they need (or really want) the money!). It really is a great location; and no, I didn’t know it was named after the Battle of Midway. I wrongly assumed it was located between 2 other UA theaters, at one time!
The best thing about my visits to this theater was speaking with the daytime doorman, Jack W. I know some of you are familiar with him: he was quite a gentleman, a real character and an excellent, if not legendary, UA district manager in his day (in the 70’s and 80’s). I guess he got sick (cancer, I believe), and had to retire from the very stressful DM position. But he loved theaters so much that he wanted to work the door at the Midway, to stay in the theater business (certainly not for the pay!). The stories he would tell, being around the theater business so long, were excellent. Speaking with him was always a pleasure. I was bothered to hear that Jack passed on some years back. You don’t find many “real” movie theater people like him around the business today. RIP Jack-
Nice pictures! I worked at the Northport in the 80’s and 90’s. That vandalism incident, as I recall, happened after UA sold it. But everything in the building was in total disrepair, by then (it still had old Haywood-Wakefield seats in the 90’s!) The renovation is beautiful, but the sad thing is that nobody drives through Northport to get to anywhere. It truly is off the beaten trail, and will always struggle to make a buck, as a single house.