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This was an off-Broadway house called Theatre 62 for a while, but in July of 1967 it made the national news as the Channel One video theater as a showcase for the satirical “Channel One Underground Television” productions that eventually became the 1974 motion picture THE GROOVE TUBE (named after Channel One’s fourth production, a compilation of the best skits from their three previous shows “First Production,” “Second Production,” and “Fugue Tube”). The theater had three 21-inch b&w television sets hanging from the ceiling that showed the Channel One programs on closed-circuit videocassette (usually 90 minutes in length). “The Groove Tube” show became so popular in 1969 that a second theater was added (Theater East at 211 East 60th Street) and soon the Channel One founders – Ken Shapiro & Lane Sarasohn – were franchising the tapes to college campuses and performance spaces across the country. I think Channel One moved out in 1970.
Howie, the Main Street Cinema used to advertise in the Village Voice and I’ve actually seen an ad for this program pictured above — it’s called THE BEATLES MEET STAR TREK. What was this exactly, a bunch of clips of the Beatles intercut with episodes of Star Trek?
Here’s a not-so-great scan from a newspaper clipping.
Not-so-great scan from a newspaper clipping.
Actually, that second picture of the Main Street Cinema looks to be from 1978 or later, because of the STAR TREK on the maquee.
Here are some not-very-good quality scans from old newspaper clippings.
Picture from 1986
Picture of the Main Street Cinema marquee, circa 1976
Picture of the Main Street Cinema, with RKO Proctors sign and marquee in background (circa 1970)
This theater was a scary roach trap, even in its “West Side Cinema” days, when it booked movies from Troma and from Sony’s schlock theatrical distribution arm, SVS Films. When I saw an Australian horror-thriller called VICIOUS in this dump in 1989, renovations were being done on the concession stand and I had to listen to buzzsaws whining through the entire movie.
This was known as the Palace Theater during the 4 years I was attending the University of Buffalo (1988-1992). They showed porn double features on video projection, for a hefty $8 admission price. One double bill I attended was a ‘70s film (FAREWELL, SCARLET) paired with a shot-on-camcorder cheapie (OPEN HOUSE). There was no longer a marquee above the entrance, just a sign that said “Palace Theater.” Patrons had to go inside and ask what movies were playing, or call the theater and listen very carefully to the answering machine for the titles. Painted on the walls on either side of the entrance were words that basically stated “The movies shown inside this theater are for health and educational purposes only” — meaning the Palace, under whatever name, had been showing skin flicks since the early '60s. The ticket booth was right inside, with a turnstile. I don’t remember the lobby, except that it was small and there was a little bulletin board announcing the following week’s double feature. I never saw the auditorium with the lights on; it was always pitch black, to the point where it was almost impossible to find a seat. Very scary. I went a few times, always with at least 2 friends and only when old-school classics were being shown, and then swore the place off.
Ed, the movie CHEERLEADERS' WILD WEEKEND does indeed feature Leon Isaac Kennedy in a supporting role. I don’t believe he’s credited, but he is in the movie — as a DJ at a radio station who communicates with the kidnappers, as I recall. Also, I’ve only seen this movie under the CHEERLEADERS' WILD WEEKEND title, and that includes all video, TV, and publicity materials; my guess is that the GIRL ROBBERY title was either a shooting title or for overseas distribution, where “cheerleaders” probably isn’t as strong a selling point as it is in the U.S.
I think we’re confusing two different theaters.
The theater on Broadway near Nathan’s was at one time known as the Cine 43 when it was running kung fu movies in the early ‘80s, then switched to Spanish language movies before changing its name to the Big Apple and finishing off its existence as a porn theater.
The Cine 1 and 2 was further uptown on 7th Avenue, and it did run mainstream stuff for a while, after doing the Spanish language programming, then porn, then doing the Giuliani 60/40 video grindhouse thing.
I believe some of the prints from these theaters were donated to the Anthology Film Archives downtown. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jonas Mekas has added MAD MONKEY KUNG FU, MAFIA VS. NINJA or MORON MOVIES to his “Essential Cinema” list!!!
Many of the movies recently shown at the Fair are owned by Aquarius Releasing, a company that has been in operation since the late 1960s and was for many years the major “exchange office” in the N.Y.C./tri-state area for most of the exploitation movie distributors, including Roger Corman. Most notoriously, Aquarius handled the controversial N.Y.C. release of DEEP THROAT.
Terry Levene, the president of Aquarius, specialized in acquiring foreign films, dubbing them, and then releasing them to drive-ins and grindhouses around the U.S. Some of his biggest hits were THE BODYGUARD (with Sonny Chiba), MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY, FACES OF DEATH, THE SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH (a re-titling of Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND), BURIED ALIVE, and THE TONGFATHER. Aquarius originally had its offices in the heart of 42nd Street, in the Selwyn Theater building, but moved further west (9th Avenue, I think) in the late ‘80s.
“NOW SHOWING AT THESE AQUARIUS SHOWCASE THEATERS!” would appear under the newspaper ads for the movies Levene released — and as the old movie houses in Manhattan and the outer boroughs (and Westchester County and New Jersey) closed down one by one, Aquarius' films would mysteriously be advertised as playing in theaters that were no longer open for business! Or, in the case of Corman’s SATURDAY THE 14TH STRIKES BACK, the movie was advertised as playing in several theaters — but phone calls to those theaters revealed that it was actually playing in NONE of the theaters! Another common practice was to open a film at the Roxy III, a triplex video theater adjacent to the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street. So a 35mm print of LORDS OF THE DEEP or TRANSYLVANIA TWIST would play around the corner at the Criterion Center on Broadway (in one of their basement theaters, dubbed “The Dungeon” by anyone who ever ventured down there) while a videotape of the same movie would show at the Roxy III in 24-hour rotation with stuff like THE HUMAN TORNADO and SUPERFLY, and both of these theaters would be listed in the newspaper as “AQUARIUS SHOWCASE THEATERS.” These shady practices nonetheless would help the indie distributors who needed to claim a certain number of theatrical playdates to satisfy their video deals.
I heard a while ago that Levene had retired and was living in New Jersey, but last year another veteran distributor told me that Aquarius was still very much in business and Levene was operating out of his home in Jersey. Since Aquarius provided the video grindhouses with product in the past — and many of the movies shown at the Fair recently are Aquarius releases (BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE, FIST OF FEAR – TOUCH OF DEATH, GOODBYE BRUCE LEE, PAY OR DIE, QUEEN BOXER), I’m 99% certain that Levene is behind these recent bookings.