Arcade Theatre

Steinway Street, near 31st Avenue,
Astoria, NY 11103

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Showing 1 - 25 of 29 comments

Tinseltoes on September 10, 2012 at 8:13 am

Yikes!!! Three of the “Nearby Theatres” were across the East River in Manhattan!!! Loew’s Triboro, Astoria Theatre, and Steinway Theatre should be listed instead, and there were other Astoria theatres closer than the Manhattan ones listed.

Tinseltoes on September 10, 2012 at 8:08 am

The fixed Google Street view shows the original premises of the Steinway Theatre. After Dr. Jay’s vacated the retail conversion, the Conway chain moved in and is still current. Thw Arcade’s premises were a block north, adjacent to Modell’s in this photo: citysearch

Tinseltoes on June 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

This small jewelry store and adjacent Modell’s occupy at least part of the Arcade Theatre site: citysearch

Tinseltoes on June 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

Link to Steinway Theatre listing: cinematreasures

Tinseltoes on June 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

The Google Maps view is incorrect, and shows the premiseses of the former Steinway Theatre, which, since the departure of Dr. Jay’s, has become part of the Conway retail chain. The Arcade Theatre was in the block north of the Steinway Theatre, and on the same side of Steinway Street.

Bway on June 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

This theater should not be listed as “demolished”, as it appears the building still stands.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 23, 2007 at 4:37 am

The true opening date of Horak’s Opera House appears to be October 3rd, 1893, according to this report from the November 16th, 1893 issue of the Daily Star. The opera house occupied the second floor of a new building called Jackson Hall. I suspect that Jackson Hall and the upstairs opera house were eventually combined into one as the Arcade Theatre:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 9, 2007 at 6:29 am

This seems to have even more historical importance than I originally thought. When Rudolph Horak died in 1930 at age 73, an obituary in The New York Times said that Horak’s Opera House was the first theatre to be built in Queens, and gave an opening date of 1890 (two years earlier than the article in the LI Daily Star of 2/20/31). I suppose that the NYT claim could be true, but it needs to be verified. Horak’s Opera House might have been the first purpose-built theatre in Queens, but surely theatrical performances were held before that in other types of buildings.

AlexNYC on February 7, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Wow Warren, you really went digging for all that, didn’t you? You’re a plethora of information; thanks again.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 7, 2007 at 6:49 am

The theatre first opened in 1892 as Horak’s Opera House, with Czech-immigrant Rudolph Horak as owner-manager. Despite its name, it was primarily a playhouse with its own resident company of actors. Horak also published a local newspaper and was one of the chief agitators for the construction of what became known as the Queensboro Bridge. Horak also built scores of private homes in the blocks surrounding the commercial area centered on Steinway Avenue. Although it seated only 600, Horak’s Opera House was never a financial success, and in the early 1900s he sold it for conversion into a nickelodeon called the Arcade. The Arcade closed in the mid-1920s and served as an assembly hall for local fraternal groups until it was demolished to make way for new retail buildings. I thank an article in the Long Island Daily Star of February 20,1931 issue (page 14) for this information.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 15, 2007 at 6:42 am

The Arcade had an outdoor theatre as well as an indoor one, but I suspect that the facilities of both were demolished to make way for the present buildings on that site…There were apparently other early cinemas on Steinway Avenue (now called Steinway Street), but I haven’t had time to investigate. They included the Casino, 321 Steinway Avenue; the Princess, 333 Steinway Avenue; and the Palm Garden, 561 Steinway Avenue. The Casino and Princess would have been in the vicinity of the Arcade, but I believe that the Palm Garden was further south, maybe around what is now called Northern Boulevard.

AlexNYC on January 15, 2007 at 5:51 am

Yep, the Modells store was where the Arcade Theater stood. Thanks Warren. Even as a child when it was a supermarket and later a discount store I didn’t know it used to be a theater. Since it’s so large I’m assuming the structure was altered from a theater for retail purposes, as opposed to being razed.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 1, 2007 at 6:01 am

Over the weekend, I tried to approximate the vintage view of Steinway Street that I displayed on 12/29, but heavy traffic kept getting in my way and this is the best I could do. The site of the Arcade Theatre & Airdome is on the left, below the second string of Christmas lights, and now occupied by a jewelry store and a branch of Modell’s:

AlexNYC on January 1, 2007 at 4:38 am

Thanks Warren, from the photo it appears to be the exact location of where Modells is today.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 29, 2006 at 7:14 am

A vertical sign for the Arcade Theatre can be seen in this vintage postcard view of Steinway Avenue (now Steinway St.), looking north from Jamaica Avenue (now 31st Ave.). The Arcade’s vertical sign starts with an ornamental crown and a large “A” enclosed in a circle. It is on the left side of the image, adjacent to the vehicles parked at the curb:

AlexNYC on December 13, 2006 at 6:14 pm

Warren is right about the parking lot having been P.S. #6, which I remember standing there when I was a kid in the 1960s, and I later recall them tearing it down in the late 1960s. I also recall the large store which is now Modells. It used to be a supermarket in the 1960s (I don’t recall the name), but I remember the unusually tall ceiling, so it can easily have been the theater in question. When a store is unusually large in Astoria, it was either converted from a theater (as the Steinway Theater became Lerner’s), or it was build that way for a chain store such as Woolworth’s and Genovese were on adjacent corner’s of Steinway & 31st Ave.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 24, 2006 at 5:33 am

So, the big parcel adjacent on the right of the 345 address would have most likely been the site of the Arcade auditorium.

As per this view, there is currently a narrow one-story bulding on the 345 parcel identified in Warren’s map and a Modell’s on the spacy adjacent lot where the auditorium/airdome might have been situated. I guess only an on-site visual inspection of the exterior might determine if any elements of the old theater entrance remain. With all the passing years and history of alterations noted on the NYC site, I expect all traces have probably vanished – if indeed the structure was not at some point entirely replaced.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 24, 2006 at 4:21 am

I believe that the Arcade survived until 1928 or 1929, so it seems possible that alterations were made in 1923. It appears to have been operating at least since 1914-15. I suspect that the Arcade may have started as an airdome and that an enclosed auditorium was added later. 345 Steinway Avenue was quite narrow, and might have served just as an entrance. I have marked the site on this map with a paper clip just above it. I also placed a paper clip above the Steinway Theatre’s site, which is to the left in this image:

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 23, 2006 at 6:23 am

There are no C/O’s available to view for that address on the NYC Building Department site, but the history of filings does note Alterations as early as 1923 – which would indicate work done to a pre-existing building. The “New Building” filings are not indicated in the online history, so we have nothing conclusive. Does an alteration in 1923 make sense for an approximate time frame for this theater’s demise?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 22, 2006 at 8:40 am

I finally found a current address for 345 Steinway Avenue, which is now 30-90 Steinway Street (zip code 11103). The site is on the same side of Steinway Street as the former Steinway Theatre, and is the sixth building lot north of 31st Avenue. According to an internet search, the present tenant of 30-90 Steinway Street is a store called Jewel-Licious, but I have no information on whether or not it contains any remnants of the Arcade Theatre. Several lots to the north of 345 Steinway Avenue were apparently vacant at the time of the Arcade Theatre and may have been used in some part for the Arcade Airdome. Those vacant lots eventually were occupied by a large store built by a major chain that later became part of Kinney Shoes (possibly A.S. Beck?).

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 11, 2006 at 10:56 am

I agree, Warren. All indications so far (the archaic address conversion website; the C/O for a property across from that parking lot with an original 300-304 Steinway Ave address) seem to be that the theater was situated north of 31st. If you count in the 8 or 9 lots that I surmise would approximate the location of the theater’s site, that still leaves you very close to the 31st… most of those building lots are quite narrow.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 11, 2006 at 5:11 am

A native Astorian posted me privately that the parking lot on the west side of Steinway Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway was previously occupied by P. S. #6, which was one of the area’s earliest schools and used some of the grounds for its playyard. I think that rules out the current parking lot as the site of the Arcade Theatre & Airdome…Whether the Arcade was north or south of 31st Avenue, it must have been fairly close to it, or would have used a nearer cross street in its address.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 8, 2006 at 6:08 am

This is a pretty handy site for understanding archaic addresses in certain areas of Queens (particularly LIC and Astoria). I’m not saying it is the absolute authority on the matter, but I have no reason to believe that the information is way off base. In any event, if you scroll down to “Steinway,” you’ll find that the old addresses ran in the opposite sequence as the current addresses do. So the higher numbers ran to the north. The Arcade must have been on the other side of 31st (Jamaica) Avenue one block to the north of the Steinway Theater. I would speculate that it was on the west side of the block and roughly 8 or 9 lots from the corner of 31st Avenue (using the Steinway’s old 325 address as a reference point).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 8, 2006 at 4:15 am

Here’s a 1916 ad. Note the slogan “The Best Pictures for the Best People.” Jamaica Avenue (now known as 31st Avenue) is not the same Jamaica Avenue as the one in Jamaica, Queens, which I believe was then still called Fulton Street or in the process of being changed:

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 7, 2006 at 12:29 pm

Warren; The Steinway Theatre is not listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914 – 1915. There is however a Casino Garden Theatre listed at 321 Steinway Avenue, Astoria.