Steeplechase Theatre

Rockaway Beach Boulevard,
Rockaway Beach, NY 11694

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This theatre was located on the Boardwalk in Steeplechase Park in Rockaway Beach, NY. Steeplechase Park was built by George Tilyou who had earlier built the more well known Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, NY. Steeplechase Theatre was an open air theatre advertising photoplays in 1915. The park and theatre were demolished decades ago.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

robboehm on February 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

The only feature remaining from the Park is the iconic Parachute Jump. Across from the park was the Tilyou Theater (see elsewhere on CT)

walterk on February 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Robboehm, the Steeplechase Park you are referencing is the more famous one in Coney Island, not the one in Rockaway. The Tilyou Theatre was located across the street from the park, as a youngster I remember seeing live appearances there by the 3 Stooges (twice) and Jerry Lewis.

The Coney Island Steeplechase is by far the best known, but in addition to Rockaway, there were also 2 located along the Jersey Shore, one in Asbury Park and another in Atlantic City. The one in Asbury disappeared long ago, the one in Atlantic City lasted nearly as long as the one in Coney Island, disappearing around 1962. I am not aware of any of these other parks having theatres that featured movies.

walterk on February 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I would be interested if you find any ads previous to 1915. George C Tilyou died in the autumn of 1914 and his family sold the Rockaway Steeplechase not long afterwards, though perhaps not by the 1915 season.

Tilyou opened his park in 1901, it encompassed what is now Beach 97th St to Beach 100th, Rockaway Blvd to the waterfront. Unfortunately the street view offered here is for Rockaway Blvd and Beach 125th St., it would be better if it were the Boardwalk and Beach 98th, its boundaries after 1905.

Tilyou brought in L.A. Thompson, who invented the roller coaster, to set up on the strip between Beach 97th and 98th in 1902. In 1905 Thompson purchased the parcel and renamed it after himself, in the late 20’s it was to become Rockaways' Playland.

I’m going to link to an article in the Rockaway Wave featuring an artist rendition of the boardwalk in front of Thompson’s park and the Steeplechase stretch in 1905, which includes the Vitagraph Theatre where, to quote the article, “sound was added to silent motion pictures by playing records”. The location would put it on Steeplechase property and leads one to wonder if this is the Steeplechase Theatre under an earlier name.

walterk on March 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Lost Memory, I believe this theatre might the one I identified as the Vitagraph, and mistakenly thought was on Steeplechase property, though I was off by a few doors. I believe what you are referring to is listed on CT as Thompson’s Moving Pictures Theatre.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, while Tilyou owned the land, he leased the strip between what is now Beach 97th and Beach 98th Street, the Boardwalk and Rockaway Beach Boulevard to L.A. Thompson in 1902, and later sold that land to him in 1905. Thompson renamed his amusement area after himself, L.A. Thompson’s Amusement Park. It kept the Thompson name until the late 1920’s when it was renamed Rockaways' Playland.

The CT listing I mentioned above had a link to a mention by Cesar Del Valle that Thompson obtained the rights to a new type of screen in 1913, quoting from an article in Moving Picture World. I found a mention in the July-September 1914 issue of the same magazine that Thompson had sold his interest in this screen, so it is possible that he decided to quit operating the theatre and leased it to other parties the following season. Also, the article you posted above from 1915 does talk about the excellent mirror screen, which leads one to think these two theatres could be the same, even if it was located within Thompson’s park rather than Steeplechase.

Just to add, while looking for more info on the Steeplechase Theatre which I didn’t find, I found a mention of another unlisted Rockaway theatre in this column in the Wave concerning a small amusement park that was built by the Ferris Amusement Corporation immediately west of Steeplechase around 1906. The park included a one story airdrome theatre known as the Hippodrome, which had dimensions of 85' x 145' and was managed by a famous umpire who had retired. The article mentions that the Theatre featured vaudeville and movies. I haven’t been able to find anything more about it.

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