Sunnyside Theatre

50-19 Roosevelt Avenue,
Woodside, NY 11377

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Though technically in the Woodside section of Queens, the theatre was situated so close to the shopping district of adjacent Sunnyside that it was given that name. It was one of three Queens theatres built by the Grob & Knobel circuit with Herbert J. Krapp as architect (the others being the Jackson Theatre and Boulevard Theatre, both in Jackson Heights).

The Sunnyside Theatre was the most luxurious of the three and took up an entire block, with the entrance on bustling Roosevelt Avenue, under the shadow of the elevated Manhattan-to-Flushing subway line. The auditorium was rather unique, with all 2,046 seats on the ground floor, which was 110 feet wide and 142 feet long from last row to stage, with a pitch of seven feet from rear to front. There were five sections of seats, divided by four aisles. The stage was 98 feet wide across the wings and 26 feet deep. The proscenium opening was 45 feet wide and 25 feet high. The highly ornamented ceiling, which rose to a height of 55 feet, had a cove-lighted dome in the center, hanging from which was a huge crystal chandelier with special lighting effects. Twelve smaller crystal chandeliers were hung along the two side walls and rear of the auditorium. The walls were decorated in ornamental plaster relief, interspersed with draped arches. Still more crystal chandeliers decorated the foyer and lobby.

The Sunnyside Theatre first opened on December 28, 1926, with vaudeville and the movie “Sweet Rosie O'Grady”. Soon after, the circuit-owner was taken over by William Fox. After Fox’s bankruptcy, the Sunnyside Theatre landed under Skouras management and was later taken over by the Century circuit.

Throughout its history, the Sunnyside Theatre was never successful, so in January, 1965, it was totally demolished and replaced by an A & P supermarket. The store was only half the size of the theatre, with the rest of the site used for parking space. To save money, the developer failed to level the ground used for the parking space, so it still has the seven foot pitch of the Sunnyside’s auditorium floor.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

During the Depression, the Sunnyside Theatre tried nearly everything to attract ticket-buyers, including, in 1936, “The Greatest Stage Attraction of Them All”:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/sunnyball.jpg

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 15, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Century’s long sub-lease of the Sunnyside expired in 1961, when the theatre returned to Skouras management. The changeover took place on June 1, 1961, in the midst of an engagement of “The Absent-Minded Professor” & “The Horse With the Flying Tail.” As the Skouras Sunnyside, it would continued to play the same programs that it would have under Century. The switch left Century with only the Bliss Theatre in Sunnyside. The 43rd Street had long been closed and converted into retail space.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Two new direct links to images of the auditorium. The Hollywood Video rental store that occupied half of the Sunnyside’s replacement building recently closed. Perhaps the ground site is jinxed for anything connected to the entertainment business:
View link
View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 14, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Here’s a sad view of the dilapidated marquee before the Sunnyside’s demolition in 1965. Note the barbed wire across the roof to deter vandalism. The pillar going straight through the marquee is part of the support system for the Roosevelt Avenue #7 elevated subway line:
View link

robboehm
robboehm on April 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Looking at the photos of the marquee protruding under the el, which came first the theatre or the el. I would presume the theatre why else would the marquee extend under the el. And I would presume that the Merrick in Jamaica also preceeded the el since the one shot shows a vertical which would be ridiculous if the el were also present.

GerardC
GerardC on April 21, 2009 at 12:53 am

The opening date for that section of the IRT Flushing line was April 21, 1917. So, it was there before the theatre. I guess the marquee was wrapped around the support of the el as a necessity.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I was finally able to correct the view, though it is hardly current. The chain store name changed from Eckerd to Rite-Aid several years ago. The Sunnyside Theatre was totally demolished before a supermarket was built on the site, with a large parking space at the front. The supermarket was eventually divided into two stores, with the drug chain at one end and Hollywood Video on the other. When the video rental store closed, an Asian bank moved in.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on May 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm

This 1930 photo shows the immense Sunnyside Theatre in the righthand background. Structure took up an entire block near the 52nd Street station of the IRT elevated line (now known as the #7): nyc

PapaCat
PapaCat on June 19, 2012 at 1:19 am

I noticed Warren Harris' post mentioning the 43rd Street theater. I thought you guys forgot about it. It was on Greenpoint Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets in Sunnyside. I attended the last picture show (that would make a good movie title) where they pasted envelopes under some of the seats and told us after the movie ended to look under our seats. I forgot what the prizes were, I guess because my seat didn’t have an envelope taped under it.

robboehm
robboehm on June 19, 2012 at 2:40 am

PapaCat you should post your comments on the 43rd Street on the 43 Street site.

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