Kew Gardens Cinemas

81-05 Lefferts Boulevard,
Kew Gardens, NY 11415

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1970's photo as the Austin courtesy of Robert's World Facebook page.

Built in 1935, this neighborhood house originally opened as the Austin Theatre and has had ‘more faces than Eve’. Spent years as a second run double feature house, until being taken over by Rugoff & Becker by 1943. They were still the operators in 1950. Art films were played for a few years catering to the affluent area and nearby Forest Hills.

For a few years it played mostly moveovers and booking midnight shows every Friday and Saturday night. It became a XXX house and was extremely profitable. The owner even played the midnight shows of regular movies for awhile. It then went all porno, later being taken over by the same owner of the Polk Theatre until it was shut down by the city (a story in itself).

The story has a happy ending: new owners bought the place, stripped it down to its minor Art Deco style origins and made a mini version of the Angelika. The huge lobby has a concession stand where you can get coffee and fresh cookies. Two theatres were made in the old loge and restroom area on the second floor. Downstairs are three screens, number one keeping the original mini stage and arch. The other four auditoriums are tiny, but have top notch sound and projection and rocking chair seats stadium style. In early-2008 a sixth screen was added, formed out of an adjacent dry-cleaners store.

The Kew Gardens Cinemas is a total delight to attend, here’s hoping it survives forever.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 108 comments)

fred1
fred1 on May 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

I remember thatwhen it was the Austin back in the 60’s 70’s they play similar stuff with the Mayfair in Fresh Meadows. Did they both had the same owner?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on January 2, 2014 at 8:28 am

Just a little update. The vacant drug store, alas, was never incorporated into the Kew Gardens. A new store now occupies that site.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Just added a 1970’s pic as the Austin in the Photo’s Section courtesy of Robert’s World Facebook page.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on December 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

1956 photo added courtesy of AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

robboehm
robboehm on March 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Photo from adult era added.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 17, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Google street view shows some type of addition over the roof as of October 2014. Link would not post correctly.

thebrat
thebrat on October 25, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Underrated complex. The middle aisles are deplorable but considering its age, it’s doable. The Stage Accompany sound system is really the unsung hero with their ribbon driver speakers. DLP systems look great too.

markp
markp on October 27, 2016 at 12:58 am

When it was an adult cinema, it was operated by the same people who also operated the Polk in Queens, the Deluxe and Cinema Kings Highway, the Mayfair and several in central New Jersey.

zoetmb
zoetmb on March 4, 2018 at 11:52 am

The addition on the roof is to hold solar panels. And the big screen is not #1 – I forget what it is – it might be #3. It is six screens – you can easily see that by looking at the show times . The sound in the theaters is pretty good, but @thebrat is correct that the middle aisles in all but the big screen are pretty bad. Also, the big screen suffers from parallax distortion. When I saw “Darkest Hour” there on one of the smaller screens, the left channel was missing. I do like seeing arty films there, but for bigger films, I go to a better theater in Manhattan.

One thing I don’t like about the theater is that the elderly audience who patronizes it always has someone who lets their phone ring and doesn’t know how to shut it off and they also tend to talk a lot during the film. They’re worse than the kids.

The MTA is threatening to tear down the bridge and isn’t renewing leases on the stores. This theater isn’t quite over the bridge, but anyone know if that construction is going to negatively impact the theater?

Daysleeper95
Daysleeper95 on July 23, 2018 at 11:39 am

In response to zoetmb’s comment, the LIRR announced recently they’re actually going to repair the bridge’s platform structures and the work is supposed to be over by the end of 2019. What this means for the theatre remains to be seen. I agree with your point about elderly patrons, but that also depends on when you go. I live right around the corner and go a lot at night, when it’s a younger crowd.

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