44-17 Greenpoint Avenue,
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I’d long thought that the name Bliss was chosen to describe the joy of moviegoing, but it actually honored Neziah Bliss, one of the founding fathers of the Long Island City area that includes the Sunnyside section of Queens.
The Bliss Theatre first opened on December 27, 1930 and was built by Century Theaters with its usual architect-designer team of R. Thomas Short & William Rau. By that time, the sound era was well underway, so the Bliss Theatre was designed solely for movies, with a stage just deep enough for the hanging of a Magnascopic Screen that could be enlarged for special effects from the projection booth.
The Bliss Theatre’s interior décor was a modern interpretation of motifs found in ancient Egyptian architecture. Boldly-colored murals on the side walls and above the proscenium arch depicted scenes from Egyptian history. Located in the heart of the Sunnyside shopping district, the Bliss Theatre was never more than a subsequent-run neighborhood house until the 1960’s when movie distribution switched to city-wide Premiere Showcase openings. But the change didn’t increase attendance at the Bliss Theatre, and Century decided to close it due to its high operating costs.
The building was sold to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which converted it into a church with almost no changes to the exterior. The interior, however, has been extensively renovated, although an atmospheric lobby remains but with new paintings on the walls. The new owners removed everything of the Egyptian decor that showed nudity and/or pagan symbolism. The result now is an auditorium that looks like it was built yesterday, though you can still find touches of the original Bliss Theatre decor if you look hard enough. Church services are held every Sunday morning at 10 AM, and non-members are welcome to attend.
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