Bliss Theatre

44-17 Greenpoint Avenue,
Sunnyside, NY 11104

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Bliss Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

I’d long throught 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 decor 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.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 47 comments)

Tinseltoes on August 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Here’s an exterior view with the Bliss marquee and entrance still in place prior to renovations by the Jehovah’s Witnesses: View link

Willburg145 on June 13, 2011 at 11:39 am

Any pictures of the interior as it looks now? I wonder if they would let anyone take photos. Why are some people against letting someone take a photo?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Looking at the photo you posted on August 11, 2010, also appears they removed at least two decorative elements from the main facade above the marquee: what appears to be a glazed terra cotta set of wings high on the center elevation and two series of carvings or “drawings” on either side. I wonder why the interior was stripped so drastically? Meanwhile, in Jersey City, the Witnesses have painstakingly preserved original Stanley Theatre auditorium.

Tinseltoes on July 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

The building has been surrounded by exterior scaffolding for several months now, but it appears to be mainly for “safety” reasons to fix/replace broken bricks and to check all connections between the fire escapes and the exterior walls. There are identical fire escapes on both sides of the auditorium, but only the 45th Street side can be seen fully from the street. View of the 44th Street side is obscured by stores and an apartment building in front of it…The Bliss was one of the first theatres coverted to a JW church, and I guess they had a less liberal attitude then and removed everything they thought might offend the flock.

LarryC on January 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Does anyone know the exact year that the Bliss Theater closed and when it became the JW assembly hall? It says above the 70’s which sounds correct. Someone on the fb Woodside site says that it closed in ‘65 and became the JW. Says she has vivid memories of that. I called the JW hall and they said it was renovated in '65 and that is when it became the JW hall. I remember it being later.

LarryC on January 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Correction. Another site says it changed to the JW hall in the 70’s.

Tinseltoes on January 13, 2012 at 8:46 am

The location ribbon across the top of the listing has “Sunnyside” followed by “Sunny Side.” What is that supposed to mean?

Tinseltoes on January 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

The 1965 closure date for the Bliss Theatre is probably correct. The 1965 Film Daily Year Book, published in the spring of that year, lists the Bliss under the Century Theatres Circuit theatres. But the Bliss is gone from the Century listing in the 1966 FDYB, and from all volumes after that. FDYB ceased publication after the 1970 edition.

johndereszewski on January 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

If anything, I’m surprised that the Bliss lasted into 1965 as a movie house. Were it not for TT’s documentation, I would have placed the conversion at least a few years earlier. At least that’s how my less than perfect memory records it

MAJ216ROCK on May 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

Hello, I wanted to comment on LarryC’s question as to what year Jehovah’s Witnesses began using the Bliss Theatre. The property was purchased in 1965 and went into use shortly thereafter. This location is used as an Assembly Hall, where Witnesses meet for annual one and two day assemblies and 3 day District Conventions. Although the public is more than welcomed to attend, keep in mind that foreign language congregations also use this assembly hall. So, ask an attendant if an English language assembly or convention is going on the day you visit. Otherwise, you may not understand the language spoken. But, you’re still welcomed to stay! :–)

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