Park Lane Theatre
1726 First Avenue,
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Designed by Eugene DeRosa, the Park Lane was a larger version of his Gallo Opera House (now Studio 54) and was built at the same time. The Park Lane was financed by the Universal Theatre Circuit, which bowed out before opening and sold it to independent exhibitors Charles O'Reilly & Al Gould. The theatre was the largest ever built east of Third Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but considered too near to the entertainment zone on East 86th Street to qualify for movies in their first neighborhood runs.
The Park Lane first opened on February 17, 1927, with “Lunatic At Large” on screen plus a self-produced stage revue featuring singers, dancers and a symphony-sized orchestra conducted by Julius Meyer. Programs changed three times a week, but after several months of low attendance, the policy switched to a feature movie, short subjects, and recitals by the Park Lane’s Wurlitzer organist. With the coming of “talkies”, the Park Lane changed to double features, but still weeks behind the area’s leaders— Loew’s Orpheum and the RKO Proctor’s 86th Street.
In 1932, the owners went bankrupt, and the Park Lane was purchased by Sol Brill’s Isle Theatres circuit, which sold it in 1938 to the Brandt chain. Still showing late-run movies, it survived the WWII years and in 1946 underwent a name change to the Gracie Square Theatre. Brandt changed the policy to double bills of second-run foreign movies, but it didn’t boost attendance. The arrival of home TV was the final nail in the coffin. The Gracie Square was permanently closed and eventually demolished for a high-rise apartment building.
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