Babylon Cinemas

34 West Main Street,
Babylon, NY 11702

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Babylon Cinemas

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located on W. Main Street, just west of Deer Park Avenue. The Capitol Theatre was built by the Riley Brothers in 1922 as a sister theatre to their Capitol Theatre in Riverhead, NY. Designed by architect J.H. Phillips in a Colonial rRevival style. Seating was provided for 1,050 in orchestra and balcony levels. The property entered into bankruptcy and closed on December 20, 1924. The theatre reopened under new ownership with the name Babylon Theatre in February 1925.

In later years it was operated by Prudential Theatres(1929). It was remodelled in 1956 to the plans of Maurice D. Sornik. Later operated by United Artists, then by Clearview, as of June 2013 it has been operated by Bow-Tie Cinemas.

Contributed by Robertr

Recent comments (view all 42 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 23, 2010 at 12:31 am

I misspelled the architect’s surname in my previous comment (as did the Heywood-Wakefield ad.) It should be Sornik.

jpark377 on January 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm

It’s rather amazing how many years they got out of those Heywood-Wakefield seats that were in those auditoriums. When UA sold that theater in the mid-nineties, it still had those old HW seats, though I know they were re-covered and painted many times. I really liked the “finger” design that HW used on the seat pans: it made them really easy to remove from the floor standard for service (didn’t need a wrench). The HW achilles' heel was the use of springs below the cushions for support, and the use of springs for the pan riser function (the better seats of today are “gravity risers”, hence no springs to break). The riser springs would fatigue and break, and the seat pan would then flop down; but I guess that was better than a malfunctioning cushion spring that would pop through the seat upholstery and snag a patron’s clothes. An argument could be made that if the seats weren’t used in excess of their normal service life (I don’t know, perhaps 20 years or so?), these malfunctions probably wouldn’t happen. All this being said, when you look at old pictures of auditoriums from the 50’s and 60’s, chances have it that the seats were Heywood-Wakefield. I can’t even imagine what HW’s market share was in their peak years!

wally 75
wally 75 on May 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

Who will pick up the Clearview Theatres? Any ideas..

Tinseltoes on July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

New link to the 1956 cover photo cited above by Joe Vogel: boxoffice

jukingeo on August 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Ahhh, the good ‘ole Babylon Theatre. This theatre and I go way back…way back to 1982. The first movie I saw here was “Conan: The Barbarian”. Back then the theatre was a HUGE single curved screen with a gorgeous proscenium arch. The theatre had a balcony too. In the lobby there was a huge art deco type chandelier and a beautiful stairway up to the balcony (which already had partial stadium seating). That same year (1982) “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” was released to this theatre. This was the first movie I viewed multiple times here. While E.T. is in my top 3 favorite movie list, the first time seeing it at Babylon was perhaps the single best theatre experience I ever had.

Then in 1984/5 tragedy struck the Babylon and it was divided two three screens. The large auditorium was divided into two and the balcony became the third screen. Much of the beautiful ornamentation in the theatre was gone. The chandelier still remained though. Gone was the large curved screen and it’s beautiful proscenium. Instead you had just simple rectangular screens on a simple black background.

The first movie I saw after the conversion was “Cocoon” (1985). It was shown on the balcony screen. However, the conversion wasn’t completed and the air condition wasn’t running yet…it was mid summer! Needless to say, my first viewing after the new conversion wasn’t a pleasant one.

Afterwards I have seen many more movies at this theatre which include: “Alien 3”, “Back To the Future II & III”, and many others. The balcony screen is the best of the three.

When the movie theatre changed hands from UA to Clearview, I pretty much stopped going there.

As Bway pointed out above, the outside of the theatre hasn’t changed much since 1983 despite the drastic changes inside. One major plus though, is that the theatre has retained it’s large neon vertical sign on the front.

For those visiting the theatre, there is a small parking lot to the right of the building, but it fills up fast. Street parking is metered, so you would have to use a municipal lot across the street, behind the Main St. buildings.

It is still a good visit to check out, but it definitely has lost quite a bit of it’s luster from when it was a single screen. I only enjoyed this large screen for 3 years, but still to this day the single screen version of this theatre was my favorite.

jukingeo on August 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The link Bway posted is bad. Here is what the auditorium of the Babylon used to look like:

Even though not in color, you can see how impressive this theatre was.

I also have to point out that the theatre had side curtains that moved in and out so that it could handle a wide variety of aspect ratios.

It is a pity that we had to loose the beautiful large screens such as this. I really do miss this screen very much.

Orlando on April 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

The Babylon Theatre (Bow-Tie) is in negotiations to be sold for a Performing Arts Center. I hope the new occupants see that some of the elaborate work is hidden under the drop ceilings in the lobby. Clearview Cinemas destroyed any chances of long term survival of this and many others of the UA theatres it acquired with their free Tuesday nights (if you had Cablevision). These theatres were all losing money before Clearview came along with their fireplaces and free phone service. Bow-Tie Cinemas took over these and now is seeing no more business than Clearview, even less. Now on Tuesday Bargain Day at $6.00, the theatre had 10 people total for the 3 screens, all first run product. This is pathetic. Everything Bow-Tie acquired will drain them of their current money making theatres they had prior to taking over. On bright moment is the “Live On Stage And Screen "Rocky Horror Picture Show” has sold out almost 5 times. So…Performing Arts is the way to go with some “Classic Movie Shows” added in for fun. And it will be one big screen again.

robboehm on May 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Already too many performing arts theatres on Long Island: The Space at Westbury, Engermann at Northport, CM at Oakdale, Patchogue, Suffolk in Riverhead, Bolton (Regent) in Patchogue, Smithtown, Paramount in Huntington etc, etc..

There are fewer and fewer movie theaters on Long Island and, it would seem that many of those are struggling.

Between the cost of going to the movies and the fact that, in many areas of Long Island, you have to drive 20 minutes or more to get there, it’s not surprising.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 11, 2014 at 10:45 am

Babylon auditorium photo mentioned above now posted in photos.

robboehm on July 6, 2014 at 11:36 am

Reference is made to a comment made by Ken Roe on October 31, 2004 and those made by Orlando the same year. The original Babylon closed in 1922(see elsewhere on CT) the same year the current theatre, then called the Capitol, opened. After the Capitol went bankrupt in 1924 it was reopened under new ownership in February 1925. Presumably the name was changed to Babylon at that time because there is reference to theatre magnet Mike Glynne being injured in an automobile accident on the way to the opening of the Babylon theatre in February 1925.

According to one source, Glynne only acquired this Babylon, together with the Regent and Carlton in Bay Shore and the Garden in Southampton, in 1926. According to another, those four theatres were acquired by B.S. Moss from the Brewster circuit in 1926 never mentioning Glynne.

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