Boulevard Theatre

82-22 Northern Boulevard,
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

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Boulevard Theatre

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The Boulevard Theatre first opened in November, 1926, and was one of three theatres built in NW Queens by the Grob & Knobel circuit with Herbert J. Krapp as architect. The Boulevard Theatre in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, was the only one of the three with stage facilities large enough to handle a live play or musical. Unlike the other two, it also had a balcony; the Sunnyside Theatre had all of its seats on a steeply raked main floor, while the Jackson Theatre had a raised “stadium” section of seats at the rear of the auditorium.

The Boulevard Theatre was designed to be a playhouse, with bookings of shows that had recently closed on Broadway or were “trying out” enroute. The attractions ran from Monday through Saturday, with Sunday used for vaudeville and a feature movie.

In 1928, when William Fox acquired the Grob & Knobel theatres, he kept the Boulevard Theatre legit by sub-leasing it to Louis Werba, who also operated playhouses in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. The onset of the Depression sent both Fox and Werba into bankruptcy, so the Boulevard became a double-feature movie house under Fox’s successor, Skouras Theatres, which also took over the Jackson Theatre and Sunnyside Theatre (later sold to Century Theatres).

Due to its location in a residential area on Northern Boulevard that was a long walk from the 82nd Street shopping district around Roosevelt Avenue, the Boulevard Theatre never did as well as the Jackson Theatre, but it survived a triplexing in the early-1970s before a decline in the neighborhood caused its closure. It sat vacant for at least a decade while a battle raged over the owner’s plan for demolition, which was opposed by the community.

The Boulevard Theatre was finally sold for conversion to what has become the highly succesful Natives Restaurant-Theatre, catering to Queens' very large Hispanic community. The restaurant-bar takes up the Boulevard’s former entrance and lobby, while the three auditoriums are used for plays, concerts, and sometimes imported movies.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

ronnie21
ronnie21 on May 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

dag. none of these photos work??

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 31, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Sorry to be more than a day late and a dollar short, NativeForestHiller, but here are the updated links to the photos I had posted back in 2006:

Long shot Sept 2005

Tighter shot Sept 2005

Interior restaurant from website

Interior bar area from website

Balcony theater from website

There is some original architectural work still preserved in the ceiling of the first two interior shots and a glimpse of some sidewall decoration exposed in the last shot, just to the right of dead center where that opening in the red curtain is.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on March 31, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Thank you for sharing these images of the facade & interior, Ed. Too bad the facade has that tacky aluminum siding. I hope the owners see our correspondence, and restore the theater. A restored facade = A greater entrance, which is better for business. I love envisioning what it would be like to peel back the layers.

Michael D. Jackson
Michael D. Jackson on March 21, 2012 at 11:05 pm

At this theatre Mae West’s play THE PLEASURE MAN had a week long try-out before opening on Broadway and the Biltmore Theatre for 1.5 performances before it was raided by the police. Because of the openly gay characters in the play it was deemed indecent. The run at this theater was the week of September 24th 1928.

cblog
cblog on November 2, 2012 at 5:39 am

I went to movies at the Boulevard in the 60’s with my best friend, Richard L. A movie I recall seeing was ‘Yours Mine and Ours’ with Lucille Ball. We used to be slightly difficult with the matron, throwing candy at her bottom, never realizing she was there to protect us! Very young, I remember attending a children’s theater stage show of ‘Aladdin and His Magic Lamp’ produced by a friend of my mother’s. My Junior High graduation was also held here; my parents told me there was line for the payphone(s) thru the ceremony while guys called their bookies! Ah Queens! All the theaters in Jackson Heights were a little ‘off’ in the 60’s, like a worn-out bowling alley (which Jackson Heights also had), which definitely lent to their appeal for us! I believe on the corners were Paladino Pharmacy, Cook Funeral Home, and a Firehouse. I recall one block west was the Manufacturers Hanover Bank, and the A&P with wooden floors and a cow-catcher at the checkout that the checker mightily pulled to bring your groceries to the register.

cblog
cblog on November 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I forgot to note that the Daily News published a WWII photograph showing a victory garden taking up the entire block between the Boulevard and St.Marks on 34th ave.

LugosiResearch
LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm

On Tuesday 6 March 1951, Bela “Dracula” Lugosi presented his in person Horror and Magic Stage show at Skouras Boulevard. Currently I am conducting research on all things Lugosi; if anyone out there actually saw this show and/or has memorabilia (poster, handbill, photos) related to this show, please contact Bill at Thanks in advance for any assistance!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 17, 2013 at 9:21 am

Looks like the name Boulevard has returned to this establishment, per this recent photo posted to the Flickr website. Not sure when Natives went down and Boulevard took its place, but seems to be more or less the same business model.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on December 17, 2013 at 9:50 am

Interesting! Though the “Boulevard Latin Cuisine” sign makes no mention of a theater, as the old one did. Wonder if they’re still utilizing that space.

michaelkaplan
michaelkaplan on January 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Many stories to tell about the Boulevard. But for beginners, here’s a list of the movies I saw there (in order of which I remembered them: The Robe The King and I Beneath the 12 Mile Reef It Came from Outer Space (3D) A Star is Born Second Chance (3D) Phantom of the Rue Morgue (3D) Creature from the Black Lagoon (3D) The Best Years of Our Lives (reissue) Lady and the Tramp River of No Return Carmen Jones New Faces of 1952 East of Eden Three Coins in the Fountain Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? The Glenn Miller Story Calamity Jane I Am Curious Blue Song of the South Help! Gentlemen Prefer Blondes The Man Who Fell to Earth There’s No Business Like Show Business The Marriage of Maria Braun Breakfast At Tiffany’s Pillow Talk Beat Street The Command Hell and High Water Knife in the Water Rocco and his Brothers Boccaccio 70 Marriage Italian Style

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