Grand Theatre

22-15 31st Street,
Astoria, NY 11105

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Grand Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This large theater was located on 31st Street off Ditmars Boulevard in the Astoria section of Queens. Opened in 1924, it has been closed since 1960, but the building still stands. It is currently a supermarket on the street level.

From the street there is no hint this was a theater, but behind the building is a municipal parking lot and from this view you can clearly tell the building’s past life.

This street had another theater as well. Up the block and across the street (on 31st Street) was a very small neighborhood movie house that survived into the 1970’s — ending its run playing Greek language films.

Contributed by "," William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 6, 2006 at 6:17 am

The Grand opened just one night after the Jackson Theatre in Jackson Heights, but surpassed it in size and luxury, with a reported seating capacity of 2,300. The Daily Star said that the building had a length of 175 feet and a width of 120 feet: “The architecture of the interior, while not being of any definite type, carries a suggestion of the solidity of the Egyptian temple. The sides of the auditorium are tapered toward the stage and screen by means of diagonal walls, behind which are the organ chambers. In the ceiling is a large dome, 35 feet in circumference. Around the dome are hidden many lights giving diffused illumination to the interior. Across the rear of the audtiorium is a balcony, which includes a promenade, large rest rooms, and the projection booth.” One of the theatre’s innovations was a screen manufactured from aluminum, which made it easier to clean and provided a clearer picture. The organ was a Kimball:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 11, 2006 at 5:24 am

Prior to the Skouras take-over of the Astoria Theatre on Steinway Street, the Grand and the Broadway were the circuit’s top theatres in that community and first-run for Queens, though not exclusive for the borough. The same programs could be seen at the RKOs in Flushing and Richmond Hill and at either the RKO Alden or Skouras Merrick in Jamaica. Here’s a 1940 ad:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 16, 2006 at 12:14 pm

The NYT story says “will be reconstructed into a bowling center.” How do we know that ever happened? Property developers are notorious for announcing projects that never take place.

jmoroney on September 26, 2006 at 7:42 am

The last movie to ever play at the Grand was the 1960 film “Midnight Lace” with Rex Harrison, Doris Day and John Gavin. Man, I miss that place!

murray2362 on January 6, 2007 at 9:52 am

Astoria Lanes definitely occupied that space. I remember as a kid in the mid sixties If you were twelve and under on Wednesday mornings during the summer you got three games, rental shoes, a hot dog and a coke for $1.30. How times have changed.

hankmc on June 8, 2009 at 8:23 am

I just found this site while doing some research on my old Astoria neighborhood, the best times of my childhood until we moved to NJ in 1955.

Back in the late 40’s early 50’s both the Ditmars and the Grand had Saturday matinees for kids that certainly gave you your 12 cents worth, most of us brought a sandwich since you would be there from 10AM to at least 2 or 3PM. The Ditmars was a small theater that was on one level and traded luxury for inexpensive admission prices and two current films along with cartoons, short subjects, and the all important coming attractions. During WWll they sold War Bonds and gave out dishes. A friendly place.

The Grand was larger, more palatial, with a balcony and ushers who lit the way to a seat if the film was in progress. They also had stern looking older women wearing starched white dresses who served as matrons during the Saturday kid’s show and kept the peace during the times the screen action slowed down and the sugar candy high kicked in resulting in things being thrown among the audience and scuffles breaking out. A matron could get you banned for a week or two which was bad news since every kid in the neighborhood was either at the Grand or the Ditmars and being out on the street was like being in solitary.

There was a bowling alley operating at the same time as the Grand. It was below ground in the small office building on the East side of the Ditmars station that you passed through on the way to the street. Instead of exiting to 31st St. you went down another flight to Lou’s, (I don’t remember the real name). About a 16 alley down and dirty dungeon that was not a family place but served as a great place to learn to bowl and hang out watching some money games going on among the local hustlers. Lou closed in the summer because without A/C the wood in the alleys would swell and buckle.

There was also a pool room across the street level with the station that was entered by a stairway from 31st St. Another definitely non-family type hangout that had so much smoke and grime on the inside of the windows you could not see out. Hanging out there was considered by parents to be the quick path to jail and eventually Hell so you watched to see if there might be someone who knew you nearby before ducking into the doorway and the stairway. Thanks for a place to unpack some memories. Is there an Astoria nostalgia site to trade tall tales about the good old days? Hank

Tinseltoes on December 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

The Grand’s marquee and a portion of the vertical sign can be seen at left in this photo of the Ditmars Boulevard elevated subway structure, which is the first/last stop on the current “N” and “W” lines:
View link

Tinseltoes on May 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Another early view of the marquee and entrance can be seen here: View link

robboehm on September 25, 2011 at 4:14 am

A bit of trivia. 31st Street was also known as Grand Avenue, the El station still carries both names. Hence, Grand.

Asyd on April 29, 2012 at 10:57 am

That building was a bowling alley and ice rink. Astoria Bootery was right next door along with Bobbys' Music. There was a big fire in the early 70s on the corner. A womens dept store I think that was called Susan Terry. Woolworths burned down around that time also and became Genovese. Another fond memory was going to the Midnight Rock shows at Astoria theater. I saw Pink Floyd…Live at Pompeii in 1974.

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