Grand Theatre

22-15 31st Street,
Astoria, NY 11105

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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.

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.

Tinseltoes on May 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

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

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

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

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.

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!

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.

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 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 June 30, 2006 at 10:16 am

The Grand was NOT an atmospheric theatre. It was built in 1924 by the Small & Strausberg circuit in a conventional style similar to their Meserole in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There were no atmospheric theatres in the Greater New York area until 1927 with the opening of the Universal in Boro Park, Brooklyn, closely followed by the Fortway in Bay Ridge. The first atmospheric in Queens was the the Queensboro in Elmhurst in 1928, followed by Keith’s Flushing, Loew’s Valencia, and finally Loew’s Triboro.

bazookadave on June 30, 2006 at 9:59 am

Wow I wonder if this was originally a palatial atmospheric venue. The building is quite large and that roof looks like it may have accommodated a domed ceiling beneath it. Unfortunately the interior is completely changed, as I shop at Key Food almost daily (no evidence of a theatre) and the gym, as I recall it, retained absolutlely no trace of any former glory.

I have searched endlessly online for images of original blueprints, floorplans and artists' renderings of many of these lost movie palaces. I found a few, but there seems to be a dearth of them in general. I assume the hiers of Thomas Lamb and the other theatre designers hold title to their work. In a vault somewhere there are probably rolled-up blueprints, drawings, and paintings of all our wonderful lost theatres.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 11, 2006 at 6:20 pm

Here’s a new link to the pair of photos I took back in September. The old links no longer work.

br91975 on September 7, 2005 at 8:25 am

This was my neighborhood supermarket when I first moved to NYC; I never would have guessed the building which houses it was once a movie theatre. Thanks to everyone for your memories and the information you posted, and thanks to you, Warren and Ed, for the photos.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 7, 2005 at 7:53 am

Here’s a current view of the former Grand taken from the municipal parking lot at the rear (where the profile certainly betrays the building’s origins) as well as from under the El on Steinway:

View link

View link

There’s also a website for the Gym that occupies the 2nd level above Key Food: There’s a slide show of photos for the gym that would indicate all traces of theatrical use have been completely eradicated.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 10, 2005 at 7:05 am

In this imperfect 1941 image, the Grand’s vertical sign and marquee can be seen in the right section, partially obscured by the elevated subway structure. This is part of the Ditmars Boulevard station, and the end (or beginning) of the line for the MTA trains currently designated as “N” and “W”:

hshift on February 3, 2005 at 2:18 pm

I was born 1959 and lived in Astoria for 27 years. I remember as a kid going bowling at a place called Astoria Lanes, circa 1968-1978, which is definitely the site of the Key Food. The bowling alley was huge, it had 24 lanes on the first floor and another 24 on the second floor. They had a bar, and a small diner area. They also had a kids nursery, where moms in leagues could bowl weekday afternoons, and an attendant would watch the kiddies (I remember my mom dropping me at this place while she bowled. I do not remember a roller rink ever being there, maybe after I moved.
I also remember the Ditmars Theater, and seeing Beneath the Planet of the Apes there, I must have been around 15.

bazookadave on January 19, 2005 at 3:07 pm

In the space above Key Food in Astoria, on 31st Street, there is now a gym called The Rock. I used to be a member there and one day an elderly woman climbed the stairs to the gym and said she wanted to see the space that used to be the movie theater she remembered from her youth. She also said the area now occupied by the gym was also formerly a bowling alley and a roller rink. I don’t know if this was true, but the building sure does seem to be built for something much grander than a gym and a supermarket. The gym has 40-foot ceilings and the steel beams that support the roof are clearly visible and have been incorporated into the design of the space. On the wall of the gym there used to be a large photo of the same space before its renovation into the current gym, and it showed a vast deserted and ruined room. The photo may still be there.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 16, 2004 at 7:51 am

The theatre was originally known as the Astoria Grand, and first opened on Saturday night, December 27, 1924, with “Christine of the Hungry Heart” (a First National release starring Florence Vidor) on screen and several acts of vaudeville on stage, according to a story in the current issue of the weekly Queens Gazette. After the show, a party and dance were held in the banquet hall above the theatre. I wonder if that space still exists and what it’s used for?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 25, 2004 at 7:41 am

Second Avenue no longer exists. It’s now known as 31st Street, and has been for quite a few years. The Key Foods supermarket that currently occupies the theatre building has an address of 22-15 31st Street, though the Grand’s entrance was at 22-27.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 7, 2004 at 9:00 am

This was one of three fairly-large theatres built in Astoria by the S&S Circuit, the others being the Broadway and the Crescent. The Broadway & Grand usually ran movies day-and-date, with the Crescent a week after them. S&S was one of many circuits acquired by William Fox before he went bankrupt in the Depression. After that, the three theatres landed under the management of Skouras Theatres, which operated them until closure in the early 50s due to TV competition. The Grand was gutted for a supermarket, and the Broadway extensively re-vamped for a catering hall that is still operating, though perhaps not under its original management. The Crescent also became part of a catering hall, but was surrounded by new buildings that mostly concealed its theatrical origin. When I last passed that site about two years ago, the catering hall had closed down, but it may have re-opened since.

Zummo on January 21, 2004 at 11:25 pm

The theatre that is now a Post Office was the Ditmars Theatre.

William on November 15, 2003 at 9:26 am

The Grand theatre was located at 22-27 2nd Ave..