Carlton Theatre

175-02 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11432

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Carlton Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theatre had several names, starting as the Capitol Theatre during construction in 1926-27 by a real estate developer that hoped to make it a magnet for extending the Jamaica Avenue shopping area beyond its then eastern border of 166th Street in the Jamaica section of Queens. The site was at 175th Street, so the builders had a tough time finding a tenant for the Capitol Theatre, which was designed by Eugene DeRosa and fully equipped to handle any type of movie or stage attraction.

Broadway producer and theatre owner John Cort finally came through with an offer to turn it into a playhouse. Re-named the Cort Theatre, it first opened on August 22nd, 1927, with the American stage premiere of the Broadway-bound “Mr. What’s His Name”, starring Lynne Overman. The plays ran for six days, with Sundays featuring vaudeville. To avoid confusion with the Cort Theatre in Manhattan, the house was soon re-named the Cort Jamaica Theatre. After a year of low attendance, Cort sold his lease to Louis Werba, who launched it as Werba’s Jamaica Theatre on September 18th, 1928, but still with the same policy of stage plays that were either before or after their Broadway runs.

Three months later, the Shuberts moved into Jamaica with a new playhouse at 165th Street, across the street from a huge movie palace still under construction as Loew’s Valencia Theatre. Werba’s Jamaica Theatre held on into 1929, but finally closed soon after the Wall Street crash. The theatre remained dark until September 1, 1930, when it re-opened as the Carlton Theatre, under the management of the Brandt circuit. By that time, the Shubert Jamaica Theatre had folded, so Brandt tried to return plays to the Carlton Theatre, but without suceess.

The Carlton Theatre was switched to double feature movies, playing several weeks behind Jamaica’s three leaders— the Valencia Theatre, Merrick Theatre and Alden Theatre (ex-Shubert). In 1939, the year of the New York World’s Fair, Brandt tried presenting vaudeville at the Carlton Theatre, but flopped. The Carlton Theatre returned to subsequent-run movies. In 1944, Brandt sold the Carlton Theatre to the Prudential Circuit, which finally closed it in the late-1950’s. The Carlton Theatre was converted into a catering hall called Regency House, which survived for about twenty years until the area became too unsafe to visit.

While sitting vacant, the building’s interior was almost entirely destroyed in a fire. It was finally demolished in 2002.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 21 comments)

Panzer65 on June 24, 2007 at 4:59 am

View link
Check out this link for an exterior photo of the Carlton.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 29, 2007 at 7:47 am

On December 18th, 1957, The New York Times reported that Associated Prudential Theatres had just sold the Carlton Theatre to an unidentified buyer who intended to convert it into a “three-story catering establishment.” No purchase price was mentioned. The corner site, which included the theatre and attached stores and business offices, measured 162' x 136' (22,032 square feet). I don’t know if the Carlton Theatre had been closed by that time or not.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 31, 2007 at 1:47 pm

The Carlton apparently closed forever as a cinema about four months before Associated Prudential landed a buyer for the property. The last advertising that I could find for the Carlton was in the Long Island Daily Press of August 19th, 1957, when the late-run “Loving You” and “The Tall T” comprised the double bill. That would give Elvis Presley and Randolph Scott the dubious distinction of being the last stars to be billed on the Carlton’s marquee.

Panzer65 on May 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Nice photos of the Carlton Warren.
Quick question about the photo carlton3.jpg. Looking at the edge of the balcony, theres several faces that appear, any knowledge of who they may be?

Jerome on December 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

In the early 1950s, The Carlton had a way to lure customers beyond the reach of the Jamaica Ave “El”: the cheapest prices. I remember it costing kids 9cents for double bills of films that were reasonably recent but a month or so later than the major theaters. Between the Carlton and the Savoy, Jamaica had veritable “repertory
programing"enabling a movie fan to see favorite films for years after they opened at the major theaters.

SWCphotography on February 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm

The source for Warren’s 5/14/2008 postcard

Cort Theatre circa 1927-1930
Featuring vaudeville star Olga Petrova’s play “What Do We Know”

SWCphotography on February 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm

From the description above the date narrows down to Nov. 1927-March 1928; probably Nov 1927 since there are still leaves on the ground.

bobby1361 on January 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm

The building was demolished and a school sits where it once was. I attended several functions as a child in the 1970’s when it was a catering hall. It closed in the early 1980’s and fell into disrepair.

Tinseltoes on August 27, 2013 at 7:48 am

I’ve added three interior views of the original Cort Jamaica to the Photos Section.

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