Newtown Theatre

91-11 Corona Avenue,
Elmhurst, NY 11373

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Newtown Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The theatre was originally known as the Victoria Theatre and first opened in 1916, built from the profits from an outdoor nickelodeon that operated for years (weather permitting) on vacant land across the street. The plainly decorated auditorium had two sections of seats with a middle aisle. The stageless screen was flat against the back wall. Toilets were at both sides of the projection booth, reached by narrow staircases. Within ten years, the Victoria Theatre literally became an “itch” and was forced to close for a sanitary renovation.

To celebrate the re-opening, the owners changed the theatre’s name to the Newtown Theatre, in honor of nearby Newtown High School, whose students were its most frequent patrons. The Newtown Theatre was never more than a showcase for late-run double features, with program changes twice a week. Located near shops and eateries, as well as the Durkee’s spice factory, it did good business. In the late-1930’s, it was taken over by the Island Circuit, which sold it in 1946 to the expanding Interboro Circuit.

Interboro had just bought Emhurst’s other theatre, the much larger and grander Queensboro Theatre, and treated both to modernization. The Queensboro Theatre was re-named the Elmwood Theatre, but played the same programs as the Newtown Theatre, though not on the same days. In 1949, the Elmwood Theatre was upgraded to first-run for the area, but the Newtown Theatre was too small to qualify and remained a late-run house until closure in the early-1950’s as yet another victim of TV competition.

After a long period of closure, it became a church, but at a viewing several years ago, it seemed to be converted to a warehouse. It has now reverted back to church use.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm

The “Function” in the introduction needs to be changed to “Church.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 21, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Here are new direct links to photos taken last year:
View link
View link

Rollingrck
Rollingrck on October 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

A shot of the theatre in 1948 from ebay

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Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

The listing address URGENTLY needs correcting! The community is known as Elmhurst, not Elmwood. The confusion might be due to the fact that the Newtown was once under the management of the same company that ran the Elmwood, which was also in Elmhurst. As far as I know, there has never been a community called Elmwood in the borough of Queens.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

That’s a really great shot of the old movie house. Since both “That Magnificent Urge” and “Belle Starr’s Daughter” premiered in November 1948, the picture probably dates to the Spring of 1949, when both films probably reached this second run theater.

Regarding the source of the theater’s name, I would guess that the Newtown took the name of the community that became Elmhurst a little over 100 years ago. As the story goes, real estate magnate Cord Meyer, who was developing this community, thought that the name Newtown would be unfavorably associated with the already severely polluted Newtown Creek. And wallah, Elmhurst was born. This was somewhat of a pity since Newtown was one of Queens' original towns and had once included much of the western portion of the borough. Remnants of old Newtown, including an old church yard, can be found only a few blocks from the theater, and groups like the Newtown Historical Society keep the history of the old town alive.

Finally, TT is absolutely right that Queens has never hosted a neighborhood called Elmwood. The Elmwood theater was, I believe, named after the very seperate communities of Elmhurst and Woodside.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I believe that the Elmwood’s name referenced Elmhurst and the theatre’s nearness to Woodhaven Boulevard…The Newtown was originally known as the Victoria. The new name was to designate its proximity to Newtown HS, a landmark for the area…The name of Newtown still survives today on the magnificent First Presbyterian Chruch of Newtown, on the south side of Queens Boulevard (almost directly opposite the Target shopping center that was originally all Macy’s).

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 24, 2010 at 2:29 am

TT, you are right, and I did get my “woods” mixed up. Clearly, it makes a lot more sense to look at Woodhaven Blvd. – rather than the more remote Woodside community – as the sourse of the Elmwood’s name. For some reason, I just blanked out this from my mind when I wrote my last post. Anyway, thanks for correcting this one point.

RickB
RickB on October 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

Ya gotta love the “TELEVISION” sign right across from the theater in the 1948/9 shot. Holy foreshadowing, Batman!

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 24, 2010 at 11:06 am

“That Wonderful Urge” & “Belle Starr’s Daughter” opened on the RKO circuit in Queens on May 4th, 1949, so the combo probably reached the sub-run Newtown three weeks after that. In those days, the Jackson Theatre in nearby Jackson Heights played a week behind the RKO circuit, and then the Newtown would get the programs a week later. By this time, the Elmwood was no longer showing programs off the RKO circuit. It had gone “first-run” for the area with programs originating on the Loew’s circuit.

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