Savoy Theatre

152-04 Jamaica Avenue,
Jamaica, NY 11433

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Showing 1 - 25 of 53 comments

robboehm on March 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm

The commentary says the, at that time, Rialto, was the first theatre to be wired for sound in Queens. There was also a claim that the Arion in Middle Village was. Comments on the Arion site would lead one to believe that neither had that distinction. Inasmuch as “The Jazz Singer” opened at Fox’s Jamaica (later called the Cort and Carlton), it would seem that the Rialto (Savoy) was not even the first in Jamaica. When the renovated, renamed theatre opened in December, 1929 it boasted a new Western Electric sound system. Would that have been done if one had been put in place only a short time before when talkies first came out?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 6, 2014 at 11:43 am

Opened as the Savoy Theatre on December 28, 1929. The feature film was Al Jolson in “Say It with Songs”.

robboehm on March 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

Can’t believe they were taking phone reservations in 1920! Seating capacity was greater as the Rialto than the Savoy. Somewhat surprising figuring the former also accommodated a 25 piece orchestra and a “gigantic pipe organ”.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 6, 2014 at 7:12 am

Ads are in the photo section.

robboehm on March 6, 2014 at 7:06 am

The Rialto opened on December 1, 1920. At a cost of a half million dollars it was hailed as: “one of the largest photoplay houses in New York bearing comparison with any other theatres on Broadway”. The opening film was “Something to Think About” with Gloria Swanson and Elliot Dexter. The house also boasted a twenty five piece orchestra and a gigantic pipe organ (mentioned in a much earlier comment on CT). There was a special exhibition agreement with Famous Players-Lasky and Paramount.

Although other references to this theatre show it as being built by Al Schwartz after the success of his Rialto in Brooklyn, it was purported to be a local project using a local architect and financing. It was to be operated by the Long Island Motion Picture Company, two of whose officers were the Alterman Brothers who are listed as the new owners when the theatre reopened as the Savoy in 1929.


Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm

A Sanborn map (in the photo section) gives the year that the Rialto Theatre was built as 1920.

robboehm on March 1, 2014 at 10:30 am

The former Rialto opened as the Savoy on December 28, 1929 under the ownership of local businessmen, the Alterman Brothers. In addition to a complete renovation there was the installation of a Western Electric sound system.

The Savoy became the first theatre in Queens to serve as a first run house for Warner Brothers films.

robboehm on April 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I was looking at the Century Brooklyn Rialto and found reference this “second” one built by Schwartz. Kind of unusual to have two theatres with the same name in a small local chain.

TLSLOEWS on January 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Thanks Tinseltoes.Nice link.

Tinseltoes on January 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

A short history, with a color photo of the Savoy in its final “adult” phase, can be found here: View link

RobertR on April 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

Check out those titles
View link

LeeTyler on March 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

Don’t think I have seen those pics before. Thanks, Warren!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 25, 2008 at 8:12 am

These previously posted photos have new direct links:
View link
View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 15, 2007 at 11:48 am

Believe it or not, in its final period as a porno theatre, the Savoy had the New York City Housing and Development Administration as its landlord. That happened in July, 1973, when the city purchased the Savoy and other buildings in the block for demolition as part of the Jamaica Center Development Project. The occupants were given until June 30th of the next year (1974) to vacate. In the interim, Savoy Amusement Corporation, which had been showing hard-core pornography at the theatre for two years and soft-core for two years before that, would pay the city a monthly rental of $1,416. In September, 1973, a fire broke out in the theatre and destroyed several rows of seats. The city refused to make repairs or replace the seats, so the management did so at its own expense. “I have a steady clientele who come every week. They’re mostly male, 50-50 blacks and whites. You could say we have high class pornographic films. They’re 16 millimeter,” corporation owner Edward Quinn told a reporter for the New York Post. Some of the Savoy’s recent attractions were “Six Easy Pieces,” “Hooker’s Holiday,” “Sex in a Mobile Home,” “Snow Job” and “The Stud Who Came to Dinner.” Quinn said he had an agreement with local police to keep the outside posters low-key, with only film titles and no photographs or illustrations.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 14, 2007 at 11:43 am

In January, 1935, the Savoy announced that 1934 had been a record-breaking year for the theatre, with more than 1,000,000 tickets sold (adults and children combined). If true, that meant an average weekly attendance of about 19,231, or 2,740 per day. Advertising in the LI Daily Press gave the reason: “Because we present THE GREATEST SHOW VALUE IN N.Y.” To accommodate the crowds, the Savoy extended its hours, opening daily at 9:30 AM (except 11:45 on Sundays). No admission prices were cited, but I would guess a sliding scale of no more than 25 cents for adults and ten cents for children. The movies were last run for downtown Jamaica, but double bills of “A” product, such as “Kid Millions” & “Imitation of Life” and “Babes in Toyland” & “Marie Galante.”

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 5, 2007 at 6:37 pm

A Midmer-Losh theater organ was installed in the Rialto Theater in 1920.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 2, 2006 at 6:45 am

This bold 1929 presentation was apparently part “live” and part film, and required separate performances for women and men. One can only wonder about the meaning of “Actual scenes—shows everything.” And what was that frightened lady “never warned” about?

LeeTyler on July 16, 2005 at 6:00 am

Yes Mr. Doc, that feeling of loss can’t compare to the likely daily loss of patron’s bodily fluids that ensued on the floor and the seatbacks of the Savoy in it’s latter years. Tawk' about a sticky floor! DOH!!

jeffbackdoc on July 15, 2005 at 12:56 am

thanx, v. now i can stop seeing my shrink to resolve that feeling of a persistent sense of loss.

GeorgeStrum on July 14, 2005 at 4:35 pm

To Jeffbackdoc, I managed to go once to this theatre during it’s final porno phase and you didn’t miss much. The fare was typical 42nd street grind house “soft” porn with bad grainy scratchy prints.What I was intrigued with more was the ghostly images of the decor that indicated the former grandure of the house.

jeffbackdoc on July 13, 2005 at 12:21 pm

lee tylers brother here. i remember the last time my dad tried to get us in. huge sign in lobby, “let’s face it, folks. the world has gone sex crazy and we are simply meeting the demand. sorry for any inconvenience”. man, did we ever want to get in then…the heck with the westerns and sci fi flix. but dad said nix to us hormone charged juveniles. i guess that’s progress?!?!?!? jeffbackdoc

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 13, 2005 at 6:16 am

Here’s an early image of the auditorium when the theatre was still known as the Rialto. I doubt that many changes were made in the following decades. Please note that the seating was all on one floor, with a stadium section at the rear:

LeeTyler on May 25, 2005 at 2:44 pm

Hey Warren, I beat you to it…and then some. Scroll up a few posts. Thanks for posting!


Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 25, 2005 at 10:26 am

A B&W photo of the theatre when it first opened as the Rialto can be seen at The photo is numbered JAM116.

LeeTyler on March 1, 2005 at 8:19 pm

That sticky-ass floor in there had a personality all by itself! Some days I got up and almost lost my sneakers!! —Lee