Forum Theatre

490 East 138th Street,
Bronx, NY 10454

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Forum Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Situated in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, the Forum Theatre first opened in February, 1923, with vaudeville and movies. Newspaper advertising claimed 3,000 seats, but no reference books have ever cited more than 2,300.

As an independently-owned theatre, the Forum Theatre struggled to survive against competition from the Loew’s, RKO and Skouras circuits. But its luck changed at the end of WWII, when it was re-named Teatro Puerto Rico, presenting Hispanic stage shows that attracted patronage from all over the Greater New York area.

When the novelty wore off, it switched to wrestling matches, which had become highly popular on TV. Finally closing in the wake of the neighborhood’s decline, it re-opened in 1994 as a performing arts center for the Hispanic community. The auditorium was divided into three, two for “live” usage and one for showing the latest Hollywood movies with Spanish subtitles.

Unfortunately, the project failed and the site was closed. At last report, one of the three auditoriums was being used as a Spanish evangelical church.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 8, 2006 at 5:25 am

An exterior photo of the theatre’s only successful period. As I recall, there was even an article about the theatre in Life Magazine, with the emphasis on the many star entertainers who made their USA debuts on its stage. Note the laundry hanging out to dry in the area above the long lobby entrance to the auditorium:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 10, 2006 at 5:10 am

In May, 1923, the Forum was part of a 30-theatre city-wide engagement of “Down to the Sea in Ships” after the epic ended an exclusive three-month run on Broadway:

AlAlvarez on December 25, 2006 at 12:47 am

This theatre is mentioned in Rogelio Agrasanchez, Jr.’s excellent book MEXICAN MOVIES IN THE UNITED STATES.

In 1948, Cuban rhumba dancer Mexican film star Maria Antonieta Pons made a live appearance that filled the South Bronx PUERTO RICO’s 2200 seats and left another 500 with standing room only at each show.

For the run of her 1949 film, her film performance in LA HIJA DEL PENAL was challenged on stage by a live performance from rival rhumba dancer AMALIA AGUILAR in what sounds like a pre- ROCKY HORROR combination of film and stage histronics that drove the audiences wild.

The Cinema Circuit PROSPECT was opened nearby due to the overwhelming suceess of the PUERTO RICO.

There is a photo as the FORUM in the book.

Ed, if you get stuck in here again I promise to send Lost Memory in before New Year with some supplies.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 26, 2006 at 5:04 am

Ha. Thanks Al… At the moment, I am free from the Forum Theater’s clutches! Hope Santa was good to everyone. Looking forward to a healthy and happy new year for all on CT.

shoeshoe14 on July 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I can help y'all on this one! I was biking by yesterday and noticed the very large stagehouse at the bottom of the hill at Brook and 137th. (There’s a small 3-story building on ground level behind it). It also looks larger because it is – the stagehouse is at the bottom of a hill. The entrance to the theater is up and to the right at the corner of 138th and Brown and it’s the Pare de Sufrir church.

I was lucky enough to go inside and park my bike inside the lobby. The marquee is intact, it’s a triangularish shape. The ticket booth is fully intact and there are 6 poster holders in great condition (3 on each side). There is brand new white paint on the walls and ceilings, brand new red carpet throughout the lobby, hallways and auditorium and all the ornaments are intact, but they aren’t stunning, but they are decorative. There are a few chandeliers lining the front of the lobby.

I met the head parishioners who told me it was closed and I told them I love old theaters and about this site and I wanted to check out the auditorium. They obliged. They said in their newsletter and flyers to parishioners, they also call the church, “The former Puerto Rican Theatre” to honor the past. They said when they took it over, it was horribly dilapidated and they put tons of money into the place. You would never know, honestly. It’s all air conditioned now. The stage is nice and is obviously the pulpit.

The auditorium is spacious with the original seats, very comfortable. They pointed out they removed a few rows for handicap accessibility and showed the old row remnants/rivets still noticeable on the floor, painted over. They said they wanted to get rid of the seats and throw them away. I told them if they allowed me to post on here (on the front page) that they wanted to sell them, they could make some money and use it for their church and for upkeep. They agreed. The balcony wasn’t air conditioned but it was spacious. Very nice people.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 11, 2008 at 8:09 am

Here’s a new link to an image described above on 9/8/06:
View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 4, 2008 at 8:41 am

All of the photos that Lo Mem posted links to can be found here in bulk. I congratulate the owners of the website on their sterling effort:

Tinseltoes on January 31, 2011 at 11:08 am

Here’s a 1954 view of the Puerto Rico Theatre marquee: View link

Tinseltoes on June 3, 2011 at 8:39 am

The Google view displayed is nonsense, but has no option for correction.

Willburg145 on June 28, 2011 at 11:46 am

I am on the on the phone with my mother. She remembers fondly the shows at the Teatro Puerto Rico. She told me the tickets were $2.00

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