Forum Theatre

490 E. 138th Street,
Bronx, NY 10454

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Showing 18 comments

EsseXploreR on November 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm

The auditorium is definitely still mostly intact as mentioned above. It’s been whitewashed and simplified, but I’ve seen much worse church conversions.

robboehm on April 26, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Uploaded picture from the day.

Willburg145 on June 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

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

shoeshoe14 on July 29, 2007 at 4:05 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.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 26, 2006 at 8:04 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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 25, 2006 at 3:47 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.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 26, 2006 at 11:59 am

Two Photographs of the Teatro Puerto Rico (ex Forum Theatre) which I took in June 2005:

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 2, 2006 at 10:01 pm

Ha. Maybe that was Shea… it being a typical 1960’s cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadium. The baseball equivalent of the concrete bunker. And whatever kitschy charm that place had was lost when they removed those pastel blue and orange shingles from the exit ramp facades years ago. Of course, they are having a damn good season this year! Maybe they’ll have a three-strip Cinerama revival in the off-season. Lost, start a letter writing campaign immediately!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 2, 2006 at 6:04 pm

I’m suffering from that same sickness, Lost. Although, last night on my way to the huge stir-fry wok that is Yankee Stadium in this heat wave, I noticed a familiar hump-backed roof line from the window of the 4 train I was riding. I told my brother, there’s an old movie theater. When we got on the platform and were able to look down onto 161st Street, it was very easy to make out the facade of what I would learn (from CT, of course) to be the former Earl Theater. I also stumbled across the Gotham Theater and a number of other former movie houses in upper Manhattan while riding down Broadway a few times from one destination to another. Of course, each one is invariably already listed on CT, but perhaps one of these days I’ll uncover a hidden and long-forgotten gem!

Greenpoint on August 2, 2006 at 12:03 pm

Greenpoint to the rescue- I passed by this theatre all the time on my route.I always wondered if there was anything theatre related here-it did boast the tell-tale signs of a movie theatre-that being the huge auditorium in the back.

I do that kind of theatre-hunting all the time.I drive the
other people nuts because I always park the van and get out and walk around the perimeter of the building looking at old steel girders that must have held up old ornate theatre-marquis

Lost Memory I’m sure you will agree with me that at least this theatre didnt fall into disrepair as the Loews Paradise did (prior to its extensive rehabilitaion)with its leaky cielings from a hole in the roof that was never repaired.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 2, 2006 at 9:36 am

Thanks for finding me Al… I haven’t eaten in days! And thanks for additional info, Lost. I still wonder about the whole Puerto Rico/Cinema Center name. So far I haven’t found any Bronx listings in the Movie Clocks I have from the mid ‘80’s so I can’t solve it. I thought maybe the balcony theaters might have been known as Cinema Center 1 & 2 and the live space in the former Forum orchestra known as the Teatro Puerto Rico (the name is still evident on the marquee as per the photos Damian Farley posted in 2004). While those Spanish language films might have played in one of the two upstairs theaters, it’s possible they advertised in El Diario as the Puerto Rico to appeal to that paper’s readers.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 2, 2006 at 5:13 am

LOL. We are listening Ed! I have nothing to contribute except that it is gratifying to see such a wide and organised release of Spanish language films. I don’t that happens much today unless it is a crossover film from Almodovar or starring Gael Garcia Bernal.

I think we need some New Yoricans to help us out with the Bronx.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 31, 2006 at 9:12 am

OK… to continue this rapidly developing conversation with myself, here’s an ad for the film “Streetwalkin'” from the Daily News that lists the Cinema Center in the Bronx at 490 E. 138th Street so it was definitely a part of the Forum complex:

Streetwalkin' 9/23/85

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 31, 2006 at 8:56 am

I’m trying to track down the theater listed in the El Diario movie guide as “Cinema Center 2”. The listing provides an address of 138th Street and Brook Avenue in the Bronx, which is the same intersection given for the Forum/Puerto Rico. By 1985 could this have been part of that split balcony? Perhaps the Spanish language films played in the auditroium known as the Puerto Rico and the English language films played the Cinema Center? But then, why Cinema Center 2 and what about Cinema Center 1? I assume that in 1985 the owners were still trying to make a go at the live performance space in the main auditorium. Or are these two seperate buildings? Anyone able to clear up this confusion?

This thread was dead almost two years to the day before I posted these ads… I wonder if anyone is out there who is even interested??? Helooooooooo???

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 31, 2006 at 8:14 am

There is another Bronx theater listed here (originally the Boulevard on Southern Blvd) that has an aka “Puerto Rico” that is being disputed. RobertR posted a 1973 ad for the Pam Grier film “Coffee” on the Boulevard’s site that lists “Brandt’s Puerto Rico” as one of the Bronx theaters playing the movie. Was the Forum ever run by Brandt during its Puerto Rico days?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 31, 2006 at 8:10 am

Here is a 1985 ad from the Spanish language publication El Diario:
El Carro de la Muerte 9/20/85

The paper also ran a neighborhood movie guide catering to its Spanish language and bilingual readers:
Cartelera Cinematografica 9/20/85

Interesting history (from the limited information posted) for this theater. From a struggling 2300 seat vaudeville house to large nabe to wrestling arena to performance center/twin cinema and now in partial use as a church. Quite a busy little biography.

bamtino on August 2, 2004 at 9:32 pm

I don’t have too much to add. After its initial closing, the Teatro Puerto Rico was purchased by a developer in late 1984. The balcony of the original theatre was then used as two 300-seat movie theatres, one showing films in Spanish and the other in English, which opened in September 1985.

After a renovation lasting more than two years and costing more than $1.2 million, the concert hall portion of the facility (the main level of the original auditorium) opened in September of 1987. The hall was reported to contain 1400 seats.

bamtino on August 1, 2004 at 10:42 pm

A vintage image of the theatre (though mostly obscured by a trolley car) can be found here:
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Images from 2002:
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