Idle Hour Theater

251 Jackson Avenue,
Long Island City, NY 11101

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The Idle Hour Theater was one of the first movie houses in western Queens, and started by using the auditorium of the Masonic Building on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, which is just across the East River from Manhattan.

By 1923, the operators had been able to save enough funds to build a real theater and adjoining stores directly across the street at Jackson Avenue & 12th Street. The New Idle Hour Theater never became more than a late-run “nabe”, but operated into the 1950’s.

More information about its history and the current status of the site would be appreciated.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 12, 2007 at 10:41 am

The parcel at the corner of Jackson Ave and 45th Avenue is a 50x100 lot encompassing addresses from 24-25 through 24-29 Jackson. I found a build date of 1931, but that is not Building Dept info so it could very well be in error.

Here is a local.live view of the structure – with wraparound yellow awning – which stands in the shadow of the Citibank skyscraper across 45th Ave (to the right in this image). Jackson Ave is actually the main thoroughfare depicted here. The theater actually sat on a short access lane formed by the triangle at the acute intersection of Jackson and 45th. The small vintage photo that Warren posted on Feb 6, 2006, shows the row of brownstones in the background that once lined the blockfront now occupied by the Citibank tower.

The building depicted is situated on two lots. The triangular portion of the storefronts on the left are situated on an adjacent lot. I imagine these are separate structures that have had their facades “unified” over time through renovation.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 14, 2010 at 7:45 am

A very interesting thread on a very old theater. Wherever the Idle Hour was situared, and Ed Selero’s 7/12/07 post makes a compelling case, the theater’s zip code is definitely 11101, and this should be added to the introduction. If a comment by Warren in another LIC theater page had not mentioned the Idle Hour, I would never have come across this page.

One other point. I was struck by the Idle Hour’s quaint title and assumed that it would be about the only so named theater when I conducted the search. But fully 10 Idle Hour’s came up. So I guess this was a more popular name than I thought, in a very different era.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm

As a lark, I visited the nine other sites named Idle Hour. They were scattered throughout the USA – with one showing up in Toronto. All of them began operations in the early years of the last century, and only one of them, situated in rural Virginia, is still operating. This theater is actually the successor of the original Idle Hour, which was a wooden structure that opened in 1912. They say that Tom Mix and his horse once paid a visit to the old theater.

I attached the CT page of the last existing Idle Hour below. I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy.

/theaters/17086/

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on August 28, 2010 at 1:30 am

Another gentle reminder to the site manager: Please add the 11101 zip code to the title. Since will make this page far more accessable to a larger number of readers.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on August 28, 2010 at 4:43 am

Wow that was quick, site manager. Thanks for the change!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 16, 2011 at 5:31 am

Just wondering if there should be a way of using an original (even if antiquated) address for a movie theater, while also displaying the modern address equivalent in the heading. Interesting that the obsolete address of 251 Jackson Ave has Google mapped to the exact spot where we believe this theater to have existed (now known as 24-29 Jackson Ave). Perhaps the site administrator did some hard-coding behind the scenes? I still think displaying both addresses where appropriate (and where known) would be very helpful. The modern address would map the location correctly, while listing the old address as well would provide some historic integrity.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on August 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Ed, I entirely agree with your point about retaining, in some way, the original addresses of Queens based theaters like the Idle Hour. Beyond providing some historic integrity, the original addresses will be of value to researchers who wish to review old newspaper articles and theater digests that only refer to the old addresses.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 21, 2012 at 8:34 am

I just noticed the wonderful vintage picture of this old theater that was recently posted at the top of the page. What a terrific addition – and thanks to whoever made this contribution.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on June 10, 2013 at 6:41 am

I just read a message that Joe Vogel posted on the Vernon Theatre site last October that helps clarify the exact site of this theater. In an ad that memtions movies shown at both theaters, it provides a Court Square address for the Idle Hour. This is exactly where Ed Selero placed it in an earlier post and should, thus, resolve any uncertainty in this theater’s location.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 24, 2013 at 9:28 am

The wonderful poster regarding the “Voice of Ireland” that TT posted in the Photo section raises an interesting question. The very detailed description of the theater’s location – at 12th St. opposite St. John’s Hospital – would, under the current street configuration, be a physical impossibility. This is because the hospital site, which is near Court Square, would now be close to the intersection of Jackson Ave, and approximately 25th St. Thus, when the poster was printed – and the “Voices of Ireland” sang – a very different street configuration held sway. My guess is that the sequence of the old numbered streets was superceeded when the Borough of Queens initiated its comprehensive plan to reorganize all of the streets in the borough. This drawn out process started in the 1910’s and ended in the 1930’s. For the most part, this involved changing nemed to numbered streets but, in this case, it apparently resulted in the re-numbering of numbered streets.

It would also be great to know the date of the poster.

Finally, it is unfortunate that this page’s current main picture is a current google map of the vicinity – and probably not the correct vicinity – and not one of the terrific vintage photos. To find them, you need to enter the photo section. I really hope this situation is addressed by the site administrator.

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