Loew's Paradise Theatre

2413 Grand Concourse,
Bronx, NY 10468

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Paradise Theater

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Loew’s Paradise Theatre opened on September 7, 1929 with Warner Oland in “The Mysterious Dr. Fu-Manchu” on the screen, plus a Chester Hale stage presentation “Cameos” and British organist Harold Ramsay playing the 4 manual, 23 ranks Robert Morton ‘Wonder Organ’.

The 23rd largest movie theatre ever to be built in the USA was commissioned by the Paramount/Publix chain and was to be named the Venetian Theatre. Paramount/Publix withdrew from the project shortly before construction began and it was taken over by New York’s largest movie theatre chain, Loew’s Inc. The design was adapted to become one of the five ‘Wonder Theatres’, named after the Robert Morton ‘Wonder Organ’ which was installed in each of them.

The first ‘Wonder Theatre’ had opened in January 1929, the Loew’s Valencia Theatre, in Jamaica, Queens. The Loew’s Paradise Theatre in the Bronx was joint-second to open, on the same day with Loew’s Kings Theatre, Brooklyn. These were followed by the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, NJ and finally the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

The Loew’s Paradise Theatre was one of the last ‘Atmospheric’ style theatres built towards the end of the movie palace building boom. John Eberson, the architect who designed this $4,000,000 deluxe picture palace, was famed for his ‘Atmospheric’ theatres and the Bronx Paradise, is perhaps the greatest example of his work to survive since the demolition of the Paradise Theatre in Chicago (1928-1956).

Here on the Grand Concourse, where local ordinance forbids the use of large vertical signs, the facade is restrained and dignified. On top of the frontage, over the entrance, is the space originally occupied by a mechanical Seth Thomas clock, where hourly St. George slayed a fire-breathing dragon. As the Bronx Paradise fell foul to vandals in later years, the figure of St. George was stolen. A similar device, now renovated, was also installed at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, NJ.

The main lobby, reached through a set of bronze doors from the outer lobby, features three domes in the ceiling containing painted murals depicting ‘Sound, Story and Film’. In the center of the north wall, beneath a statue of ‘Winged Victory’, was a large Carrara marble fountain featuring the figure of a child on a dolphin. At the base of the Grand Stair hung an oil painting of ‘Marie Antoinette as Patron of the Arts’ and a copy of artist Holbein’s ‘Anne of Cleves’.

The auditorium was designed to represent a 16th century Italian Baroque garden, bathed in Mediterranean moonlight, with stars twinkling in the ceiling as clouds passed by. Hanging vines, cypress trees, stuffed birds and Classical statues and busts lined the walls. The safety curtain was painted with a gated Venetian garden scene, which continued the garden effect around the auditorium when it was lowered.

After the Great Depression, live acts were dropped from the program schedule and the Paradise became a regular first run movie theatre. In the late 1940’s a concrete slab was installed over the orchestra pit to create four extra rows of seats. It covered the orchestra pit and organ console. The slab was lifted only once, in the 1960’s, to enable the removal of the organ console, which with the rest of the organ pipes has now been installed at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, NJ. which had its original organ removed in 1949 (and that is now installed in the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA)

Over the years, many features and fittings in the Paradise ‘disappeared’ and by the late-1960’s it was on the market for redevelopment, opening only for evening performances. The theatre was twinned in December 1973, then in 1975 it was triplexed and in 1981 was divided into four screens, hiding practically all the original auditorium interior behind drop ceilings and panel walls.

The Paradise Theatre closed in January 1994 and lay empty for six years. By November 2000, work had begun on removing the four-screens and a restoration, but this was halted due to an ownership rights dispute with the restorer. A new owner took control and completed the renovation, re-opening in October 2005 as a live theatre and special events venue, now named Utopia’s Paradise Theater. In November 2012 it was leased to a church.

The theater is a New York City Registered Landmark building, for both the facade and the interior. Listed on 16th April 1997.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 667 comments)

theatrefan
theatrefan on June 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

This Loew’s Wonder Theatre seemed to last the longest as an actual regular movie theatre finally being closed by Loews (Sony at the time) in January of 1994. I’m sure being a quad at the time helped extend it’s run.

paktype
paktype on June 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm

My mother raved about this theater. She moved to the Bronx in 1958 and saw many movies there.

stang119
stang119 on January 1, 2016 at 6:31 am

I was in the area yesterday and I was graciously allowed to go in. All my youth memories came back. What a beautiful restoration. And with lights on you can see all the glory of this beautiful house. No more stars but nonetheless everything else was perfect. I asked if I could take pictures but there was a small service going on but they said maybe another time.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on March 26, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Is “closed” the right designation for this theatre? Surely its active use as a church means it’s “open”, just not as an entertainment venue.

Gabi Gonzalez
Gabi Gonzalez on March 27, 2017 at 10:22 am

Hello fellow movie theater lovers,

I’m doing a project for my photojournalism class at NYU about closed down independent movie theaters in New York. I hope to gain information about people’s past experiences at these movie theaters, recollections of favorite memories or not so great experiences, perhaps economical insight, contacts with owners/managers, etc. On a larger level, I hope my project is able to show the significance of the role that these establishments play in our city and the importance of keeping them afloat.

If anyone would be willing to answer a few questions via email about your personal memories at the theater, please let me know! It could be as simple as recounting a favorite movie you remember seeing back when it was open. I would greatly appreciate your insight.

You can contact me at:

Thanks,
Gabi

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on March 28, 2017 at 6:06 am

The Paradise was never an “independent” cinema, always operated by the original Loew’s (and successors) from opening to closure.

Ed Baxter
Ed Baxter on March 28, 2017 at 11:30 pm

My father worked in the Bronx and in 1977 he would bring my brother and to see the original Star Wars there on Wednesday’s when our Catholic grammar school would let out early to allow for religious instruction for public school students. I was only seven years old, but I remember the theater being huge and beautiful.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 18, 2017 at 9:27 am

It must be one of the few theaters to be mentioned in an Academy Award-winning Best Picture and Best Screenplay. From “Marty” (1955), partially filmed on location in the Bronx: “I hear there’s a good picture in the Loew’s Paradise”.

JAlex
JAlex on April 20, 2017 at 8:01 am

And how is “Loew’s” pronounced?

stevenj
stevenj on April 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Named after the founder Marcus Loew (pronounced low). So “Lows”. Or NYers of a certain age might say, Low-eze.

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