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 Ramsey playing the 4 manual, 7 rank 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 1994 and lay empty for six years. By November 2000, work had begun on 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 640 comments)

Bway on March 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I never understand all the mocking that takes place in regard to the Loews Valencia. Sure, it would be nicer if it was a theater again, and it is “sad” that it’s a church instead of such, but this church has saved the Valencia. While yes, the colors they painted the interior are garish at best, what would you rather have, the interior gutted into a drug store or something instead? or worse, leveled? The Valencia is completely intact, maintained, and good shape. Who cares if the colors are garish….all that beautiful plasterwork could be gone instead, and prescriptions sold there instead.

LuisV on April 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Amen Bway! I’m an atheist so i don’t like churches but I don’t deny that they have saved a great many palaces; some better than others. Not all churches do a great job. Many have butchered the palaces they took over but I believe the majority have benefitted from their divine users. I wish them well.

BobbyS on May 1, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Can anyone go to church services at the Paradise? I would love to go there on a Sunday morning. I have been to 175th Loews and felt welcomed during a service. I would “close my eyes” and imagine I was there when it was a movie palace.

GlenBarrie on August 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

The Lowes Paradise was a magnificent theater, I have vivid memories of how beautiful the colored neon lights reflected on the Grand concourse on rainy days. Among the films I saw there were, “Papa’s Delicate Condition” with Jackie Gleason in 1963, and once when my parents were shopping they dropped me off on my own, to see the double feature, “The Fly” and “Space Master X-7” (1958)I was ten the time, Wow! I watched from the second balcony.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Apparently now being used as a nightclub three nights a week:


Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

The guy running the church looks like a real piece of work:


stevebob on July 18, 2014 at 6:47 am

Regarding the claim that Loew’s Kings “is by far a better location than the Paradise”, I would vigorously disagree. I don’t have crime statistics to compare directly Fordham to Flatbush, but I definitely know where I would feel safer – and it’s not Flatbush.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on August 25, 2014 at 4:58 am

I went to the Paradise a few weeks ago, while on a walking tour of the Concourse, photographing the Art Deco apartment buildings. I asked the woman who was sitting in the erstwhile boxoffice if I could go in and take some photos, and I got an abrupt “No”. I asked why, and her answer was, again abruptly, “Security reasons”. By this time, my New York blood was pumping, and I said to her, “You’re turning me away from the House of God?” The reply was “Uh-huh”. It got even worse later that day, when the super of one of the apartment buildings, who had all the earmarks of a major criminal, threw me out of the lobby. “Trespassing” he said in fractured English. Ah, the glory that WAS the Concourse! Things were VERY different when I went to the Valencia last fall. The pastor and members of the congregation were more than gracious, and I was let loose inside with my camera, without so much as an escort. Same thing when I went to what used to be Loew’s 46th Street, in Brooklyn. It’s now a furniture factory/showroom, but the theater is more or less intact. The owner let me roam around and take as many photos as I wanted, again without an escort.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on August 25, 2014 at 5:05 am

Comments about crime statistics in city neighborhoods seem to me to be not-so-subtle racist attacks, and really don’t belong on these message boards, which are devoted to movie palaces, and not the changes in regional demographics. I find the comments offensive. If you don’t feel safe in Brooklyn or the Bronx, stevebob, don’t go there, and post your comments someplace more appropriate. I used to live in Flatbush, and I walked through the entire area recently, and I’ve lived to talk about it.

robboehm on August 25, 2014 at 7:26 am

Regional demographics are a major influence and cannot be denied. If the product doesn’t appeal to the neighborhood, or if the neighborhood is not friendly to the exhibitor that’s it. Look at the CT stats. Only ¼ of the theaters are open, and not, necessarily showing movies. Why so few? TV and other options, the economy, the age factor and, demographics.

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