I recently discovered the wonderful site Cinema Treasures. Celebrating not films but the places showing them, Cinema Treasures digs, documents and shares all the information they can find about classic movie theaters across America.
Plugging my zip code into their search feature, I was surprised to find this gem right near my subway stop:
Unfortunately this theater is past tense – long since demolished, here’s what currently occupies the space:
An empty lot! A fenced-in, weed-choked, garbage-filled empty lot. While any hint of green space in the neighborhood is appreciated, it’s depressing this wonderful building was razed with nothing replacing it in the 10+ years since its destruction. At best one hopes it became such a fire hazard it had to be torn down with no plans for the space, instead of imagining some developer sitting on this plot greedily anticipating the day the neighborhood perks up to the point they can build more glass fishbowls to shove upper-class Manhattan expats into (see: Williamsburg).
But there is yet hope! To my utter surprise and delight, all five of the original Lowe’s ‘Wonder Theaters‘ still stand! The Wonder Theaters were flagship Lowe’s outposts built outside main Manhattan, with the specific idea of bringing the glamour and luxury of city moviegoing to the outer boros.
(the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights)
(the Valencia Theater in Queens)
Two live on as churches – the United Palace Theater is now Christ Community United Church, who also use the space to host concerts and events for the surrounding community. The Valencia is more exclusively Tabernacle of Prayer church, but they’ve done an amazing job preserving the beautiful, byzantine interior (really, click on and check out the photos – it’s absolutely stunning).
(the Kings Theater in Brooklyn)
The Kings Theater in Brooklyn got a recent reprieve – the building is currently under construction to restore it to its former glory (you can see its current deteriorated condition here).
(the Paradise Theater in the Bronx)
(Jersey Lowe’s in Journal Square)
Bronx’s Paradise theater still shows movies and hosts concerts and other arts-related events, as does Jersey City’s Lowe’s Theater. The Jersey Lowe’s can even be rented out for weddings (one of the rental perks being you and your betrothed’s names on the marquee. Cute).