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Loew’s Valencia Theatre

May 7, 2014

This theater is not abandoned, but I had the chance to shoot it late last year, and I wanted to share the images with everyone.

View from the main level of the auditorium.

View from the main level of the auditorium.

In the early 1920s, the Paramount-Publix theater chain planned to open five theaters in the New York City area. However, in December of 1927 those plans were put on hold due to an agreement with the Loew’s Corporation. The agreement stated that Loew’s would not open any new theaters in Chicago, and Paramount would not open any more in New York. The plans for four of the theaters were then turned over to the Loew’s Corporation. Two years later on January 12, 1929, The Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened in Jamaica, Queens, and became the first of the five Loew’s “Wonder” theaters.

The lobby of the former Loew's Valencia Theatre.

The lobby of the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre.

Designed by renowned theater architect John Eberson in his signature “atmospheric” style, the Valencia has a blend of elements from Spanish, Moorish and Baroque styles. The 3,440 seat theater opened with the film “White Shadows in the South Seas,” starring Monte Blue and Raquel Torres, as well as a vaudeville stage show. The live stage shows lasted for six years before being phased out in early 1935.

View from the side of the balcony.

View from the side of the balcony.

The building was almost designated a New York City landmark in 1976 after some locals organized a nomination campaign. However, the Loew’s corporation advised the Landmarks Preservation Commission that they were opposed to the nomination, and the theater was not declared a landmark.

In the theater's early years, butts were projected across the ceiling, giving the illusion of sitting under the stars at night.

In the theater’s early years, clouds were projected across the ceiling, giving the illusion of sitting under the stars at night.

The Valencia closed in 1977 with a showing of “The Greatest,” starring Muhammad Ali. Two years later, the theater was donated to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People, a church from Brooklyn. Over the years, the church has made only a few changes to the theater, including adding a chandelier and turning the nude statues into angels.

Due to a dwindling congregation, the former theater is rarely filled. The last time it was was when Pastor Mason Betha, a former rapper from Harlem, gave a sermon there in 2008.

Due to a dwindling congregation, the former theater is rarely filled. The last time it was was when Pastor Mason Betha, a former rapper from Harlem, gave a sermon there in 2008.

In 1999, the new owners applied for and were granted landmark status by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.

This cross is one of the small alterations that the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People has made to the theater over the years.

This cross is one of the small alterations that the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People has made to the theater over the years.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2014 9:09 am

    Good one. Well worth sharing. Thanks.

  2. Mark Bender permalink
    May 7, 2014 9:14 am

    Hi, the last time I was in the theater, crutches adorned the lobby walls left by people that were “healed”. Are they still there? As always Matt every photo is spectacular. M

    • May 7, 2014 9:29 am

      Thanks Mark! – And yes, the wall of crutches is still there.

  3. Tom Schantz permalink
    May 7, 2014 9:48 am

    I so look forward to your posts. Usually they are so sad. Nice to see one that is not deteriorating beyond repair.

    Question: Is that green original to the architecture?

    Tom Schantz

    antz1919@ptd.net

    • May 7, 2014 9:56 am

      Tom – No, it’s not original. The colors in the auditorium are close, but a little brighter than when the building was in use as a theater.

      • Tom Schantz permalink
        May 7, 2014 12:38 pm

        My reaction to that selection: HMMMMMMMMMMM!

  4. John Yonnotti permalink
    May 7, 2014 12:27 pm

    That is a Beauty! It is nice to see it before its demise! The Warner in Youngstown,Oh is still standing because they turned it into Powers Auditorium years ago. Thank God!
    Great Pictures!

    • May 7, 2014 12:32 pm

      John – I don’t think this theater will be going anywhere anytime soon.

  5. May 8, 2014 10:08 am

    Wow, gorgeous! I love the blend of Spanish, Moorish, and Baroque styles. It’s quite difficult to imagine church services being held there, though :)

  6. Antonio permalink
    May 15, 2014 8:48 am

    Did you have to ask permission to take the photographs?

    • May 15, 2014 9:41 am

      Yes, you have to ask permission. They give tours every now and then. You just have to call the church and ask when the next one is happening.

  7. May 25, 2014 12:11 pm

    E’ meraviglioso ammirare l’ architettura e le decorazioni di queste splendide immagini!

  8. May 27, 2014 11:40 am

    Reblogged this on Rogues & Vagabonds.

  9. May 27, 2014 2:17 pm

    Reblogged this on retail fix and commented:
    And here in Philly we cant manage to save the only one left

    • Mark Bender permalink
      May 27, 2014 6:27 pm

      I imagine you are referring to The Boyd, and yes, THAT was pathetic.

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