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.
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.
Post 3 in the Snapshot Series – Occasionally in my travels I come across a theater that I can’t find a lot of information on, or that I only have a chance to photograph for an hour or two. They’re still beautiful and fascinating, so they definitely have a place on After the Final Curtain
The Empress Theatre opened in 1927 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The 1,595 seat theater was built by architect Charles A. Sandblom, who is also known for the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan. Originally part of the Century Circuit, the theater became part of the RKO circuit in 1929.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the creative team of Popcorn Palaces, an upcoming documentary that will cover the rise, fall and rebirth of some of America’s greatest theaters!
“Once upon a time, the theatre in which you saw a movie could be just as special as the movie itself. The theatres that America built in the 20s and 30s were extravagant, exotic fantasies designed to transport the audience into another world. The show started on the sidewalk the moment you saw the theatre’s towering sign, outlined in thousands of flashing, chasing lights, spelling out the words PARAMOUNT or FOX or LOEW’S. You had found your way to an acre of seats in a garden of dreams. “Popcorn Palaces” will not only be a celebration of America’s moviegoing legacy, it will also be the story of how theatres today are striving to develop new audiences. Long before there was a multiplex or HBO or Netflix, the ritual of going to the movies provided us with a gateway to a new and deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. Today theatres are priceless resources that are bringing new vitality and civic pride to our cities. Far from seeing themselves as a club for the aged, historic theatres have made educational outreach programs central to their mission. Theatres are part of our past. They are also a vital part of our future.”
The Paramount Theatre opened on October 11, 1886 as H.C. Miner’s Newark Theatre. It was originally a vaudeville house managed by Hyde & Behman Amusement Co., a Brooklyn based theater Management Company. After H.C. Miner’s death in 1900, his surviving relatives retained ownership of the theater for several years until its sale in 1916 to Edward Spiegel, the owner of the nearby Strand Theatre. Spiegel also purchased the building next to the theater with the intent to use the space to expand the theater. To accomplish this he hired famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb to do the alterations.
The Liberty Theatre opened on February 11, 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio. It was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, later known for designing the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. The 1,800 seat Liberty opened as a vaudeville theater, and was managed by C.W. Diebel. Diebel’s father had built a theater on the same lot as the Liberty, but it was demolished to make way for what would become the Paramount Theatre.
RKO Proctor’s Theatre opened in Newark, NJ on November 25, 1915 as the Proctor’s Palace Theatre. The architect was John W. Merrow, the nephew of Proctor theater circuit owner Frederick F. Proctor.
The Palace was a double decker theater, which meant that one auditorium was stacked on top of the other, a rare design choice at the time. The lower, street-level auditorium had 2,300 seats and the upper had around 900. The space was among the largest and most open in the area, leading the city to use it as the site of it’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1916.
View of the stage from the main floor of the Orpheum Theatre
I recently spoke with Lance Gunberg, a graphic designer and filmmaker who is also the president of Orpheum Rising Project Helpers or O.R.P.H, Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving the theater.