The Ridgewood Theatre opened on December 23, 1916. Located in the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens, New York, the 2,500 seat theater was built by the Levy Brothers Real Estate firm. The Ridgewood was designed by famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, who is known for the design of many New York area theaters. The Ridgewood was modeled after the now demolished Mark Strand Theatre, which was the first ever motion picture palace.
The Ridgewood’s façade was constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, and used many classical elements such as pilaster and glazed terracotta shields. The interior was designed in a greek revival style, with murals depicting the history of the neighborhood.
The Ridgewood was operated by many theater management companies over the years, including William Fox, who added it to the Fox chain in 1923. The theater showcased many different forms of entertainment, from vaudeville to photo-plays to silent films. After the space was updated to show films with sound, the first all-talking motion picture, “The Lights of New York,” played at the Ridgewood in 1928. Due to the Great Depression and lawsuits from competitors, William Fox went bankrupt in 1936, and sold his interest in the Fox Theater chain.
The Ridgewood was purchased by the United Artists theater chain and turned into a five screen multiplex theater in the 1980s. The balcony was converted into three separate theaters and the main level of the auditorium was split in two. It remained open during the multiplexing, the balcony was sealed off, and movies were shown on the main level. When the balcony was complete work began on the main level, and the movies were shown in the balcony theaters.
Because of declining ticket sales, the Ridgewood Theatre closed in March of 2008. When it closed it was the oldest continuous first run movie theater in the country, partially because it never fully closed during the multiplexing. The façade was declared a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in January 2010. Although there have been a number of proposals for the reuse of the theater since its closing, there are currently no plans to reopen. The theater was gutted in 2014 to make way for condos.