United Palace (Loew’s 175th Street Theatre)

This theater is not abandoned, but I had the chance to shoot it a few years ago, and I wanted to share the images with everyone.

View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony

The United Palace originally opened on February 22, 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre. Located in the the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, the building takes up an entire city block and was designed by famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. (Lamb’s work can also be seen in my posts on the RKO Hamilton Theatre also in Washington Heights, and the RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing, Queens.) The interior decor was designed by Harold Rambusch of the Rambusch Company, who did some of the interior work on the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia and many others across the country. The theater was estimated to cost $1.25M to build in 1928 or $18.4M when adjusted for inflation. It was the first theater in Washington Heights designed specifically for talking pictures.

David W. Dunlap of the New York Times described the theater’s architectural style as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco”

The 3,444 seat United Palace was the fifth and last of the theaters that became known as the “Loew’s Wonder Theatres.”  The wonder theater concept was originally developed by the Balaban and Katz Theater Corporation of Chicago to bring large movie palaces to smaller urban neighborhoods. Loew’s acquired three of Paramount’s planned wonder theaters (the Kings and Pitkin in Brooklyn and the Valencia in Queens) in a deal with the company in 1927. Each of the Loew’s Wonder Theatres originally had identical Robert Morton “Wonder” organs built specifically for them.

View of the lobby from the lobby mezzanine.

The opening day program consisted of a showing of “Their Own Desire” starring Norma Shearer and a stage show from the Capitol Theatre on Broadway.  Over the years many stars made appearances at the theater, including Judy Garland, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Joan Crawford. Loew’s closed the theater in March 1969, and later that year sold it to Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkotter II, a television evangelist, for $600,000. Rev. Ike, as he was known, turned the theater into the headquarters of his church, the United Church Science of Living Institute, and renamed the theater the Palace Cathedral. Rev. Ike hosted a television program which often showed him speaking from the United Palace’s stage.

The United Palace was the only one of the Wonder Theatres that retained its original organ. The console can be seen at the lower right side of this photo.

In 2007, the theater became a concert venue and hosted acts such as Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Beck and Neil Young. Xavier Eikerenkotter, Rev. Ike’s son, created a non-profit called the United Palace of Cultural Arts to turn the theater into a performing and community arts center in 2012. The following year, the United Church held a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to purchase a digital projector so that movies could return to the theater. The campaign was a success, and the first movie screened in the theater in over 40 years was “Casablanca” on November 17, 2013. It has also been used as a filming location for television and motion pictures in recent years. Upcoming events can be found on the theater’s website at: https://www.unitedpalace.org/calendar

The theater was also known as “Reverend Ike’s Prayer Tower.”
The organ was removed from the building by the New York Theatre Organ Society to undergo repairs in 2017.

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Loew’s Kings Theatre Part One – Building and Opening

I’ve decided to expand my post on the Kings Theatre into four parts using some excerpts from my book, Kings Theatre; The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre. Find out more about the book here.

Blueprints for the auditorium of the Kings.

Originally a carport for the Brooklyn Railroad Company, 1027 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, where the Kings was built, was actually almost the home of another theater ten years earlier. William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation purchased the property on November 1, 1919, and intended to build the biggest theater in Brooklyn on the site. Fox hired famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb to design a 3500 seat theater on the property, but it never happened. Fox liked to buy land in areas he thought could be or needed a theater, often never building anything and just selling the land years later.

Workers constructing the foundation of the theater.

In 1927, Famous Players (Paramount) entered into an agreement with the Allied Owners Corporation, a subsidiary of New York Investors, Inc., to finance the construction of the theater. According to the agreement, the Allied Owners Corp. would hold the deed to the Flatbush Ave. property along with three others in New York and one in Birmingham, Alabama and finance the construction of the theaters. Upon completion, the theaters would be leased to the Paramount-Famous Players- Lasky Corporation to repay the bond. In October 1927, Allied Owners sold an issue of $9,500,000 real estate bonds and used the profits to finance the building of the five theaters. These theaters were the Paramount, Kings, and Pitkin in Brooklyn, the Valencia in Jamaica, NY, and the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham.

View from the main level of the auditorium of the Loew’s Valencia in Queens, NY.

When the Loew’s Corporation found out about the theaters, Nicholas Schenck contacted Paramount to offer a new deal. In exchange for showing Paramount Films in over 40 of Loew’s theaters, Paramount would sublease three of the four New York theaters over to Loew’s, keeping the one located in downtown Brooklyn.When the agreement was finalized, the Pitkin, the Valencia, and the Kings opened as Loew’s theaters. The theaters would be paid for in 181 monthly payments: $20,983 a month for The Kings, $18,873 for The Pitkin, and, $18,228 a month for The Valencia.

Blueprint for the auditorium ceiling.

Paramount hired the architectural design firm of Rapp & Rapp to design the Kings. They were also responsible for designing the Paramount Theatre in Manhattan, the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn and the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. C.W Rapp passed away in 1926, and most likely had nothing to do with the designing of the Kings. Edwin “Ted” Bullock, one of George and C.W’s nephews, ran the New York office of Rapp & Rapp, located in the Paramount Theatre Building in Times Square, during the 1920s. 

The steel framework of the Kings Theatre.

Work on the Kings began in the spring of 1928. The railroad buildings were demolished first, to make way for the building’s foundation. Once the foundation was poured, the steel frame was erected, followed by the roof. This permitted construction at the top of the building and the bottom simultaneously, which allowed for faster building. The Kings cost 1,300,000 to build in 1928 which when adjusted for inflation comes to $17,767,198.83.

Anne Dornin’s Theatre Decorator’s Color Chart

The interior of the Kings was decorated by the Rambusch Company with the assistance of Anne H. Dornin, who was in charge of theater decor for Loew’s Incorporated. Dornin, an architect herself, started work with the firm of Thomas W. Lamb shortly after graduating from Columbia University, and became associated with the Loew’s Corporation after decorating the interior of some of the theaters Lamb designed for Loew’s. She came up with something she called “the Theatre Decorators’ Color Chart” which had certain criteria she used to determine what colors would be used inside each theater she decorated. The main colors she picked for the Kings were Red and Bright Gold, which she felt were perfect for large theaters in metropolitan areas.

View from the balcony shortly before opening.

According to E.A. Schiller, a VP of Loew’s Inc, the original structural plan was changed due to vaudeville and silent films declining in popularity, and motion pictures becoming more and more prominent. The entire design was revised to further the acoustical properties of the theater. Engineers at Loew’s came up with a coating that when applied to the ceilings and walls of the theater would create a texture would help to give a more uniform sound vibration across the entire auditorium. Even the elaborate ornamentation and heavy velvet drapes were designed to distribute sound throughout the auditorium.

Another change that was made to further the audibility of sound coming from the screen was the reduction of the size of the balcony. The original plans called for the Kings to have a much larger balcony, but it was discovered that a shorter and wider mezzanine would improve sound and vision. The auditorium’s footprint was widened to account for more seats being placed on the main level. 2,793 of the 3,692 seats were located on the main level with 899 in the shallow balcony. The wider auditorium also helped the sound from the speakers behind the screen to reach the entire audience.

The exterior of the theater circa March 30, 1930.

Kings wasn’t always the name of the theater. It was first called the Tilden, named for the nearby cross street. Paramount had intended to call it the Tilden Theatre, but when Loew’s took over they considered several different names including Loew’s Tilden and Loew’s Regent. Regent made it as far as being included in some of the blueprints and contractors’ agreements, but in the end the theater was named “Kings” for the county where it was located. This final name change came around six months before the theater opened, in time to include it on the marquee and vertical sign.

The opening day program from September 7, 1929.

On July 26, 1929, E. A. Schiller, vice-president of Loew’s, announced that the grand opening celebration of the Kings would take place on August 24, 1929. However there were two delays before the theater finally opened on September 7, 1929. The doors were opened to the public at 11 AM as part of a full day grand opening celebration. However, the official ceremony did not kick off until 9 PM that evening when James J. Bryne, the Brooklyn Borough President, took the stage. Bryne spoke about how grateful the residents of Brooklyn were to have a magnificent theater like the Kings opening in their borough.

Rivoli Restaurant was one of the many Flatbush establishments to take out an advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle welcoming the Loew’s Kings Theatre to the neighborhood.

A number of movie stars made special “appearances” at the opening via pre-recorded messages. Marion Davies, John Gilbert, Conrad Nagel, William Haines, and Buster Keaton each appeared on screen congratulating Loew’s on the opening of its new theater. The opening presentation was a Broadway-style stage show called Frills and Fancies and was directed by Arthur Knorr. It began with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by Beal Hober, which was followed by an overture performed by the house orchestra, The Kings Grand Orchestra. Wesley Eddy, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, took the stage next and sang If I Had You, and It All Depends on You. Jack North, a banjo-playing comedian, took the stage and sang a few songs. Christy and Nelson, a comedy acrobatic team, had the audience laughing with their routine. William “Singing Bill” Zuckerman, the Kings organist, played the Wonder Morton Organ, and a talking newsreel was shown. Next, Teddy Joyce, master of ceremonies at the Loew’s Penn Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA came out to introduce the star of the evening, Dolores Del Rio. Del Rio said a few words to mark the occasion and to introduce her film “Evangeline” which was the night’s feature presentation. Eddy retook the stage to sing the theme song for Evangeline. Nina Oginska, an internationally famous ballerina, and the Chester Hale Girls joined him on stage during the theme song. According to an advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10,000 people attended the opening celebration.

Part Two will be available in two weeks. Material from for this post was taken from the first three chapters of my book, Kings Theatre; The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theater.  If you’d like to buy a copy they are available on Amazon, and my website.

Historic photographs and blueprints are from the archival collections of the Theatre Historical Society of America

Warner Huntington Park Theatre

 

View from the side of the balcony.

The Warner Theatre in Huntington Park, California opened on November 19, 1930. Warner Bros hired Seattle based architect B. Marcus Priteca and interior designer Anthony Hiensbergen to collaborate on three theaters in the Los Angeles area. The result of the collaboration were three theaters designed in the Art Deco style; the Warner Beverly Hills, the Warner Grand in San Pedro, and the Warner Huntington Park.

The ceiling of the auditorium.

The 1,468 seat Warner opened with a showing of The Life of the Party” starring Winnie Lightner and Charles Butterworth.The Life of the Party” was a musical comedy released on Vitaphone, which was an early form of talking motion pictures, and filmed entirely in Technicolor. Joe E. Brown, an actor and comedian, served as the master of ceremonies for the opening celebration.

The main level of the auditorium.

In 1948 Warner Bros was forced to split into two separate companies, Warner Bros Studios and the Stanley Warner Corporation, due to the results of the Supreme Court antitrust case, United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. Stanley Warner Corp (SWC) was created to operate all of Warner Bros theaters as the case ruled that movie studios could not own the theaters where their movies were shown. The Warner Huntington was renamed the Stanley Warner Huntington Park, but the signage on the building’s exterior never changed. SWC operated the theater until 1968, when it was sold to Pacific Theatres. Pacific twinned the Warner in the 1980s, separating the balcony and orchestra levels, and renamed it to Pacific’s Warner 2. The Warner closed in the early 1990’s after a stint as a spanish language theater.

The snack bar was not original to the theater.

Huntington Park declared the Warner a historic landmark in 2007. However, that status only protects the building’s facade from alteration. The theater sat dormant until Pacific sold it in June 2013 for $1,600,000 to Pacific Blvd. Pacific Blvd applied for a special re-use permit, which would allow them to convert the interior into retail space. Despite opposition from preservationists and residents, Huntington Park’s historic preservation commission unanimously approved the permit. The alteration work began soon after with the removal of the seats, stage, snack bar, and the wall separating the lobby from the auditorium. Blink Fitness, a primarily East Coast based Gym, opened one of their first West Coast locations in the Warner in early 2018.

The main floor was leveled and most of the balcony removed to help entice retail clients
View from the balcony before the division was removed.
The theater’s projection room.

Fall Photo Workshops 2018

 

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Auditorium, Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA

I’ve been working on scheduling some new locations for this fall’s series of Photography Workshops, and think I’ve gotten some great ones. First up, the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, MA on September 22. The Orpheum was the first theater profiled on After the Final Curtain, and I’m really excited about the workshop. Attendees will be able to photograph the auditorium, ballroom and shooting range.

http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/orpheum-theatre-workshop

 

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The Art Theatre in Worcester, MA.

Next is the Art Theatre (formerly the Olympia and a bunch of other names) in Worcester, MA is the next photo workshop on October 6, 2018. It’s a smaller one, so sessions are limited to 6 people.

http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/arttheatreworkshop

(And don’t worry, all of that insulation has been removed.)

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View from the fake box seats at the Paramount Theatre in Springfield, MA.

Last up is a return to the Paramount Theatre in Springfield, MA on October 27, 2018. I’m co-hosting this one again with Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. Work will have started on the roof by the time this workshop takes place, so hopefully that will stop the deterioration of this fantastic building.

Sign up and more information: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/paramount-theatre-workshop

That’s it for now! I’m planning on doing another one at the Everett Square Theatre this fall, but I’m just waiting to confirm a date. There may be one more surprise one as well.

Robins Theatre Video

The Robins Theatre in Warren, Ohio is currently being restored and is scheduled to reopen in 2020. I’ve been documenting the progress and put together a short video tour. Look for an in depth post on the Robins soon!

Upcoming Events

 

Auditorium, Bennett School – Millbrook, NY 2004.

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be at the 10th annual Millbrook Literary Festival in Millbrook, New York on May 19th, 2018. I’ll be signing copies of my books in the main tent from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. I grew up a few towns over from Millbrook, and might have snuck into the abandoned Bennett School a time or two.

Variety Theatre Cleveland, Ohio.

The next photography workshop is at one of my favorite theaters – the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m co-hosting it with Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America on June 16th. For more info visit: http://www.dismantlingthedream.com/product-page/variety-theatre-photography-workshop

View of the side of the balcony of the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, Maine.

Finally, I’ll be at the 14th annual Books in Boothbay in Boothbay, Maine on July 14. I’ll be signing copies of my books from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.

 

Arcade Theatre

The balcony of the Arcade Theatre in Los Angeles, California
View from the side of the balcony.

The Arcade Theatre in Los Angeles, California originally opened on September 26, 1910 as the Pantages Theatre. It was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by the Morgan & Walls architecture firm and was a part of the Pantages Vaudeville Circuit. Morgan & Walls are also known for designing the Mayan and El Capitan Theaters in Los Angeles. The location of the 1,400 seat theater helped to make downtown Los Angeles an entertainment destination, and 11 more theaters opened in the area between 1910 and 1931.

The Arcade was the first theater on the Pantages Vaudeville circuit in southern California.

Vaudeville singer and comedian Sophie Tucker appeared at the Arcade’s opening day celebration as part of her first West Coast tour. Other opening day acts included a one act pantomime called “A Hot Time in Dogville,” singer Maurice Burkhart, a musical comedy sketch by the Lelliott Brothers, and the Yalto Duo dancers. On Christmas Day 1913, an unusual wedding took place on the theater’s stage — Napoleon, a vaudeville-performing and silent film starring chimpanzee “married” Sally, another chimpanzee from the E&R Jungle Zoo. The theater closed in December of 1921 so that a photoplayer, an automatic mechanical orchestra to accompany silent films, could be installed.

Souvenir programs from the theater’s opening day were printed on silk.

Pantages sold the building in 1925 to the Dalton Brothers, who owned the nearby Folles Theater. It was renamed Dalton’s Theatre (or Dalton’s Broadway) until 1928 when the name was changed to the Arcade Theatre, after the Broadway Spring Arcade Building, which is located directly next to the theater. The Dalton Brothers renovated the Arcade in 1932, and reopened it as a burlesque house on July 30, 1932. Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello) was one of the comedians who performed at the theater during this time.

All of the seats were removed after the theater closed in 1992.

In 1938, famed theater architect S. Charles Lee remodeled the interior of the theater, which reduced the seating to 800, changed the foyer to the Moderne style, and updated the building’s facade. On August 22, 1941 the Arcade became a Telenews Theatre, which ran newsreels from 8AM to 3AM the next day. The opening newsreel was called “This World Besieged,” and was about World War II. This change lasted only four months, and by mid-November 1941 the Arcade was back to showing feature films.

The mural in the center of the proscenium has long been painted over.

The Arcade was an independent theater in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1970s, keno was played at the theater every night at 8PM. Metropolitan Theatres ran the Arcade as a grindhouse (a theater that ran three or four different films on repeat) until it closed in 1992. The following year the lobby was converted into a retail space. It is currently an electronics store, and the stage is used as a storage space for the store’s inventory. There have been a few proposals to restore the theater, including one that would have it and two other theaters turned into a restaurant and multiplex complex, but none have come to pass.

Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy) performed at the Arcade in 1919.
During the first burlesque show someone threw a stink bomb on stage and injured one of the dancers.

For more on the Arcade and many other Los Angeles Theatres be sure to visit: https://losangelestheatres.blogspot.com/

 

Strand and Capitol

Strand New Bedford
Strand Theatre, New Bedford, MA

Yesterday I attended a photography workshop at the Strand Theatre in New Bedford, Massachusetts hosted by Bryan Buckley of Vanishing New England. I love hosting workshops, but it was very nice to be on the other side of one this time. The Strand Theatre originally opened as the Vien Theatre in 1905, and is going to be turned into a community center in the near future.

Capitol Theatre, Fall River, MA.

While I was in the area I also visited the former Capitol Theatre in Fall River, MA. The Capitol originally opened on February 2, 1926. I believe it closed in the 1960s, but haven’t been able to verify that yet. Part of the orchestra level was converted into a bowling alley sometime after it closed.  The proscenium and organ chambers were removed so that a large steel support beam could be installed as part of the conversion.

I’ll be posting full write ups on both of these theaters very soon.