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Million Dollar Movie

I thought of the old New Yorker theater the other day because it is where my brother and I saw “Tron.” Our old man dropped us off outside the theater and we asked some grown ups to get us in. Later, I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” there. This was well past the theater’s prime, but I am fortunate enough to remember a bunch of the old movie theaters on the Upper West Side.

My favorite was The Regency which showed double features of old Hollywood movies. I’ll never forget seeing Harry Langdon’s “The Strong Man” (directed by Frank Capra). My bro did a spot-on imitation of Langdon by the time we got home.

 I also remember the Metro and the Cinema Village and the Thalia, and downtown there was St. Marks 80. What were some of your favorite spots?


1 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2010 10:31 am

Roger Ebert recently tweeted an interesting article from around Tron's release in 1982. According to the article, Disney's financial health was resting on the success of the movie, and it's early viewing to Wall Street analysts foreshadowed a transformation in the industry. According to the story, even though critics liked the movie, one influential analyst panned it to investors, leading some to believe Disney could be headed toward ruin. It was a very interesting read. If I can find it again, I'll post the link.

2 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 21, 2010 10:41 am

Not in the city, but one of the first theaters I ever went to was the Strand on Beekman Avenue in North Tarrytown. I distinctly remember the scene where R2D2 gets shot while Luke is attacking the Death Star in Star Wars... why would I remember that, I was what, five? I remember the newscasts that night of Reggie hitting three homers in the World Series better than I do watching the actual game on TV...

Sorry Alex, I grew up in the suburbs, so my spots are mostly in the Hudson Valley (and rather esoteric to say the least)...

3 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 21, 2010 11:17 am

I grew up in Flushing (until '76) and the place to go was RKO Keith's on Northern Blvd. It was one of those grand old movie palaces. It was like the Sistine Chapel of theaters, with the ceiling painted sky blue. All the vaudeville stars had performed there.
To a kid in the balcony, the screen seemed like it was a city block long, and twice as high as any of the two family homes on my block, 33rd Avenue. I recall seeing a couple of movies there as a kid, kid movies - Snoopy Come Home, stuff like that.
After we moved to LI, we still used to stop by the old neighborhood to see friends, the family pediatrician, etc. The last time I remember being at the theater was in the late 70s, after it had become a triplex, or pentaplex, or whatever the hell plex they'd made it. I'm pretty sure we were there to see Heaven Can Wait ('78), and I remember my sentimental mom was so upset with the renovation she almost cried. She had been going to the Keith's since she was a kid. The place is in shambles now, in historic landmark purgatory, or waiting to be torn down - last I read.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 21, 2010 11:18 am

3) I remember the old Paramount Theater in Peekskill used to play movies, right?

5 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 21, 2010 11:18 am

[1] I did some poking around, and though this might not be the article you read, I would classify it as a fascinating supplement.

I'm a big fan of Steven Lisberger's animation from Animalympics which ties almost directly into the making of the original Tron. Two totally different movies, but I can't imagine anyone else helming either one at that time.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 21, 2010 11:37 am

[4] Yes it did, but we both would have been too young to recall when it was owned and operated by Paramount. I don't know what they did with it during the early-mid-seventies when the Jan Peek Square area was a nightmare, but after the renovation they reopened as a performing arts center, which they still are to this day.

7 Raf   ~  Dec 21, 2010 12:13 pm

[2] Same here, grew up in the suburbs, so the theaters I remember were in New Rochelle (Main St) and the Pelham Picture House in Pelham. I also remember the Whitestone Drive In.

[5] I remember Animalympics, it was one of the first movies I saw when we got cable tv.

It's interesting to me to see converted theater spaces, never realized that there were so many of them around.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 21, 2010 1:26 pm

[7] Pelham Picture House is still intact, I don't think the theater on Main St is though.

Many of the old theaters, big and small, have been converted to churches. The examples that stick out in my mind are Crossroads Church in Castle Hill (Bx) and a big church on Jamaica Ave and Merrick Blvd in Queens that also looks like it used to be a prominent playhouse. There's also a church-renovated former theater in Fulton Mall in Brooklyn. I'm as surprised as you at how many theaters there used to be, not to mention how many have been turned into churches or chain stores. Makes you wonder about the ones that were actually torn down.

In fact, the Paradise Theater on Grand Concourse is the only theater I know of that died and was reborn in it's former glory (if not patronage).

In Dutchess Cty there were three big drive-ins when we moved up there; one in Fishkill and two in Hyde Park. Only one in Hyde Park (on Rt 9 across from the FDR mansion) still survives part of the year as a drive in, the other in Hyde Park just lost the old neon sign which marked where it used to be and the one in Fishkill is now a shopping plaza.

Not to mention the almost total disappearance of the Dutchess Mall in Fishkill and the slow death of the South Hills Mall in Poughkeepsie.

9 The Mick536   ~  Dec 21, 2010 3:51 pm

I grew up in Stamford CT. Lived behind the Avon theatre on Bedford Street. My mother would put some money in my pocket and tell me to go to the movies. I felt grown up. Paid for a ticket. Bought popcorn from a machine. And saw lots of movies. Some of them I didn't really understand.

Stamford had several movie theatres: Ridgeway, Palace, and Plaza. People used to drive from Bedford and Pound Ridge and White Plains and Port Chester to go to the movies.

Saturday mornings at the Palace, they showed cartoons and Three Stooges or Flash Gordon or Abbot and Costello. Saw them babies on the big screen.

Remember some great dates with some wonderful girls in those theatres, also. Oh, yes, and how about the Starlight Drive In near Shippan Point?

10 earl   ~  Dec 21, 2010 5:15 pm

I'm gonna go with my user name here: Earl, as in the Earl Theater on 161st just off River Ave, just a few blocks away from one childhood home and just across the street from another... I remember seeing the first Flintstones movie there when I was six and Shaft in 1971, seminal moments in childhood and adolescence. Later, when I was in college and would meet my Pop to take in a game, we would always meet under the marquee and go eat in the restaurant it had become (just looked on Google Street View, I see it's Billy's Sports Bar Restaurant now).

11 nyhmr21   ~  Dec 21, 2010 7:50 pm

Do not remember the name of the theater, but it used to be off the number 5 Prospect Avenue stop in the South Bronx. It was across the street from the Prospect Theater (which played Spanish only movies).

Saw some classics like "5 Fingers of Death", "Mandingo", "The Excorsist", ""Enter The Dragon", "Chinese Hercules", "The Orange Tangerine Candy Man" and other great B movies.

How I miss those care free days.

12 Matt Blankman   ~  Dec 21, 2010 10:48 pm

[3] I saw Star Wars at the RKO Keith's in Flushing! I wish I remembered more about it. I do recall cowering from Darth Vader, sitting in the balcony.

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