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A MOVIE PALACE IN DISGUISE

A MOVIE PALACE IN DISGUISE

Los Angeles is lucky to have so many vintage movie palaces still standing and available for screenings, as opposed to my home town of New York City, which has surprisingly few. That’s why I was delighted to learn about one in Queens I never knew about: the former Loews Valencia, now the Tabernacle of Prayer on Jamaica Avenue. The man who chronicles it so well on his website is a professional movie and television location scout, and thanks to my pal Rick Scheckman I now have hours ahead of me checking out his many posts about interesting and unusual places in the City. To see his fabulous photos of the former Valencia, and his astute observations, click HERE.

If you want to learn even more, I encourage you to join the Theatre Historical Society of America, or at least visit their website HERE . Another great resource is Cinema Treasures, which tracks individual theaters across the country: HERE   

Wherever I travel I’m on the lookout for vintage movie palaces and even “neighborhood houses.” When my family and I journeyed to New Zealand several years ago we were treated to a tour of the incredibly opulent—and lovingly restored—Civic Theatre in Auckland, which like the Valencia is an atmospheric theater with stars and clouds in the ceiling.

I’m also fond of more modest Main Street establishments, and some years ago came upon a photo collection of such theaters. There is something wonderfully evocative about these pictures, which not only display the theater marquees but, just as often, the local businesses that lined the streets alongside them. I grew up with such a theater in Teaneck, New Jersey, and loved looking at the poster and movie-still displays outside. My family patronized the businesses along Cedar Lane, and we always knew what was playing at our home-town bijou. The Teaneck survived as a multiplex until just recently. The other theaters I patronized in nearby Hackensack and Englewood are long gone—and so are most of the merchants that surrounded them.

Here are a handful of those neighborhood theaters in their heyday. We can’t bring back the past, but it’s nice to visit now and then.

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