Posts Tagged ‘old theaters New York City’

The Bronx is the land of faded old movie houses

February 19, 2018

New York City has many grand old theaters and movie houses. These hearty survivors have been typically rebranded as a drugstore, Starbucks, or some other store that has none of that show biz grandeur or charm.

But it seems like the Bronx has more than its share of old theaters than other boroughs. Two recycled movie houses are on Southern Boulevard, a busy shopping stretch in the South Bronx.

Behold the Spooner Theatre, above and at right, which opened in 1910. Seating 1800, the Spooner would soon be purchased by Loews and renamed the Loews Spooner Theatre, according to Cinematic Treasures.

Cecil Spooner (below) was an actress and director who built the theater so her stock company could have a place to perform.

Spooner and her players give “performances twice a day to audiences which fill the house,” wrote the New York Times in 1913.

Interestingly, later that year Spooner was arrested for staging what was called a “vice” play—a dramatization of a novel called “The House of Bondage.”

The audience rose in protest when the cops came in. (The novel was about the then-hot topic of white slavery.)

At some point the Loews Spooner got a marquee . . . and then became a furniture store, per this photo below from Cinema Treasures.

Today the theater is weathered but still holding up. It’s occupied by a couple of cell phone stores, a Burger King, and a Children’s Place.

Not far from the majestic Spooner is the shell of the Boulevard Theatre, which opened in 1913, reports Cinematic Treasures. This Beaux-Arts beauty started out as a vaudeville house seating 2,200 people.

“When [the Boulevard] is finished this block . . . will be an amusement and business center second to none in the Bronx,” wrote the New York Times.

It soon opened as the Loews Boulevard and featured “‘small time’ vaudeville and moving pictures,” according to another Times article.

Like the Spooner, the Boulevard has since been repurposed into a shopping strip with a cell phone store and gym. Its Beaux-Arts touches are still faring well after more than a century fronting a busy Bronx street.

[Third photo: Cinema Treasures]

Once the Bronx Opera House, soon a luxury hotel

March 15, 2013

“When first opened in August 1913, the Bronx Opera House was considered the most beautiful theater in the borough,” states the wonderful theater history site Cinema Treasures.

Bronxoperahouse

Part of the “subway circuit” for vaudeville shows and first stop when Broadway plays hit the road, this Beaux-Arts jewel on Third Avenue and 149th Street hosted performers like Eddie Cantor, John Barrymore, and Harry Houdini, reports Bill Twomey’s The Bronx: In Bits and Pieces.

Bronxoperahousecinematreasures“The auditorium had two separate balconies, and was dominated by a huge crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling,” writes Cinema Treasures.

It sounds lovely—but its glory days didn’t last. By World War II, the German-Americans who patronized the opera house had moved away, replaced by Spanish-speaking immigrants.

The opera house became a movie theater, then various Latin-themed dance clubs, and by the 1980s was housing a church.

Today, it looks like an empty shell. But listen to this: a high-end boutique hotel is set to open here this year. The newly christened Bronx Opera House Hotel plans to charge $125 to $145 per night!

[Photo: Cinema Treasures]