As some of you may know I am a photographer of sorts. One of my pet projects is photographing old movie theaters. Whenever I travel I try to find old movie theaters wherever I go. I actually photographed my first theaters back in the 1970’s when I lived in New York City. Of course, back then these theaters were not old classic movie theaters, they were the theaters you visited every week. That all said, I thought I would share some of these photos I have taken over the past few years in a short series, six in all, I will occasionally post. These are no great works of ‘art’ here, just a look at days gone by. I will provide any information on the theater that I am aware, some personal memories and links to the theaters that are still active today in some form.
First up are those New York City theaters.
The Loew’s Oriental was the local theater in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn where I spent most of my youth. Many Saturday afternoons were spent in this grand theater watching films like “Thief of Bagdad,” “Visit to a Small Planet,” “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” “Exodus” and many more. Jerry Lewis toured the Loew’s movie chain during the release of one of his movies, I think it was “The Nutty Professor” and I got to see him there live. The theater was twinned in 1977, the same year this photo was taken. Today the theater is a Marshalls Department Store.
The Baronet/Coronet Theaters, along with the Cinema I and Cinema II were located on the same block with just a Bookmasters store in between. These four theaters were once the primo theaters for big movie releases during the 1960’s and 70’s. Foreign films like Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” and Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” to domestic works like “The Exorcist” and “The Graduate” had their premiere engagements at one of these fours theaters located on the Upper East Side. One personal experience I had happened one weekday afternoon in September of 1976 . I took a half day off from work to go see Woody Allen’s film “The Front” which opened that day and was playing at the Coronet. The theater was fairly crowded for a weekday afternoon. After the film was over and everyone began filing out I suddenly noticed walking out right in front of me were John Lennon and Yoko Ono! Growing up in the 60’s, and a Beatles fan, I pretty much stood there stunned. I never saw The Beatles in concert but over the years I got to see Paul, George and Ringo separately in concerts and I got to go to the movies, well sorta, with John.
Loew’s State 1 and 2
The Loew’s State opened on Broadway in 1926. Over the years its marquee has gone through several reconstructions and in 1968 the theater was twined. “Ben-Hur,” had its World Premiere here as a road show engagement and ran for 74 weeks. Other major films to premiere at the Loew’s State include “Becket,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Some Like it Hot” and “The Godfather.”