For example, in Rego Park, Queens, the former Trylon Theater now serves as the Ohr Natan Bukharian Community Center, its semicircular marquee spelling out that title in Bukharian, a (Cyrillic) dialect of the Tajik-Persian language. The community the old theater serves is Jewish/Russian.
The Brandon Cinemas on Austin St. in Forest Hills, a pediatrics urgent care clinic, boasts after hours and weekend pediatrics care.
On New Dorp Lane in Staten Island, where I live, the excellent neon Art Deco marquee of the old Lane, a stadium theater that was landmarked some time in the eighties, has become the signboard for its new resident, the Crossroads Church. There are other more stellar examples of theater churches. The famous Loew’s 175th St. United Palace, originally one of five “Wonder Theaters,” in the Greater NYC area and home, morphed in 1969, into Reverend Ike’s United Church Science of Living Institute. The exquisitely restored "Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco” Thomas Lamb theater is also now a cultural center, as well, advertising that whole enchilada on its wraparound marquee. The State Theatre in Los Angeles is a temporary lease site for a the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian congregation, whose previous gig was at the Million Dollar Theatre in that same town. These churches get around.
When CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS, that almost-always fatal message, appears on a theater’s marquee, more often than not, renovation has nothing to do with what’s going on. It’s likely here’s a business whose heart just skipped a beat, the owners out of money, out of energy, out of product. So it was for me and the rest of our gallant theater management staff, forty years ago this week, struggling to keep our gorgeous Spanish Baroque red and gold anachronism open and showing movies. But on December 1,1976, our marquee read, CLOSED RENO (as usual, we were missing the full complement of cast-aluminum letters to finish the message). We opened again ten days later — it wasn’t, after all, quite the end for us — as it was for our rival, the Paramount, down the street. A year later, in 1977, that theater advertised its own demise, FOR SALE, on the marquee. The Paramount operated as a nightclub, then as a rock venue, and finally, for a decade or so as a warehouse for neighboring Steckman’s Sporting Goods. These days its magnificent crumbling marquee advertises itself once again, this time not for sale but for lease. Like so many American movie palaces, it has an uncertain future, recently slated for redevelopment as a catering hall and restaurant.
I’d like to end with a little bit of good news. Sometimes CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS on a marquee means exactly that! Case in point: The Michigan Theater Foundation announced this fall that the State Theatre in Ann Arbor would, as of September, 2016, close for a major facelift. To quote a recent press release, “The...Foundation is undertaking a large-scale interior and exterior renovation of the State Theatre to restore its art deco look and feel in conjunction with its 75th anniversary in 2017.” The work apparently includes the refreshing of an iconic Art Deco marquee. Opening in 1942 with “The Fleet’s In,” the State then went through a fairly normal career as a movie house, resulting by the 1970’s and 80’s in some plexings and repurposings, then falling happily into the hands of its rescuers in the late nineties. It will reemerge in 2017, if all goes well, as what it was designed to be, a movie theater.
There was no “Flashback Forty Years” feature last week — because forty years ago December 1, we hung those marquee letters spelling out “Closed for Reno.” Happily, on December 11, we reopened--see below.
FLASHBACK FORTY YEARS:
Saturday, December 8
Starting 7 PM, Lady Sings the Blues
Then live in concert:
Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge
(Formerly “The Crests”)
Movie 2: Mahogany
Movies, Concert, $8
Bonus: Check this out, for a nostalgic stroll past some great old marquees.