Friday, May 05, 2006


Let Dead Theaters Rest in Peace!

Something rare and wonderful is about to occur in a New York neighborhood: A new movie theater, the Regal Cinemas Atlas Park, is about to open in the sleepy middle class town of Glendale, Queens in two weeks. Still, in the last 10-to-15 years, many of the vintage movie houses in surrounding towns have disappeared -- well, almost. As a lover of cinemas, it has always pained me to see a movie theater close, only to have its hollow shell of a building, marquee intact, turned into something else. Many of the neighborhood theaters that have died in NY -- The Drake in Rego Park, The Elmwood in Elmhurst, The Crossbay and The Crossbay II in Ozone Park, The Arion in Middle Village, The Trylon and The Forest Hills Theater in Forest Hills -- had unique (often early 20th Century) architectural designs. Simply put, they looked like MOVIE THEATERS! Taking this same shell and slapping on a sign for an Italian catering hall, or a Duane Reade pharmacy or a Modell's or The Church of the Rock, is a hurtful reminder of what once was. I would much rather see an old theater demolished and a new building erected in its place, than to see the new owners disguise the old structure with some new venture. It's like having your little sister get hold of one of your GI Joe action figures and watching her dress him up for a tea party with her Barbie dolls. GI Joes were not meant to be dressed up for tea parties with Barbies. Likewise, the grand movie marquees of neighborhood theaters were not meant to sport signs for 99 cent stores. It's bad enough these movie houses -- which held so many memories, for so many people -- had to close. Please, let them rest in peace. Give them a proper burial. At least remove their marquees. And sure, if you like, erect a sign at the site, as a fitting memorial to what was once there.

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