Paradise Theater (Bronx, New York)
|Loew's Paradise Theatre|
the theatre as it appeared March 11, 2010
|Address||2403 Grand Concourse|
|City||Bronx, New York|
|Opened||September 7, 1929|
|Years active||1929-1994, 2005-present|
|Rebuilt||1973, 1975, 1981, 2000, 2005, 2009|
|Current use||live music hall, sport venue|
Loew's Paradise Theatre opened on September 7, 1929 with Warner Oland in the film The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu on the screen, plus a stage presentation "Cameos" produced by Chester Hale, and British organist Harold Ramsey playing the 4 manual, 7 rank Robert Morton "Wonder Organ".
The 23rd largest movie theater ever to be built in the United States was commissioned by the Paramount-Publix chain and was to be named the Venetian Theatre. Paramount-Publix withdrew from the project shortly before construction began and it was taken over by New York's largest movie theatre chain, Loew's Theatres. The theater was promoted as one of the five "Loew's Wonder Theatres".
The first "Wonder Theatre", opened in January 1929, was the Loew's Valencia Theatre in Jamaica, Queens. The Loew's Paradise Theatre in the Bronx opened on the same day with the Loew's Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. These were followed by the Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City, New Jersey, and finally the Loew's 175th Street Theatre in Washington Heights, Manhattan.
The Loew's Paradise Theatre was one of the last theatres built in the Atmospheric style towards the end of the movie palace building boom. The theater's architect, John Eberson, was famed for creating the Atmospheric theater design which recreated the illusion of an outdoor villa courtyard under a night sky. The Paradise is one of the best remaining examples of his work. Many of his other elaborate designs, including the Paradise Theatre in Chicago (1928–1956), have been demolished.
Along the Grand Concourse local ordinance forbids the use of large vertical signs. Hence the facade of the theatre is somewhat restrained. On top of the frontage, over the entrance, is the space originally occupied by a mechanical Seth Thomas clock, where hourly St. George slayed a fire-breathing dragon. As the Bronx Paradise fell foul to vandals in later years, both the dragon and the figure of St. George were stolen. Only the saint's horse remains. A similar device, now renovated, was also installed at the Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City.
The main lobby, reached through a set of bronze doors from the outer lobby, features three domes in the ceiling containing painted murals depicting Sound, Story and Film. In the center of the north wall, beneath a statue of Winged Victory, was a large Carrara marble fountain featuring the figure of a child on a dolphin. At the base of the Grand Stair hung an oil painting of Marie Antoinette as Patron of the Arts and a copy of artist Holbein's Anne of Cleves.
The auditorium was designed to represent a 16th-century Italian baroque garden, bathed in Mediterranean moonlight, with stars twinkling in the ceiling as clouds passed by. Hanging vines, cypress trees, stuffed birds and classical statues and busts lined the walls. The safety curtain was painted with a gated Venetian garden scene, which continued the garden effect around the auditorium when it was lowered.
With the dawn of the Great Depression, live acts were dropped from the program schedule and the Paradise became a regular first run movie theatre. In the late 1940s a concrete slab was installed over the orchestra pit to create four extra rows of seats. It covered the orchestra pit and organ console. The slab was lifted only once, in the 1960s, to enable the removal of the organ console, which with the rest of the organ pipes, has now been installed at the Loew's Jersey Theatre (which had its original organ removed in 1949, and that is now installed in the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California).
Over the years, many features and fittings in the Paradise disappeared and by the late 1960s it was on the market for redevelopment, opening only for evening performances. The theatre was twinned in December 1973, then in 1975 it was triplexed and in 1981 was divided into four screens, hiding practically all the original auditorium interior behind drop ceilings and panel walls.
The Paradise Theatre closed in 1994 and lay empty for six years. By November 2000, work had begun on a restoration, but this was halted due to an ownership rights dispute with the restorer. A new owner took control and completed the renovation, re-opening in October 2005 as a live theatre and special events venue. Bernie Williams appeared at the Paradise playing guitar with his band on September 22, 2007. The Paradise Theater was scheduled to have opened again on October 24, 2009 under new ownership with a Grand Opening performance by Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band.
The building was designated a New York City Landmark 1997. It was designated a New York City Interior Landmark in 2006.
- Roe, Ken. "Cinema Treasures - Paradise Theater". Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- Kugel, Seth (August 3, 2003). "Loew's Paradise Theatre New York: For an Opulent Movie Palace, New Hope for a Revival". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- Berger, Joseph (October 22, 2005). "In Nearly All Its Grandeur, Paradise Reopens in Bronx". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- For interior designation report, Matthew A. Postal, May 2006, see http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/loewsparadise.pdf