Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ridgewood Theatre is ready for its closeup

courtesy of Chair Michael Perlman, Friends of Ridgewood Theatre

Nearly 2-Year Landmarking Cause In The Making, Boils Down To 1 Day:
Commissioners To Vote on Historic Ridgewood Theatre

RIDGEWOOD, NY (Jan 12, 2010) – Queens’ historic Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave) closed its doors in March 2008 without warning, but patrons & preservationists are now elated that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a Public Meeting, where Commissioners will vote whether to designate the theater as Queens’ newest Individual Landmark (façade). The Public Meeting for the Ridgewood Theatre (Agenda Item #3, LP-2325) is set for Tues, January 12, 2010 from 10:15 AM – 10:25 AM at the Municipal Building, 1 Centre St, 9th Floor North, NY, NY 10007:

A hearing was held on March 24, 2009 as a result of a Request For Evaluation form and research, a letter campaign, a petition drive, and a MySpace Group coordinated by Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, which was founded by Preservationist Michael Perlman after the theater’s closure in 2008. Testimony in support of Individual Landmark status was diverse and abundantly positive, and also included written testimony from Thomas A. Lamb, the great-grandson of Architect Thomas W. Lamb, who was tracked down by Chair Perlman. Co-owner Mario Saggese expressed his support for landmarking the façade, and also said the owners envision a historically-sensitive plan for the downstairs auditorium space consisting of retail to make it economically viable, with modern screens upstairs.

Opening its doors on December 23, 1916 and closing in March 2008, the Ridgewood Theatre was deemed “the longest continuously operating first-run neighborhood theater citywide, and potentially throughout the U.S.” It staged Vaudeville, silent films, saw the advent of photoplays, the first ‘100% All-Talking’ feature, Lights of New York (1928), & Technicolor. Its original seating capacity was 2,500, but currently contains 5 screens and seats 1,950.

Modeled after Times Square’s long-demolished Mark Strand Theatre (the World’s 1st movie palace), the $250,000 Classical Revival gem was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Thomas White Lamb, & built by the Levy Brothers. The 3-story Indiana limestone & terra cotta façade is highly ornate, incorporating unique geometric patterns, medallions, a frieze, pilasters, and proudly boasts Ridgewood Theatre across the top. Interior murals originally depicted the history of Ridgewood.

Perlman explains: “Theaters are the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which bridge the generations, as they foster community growth and pride, harbor countless memories, and often exhibit the work of our country’s most skillful architects. Commissioned architects hoped to leave a long-lasting impression of grandeur, confidence, serenity, and comfort; a bold step away from the pressures of society.”

Perlman further explains “With the onset of DVDs, and vastly improved home entertainment centers, movie theaters with a minimal number of screens are a highly endangered species citywide. When sacrificed in the name of progress, their loss is most heartfelt. Local theaters with an unfortunate fate include the Oasis, Parthenon, Irving, & RKO Madison Theatre (retail), but the Ridgewood Theatre can be economically viable if preserved and adaptively reused for theater-related purposes. It would contribute to an up & coming neighborhood and a diverse borough.”

Historic & recent Ridgewood Theatre photos, courtesy of Chair Michael Perlman, Friends of Ridgewood Theatre

Online Petition

Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre MySpace Group


Joe said...

I had my JHS 93 graduation there upstairs in this big room with a blue dome.

Anonymous said...

I used to go there with my grandfather as a kid. Last movie i saw there was i think the Sandlot.

The only way i would ever go to a movie in that theater now is if they had security in a 2:1 ratio to patrons.

Queens Crapper said...

The only way you would be able to go to a movie in that theater is if they reopened it.

theater lover said...

It's all about finding some creative re-use for these fabulous old theaters otherwise they're doomed (unfortunately).

like other "passing fancies" they're not here to stay for their original purpose...motion picture viewing.

Houses of worship and movie theaters are 2 of the most endangered categories of architecture today.

Ridgewoodian said...

I went to the Ridgewood a few times when I first moved to the neighborhood. I still remember seeing a matinee of "Summer of Sam" there on a blazingly hot day with a girlfriend. I think the last movie I saw there was "Monsters, Inc." I loved having it nearby but, let's face it, in its later years at least it was a terrible theatre. Hopefully it will be preserved and someone with money will restore it to its former glory - if it were to be turned into a decent moviehouse again I would sure patronize it.

georgetheatheist said...

Speaking of security in a 2:1 ratio. Remember the matrons in the movie theaters? It usually was an older prim and proper woman with her hair in a bun wearing a white uniform wielding a flashlight and telling the kids in the children's section to periodically be quiet and behave.

Here's what happened once in the old Astoria movie theater in the late '50's while watching the Vincent Price movie "The Fly". When the helpless hero-turned-fly was caught in the spider web and the spider came to eat him, the fly cried out in a barely audible squeaky voice "Help me! Help me!" The big kid sitting behind us couldn't take it anymore and bellowed at the screen "C'mon help the fuck aleady!" Man-o-man did the matron come sailing down the aisle with her flashlight shining in everyone's eyes screaming "Who said that? Who said that?" Everyone clammed up and Mr. Big Mouth cowered down hulking in his seat behind us. The matron searched in vain and then left the area fuming. You could see the steam coming out of her. Now that was a close call.

Anonymous said...

People who wear towels as hats don't go to movies......or assimilate.

Anonymous said...

we heard that the ridgewood theaters was coming backwe were happy. Me and my misses have lived in the neighborhood for 29 years us too go there every sunday.we were disappointed
when is closedwith no notice.afford to the opening thank you.