illuminati_ball-1-nyc-untapped_citiesPhoto by Mark Shelby Perry

Lavish, eccentric, mysterious, and exclusive is what someone would call The Illuminati Ball. Recently, Untapped Cities had the opportunity to step into the secret world of one. The Illuminati Ball, a production created by playwright and director Cynthia von Buhler, was inspired by leaked photos from the infamous Surrealist Party hosted by the Baron and Baroness de Rothschild in 1972. A night of immersive theater, von Buhler describes the play as “a surreal, bourgeois dinner party filled with power struggles, morality tests, and anthropomorphic escapades.”  (more…)

detail-rko-keiths-theater-queens-nyc-untapped citiesImage via After The Final Curtain

Once upon a time, opulent theaters built for the masses and the elite alike were the main destinations for entertainment. The theaters showed more than movies – it would be an all-day entertainment extravaganza from live music, dance performances, vaudeville, comedy to films. As we wrote in a previous exploration of the Loews Wonder Theatres, the most grand of them all in the New York City area, “in an era before television and with radio just a novelty, Americans could spend upwards of five hours or more in these theaters.”

Many theaters in New York City and New Jersey began as live performance theaters, and when vaudeville was on the decline, conversion into movie theaters became a more profitable option. But maintaining these grand film palaces was expensive and proved difficult to keep operational.

We bring you now 10 movie theaters in the New York City area that have stood abandoned for decades, falling into disarray as they became nothing more than warehouse spaces and retail store fronts.


West-Side-Story-movie-musical-nyc-untapped citiesWest Side Story, members of The Sharks.

Musicals are intimately connected with New York City. Though many Broadway shows are set in far off places or fantastic lands, many have been set here, in our own backyard. Beginning with On the Town, some of these New York set musicals have used the City to provide a realistic backdrop to their filmed versions. (more…)

Adler-Merchant of Venice-MCNY-NYC-Untapped Cities-001Jacob P. Adler as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, 1903. Image via MCNY

On Wednesday March 9, 2016, the Museum of the City of New York opened the new exhibit New York’s Yiddish Theater: From Bowery to Broadway curated by Professor Edna Nahshon. The exhibit is a lively and colorful compilation of the history of Yiddish theater in New York City, featuring costumes, film clips, posters, playbills, and photographs. (more…)

December 13, 2011: New Amsterdam Theatre tour and architectural details.Image via allticketsinc.com

Today, Times Square is filled with commercial businesses, drowned in tourists (and its famous lights), and hosts secrets under its surface. Notably, the area is also home to the city’s theater district where plays, musicals, actors, writers, and everyone in the industry go to make their mark. The area is home to beautiful historic theaters, some still standing as operating theaters, others converted repurposed, while some have closed. Just recently, the New York City Landmarks Commission removed seven theaters in Times Square from landmarks consideration, which we will note below in our collection of historic theaters in New York City’s Times Square. (more…)

With the flurry of video content out there, it’s important not to forget what the Office of NYCMedia is doing. Specifically relevant to us is the Blueprint series, which provides inside looks into some of the city’s most interesting buildings. A recent episode on the Loew’s Wonder Theatres takes us into the heyday of these veritable palaces of entertainment.

In an era before television and with radio just a novelty, Americans could spend upwards of five hours or more in these theaters, listening to a live orchestra oveture, watching vaudeville acts, and finally the film. One of the fun facts gleaned from this episode as that historian and author Anthony W. Robins is actually the grandson of Chicago movie pioneer, A.J. Balaban. Here are the five New York City Loew’s Wonder theaters covered in the above episode: