Welcome back to After the Final Curtain, featuring the photography and writing of Matt Lambros who documents the neglect of America’s greatest theaters in his website  afterthefinalcurtain.net

The Charles Theatre
View of the auditorium from the projector room

The Bijou Theatre (later the Charles Theatre) in the fall of 1926. Architect Eugene DeRosa was commissioned by the Delancey-Clinton Realty Company to build the Bijou at 12th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The theater had 600 seats, 502 on the main floor and 98 in the balcony.

Plaster work on the balcony level of the Charles Theatre
A close up of some of the plaster work on the side of the balcony

By 1937 the Bijou had been sold to the Bell Theater Company. The same year, the Motion Picture Operators Union started a strike for higher wages from the Bell Theater Company; during the strike, two operators locked themselves in the projection booth in protest. Their demands were met 12 hours later and wages were increased to $27.00 a week.

The projectors have been removed from the charles theatre
The projector room of the Charles Theatre

The theater was managed by Charles Steiner until his death on June 29,1946. In 1949, the Bijou was renamed the Charles Theatre in his memory. The Charles was run by Audubon Films in the 1960s, showing foreign and American films. Jonas Mekas, an experimental filmmaker, was hired to hold screenings of amateur films once a month. Many New York City filmmakers showed their early works at the Charles, including  Vernon Zimmerman, Ron Rice, and Andy Warhol.

Main level Charles Theatre NYC
The seats have been removed in preparation for demolition

The amateur film screenings were very popular, inspiring audience members to make their own films. Because more amateur filmmakers were showing their work than were watching it, it was difficult for the management to decide who to charge. This lead to a decline in ticket sales and the Charles’ closure in 1975. The building was purchased converted by the Elim Pentecostal Church. In October 2006, a fire damaged the building and the church was forced to relocate. The Charles Theatre is currently being demolished so a new church and apartment housing can be built on the site.

The balcony level of the Charles Theatre.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony

Plaster work, Charles Theatre
The remains of the decorated ceiling under the balcony

Proscenium arch Charles Theatre

plaster decor Charles Theatre NYC
A close up of some plaster work on the balcony level

auditorium, charles theatre, New York City
View of the Charles Theatre from the stage area

Former office space Charles Theatre NYC
When the Charles Theatre was a church, the former office spaces were used as sunday school classrooms

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