United Palace Theater

United Palace Theater-Lobby-Loews Wonder Theater-NYCPhoto courtesy United Palace of Cultural Arts

The United Palace opened in 1930 as one of the metropolitan area’s five Wonder Theatres, flagship entertainment palaces built by the Loew’s corporation. Originally called the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, the ornate interior is a mash up of different architectural styles from Egyptian to art deco; if you can name a decorative motif you can probably find it here. The first show included a film starring Norma Shearer and a live vaudeville review probably accompanied by the theatre’s pipe organ. The last film to be shown here as a Loew’s theatre, in 1969, was 2002: A Space Odyssey.

United Palace Theater-Interior-Loews Wonder Theater-NYCPhoto courtesy United Palace of Cultural Arts

As the era of single-screen large movie houses came to a close, several of these Wonder Theatres were purchased by religious organizations. The Reverend Ike (Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II) obtained the building, renamed it the United Palace, and began to use it as a non-denominational center for “universal spirituality and creative expression.” The Reverend Ike, and later his son, Xavier Eikerenkoetter, maintained the building and added a community cultural center, United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA).

The UPCA has hosted dance performances, including the seasonal Hip Hop Nutcracker; film showings, some hosted by Lin-Manuel Miranda; and an “I’ll have what she’s having” showing of When Harry Met Sally with a deli dinner for couples. Now with its the newly restored pipe organ the UPCA has had silent film showings.
It may not be worth a special trip just to see the terracotta exterior of the building, but jump at any chance to take in the gorgeous interior and their fun cultural offerings.