The Bronx, which had over 100 theaters showing movies and live entertainment in the years before World War II, now has only two multiplexes. Both were built in recent years and are sorely lacking in the architectural character that typified the earlier venues. However, many of those older Bronx movie theaters are not gone, but instead are being reused for other purposes, with varying degrees of preservation of original details.
We’ve rounded up fourteen of these old theaters from across the borough, to look at their history and current condition. These old theaters include a historic landmark that was one of the five celebrated “Wonder Theatres.” There’s a theater whose namesake was arrested for staging an “improper” performance that put a spotlight on sexual exploitation of young women. There’s also a building with mysterious panels on its facade that may provide a hint of its past. Individually and collectively they provide a tangible link to a past filled with fascinating history.
These former Bronx movie theaters have long outlasted vaudeville, silent films, and the era of grand movie palaces. Their survival is a testament to the resiliency and reinvention that is characterizing the Bronx of today. The movies no longer run at these theaters, but they still provide interesting stories.
You can continue to explore the forgotten theaters of the Bronx in our upcoming virtual talk with Jeff Reuben on May 11th! Tickets to this talk are $10. You can attend this talk for free if you are an Untapped New York Insider! Gain access to unlimited free virtual events per month and unlock a video archive of 100+ past virtual experiences as an Untapped New York Insider starting at $10/month. Already an Insider? Register here! If you can’t make it live, register for this event and we will send you a link to the recording once it airs!
Forgotten Movie Theaters of the Bronx
1. Loew’s Paradise
The Loew’s Paradise, located on the Grand Concourse at East 188th Street, is widely considered the grand dame of the Bronx’s former movie theaters. Long before the multiplex era, this single screen auditorium had over 3,800 seats, making it one of the largest in the city. It was one of the five famed “Wonder Theatres” developed by the Loew’s move chain in the late 1920s as movie palaces with highly elaborate details inside and out.
The Loews Paradise was designed by John Eberson, who was the originator and leading architect of this style of “atmospheric theater.” Eberson designed theaters throughout the country and as far away as Australia. Today known as the Paradise Theater, it is now home to World Changers Church. It is designated as both an exterior and interior New York City Landmark.