Throughout the early half of the 20th century, Astoria was home to nearly a dozen movie theaters, some operating mere blocks away from each other on the same main thoroughfare. While many of these forgotten theaters of Queens have been demolished, there are still some that exist today as gyms, post offices, auto repair shops, and more. Here, we uncover 7 sites that had former lives as vaudeville and movie theaters in Astoria!
1. Astoria Theatre, 28-60 Steinway Street
When the Astoria Theatre opened in 1920 it was reportedly the largest vaudeville house in Queens. Designed by renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, it held nearly 3,000 people. Originally owned by producers Ward & Glynne, the building was purchased by Loew’s in 1923. In an open letter to “the theatregoing public,” Marcus Loew stated that he “hopes to offer the best in feature pictures and the best grade of vaudeville attractions” and was “quite happy to have been fortunate enough to add the beautiful Astoria Theatre to my chain.” Competition arrived in the 1930s when Loew’s Triboro Theater (demolished) opened just down the street.
In 1940, Loew’s sold the Astoria to the Skouras theater chain, and eventually, it came under the ownership of United Artists. Its interior was divided up into four screens at first, and by 1981 it was sixplex. Unable to compete with the rise of home video, cable, and other multiplex competitors, the theater shuttered in 2001 after more than 80 years in business. Today, though it’s occupied by retail like Duane Reade and New York Sports Club, remnants of its former life are still visible on the facade.