Friday, August 22, 2008

Treasures of the Grand Concourse – Loew’s Paradise Theatre

For those interested in seeking a true experience of the opulence and artistic splendor the Bronx had to offer in its prime, a visit down the Grand Concourse is a must. The famous boulevard was, in its heyday, the Park Avenue or the Champs Elyseé of the borough, a wide tree-lined street flanked by some of the most glorious architectural sights to be seen in all of the Bronx - from Art Deco and Art Moderne to Italianate and Renaissance Revival and beyond.

One of the outstanding destination spots back in the day was the incomparable Loew’s Paradise Theatre, built in the late twenties at a remarkably staggering cost of $4 million!. Opening in 1929 with The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu, the 4,000-seat theater was part of Loew’s magnificent “Wonder Theatre” series, so named for the installation of the ornate Wonder Organs in each of the 5 “Atmospheric Theatres” in different boroughs and neighborhoods of NYC. Former patrons remember being so dazzled by the Italian Baroque Garden ornamentation (with flickering stars on the ceiling, hanging flowers and vines, cypress trees, stuffed birds and classical statues) that they often “forgot to watch the movie”! I think I even read once about live goldfish in the lobby fountain!

Sadly, the decline of the property started in the 1960’s when the theatre began to be partitioned off and much of the opulent, carefully crafted “atmosphere” was concreted over. By 1994, it was closed completely until an attempt was made in 2000 to begin restoration. However, due to an ownership dispute, work halted and it wasn’t until 2005 that the Paradise was once again reopened – as a live theater and special events venue. It is now a NYC registered Landmark.

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to venture inside, but will definitely make a point of doing so and will share what I find with the Boogiedowner audience!

Loew’s Paradise Theatre is located on the Grand Concourse at 184th Street. Take the B/D to 183rd to gawk at opulence.

A special thanks to Dave Beckerman for allowing Boogiedowner to use his beautiful black and white photo of Loew's. Please check out his other black and white, New York-centric work. David even has a section of his website dedicated to the Bronx for all the die-hard Boogiedowners.

~Simone Davis

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