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1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 41 (7)

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition
1953-54 Theatre Catalog
1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 41
Page 41

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 41

Theatre Conversions

Since 1946-7 a total of 43 theatres have been converted for other than theatrical uses. Nearly half are in the Borough of Manhattan, with another third in Brooklyn and the balance scattered among Bronx, Queens and Richmond as follows:

Manhattan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Brooklyn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Bronx . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Queens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Richmond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 43

At the present moment, it is reported by people close to the theatre situation, that quite a few movie theatres in the Bronx are in line for conversion. These reports indicate that the movie business in many parts of the Bronx has been particularly hard hit and, hence, the plans for new uses for the theatres.

Apparently, theatre properties lend themselves to many diverse uses, of which the most common is retail stores. Some of the present theatres were formerly commercial buildings and thus it is not illogical for them to return to their previous function.

One of the outstanding instances of theatre conversion was provided in 1949 when the Joseph Platzner Company received the award for the most ingenious transaction consummated in the Borough of the Bronx during that year. The Platzner deal involved the Blenheim Theatre. at Park Avenue and 169th Street, which was built about thirty-five years ago by Benenson Brothers. Until seven years ago, it was operated successfully as a theatre, but at that time passed into the hands of Jake LaMotta, former middleweeight boxing champion, for use as a sports arena. LaMotta installed a ring and televised fights, but apparently did not do too well and put the property on the market for sale. Platzner conceived a new use for the building and persuaded the Bronx County News Corporation, newspaper distributors, that it would be an ideally suited structure for their business as a distribution point for newspapers. The newsDaper company took a long term lease on the property, running to over a hundred thousand dollars, and based on this lease, Platzner was able to make a sale to Bridge Motors, Inc., Dodge find Plymouth dealers, on a strictly investment basis.

Another important and interesting theatre conversion involved Loewls Boston Road in the Bronx, which was purChased by the Emerald Retail Grocers Association, Inc., a cooperative grocery chain, for their own use as a warehouse. The building had a 14,000 sq. ft. theatre area with u 35 foot ceiling and the grocery company levelled the fioor, installed loading platforms and overhead doors and, at a reported cost of $35,000, altered the front lobby into a market Which they were able to lease out.

Other Interesting Conversions

The Ritz, on East 180th Street, has ,been ('0nvertod for candy manufacturmg at :1 reported cost of $25,000. This tIheatre is located in a row of taxpayers and. ha: been shut down for a year, urmg which time it sLllTeI'ed serious


damage from vandalism. Last May, the theatre property was leased for ten years to the Tasty Candy, Inc., manufacturers of lollypops for several large grocery chains. The owner invested a reported $30,000 to outfit the theatre as a factory. The work included breaking through the 18 inch walls to create windows, installation of lavatories, etc.

Other conversions include the former Orient Theatre, at 111-13 West 125th Street, which has been leased by Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodger third baseman, for alteration into a 2-story department store for sale of menls clothing, haberdashery, hats, shoes, jewelry, television sets and electrical appliances.

The Vanderbilt, on West 48th Street, has been sold by the American Broadcasting Company to Irving Maidman, well known realty investor and operator, and plans call for converting it into a garage for about 180 automobiles. Maidman estimates, and is currently proceeding with the necessary work to change its character into a market or a bowling alley or some such commercial enterprise.

The Parkside, on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, is being converted into an A & P supermarket, The RKO Shore Road in Brooklyn was converted into a retail store for Crawford Clothes. The Empire, at 860-74 Westchester Avenue, the Bronx, has been purchased for conversion to store use. The Windsor, one of the Brandt chain, in the East Bronx, is shortly to be auctioned off and will undoubtedly be put to some other function.


The American people have long been movie enthusiasts and their patronage of the motion picture theatre, even at the rate of 40,000,000 a Week on the average in recent years, keeps the movie industry high in the ranks of the nations big business. The industry employs almost a quarter of a million people and still grosses over a billion dollars annually. It has weathered many storms in its 50 years, but TV represents the most serious one to date.

Lets see what makes TV a threat to the motion picture theatre. First, we must admit that TV serves a vast audience today, and is an instrument of screen entertainment. It is attempting to forge ahead at a terrific pace. Some of the nation's best brains in engineering are devoted to its constant improvement. Families at all income levels have become devotees of TV. It is believed that almost 10 per cent of the low income families living in public housing projects have TV sets. Yet, this baby in screen entertainment is only five years old. The first 1,000,000 sets were installed in 1948 throughout the United States. Today, it is estimated that there are 18,711,800 TV sets in use. And the industry hopes to have 55,000,000 sets in operation by the end of 1955. If that is realized, TV prophets say, TV would become the undisputed master of the screen entertainment field. Color TV and other innovations are expected soon. In the meantime, the television networks and stations point with pride to a profit of $41,600,000 for 1951 after showing a loss of $9,200,000 in 1950.

Now, let's turn to TV'S local level. How are things shaping up in New York City? In 1948, there were only about 100,000 TV sets in use here; now the five boroughs are believed to have approximately 1,500,000 TV sets and the Metropolitan area 3,000,000. The aim is to have 2,000,000 TV sets in use in New York City by the end of 1955. It is estimated that 69.5 per cent of New York Cityis families now have TV in their homes and it is believed that 90 per cent of this city's families may have TV sets by the end of 1955, although this figure may prove to be a bit optimistic.

Theatre Attendance 1946-1951

According to records maintained by the Metropolitan Motion Picture Association, New York City has 592 motion picture theatres. 191 are in Manhattan, 203 in Brooklyn, 100 in Queens, 84 in the Bronx and 14 in Staten Island. Although accurate figures for average weekly attendance at these theatres, with approximately 700,000 seats, are not available, information pieced together from a number of sources seems to indicate a peak attendance in 1946 of approximately 3,500,000 weekly, which figure declined in 1951 to about 2,200,000 weekly. However, a spot check with some movie house owners reveal attendance at some have declined very slightly since 1946, while others have shown declines up to 50 per cent. The 14 Staten Island movie houses claimed a borough-wide decline of 35 per cent in 1951 from the previous year alone. Attendance during 1952 may show a considerable improvement*possibly hitting an average of about 2,500,000 weekly for the entire city.

Valuations of Theatre Real Estate

In attempting to learn of changes in the total number of theatres and their assessed valuation between the 1947-8 fiscal period and that of 1951-2, we have accepted the data of the Tax Department which, however, includes legitimate theatres, some night clubs, etc.

Number Number 1947/8 1951/2

Manhattan . . . 243 234 Brooklyn . . . . 230 230 Bronx . . . . . . . 99 92 Queens . . . . . . 100 104 Richmond . . . . 17 14

TOTAL . . . 689 674

For these theatre properties, which include such ofiice buildings as Radio City, Loewis, etc., the total assessed valuation for the two periods were as follows:

Assessed Assessed

Value: Value:

1947/8 1951/2 Manhattan .$114,840,585 $104,430,000 Brooklyn . . 41,054,195 38,705,200 Bronx . . . . . 22,254,100 22,506,000 Queens . . . . 19,183,325 21,056,000 Richmond 1,696,500 1,735,500

TOTAL..$199,028,705 $188,432,700

It is significant to note that whereas the total assessed valuations of all property in the five boroughs increased approximately 10 per cent during 1947-8 to 1951-2, the assessment figures for theatre properties has dropped five per
1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 41