Remembering The Movie Theaters Of Steinway Street


The Astoria Theater closed on Dec. 26, 2001. Now home to a New York Sports Club gym, the remains of the marquee and façade are still visible. 
Photo Jason D. Antos The Astoria Theater closed on Dec. 26, 2001. Now home to a New York Sports Club gym, the remains of the marquee and façade are still visible. Photo Jason D. Antos If you are traveling on foot down Steinway Street patronizing the many shops, eateries and boutiques, it is interesting to know that some of these establishments were once home to movie palaces that date back to the turn of the 20th century.

Around half a dozen theaters once called Steinway Street home, entertaining millions of Astorians during their glorious histories.

One of the first movie houses was the Arcade Theater. Built in 1892 as Horak’s Opera House, the Arcade was a 575-seat theater with an air dome that operated in the warmer months. Its old address was 325 Steinway Avenue, which would place it near the corner of what is now Steinway Street and 31st Avenue.

Another ancient theater was the Arena Theater, a small wooden structure constructed in 1900. Originally built as a nickelodeon, the theater later expanded, phasing out the old hand-cranked motion picture machines, once silent projected films came into form. With 150 to 470 seats, the Arena stood near what is now Astoria Boulevard and was demolished during the construction of the Grand Central Parkway in the early 1930s.

Still fondly remembered amongst old time Astorians, the Astoria Theater, now home to a New York Sports Club gym, began as a vaudeville theater in November, 1920, on the corner of Steinway Street and 30th Avenue. Within three years it was converted into a 2,900-seat movie palace. The Astoria Theater underwent two splits—divided into four theaters in 1977, with two more screens added in 1981—to become the more modern UA Astoria Sixplex, which closed on Dec. 26, 2001. The remains of the marquee and façade are still visible.

Next came the Cameo, a 588- seat movie house, which opened in 1941 near the corner of Steinway and 25th Avenue. Unable to compete with its larger neighbors— the Astoria and the Triboro— the Cameo was re-opened as the Olympia and specialized in Greek language films. After that, it was an adult theater, until it was finally converted into stores, residential apartments, offices, and a medical center.

The only local movie theater on the strip to carry the Steinway name, The Steinway Theater was the first to appear on Steinway Street itself (its original address was 345 Steinway Avenue) when it opened for business in 1914. The Steinway featured 900 seats and initially presented plays and vaudeville shows for the growing village of Astoria. After the Astoria and Triboro Theaters arrived, the Steinway showed late-run movie double features into the 1950s. The building was ultimately converted into retail space and was home to a Dr. Jay’s clothing store for many years.

The biggest of all the Steinway movie theaters was the Triboro Theater, with a seating capacity of 3,290 seats, which opened on the corner of 28th Avenue until it was demolished in the mid-1970s. One of the last giant Loew’s palaces to be built in New York City, this classic Thomas Lamb theater, built in 1931, welcomed visitors with a classic Mayan Revival exterior. Inside, its Atmospheric-style ceiling and palatial interior delighted audiences and was very reminiscent of the RKO Keith’s in Flushing. The Triboro Theatre closed in the summer of 1974 and was demolished before the year was over.

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