Reviving motion pictures at the Palace
When the Loew's 175th Street Theatre opened on February 22, 1930 – just three years after "The Jazz Singer" broke the sound barrier as the first feature-length "talkie" – the inaugural program referred to the theatre's "speaking screen," MGM's upcoming "talking production," and a promise to deliver "outstanding photoplays." These seem like strange ways to describe what you and I would call "the movies." But at the time, when the film industry was caught in technological revolution, no one really knew what to call the booming art form other than to boil it down to its fundamentals: motion pictures.
This was a time before most Americans owned a radio, let alone a television set. For these audiences, the Loew's Theatre was an entertainment palace, an affordable destination to escape the Depression. Perhaps as often as every weekend. The inaugural program also proudly asserted that the theatre was the "most modern playhouse in the world," featuring a silver screen that was 50-feet across, one of the largest in America at the time.
The cinematic magic that the so-called Wonder Theatre conjured only lasted for 40 some-odd years before that magnificent screen went silent and dark. Long-time Washington Heights residents say the last film shown there was "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968. A year later the building was purchased, and restored, by Rev. Ike who renamed it the United Palace and relocated his church there.
Ever since then the silver screen has been tucked away seven stories above the stage, gathering dust while awaiting its next act.
Last Friday, January 5, 2013, we took the first step to reviving the Palace as a place for motion pictures as the screen was professionally cleaned by the AV Group in preparation for the world premiere of "Trouble in the Heights" on Thursday, January 24.
UPCA Launch and Arts Interaction