October 22, 2005

Return to the Showplace of the Bronx

"It was meant to take people out of their humdrum existence and bring them into a world of unimagined wealth and luxury."

Its reopening will be "the resurrection of one of the most spectacular movie palaces ever built," according to Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan.

It's the 45,000-square-foot, 76-year-old former Loew's Paradise, on the fabled Grand Concourse. It was famed for its midnight-blue ceiling sprinkled with stars. In my childhood I saw a fair number of first-run movies there -- it was about a 2-mile bus/bike/car ride from my neighborhood. I'm trying to remember titles of specific movies, but my memory isn't that detailed. Plug in the titles of any spectaculars from the late fifties and Sixties -- MY FAIR LADY? SPARTACUS? -- and there's a fair chance I saw them there.

In the Seventies it was divided into a twin theater, in the Eighties into a multiplex, and in the Nineties it was boarded up. Next Saturday it will re-open not as a movie theater, but as a venue for concerts, boxing matches, beauty pageants, and more. It's another sign of the regeneration of the Bronx.

If I were Danny Miller I could write you a long, fastidiously researched essay about the theater's history, the films that showed there, the famous people who sat in its balcony when they were teenagers -- the Paradise balcony "gave generations of teenagers a haunting setting for the taste of their first kiss" -- along with a gallery of brilliantly chosen period photos. But I don't know how Danny does it, so just read this NYT article instead and look at the photos there.