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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » Loews Astor Plaza (NYC) closing

   
Author Topic: Loews Astor Plaza (NYC) closing
Mark Sachleben
New Member

Posts: 13
From: Oxford, OH
Registered: May 2003


 - posted July 15, 2004 10:33 AM      Profile for Mark Sachleben   Email Mark Sachleben         Edit/Delete Post 
From NYT 15 July 2004 (registration required)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/15/nyregion/15astor.html
Pictures accompany the article

Coming Soon: The End
By DAVID W. DUNLAP

Take down the 70-millimeter reels. Switch off the Dolby. Fade to black.

New York City will lose its largest single-screen movie theater next month, when the 1,440-seat Loews Astor Plaza in Times Square closes after a 30-year run that began with "For Pete's Sake" and will apparently end with Peter Parker ("Spider-Man 2").

In a twist on the Broadway trend of the early and mid-20th century, when playhouses and vaudeville halls were turned into movie theaters, the Astor Plaza will become a live rock concert hall after a nine-month renovation.

The new use will be "consistent with the entire Times Square entertainment idea," said Steven M. Durels, senior vice president of S. L. Green Realty Corporation, owners of 1515 Broadway, between 44th and 45th Streets, which houses the Astor Plaza, the Minskoff Theater, MTV Studios and Viacom's headquarters.

"We feel it's the best of all worlds," Mr. Durels said, particularly since the alternatives were to turn the 43,000-square-foot underground space into a garage or a theme restaurant.

But the closing of the Astor Plaza, scheduled for Aug. 5, will also cost New York one more theater whose sweeping dimensions recall something of the grandeur of the Capitol, the Rivoli, the Roxy and the Strand.

There was no mighty Wurlitzer, no gilded cherubim. But there was a glittery, disco-ball 70's sensibility to the place, perfectly fitting its role as the first-run home of thundering broad-screen epics like "Superman," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Man Who Would Be King," "Return of the Jedi" and multiples of 007: "A View to a Kill," "Licence to Kill" and "The Living Daylights."

Ruby-red pleated curtains still greet movie patrons, who have 42 rows of battleship-gray seats to choose from, with a balcony that seems to recede to the horizon, ending at Row QQ. The screen extends about 20 yards, as wide as many subway cars are long.

In a city where 1,000-seat cinemas were once a dime a dozen, Clearview Cinemas' Ziegfeld at 141 West 54th Street will be the last to make that claim, with 1,162 seats facing the same screen. "Once the Astor Plaza closes, it will be the largest one-screen auditorium in New York," said Laura Conover, a spokeswoman for Clearview.

This dismays theater buffs like William P. Huelbig, 49, of Weehawken, N.J., who works as a law library assistant in a large Manhattan firm.

Other remaining single-screen theaters, like the Paris and the Beekman, are too small to qualify as movie palaces, he said in an e-mail message. "A palace should have at least a thousand seats, and that leaves the Ziegfeld in a class by itself," Mr. Huelbig said. "It seems wrong that a city like New York should have only one theater like that."

Was the Astor Plaza too big for the multiplex era? Or too near the Loews 42nd Street E Walk? Is "Spider-Man 2" going to close the theater or will one more extravaganza flicker to life as the curtains part? Loews Cineplex would not say. In fact, it had no comment at all, said its public relations firm.

According to the landlord, Loews did explore the possibility in 1993 of dividing the auditorium into a six-screen multiplex, but the cost was too high. The company still had 17 months left on its lease at 1515 Broadway, which S. L. Green bought out.

AEG Live, a division of AEG of Los Angeles, has signed a 15-year lease, said S. L. Green executives, who did not disclose the rent. The renovation, to be designed by David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, is expected to begin as soon as the Astor Plaza closes. The new concert hall will open next summer. Michael Roth, the vice president for communications at AEG, said it was too early to discuss the plans in any detail.

AEG operates the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, where the Academy Awards ceremony is held. It also developed and operates the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

To prepare 1515 Broadway for rock concerts, tests were performed at up to 120 decibels. Noise from the underground auditorium will be reduced by a suspended ceiling and layered walls. Electric power and air-conditioning will be increased. A smoke-purging system will be added, as will additional access to fire stairs.

"From a technical standpoint, this was the most complicated deal the firm ever did," said Gerard Nocera, chief operating officer of S. L. Green.

The 54-story building, also known as 1 Astor Plaza, was developed in the late 60's and early 70's by Sam Minskoff & Sons on the site of the Astor Hotel. To create a clear span for the side stages and proscenium arch of the Minskoff Theater, an enormous truss was built that carries the weight of 45 office floors overhead. That permitted the construction of another column-free space three levels below.

"Somebody said, 'Why don't we put a second theater in?'" recalled Der Scutt, who designed 1 Astor Plaza as a young architect at Kahn & Jacobs. "The structure lent itself very nicely to that. It's a big theater. It had a good rake and nice sightlines."

In 1970, the Walter Reade Organization signed on to operate the movie theater, which it called the Reade. It was supposed to open on Dec. 21, 1971, with Otto Preminger's "Such Good Friends." But the debut never occurred. Reade said the theater was inadequately isolated from subway noise and vibration. The Minskoffs and their architects dismissed the problem as having been solved. Months passed. The space stayed shut.

Finally, under the management of Loews, the renamed theater opened on June 26, 1974, with "For Pete's Sake," starring Barbra Streisand. The auditorium originally had 1,500 seats.

"Astor Plaza is known as the place to see event films," said the Cinema Treasures Web site, which is found at cinematreasures.org and includes a guide to 6,150 theaters nationwide. "Because of its large size, the Plaza still draws large opening-night crowds - crowds who really know how to enjoy a movie."

But for Mr. Huelbig, the last visit on July 3 was a poignant one, as he described it to other theater buffs on Cinema Treasures.

"I sat in the balcony to get the full effect of that huge expanse of seats in front of me," he wrote. "And when the credits were over, I stayed to watch the curtains close on the last big single-screen theater in Times Square. It was as if the curtains were closing on a part of New York movie history."

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Tom Mundell
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From: Silver Spring, MD
Registered: Nov 2003


 - posted July 16, 2004 06:13 AM      Profile for Tom Mundell   Author's Homepage   Email Tom Mundell         Edit/Delete Post 
d'oh! so who can make it to NY and take some pictures before it closes?

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Bill Gabel
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Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 02, 2004 10:09 AM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
The Astor Plaza's final film is "The Village" and the final premiere was Spike Lee's "She Hate Me".

THE ASTOR PLAZA HAS CLOSED AS OF SUNDAY AUGUST 1st.

Loew's is doing a promo for their dog of a plex on 34th Street. But no plans for a special send off to the theatre. When Cineplex closed the Baronet/Coronet a few years ago. They had special showings of past films for the last week.

[ August 03, 2004, 06:32 AM: Message edited by: Bill Gabel ]

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Joe Masher
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From: White Plains, NY
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted August 03, 2004 04:21 AM      Profile for Joe Masher   Email Joe Masher         Edit/Delete Post 
It was also Loews who closed the Baronet/Coronet.

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Bill Gabel
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Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 03, 2004 06:34 AM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
Loew's pulled the stage speakers out of the Astor Plaza after the last show finished early Monday morning. In getting the speakers they sliced the screen open. The seats are said to be used to reseat another Loew's house in the city.

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David W Creighton
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From: Linden, NJ
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted August 28, 2004 12:38 PM      Profile for David W Creighton   Author's Homepage           Edit/Delete Post 
I was very saddened by the news of the Loews Astor Plaza closing. I had hoped to make one last special trip there to see "The Village" but the doors closed much sooner than I thought they would, and I missed it.

>> d'oh! so who can make it to NY and take some pictures before it closes?

I don't have any recent photos, but this news promted me to dig through my old photographs to retrieve my most memorable Astor Plaza experience. I have posted a few of them on my website, idexter.com.

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Bill Gabel
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Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 30, 2004 11:07 AM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
I think those pictures of the Astor Plaza are much better than what is there right now. At least in your pictures Loew's took pride in their signage.

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Mark Richey
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From: Fort Worth, TX
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 31, 2004 09:59 AM      Profile for Mark Richey   Author's Homepage   Email Mark Richey         Edit/Delete Post 
As cool as seeing the picture was, I was even more amused by the ad on the edge for the Broadway musical "Dance a Little Closer", which lasted all of one performance, on May 11, 1983. So, the show was already shuttered by the time that picture was taken.

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Bill Gabel
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Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 31, 2004 12:45 PM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
They have placed some kind of tape over the Loew's name.

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Bill Gabel
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Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 18, 2010 11:47 AM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
On Sept. 14th, 2010 the former Loew's Astor Plaza now known as the Nokia Theatre in Times Square will be renamed the Best Buy Theatre .

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