Forgotten America: The global legacy of a famous New York theater
For decades, New York City, United Palace is a cultural hotspot, especially for the residents of Washington Heights. The theatre of the inheritance, but is worldwide. It was one of the first Loews Theatres, which helped New Yorkers forget the fear of the Great Depression.
When in Seattle, many visitors come to the original Starbucks to enjoy a cup of joe and see the humble beginnings of a coffee shop, that would become a worldwide concern.
For many companies, however, their original locations are lost in time, but some are right in front of our faces, hidden in plain sight.
In New York City, Washington Heights, the United Palace is a hub for entertainment, faith, and culture. But unbeknownst to many, the building has a much larger cultural impact than one would expect.
The building began as one of the original five Loews Wonder Theatres. These five single-screen locations would eventually grow to become Loews Cineplex, the very popular cinemas with 200 offices around the world, before being purchased by AMC Entertainment in 2006.
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Seeing the rise of the popularity of the cinemas in the late 1920s, Marcus Loew had in mind for five theaters in the New York City area. He built The Paradise in the Bronx, Valencia, in the district of Queens, the Kings, in Brooklyn, the Jersey in Jersey City and the Loews 175 street theatre, which would later become the United Palace.
The Loews 175 Street Theatre, was one of the five original locations planned by Marcus Loew for the New York area.
The opening of the Loews 175 street theatre in 1930 coincided with the peak of the Great Depression — and it would serve as a much needed escape from the bleak reality of the time.
Eddy Friedfeld, a film and entertainment history professor at Yale and the University of New York, spoke to Fox News about the importance of theater, especially in such a difficult period in american history.
“People do not have much money, and what little money they had was often spent on entertainment — at least, in a time of unemployment and not much hope for their minds off what is happening in their life,” he said.
“People do not have much money, and what little money they had was often spent on entertainment,” said Eddy Friedfeld, a film and entertainment historian, about the Loews’ popularity during the Great Depression.
For not a lot of money, families were able to spend a full day at a Loews theatre and get a full day’s worth of entertainment.
“You could get a movie, two or three series, six cartoons, a news reel, and a ticket for a lottery for 25 cents,” said Yuby Hernandez, the community outreach associate at the United Palace.
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In addition to the entertainment on the screen, Friedfeld added that there would be novelty acts and variety performances.
Entering the building today brings someone from New York City, on what looks like a European palace — and that’s no mistake. It is consciously designed with the grandeur and riches in the spirit of Thomas Lamb and Harold Rambush. Intricate gold finishes cover the walls and ceilings give the space an interior that David W. Dunlap of the New York Times called it a “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco.”
Intricate gold finishing adorn the walls and ceilings of the Loews 175 Street Theatre.
It was designed at a time when the east-aesthetics were romanticized images of Asian deities are prominent in the entire building.
David W. Dunlap of the New York Times called the motif of the theater “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco,” partly as a result of the Asian deities included in the design.
As the decades progressed and the popularity of radio-and television-rose, the need for single-screen theatres was on the decline. The Loews Companies began to focus on the multi-screen to see that the public are more accustomed to today, and the Loews 175 Street Theatre in decay for it was sold to Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike.
“Reverend Ike was one of the first black televangelists,” Hernandez said about the prosperity teacher. “He learned things like ‘the best thing you can do for the poor is not one of them,’ or, ‘you can’t lose with the stuff I use,'” Hernandez added.
“You could get a movie, two or three series, six cartoons, a news reel, and a ticket for a lottery for twenty-five cents,” said Yuby Hernandez, the community outreach worker in the theatre, now known as the United Palace.
Reverend Ike invested much time and money into restoring the theatre to its former glory. With his inspiring doctrine of the faith, and the finding of the deity in him, he turned the theater into a spiritual home for many.
The United Palace Theater remains a spiritual centre. It is now the home of the United Palace of Cultural Arts, offers the community access to the arts. The program proudly features cultural events, art education, film screenings, and a space for the community “, which states that the individual promotion of the artist within.”
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The United Palace is an integral part of Washington Heights, in particular for the Latino population. It serves as a place to create art and to experience. Hernandez, who grew up in Washington Heights, has good memories of performing on the stage as a part of the choir as a child. The location is also a popular destination for some of the greatest Latin American artists like Tito Rivera, Extend and Juan Luis Guerra.
In addition to these stars, the theatre has also played host to Adele, Lorde, and Billy Joel.