Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shore Theater

The Shore Theater, formerly known as the Loews Coney Island, is being considered for landmark status as the City revs up the bulldozers for Coney. “The architectural quality is every bit as wonderful as Broadway theaters that have received landmarking,” said Dick Zigun to Brooklyn Paper this week. “The city let us know they’re sympathetic to our request.”

my flickr

The theater "opened on June 17, 1925 with Blanche Sweet and Ronald Colman in The Sporting Venus," says Cinema Treasures. It served as a popular movie and vaudeville house for years. The Hilton Sisters (Daisy and Violet, not Paris and Nicky), a pair of jazz-playing Siamese twins, performed there.

Writes cinephile Warren G. Harris at Cinema Treasures, "Attempts [in the 1960s] to appeal to the area's large Jewish community by presenting stage revues like 'Bagels & Yox' failed." Finally, in the 1970s, the Shore became a porn movie house and shut down.

via Coney Island Playground

The theater was purchased in 1978 by the Kansas Fried Chicken king Horace Bullard, who remains the owner today. Where Nedick's used to be, then the Gayway Bar & Grill, his fried chicken restaurant has long been shuttered, the untouched interior collecting dust, "mothballed," until redevelopment can come to it.

my flickr

my flickr

The theater's interior is a bit more grand. Before it was gutted to become a bingo hall, it seated 2,387. The proscenium arch was done in rococo style--I imagine gold and peacock blue. Today, the paint is peeling and the ceiling plaster is falling in.

via Warren Harris at Cinema Treasures

Said Brooklyn Paper this week, "The future is uncertain for the Shore Theater... If it’s deemed a landmark, its upper floors could be converted to apartments, but the exterior would be unalterable and the theater would be restored."

Mr. Bullard made his plans clear in 2007, saying, "If hotels are coming, then I’ll put a tower up the back of my building."

via Warren Harris at Cinema Treasures


Ken Mac said...

fantastic history and what a bizarre line up in the 70s shot: An animal nursery, the porn theater and the "Gayway Bar and Grill."

JakeGould said...

Excellent piece! I have very vivid memories as a kid going to that exact "Animal Nursery" back in the day. I'd always bring salt wrapped in wax paper for the goats, and the goats would just eat it all! The chicken/chick incubator was fascinating as well.

I don't have any memories of the movie theater signage being active back then. I do remember peeking in and seeing what I know now to be a theater being gutted.

Also, Horace Bullard... Good lord. He has had ample chance to be a hero in Coney, but he allows his property to sit fallow. I think the solid construction of the Shore Building itself—and not his upkeep—are what keeps this empty hulk from falling down.

And I can’t emphasize that enough. Bullard consciously and deliberately keeps his property empty. Why? No clue. But it makes no sense to me at all. That’s the one thing Joe Sitt and Thor Equities has on him... At least they do something (although mostly pathetic) on their property.

Also, someone out there on the Coney Island board has pictures they took of the rotting Playland arcade building on the Thunderbold lot. The roof has caved in and nature has clearly won, but you can make out remnants of what was once beautiful arcade paintings and such on the walls and beams...

And guess who could have fixed that place up and maybe preserved that? Yes, Horace Bullard.

Coney Island is a walking contradiction... If you're on this blog you should know the rest.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see they might keep it.

Jeremiah Moss said...

you remember the animal nursery? that's pretty cool. i wish i could find photos of the lobby, or the interior of the theater as it is today. somewhere, some "urban spelunker" must have gone in there with a camera. if anyone knows, please send it along.

Mark said...

I grew up on the eastern end of Coney Island, at the border between Brighton and Manhattan Beaches.

Much of my childhood was spent at Coney Island, and I was witness it's then-initial demise in the
60's and early 70's.

I attended movies at the Shore and the Mermaid Theatres...also the Tuxedo, torn down for Trump Village, and of course the Oceana. I remember seeing "Rockabye Baby" starring Jerry Lewis at the Shore Theatre in 1958. I was four.

My father would take us to Steeplechase a few times a season if we were lucky, and my sister still bears a small scar from a friction burn she suffered going down one of those mammoth wooden slides.

I remember the Animal Nursery extremely well...after paying admission, you could buy a small cone of feed. The animals would try to gobble down the entire cone at once, so you had to buy several during your stay there. I can still recall the smell of the place.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i didn't know you were a coney boy, mark, i always imagine you being of the east village. thanks for sharing the memories. if you have pictures of the place at that time, i hope you'll put them on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Another thing - the building also used to house the Half Moon Hotel, scene of one of the more fantastical gangland murders

"Murder Inc. dissolved in the 1940's, after hitman Abe Reles was arrested. Reles cooperated with the legal authorities to receive immunity instead of the electric hair. The information he gave facilitated the conviction of several Murder Incorporated's hitmen, including Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, who died in Sing Sing's electric chair. It is believed that Anastasia put out a $100,000 contract on Reles. On November 12, 1941, while in the protection of six police officers, Reles mysteriously fell to his death from a window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island."

chris flash said...

Horace Bullard reminds me of the creep who's been sitting on the rapidly decaying RKO Keith theater in Flushing, Queens for the past several decades, refusing to do anything with it, or to keep it maintained.

Owning an historic cultural venue is not a right; it's a priviledge that comes with responsibilities. These two obviously don't give a shit -- they're just looking for the big pay-day!!

Let's push the Landmarks Commission to fast track this one so that Bullard can't build his dream tower there!!

diane said...

Actually one of the photos of the Shore Theatre in this piece was credited "via Coney Island Playground". It actually belongs to Charles Denson. I used it in my site as an example and gave him credit for his photo. Just a clarification.

diane (egulvision)