Any venue designed for the entertainment of hundreds, or even thousands, of people is bound feel rather spooky once the crowds have despersed. Disused theatres and movie palaces are among the most mysterious abandoned buildings, and thanks to the advent of television and multiplexes, they exist in abundance. While their faded elegance makes for a melancholy scene, their vibrant colours and peeling grandeur offer a spectacular subject for urbex photographers like Matt Lambros who captured these stunning images.
Paramount Theater, Newark, New Jersey
Opened on Market Street in 1895 and later remodelled in the Art Deco style, the Newark Theater – as it was originally known – was one of the most popular attractions of downtown Newark. Renamed the Paramount, it featured vaudeville (variety shows) and later film before the curtain fell for the final time on April 1, 1986. Mae West set a box office record at the Paramount Theater in 1939 and a young Jerry Lewis worked there as an usher. The “Newark” marquee and vertical “Paramount” sign are still visible above the main entrance, and despite its abandoned condition, there is hope that the former movie palace might be revived.
Penthouse Cinema (Proctor’s Palace Theatre), Newark, New Jersey
Opened in 1905, Proctor’s Palace Theatre (later renamed Penthouse Cinema) in downtown Newark was one of the most rare of all, being a “double decker” theatre. Fronted by a narrow eight storey building, the complex featured a 2,300 seat auditorium at ground level and a smaller 900 seat theatre directly above. The upstairs theatre was reportedly rarely used until the early 1960s when it was renovated for foreign films and renamed Penthouse Cinema. The larger theatre boasted two balconies and a cavernous auditorium, but fell into disuse due to local competition and the urban decline of Newark. It has been abandoned ever since.
Fabian Theatre, Paterson, New Jersey
When it opened in 1925, the Fabian Theatre in Paterson was modern cinema entertainment at its best. Envisioned as a stand-alone theatre, the Fabian was ultimately enclosed by the Alexander Hamilton Hotel and an office building. Featuring movies and vaudeville, the 3,000 seat theatre boasted a two-ton chandelier, murals, tiled floors and Turkish baths in the basement. The Fabian hosted several Abbott and Costello film premieres before losing its single screen in the mid-1970s, when it became a five screen multiplex in a bid to save it from closure. Returned to its former glory in 1989, the Fabian Theatre finally closed in 1993 after a screening of RoboCop 3. Approved for demolition in 2004, bureaucratic issues may ironically have granted the Fabian a stay of execution. Help save it on Facebook.
Victory Theatre, Holyoke, Massachusetts
Reviving deserted theatres and movie palaces once they close is virtually impossible. But the Victory Theatre in Holyoke is set for a $24 million renovation that will see it reopen to cinema audiences in 2012 – more than 30 years after it closed. The Victory opened in 1920 as a combination house, showing both film and live variety entertainment. Despite suffering a fire in 1942, the 1,680 seat Baroque movie palace remained open until 1979. Efforts to save and restore the building – ongoing since 1983 – have finally come to fruition. Read our full feature on Holyoke’s Victory Theatre.