Hometown Movie Palaces

First off, my apologies for not posting recently. The work-life balance has been a bit askew meaning that I have not had the leisure or pleasure of waxing poetic about my latest and greatest thoughts about the world of cinema.

But enough of that. I am glad to return with a bit of Friday nostalgia, inspired by:

  1. My recent screening of the 4K restoration of The Third Man (more on that in a separate post) and
  2. My participation in the free course inspired by the TCM’s Summer of Darkness, which showcases the thrilling cinematic movement/genre known as film noir.

I am taken back momentarily to how these films were exhibited to audiences of their time – movie palaces and movie theaters.

Often built by studios, whether big or small, these buildings were opulent pieces of architecture, often designed and styled in the fashion of the day, including, art deco and a generic Hollywood-defined “oriental style.”

For years growing up near Gramatan Avenue (part of the commercial district of my hometown of Mount Vernon, NY), we would frequently walk by a sad, dilapidated edifice that for my part, felt haunted by echoes of the past. I always referred to it as “the RKO Theatre.” A quick internet search, revealed a little more about the history, including the formal name, RKO Proctor Theater).

proctor interior

Proctor Theatre, interior. Mount Vernon, NY (Photo source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46)

Proctor Theatre, exterior. Mount Vernon, NY. Photo source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46

Proctor Theatre, exterior. Mount Vernon, NY. Source: Architecture and Building, Volume 46

Here is a link to a couple of additional interior shots from the same source.

Now to think about, this all makes sense to me now because right across the street there was named “Proctor’s Pharmacy,” a concern that is still in operation.

Shout out and many thanks to one of my recent favorite internet resources – Cinema Treasures – for their comprehensive database of all manner of building in the United States was/is dedicated to the exhibition of film. It was in this archive that I was not only able to find information about my abandoned, beloved neighborhood theater above, but where I also “discovered” several other theaters in Mount Vernon that were lost to time (hint: the hyperlink will tell you a little more about the theater and location; also be sure to check out user comments – very informative):

Embassy Theatre (no photo)

Biltmore Theater


Photo source: Cinema Treasures

Loew’s Mount Vernon Theatre

Loew's Mount Vernon (Source: Cinema Treasures)

Loew’s Mount Vernon – sign visible in the upper right corner (Source: Cinema Treasures)

Parkway Theatre (no photo) I had forgotten I knew about this one. Also on Gramatan Avenue (a little further up in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon). A very faint, distant memory recalls me (again) walking by this theater and seeing a poster for the release of The Elephant Man. Interesting fact about this location’s fate – it now houses a funeral home.

Do you have a hometown/local/now long gone, forgotten building you remember fondly as a place where you would enjoy watching films? Share below.


  1. I have written a whole series documenting the lost cinemas of my hometown (called “Lost cinemas of Rotterdam”) and it’s a shame to see such a big town only has about four or five left, which are mostly the big chains.

    This is an example of one of those posts, which are interactive and show the same place then and now:
    Nostra recently posted..My favorite podcastsMy Profile

  2. This is such a bittersweet post. Thanks for sharing. It brings back memories of a more civil and festive time in many respects but also makes one realize that change (i.e. via technology) is inevitable. For let us not weep up these past locations, but cherish them, while embracing the evolution of the medium to the our homes, tablets and (still) in the the theater (albeit of the super-sized variety via IMAX and 3-D).
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