The Queens Movie Theater You Will Not Believe – Scouting The Valencia Movie Palace

Last week, I was scouting on Jamaica Ave when I noticed a movie-theater-turned-church up the block.

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This is pretty common in New York, where are a LOT of once great theaters have been gutted and repurposed, most often into churches, pharmacies and gyms. I’ve stopped in quite a few hoping to find the rare gem that’s survived, but have only been disappointed time and again.

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But something immediately stuck out about the Tabernacle of Prayer church.

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What a gloriously stunning facade:

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The entire front is dripping with swirls of ornamentation, a whimsical blend of Spanish and Mexican baroque design – with an aquatic emphasis? Note the mermaid in the center…

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And the numerous half-shells dotting the front. I also love that headressed figure on the right:

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But was the interior as well preserved? Or was this another case of a beautiful facade masking a lifeless interior? I tried to go inside, but the church was closed until Sunday. I was definitely coming back.

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In the meantime, I did a bit of research and was surprised to learn that this was once the Loew’s Valencia movie palace, one of five flagship Wonder Theaters opened by the Loew’s chain in and around New York in the late 1920’s (a time when an elevated subway used to run along Jamaica Ave).

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Picture CC CinemaTreasures.org

All five Wonder Theatres are miraculously still standing. I’ve written about Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre (now being restored), and I’ve been to The Bronx’s Paradise Theatre, Washington Heights’ 175th Street Theatre, and the Loew’s Jersey City. But how had I missed the Valencia?

Then I found this picture of the interior in its hey day, and it floored me. It wasn’t so much a theater as an outdoor village, complete with a night sky. Could this possibly have survived into the 21st century?

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Picture CC CinemaTreasures.org

With fingers crossed, I returned the following Sunday. And, just going into the entranceway, I was taken aback.

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Already, the entire place was dripping with exactly the sort of intricate design I was hoping to find still intact.

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The original ticket booth – can you imagine buying a movie ticket here??

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The ceiling – note the beautiful hanging lanterns, all of which were still working:

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The floor tiles, and not a single one missing. All a very good sign…

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Then I stepped into the entrance galley, and realized I had stumbled on something very special.

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Right off, the towering arched ceiling sets the tone, literally the total polar opposite of what a movie-going experience is like today. If I don’t stop myself, I’ll use the word “glorious” too much, but that’s exactly what I kept thinking.

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Note how the wooden ticket line banisters are still in place:

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In a 1990 article, the NY Times designed this as “more Persian than anything else, a riot of scupltured, gilded plaster screens and balconies.” The balconies line both walls…

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…and just look at the insane designwork below:

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Another fascinating feature – about one fifth of the lobby has been sectioned off by these elaborate columns:

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Guessing here, but perhaps this was the designated exit?

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Bringing me right back to Spain were the numerous colorful tiles set into the plaster:

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Today, religious messages are displayed where movie advertisements would have been:

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From there, I headed into the lobby proper, and the grandeur only intensified.

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Turning right into the central part of the lobby…

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…there was suddenly no question I was in a palace – movie or otherwise.

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The Loew’s Wonder Theatres were created in the late-1920s for movie-goers for whom midtown Manhattan wasn’t easily accessible. The Valencia was the first of the five to open on January 12, 1929.

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The Valencia was the work of architect John Eberson, who designed nearly 100 movie palaces around the world, most described as “atmospheric” for their over-the-top, exotic decor. Sadly, many are long gone, razed to make way for new development in an age where such a theater could house twenty screens instead of just one.

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The Valencia is largely considered to be the most elaborate of all his New York theaters.

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And it really is unbelievable just how much has been packed into every inch of space:

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One of my favorite elements of the lobby is the enormous fountain stationed right at the entrance, which all movie-goers would have to pass before entering the theater.

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Incredibly, it was working until just recently:

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Several more animals keep watch:

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The sort-of Spanish/sort-of Mexican wall decor:

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Even the air vents have flair:

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And then it was time to head into the theater…

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…which might as well have been a trip back to 1929.

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I’m not even sure the term “movie palace” does the Valencia justice. More like “movie cathedral.”

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Huge pan – click for full-size!

As the NY Times wrote in 1990, “the vast auditorium itself will make even the most jaded architectural pilgrim gasp, or even kneel.” I’m pretty sure I did both.

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Huge pan – Click for full-size!

What I absolutely love about the Valencia is how it puts the audience not in a movie theater, but rather in the center of a Spanish – or is that Mexican? – town.

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Fake foliage lines the edges of building facades covered in over-the-top ornamentation:

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You practically expect to look up and see someone watching the movie from one of the many faux balconies dotting the edges:

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Each side of the theater is different, giving you the sense of being a part of a movie set.

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The ceiling, meant to be the sky, is painted a dark blue with hints of cloud. And if you look really closely, you can just make out tiny pin-pricks of light. In other words, movie-goers would look up from the film and see a starry night sky overhead.

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By the mid-1970’s, audiences had shrunk and most of the fare at the Valencia were Blaxploitation films. The theater was donated to the Tabernacle of Prayer church, who has kept it in immaculate shape ever since. Said Reverend Johnnie Washington in 1977, “It has a beauty, an atmosphere that makes you feel you are at someplace sacred.”

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The theater holds 3,500, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

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Huge pan – click for full-size!

A few changes have been made over the years. The chandelier above is of course new. Also, a number of formerly nude statues above the altar seemed somewhat out of place for a house of worship.

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But, some angel wings and robes later, all is taken care of:

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In particular, I love the balconies running along the sides of the theater.

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While I highly doubt anyone actually ever watched movies from here…

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…they are actually accessible from the balcony level:

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Detail on the theater seats:

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The side aisles:

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Golden torches lighting the way:

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All the original aisle signs are still in place, including one denoting a Children Section, for when kids could be dropped off at the theater on weekends:

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A series of cut-outs offer the sky impression to those seated under the balcony:

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My favorite door in the theater…

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…featuring this flowering emblem:

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Golden metal ropes line the walls:

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Even for those holding the cheaper balcony tickets, the trip upstairs offered no lack of splendor:

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The mezzanine level:

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Check out the amazing railings:

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The entrance to the balcony – note the arched wooden doors:

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The men’s room entrance…

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…complete with sailing ship tiles.

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And finally, the women’s room entrance, with a different motif:

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A special thanks to Sister Forbes, who saw me taking pictures and insisted I take a private guided tour with her. From all the church patrons I spoke with, the Valencia is a treasured home treated with reverence, and it’s safe to say the old movie palace is in good hands.

-SCOUT

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203 comments

  1. All I can say is WOW! Just WOW! I wish more beautiful buildings like this one could be saved from modernization. Gorgeous.

  2. Kudos to the Tabernacle of Prayer for their meticulous care and stewardship of a great architectural gem!
    These “atmospheric” movie palaces almost always had moving cloud projections on the ceilings along with the twinkling lights resembling stars. It was meant to transport the audience and make them feel like they were in a charming village under a twilight sky. Such intricate beauty and craftsmanship in architecture will never be seen again.

  3. Wow. I grew up, long ago, in Cypress Hills. The Jamaica el (at the time, the “15” train) ran through my neighborhood to 168th Street ( I slept with the continual screech of the “S” curve from Fulton to Jamaica Ave). Jamaica never recovered from the destuction of the el. But I remember gawking at the upper facade of the Valencia from the station. I went there once as a kid. It was like being in a dream. Incidentally, the Flushing RKO (if there’s anything left of it) was in the same league – but not nearly as extravagant.

  4. Oh… my…

    WHAT.

    “Insane” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

    The Best. Movie. Theater. EVER.

    I want to live there.

  5. This is a treasure and especially to me. My father was a projectionist his whole life and our family was privileged to be at so many live stage shows at the Roxy, Paramount, Capital during the 40’s and 50’s. His last job was Chief Projectionist at the Music Hall. But never in all the times I accompanied him to repair projectors, do I remember seeing such opulence. How wonderful that the Tabernacle has seen fit to maintain this theater so spectacularly.

    • Gloria, my grandfather was also a projectionist at Radio City. I wonder if they knew each other? His name was Jacob “Jack” Gare. I have his license for movie projection issued by the City of New York Department of Water Supply, Gas and a Electricity in 1933. He joined the IA in 1913.

  6. Steven N. Weiland

    As a child I used to take the Q4 bus to Jamaica and go see my favorite movies at the Valencia, what a place! I remember the stars.
    For your information, just two blocks down was another beautiful movie theater but could not compare to the Valencia. I met the Three Stooges live right in front of the Valencia theater. Thank you for the memories. I will definitely go visit again.
    My best,
    Steven Weiland

  7. What a treat to see this beautiful interior. Thank you for sharing it.

  8. My God…it’s full of stars!

  9. Incredible ! This theatre is another example of the amazing discoveries you make on a regular basis. I think of you as a modern day Indiana Jones w/ metro NYC as your treasure map.

    I visit a lot of historic websites and blogs, but none offer as much history and sense of discovery as yours does.

  10. Oh my God, its so beautiful! I love Eberson theatres, I’m currently fighting a losing battle to save the one in my hometown. Thank you for your careful documentation of this priceless treasure.

  11. OMG! literally this is wonderful

  12. What a beauty! I am always on the lookout for all these beautiful restored theaters. I had the good fortune in the last couple of years to go to rock shows both at the Paradise and at the Palace. Both are magnificent, and I would love to see this one too! Since NYC is not the best city for preserving old architecture, I am thankful that there are those that are willing to put the work in to restore these incredible spaces – whether they’re repurposed as churches as the Palace, and this one are, or used as performance spaces, like the Paradise is. I will ALWAYS seek out a good show at one of these theaters, because not only are they spectacular spaces to spend time in, but there is never a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics are excellent.

    Great find! I can’t wait to go see it.

  13. Holy Schinikes, Scout! Maybe your greatest find yet? Kudos to the church for maintaining such a magnificent palace.

  14. God given talent from the architect. An appropriate place for a church. Such beauty!

  15. Beautiful. I’m so happy so much of this is preserved. I grew up in Flushing going to the RKO Keiths which, if I recall has a wonderful Indian/Taj Mahal motif. Last time I was there it was a hulking, rotting shell.

  16. Thank you for sharing this bit of nostalgia. As a kid I used to take the Q17 to Jamaica, and yes, I can imagine buying tickets at that ticket booth because I did many times. Thank you Tabernacle of Prayer for maintaining the beauty and integrity of the theater. The Keiths in Flushing was also quite awesome in those days. Sadly, for many years it has been left to rot. Shame on whoever took it over for letting it die a painful death.

  17. I remember sitting in the balcony and heckling the movie with my friends. We usually got more laughs than the movies we were watching. Two movies with a cartoon in between. Come in anytime and stay all day if you wanted to. Those days will never be again unless Jesus returns to the Valencia and changes it back to a movie theater.

  18. OK, about 30 of us showed up today and they were NOT prepared to have visitors on Sunday. They allowed us to look around the lobbies, but no further. We were told that if we wanted to view the rest of the theater we had to call Sister Mary and arrange an appointment for a tour any other day of the week.

    Please remove the info about visiting on Sundays.

    • Hi Jim,
      I am sadden to hear that your visit left you with a sour taste, it seems, in your mouth. Where on earth would you be able to go on a Sunday to a house of Worship, mind you, during the middle of the services and get to wander around being unannounced. Especially , after September 11, 2001 in the City of New York? Duuhhh. Get a grip my friend and stop behaving like a spoiled brat. My suggestion to you would be get over it and make the appointment, at least they didn’t deny your request.
      nough said, I’m out.
      PS: If you are going to visit anybody’s church on Sundays , the least you could do is stay for the service out of respect to the congregants, as this is a sacred place and not some sight seeing tour. Of course you’re old enough to know that already.

      • This is what happens when an historic theater is turned into a house of worship. The theater isn’t being preserved for posterity, its no longer a landmark. If people want the great historic theaters preserved, don’t sell them to people for uses other than a theater.

      • Jim’s comment didn’t merit such a nasty, un-christian response. Shame on you Brother Donald!

  19. We lived in Jamaica and often spent a whole day at the Valencia, our apartments weren’t air conditioned so a day at the Valencia was like going on a luxury trip. The first time I went I couldn’t watch the movie, I just sat there looking around and watching the ceiling move. What a fantastic place.

  20. Thank you very much for all your work! I had a great time “traveling” in history of NY !!! It is magnificent place !!! I’m speechless!

  21. Oh my, awesome, seen so many movies here throughout my childhood. Took the 111st bus from Liberty Ave to Jamaica Ave and walked to the theatre. My favorites were the koi and the ceiling, somethings you never forget.
    I’m going to pass these pictures to all my surviving classmates who will thoroughly enjoy the memories.

  22. Saw many movies as a child and teenager at the Valencia. We lived in South Ozone Park and would take a Greenline Bus to Jamaica Ave. and and walk under the “L” to the Valencia. It was like being in another world as we walked into the theatre. After the show we would go to the Good Earth Chinese restaurant…great memories! Thanks!

  23. I went often to the Valencia as a child and even saw Jerry Lewis live there when he was promoting one of his movies.

    The tour was wonderful but did not mention the pools in the lobby with the live goldfish and koi. As a young child I was fascinated by them.

    I remember fondly the beauty of the starry sky and how when the lights went down, the stars would appear.

  24. Downtown Flushing in its heyday! What an amazing place the Valencia was and obviously still is!

  25. I grew up in Jamaica and saw many movies at The Valencia. The Ten Commandments starring Charleton Heston was just one that I remember.My father worked there as an usher and was required to wear a uniform, similar to page type with a tiny hat on his head.As moviegoers would arrive he would meet their vehicle(the sidewalk was carpeted in front of the theatre)he would open the car door for them and escort them into the ornate lobby and return to his post to await the next vehicle.While working there, he met his future wife(my mom)and they would date after the show was over.She attended Jamaica High School and lived in the area. On special occasions the theatre would have huge searchlights mounted on flatbed trucks, parked across the street ,in front of the RKO Alden theatre, to publicize the new premiers currently playing at the Valencia.There was a huge fish pond in the lobby with Koi and people would throw coins in,my father would have to clear them out every night and turn the money over to the manager.The Valencia had a sister theatre (also Lowe’s)named the Hillside Theatre on Sutphin Blvd. What pleasant memories those photos rekindled. Thank you.

  26. I graduated from J.H.S. 172. We had our commencement at the Valencia Theater in June 1959.

  27. Grew up in Woodhaven and Ozone Park. Used to go to Jamaica to the Valencia. Saw many great movies there. It was like stepping into another world. The decorations were fantastic. The seating were the best. Not a bad seat in the theater. I remember when the lights went out the sky would light up with all stars and clouds. You would think that you were sitting outdoors. A great place to take your date to. Outside, Jamaica Ave had the overhead El. All the big department stores lined the Ave. I used to take the Atlantic Ave bus to Jamaica Ave. The bus used to cost a nickle. Thanks for bring back some of the GOOD OLD DAYS. It brought back some great memories. Jeff D.— The Valencia was on Jamaica Ave. In Jamaica— not downtown Flushing. You have you places wrong.

  28. Mary Maggiore-Schmidt

    John Michaud! I went to elementary school (Gate of Heaven) with a boy of that same name. (Is that you?) I too, used to take the Q 4I (I think that was the #) getting on at Liberty Ave. and 111 ST. to go into Jamaica and the Valencia theatre! I think I spent so much time staring up at the Waterman’s blue-black ink sky sparkling with stars and wondering what was behind those side balconys, that I’m sure I never really paid attention to the movies. There were other movie theaters much closer, the Crossbay, the Lefferts, the Ace, but they just didn’t have the magic and grandeur of the Valencia. So glad it is so well-preserved, unlike the Keiths on Northern Blvd. in Flushing, which sadly has gone to wrack and ruin at the hands of a realtor.

  29. Mary Maggiore-Schmidt

    Are you the John Michaud who went to Gate of Heaven elementary school and graduated in 1954? If so, I was in your class and have our eighth grade class picture!

  30. Loved the Valencia. Hope you’re doing well…John

  31. Wow….I really loved this.
    I went to Thomas Edison High School and graduated in 1956.
    We used to cut class and go to the Valencia to catch the movies. It opened about 11.00 and we would get out when the bus was coming later in the day with all our classmates going home.There was a girls high school there and all the girls had to wear uniforms…but they would then get on the bus and put on the lipstick and make-up they couldn’t wear at school.
    Gertz was the big Dept. Store. We woluld hang out there too. Six floors. The El ended at 168 st. Edison H.S. was at 171 St.
    Those were great times. Glad to see the Valencia lives on.
    Phil

  32. Likewise, The Flushing RKO Keiths at Northern Blvd. and Main Street was bought by a reputable, big-time, Asian Real Estate developer in the ’70s.
    When he closed the deal he was not obligated to restore it or keep it as any kind of landmark status.
    Then, after being empty it for a year or two, he was told it now HAD to be restored and NYC officials WOULD decide what HE could do with the building. They were probably wrong, but he was up against it.
    He had a different idea, more along the lines of gutting it and making it into a modern office complex. Boarded up from view to the passerby public, he gutted it of all the scmaltzy stuff [just like the Valencia] BEFORE the politicains knew what was happening.They vilified him for doing so, and fined him up the gazoo!
    I heard later on, he gave up fighting for the right to do what he wanted to do with his property, and it may stay gutted permanently.
    It was his, but was told not to do anything with it. A sad ending all around.

  33. If you are a big Government person, you get told what size soda to drink, demand trans-fat margarine be removed from your diet, and believe everything you are told. Property bought in good faith is not the government’s to change just because they want too. You probably believe what Obama is telling you about raising taxes too. Keep drinking the Kool Aid, fella…..

  34. Jeffrey Packard

    Oh how I wish I could have seen a film here. Anything left of a projection booth?

    • The Projection Booth is still in tact. But it has been renovated into an Apartment for the workers who are praying for people around the world 24 hours a day. I use to be one of the Prayer warriors working in the prayer tower
      during the late 80s and early 90s.

  35. Sad to be wasted on something like religion…but then again, religion IS theatre, isn’t it? Glad it’s preserved, at least, and ty for the great pics!

    • You said it was sad to be wasted on religion. Actually it is sad that theaters are created that cannot add one ounce to one’s spiritual life. I attended this ministry for 16 years and worked as an employee for many years there. I walked the hallways giving God the Glory for what he did in my life because of the message of faith and hope preached by the ministries founder, Johnnie Washington. All that the pastor had went into the sustaining of the ministry and property that he was entrusted with. He did not abuse his authority but set an example for many of us young men to follow. I pity those who have such a disdain for religion, i.e. true religion it causes them to stumble at the revelation of Jesus, the Son of God.

    • Hi JoJo,

      what is truly sad, is the fact that you have no sense of appreciation. You show disdain for the reality of whom our creator chose to give this building to mind you. Apostle Johnny Washington and his congregants did not have to beg , borrow or chisel anyone out of one dime for this building as the owner was moved by the hand of God. You need to get the complete story on how this building was transferred to this ministry and then I believe you will change your attitude to one of gratitude. It was a miraculous feat within itself as they did not pay one dime for this building, it was truly a gift. All of the renovation was paid for by the church. The restoration had to be done by workers who came from outside of the U.S., Italy if I’m not mistaken, as there were no people in America who could handle such a serious and detailed project as the mechanics in America didn’t have the experience and know how. Even the seating had to be fully restored along with so many other items, due to the fact that the building had been closed for quite some time, it had become very dangerous on the inside and was in grave disrepair. The chandelier was imported from outside of the United States as well, and can be lowered mechanically to replace the bulbs whenever needed. Under the main floor is a another layer of engineering marvel which many people never ever get to see. Stop by and see for yourself if you’re ever in South Jamaica on a Sunday morning and I guarantee you that something good will surely, happen to you. They also have services on Friday evening at 7 pm. May God’s blessings be upon you my friend and remember the prayerline is always available 24 hours a day.

  36. I lived in Hollis NY. Next to Jamaica. As a treat my parents would take my brother Joe and I to the Valencia Theater. I loved its beauty and was heart broken when it closed. But I am thrilled to see it has been taken care of all these years later. Also my grandfather was one of the original builders of the theater,so I always had a special connection to the theater.

  37. Wow. Possibly your most exciting find to date. And good for you for dismissing the right-winger with the inane comments. He must’ve been taking a break from commenting on stories in the LA Times.

  38. One comment. While I have not researched it, I believe the term “atmospheric” referred to theatres like this which were designed to feel like courtyards out under the stars with an “atmospheric” ceiling.

  39. I used to go to the Valencia as a young boy. My biggest thrill there was seeing the Three Stooges Live on stage. The were old and didn’t seem like they wanted to be there but i was excited nonetheless.

  40. I went to this church when I was growing up. I remember when we brought the building. I remember cleaning under every seat in the balcony! Lol . Sing and praising God!!!!

  41. I grew up in Rosedale, Queens in the late 30’s and the 40’s. My early memory of the Valencia (during WW2) was “Dish Night”. My mother would drag me with her on the Q-5 Bus for on Thursday afternoon. I think she would combine the trip with a visit to the Gertz department store and lunch at the Garden restaurant. I remember all the ladies filling out the dish forms for the grand prize. Later during my High School and early working years the Valencia became the “Saturday Date Night” destination of choice.
    All I can remember is how beautiful the theatre was. I must say that I’m pleasently surprised to see in has been saved by the Temple. Thank you and God Bless. I now live in Holderness NH “On Golden Pond” but seeing the pictures brings many pleasent memories back to me. I remember dating Barbara Krog during HS days and taking her to the Valencia.

  42. Heidi Pie Aronson

    Really breathtaking! Thanks for showing it to us. I grew up going to the Kings and its neighbors on Flatbush Avenue. But the Valencia might make a churchgoer out of me!

  43. I have a 97 year old aunt who has very fond memories of going to this theatre. Her brother (since passed away) was part of the “Valencia Theatre Ushers Orchestra” – I even have a photograph of the orchestra from the late 1920s/early 1930s. My uncle even told a story about how the famous vaudeville star, Ben Blue, taught him how to “fall” down a flight of stairs standing upright, without getting hurt. To this day, my aunt just lights up whenever she talks about “The Valencia”. This is a wonderful series of photographs and I plan to show them to her as soon as possible!

  44. Thank you so much for taking pictures of my church. And by the way I think I was there when Sister Forbes or Sis. T told you that you could have a private tour. I hope you can come again soon. My church is a real beauty and you have showed it to so many people. thanks.

  45. I am very impressed with the upkeep on the theater. Did they have a major restoration project at any time, as they did at the Loew’s [aka United Palace] on 175th and Broadway? I also wonder if they’ve kept the old movie seats, or put in wider seats to accommodate our “larger” population.

  46. God bless your life for shinning your journalistic light on our place of worship, The Tabernacle of Prayer for all People, Inc. Thanks to Sis. Theodora Forbes for pausing her busy day to share what we have access to all the time, our Sanctuary of Worship. To the 30 that came, please come again on Friday night @ 7pm and pray with us and worship The Lord in our night service which begins at 8pm, or on Sunday Morning for Sunday School at 9:30am and our morning worship is at 11:30 am, we would love for you to fellowship with us. We are a loving church, we are in the business of winning souls for the Kingdom of God, and to Minister to those in need of being encouraged. We are a Church come in and sit to enjoy the word, along with the beauty and splendor of a Queens LandMark that is a Church! We welcome all visitors!

  47. Beautiful pictures, I use to go as a little girl to the movies in the 60’s and shows in the early 70’s . Thanks for the memories

  48. I lived in Jamaica from 1940-1950, and the Valencia was always an exciting visit. It is wonderful to note that it is being well-maintained. The lobby fountain was always filled with gold fish, and kids could watch the nighttime clouds pass overhead during the boring parts of the movies. From a child’s point of view, the only comparable top sites in the city were the Radio City Musical Hall and the old Pennsylvania Station.

  49. You now will have your new website as well as you’re eager to begin producing some sales! But, how are you going to make product sales in the event you do not need excessive volumes of tourists to your website?

  50. There were 3 major types of movie palaces in the 1920s…. Palace, Temple and Atmospheric. The Chicago Theatre is in the Palace Style, the Detroit Fox is in the Temple style and the Valencia is in the Atmospheric style.

    Architect John Eberson was well known for his Atmospheric theatres… and the Valencia was one of his finest (others are the Paradise in the Bronx, the Tampa Theatre, the San Antonio Majestic, the Akron Civic, the Loew’s Louisville). Eberson was known to let loose his most garish impulses in interior color schemes… but who could complain??

    One of the other most opulent theatres is the Detroit Fox… the largest surviving of the 1920s movie palaces (although in a Siamese Byzantine style). In both theatres… with all there is to look at, it’s a wonder anyone ever had time to watch the movie??

  51. I grew up going to the Loew’s Kings theater in Brooklyn and the similarities are striking. To be sure, the Valencia is more ornate .. perhaps even ostentatious. Still, looking at the lobby, the seats, some of the ornamentation I am reminded of the theater that I grew up with. I am happy to see that unlike the Loew’s King this theater has been preserved. I hold out hope that the Kings will be restored.

  52. Eberson was reknown for his atmospheric theatres. We are fortunate in our area (N.E. Ohio) to have at least two of his creations still in place and still being used; The Palace Theatre in Canton, OH, completed in 1926 and The Civic Theatre in Akron, OH, completed in 1929.

  53. Frances Gomez Hill

    I went to Richmond Hill High School and my graduation in 1965 was at the Valencia! My friends and I and my family and I went to that theater for as long as I could remember. It was always the most gorgeous anywhere! The fountain shown in these photos had gold fish and people threw pennies in For a wish or good luck! The ceiling had painted clouds and there were little lights which represented stars — it was exquisite!

  54. Absolutely unbelievable. I’m familiar with the area when there was an elevated train line going down Jamaica Avenue but have never entered the Valencia. Congrats to the Tabernacle of Prayer for realizing what a gem the property truly is.

  55. It reminds me of Santa Barbara, California’s Arlington theatre. I don’t think that it’s as big but it has a similar Spanish feel with an indoor ‘courtyard’ and lavish tiles.

  56. Looks just like the Capitol Theatre in Sydney Australia. still a working theatre (was originally a cinema)

    http://capitoltheatre.com.au/

  57. There is a theatre in Tampa, Florida just like this still in use, but a smaller seating. Outdoor seating, sky above and stars

  58. Is it easy to gain access to the theatre/tabernacle?

    I would love to visit it on my annual birthday trip to NYC (live in England) in late January…have never had the privilege of seeing firsthand such a magnificently preserved cinema…

    Regards,
    Ian Gilchrist

    • RE: Ian Gilchrist 11/19/13

      In terms of locating the church via public transportation, it is easily accessible via subway/LIRR/bus. http://WWW.hopstop.com is a good resource for NYC travel via public transportation. In terms of entrance into the church, I would say it would best if you arrived around 8:30-9:00 am on Sundays in order to view the church in its entirety. Bible study begins at 9:30 am. The main service begins at 11:15, and we get out when God says so…lol… After the main service is over, you would then again have the opportunity to view the church in its entirety and to take pictures. Those would be your best options. We would love to have you fellowship with us, indeed. May the Lord continue to strengthen and encourage your heart. Thank Him for another year. Happy Birthday! We love you. Jesus loves you more. The invitation to worship with us is open to all. It is the Center of Hope. It is God’s House of Prayer. An incredible Thanks to the author of this report.

  59. This former theatre is truly amazing!

    Patsy,
    Cinema Treasures (www.cinematreasures.org)

  60. On Cinema Treasures it may be listed at the link below though the exterior photos don’t match.

    http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/3919

  61. I grew up in Glendale and going to the Valencia was a real treat. We took the bus on Woodhaven Blvd. to Jamaica Ave & then the Jamaica Ave bus.
    Mostly we went to one of two theaters in Ridgewood as we only had to take the bus on Myrtle Ave.

    Frances Gomez Hill – my sister graduated from RHHS in ’65, too! Her name was Virginia-Ginny – tall, thin, blonde. The tickets were limited so I couldn’t go to the ceremony at the Valencia. Better than the rained out RHHS graduation I had in Forest Park in ’60 :-)

  62. Thanks to another CT member the link for this theatre is below:

    http://cinematreasrues.org/theaters/903

  63. Robert: The theatre you may be referring to in Tampa may be the Tampa Theatre. It is atmospheric theatre with a sky above with twinkling stars. I have visited this theatre and it is very similar to the now Tabernacle of Prayer.

  64. Thanks for posting this. I spent many happy Saturday afternoons at the Valencia when I was growing up in Queens and I’m glad to know the interior is being preserved.

  65. This is AMAZING! Especially so because the building has survived, with every detail intact, without the need for a restoration. It actually looks as if it HAS been restored. Although I’m not a religious guy, I’m grateful that the church has chosen to maintain the space so lovingly. I fear that publicity could increase the requests for tours. If that happens, perhaps the church could schedule specific tour times and charge a small fee. I would have NO problem paying for the opportunity to be shown around the place, and have a feeling many others would share my opinion.

  66. I remember it well. I grew up in Jamaica Queens in the 1960’s and 1970’s and always went to the Valencia on the weekends. Yes, I do remember those twinkling stars up above on the ceiling.

  67. I grew up in South Ozone Park and went to JHS 202. Our graduation was at the Valencia on June 24, 1971.

  68. I went to the RKO in Flushing. It was great. I was a young girl then,and it made a big impression on me. I believe it had a big fountain,a big staircase going up to the balcony section (and an elevator if you wanted to go that way), and once seated, I remember looking at clouds go by with the siloquette of a city, while I was supposed to be watching the movie. However, I missed seeing the uniqueness of the details of the city, because it was dark when we came in and when we went out. They used to have ushers with flashlights to help you find a seat.

  69. I love this Church!!

    I went there as a little girl, and would just stare at the architecture.

    I am very thankful it is in the same condition since I was there last.

    Thanks for showing off my beloved church.

  70. I grew up in Springfield Gardens but we had a Jamaica NY postal address. Went to the Valencia many times and loved the effect of the sky (ceiling) and the stars. This brings back many fond memories. I did not know the el was gone. Rode the el trains many times. When going to Jamaica, we could take the green bus or the red bus. We always took the red bus when going to the Valencia.

  71. Beautiful. Sometimes benign neglect is the best preservation for these gems. The interior of this one is strikingly similar to a theatre in Santa Barbara – the Arlington.

  72. Growing up in So Oz Pk, my world of theater consisted of the RKO Alden, the Loews Valencia and trips to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Fox theater for live concerts. The Loews Valencia was always special because of its beauty.

    My fondest memories were sitting in the seats feeling like I was in some sort of outdoor Greek amphitheater. I loved it. The nightime sky with the stars overhead and the statues silhouetted against the royal blue sunset at the lower reaches of the backround. If it wasn’t daylight when I entered the theater you would not be able to convince me that we were actually sitting under a roof.
    The Loews Valencia was the absolute best

  73. I actually heard that they’re tearing this down to put in one of those brick apartment buildings with the FEDERS air conditioner covers on the outside.

  74. Howard Roark would have loved this! (Actually, he would have laughed.)

  75. What a truly magnificent old theater. I never went there, but my partner did as a young men. I grew up in the upper west side and did go to one of these palaces also, the Loews 175th street. It was one of the most magnificent movie theaters I had ever seen. I would walk around the theater by myself, before the movie started, to see all it’s splendor, as my friends weren’t, didn’t or couldn’t see what I was seeing. I should have known by my reactions to this wonderful palace, what was to manifest in me, in later years. My movie palace was a combination of Aztec, Indian, Moorish and the art deco style that was popular in that era. The common people from the upper west side were treated as kings and queens, when these wonders were first built in their middle class neighborhoods.

  76. I remember this beautiful theatre well and visited it often in the 1950’s.. My grandfather and father, who was 18 at the time, worked at construction building this magnificent palace in the 1920’s It makes me sad to see what Jamaica is today, it looks like a third world country..

  77. I can to tell about Valencia Theatre than his original name is base about the most famous song in 1920´s: “Valencia”, composed by very, very famous spanish popular composer, Jose Padilla (he loved that spanish mediterranean city and imagined a love story…).

    That song did make a debut in Paris in 1925 with an incredible musical show. Soon “Valencia” go around the world, the first worldwide musical success! I recommend listen to this romantic song.

    thanks!
    R

  78. Grew up in Flushing during the 50’s thru the 70’s and used to take the Q-64 to Jamaica to shop at all the big department stores in the area and visit both the Valencia and the Alden to watch movies and shows. The Valencia was my favorite.
    Kudos to the church for their mission and the upkeep of the property.

  79. I can’t really add much to everything that has been said. When I first heard that the old Valencia was being turned into a church I had visions of everything being painted over. The new owners have really done a wonderful job of maintaining this fabulous building. I went there with friends in the ’50’s. I never got a really good look around so this was such a treat. I remember the stars and somehow I have a memory of a figure in armour as I was near the ladies room.
    I grew up in Springfield Gardens and went to AJHS. As a little kid mom would bring me to Jamaica. Remember Montgomery Wards, Gertz, Woolworths, etc. I haven’t been back since but was surprised when I found pictures years ago of Jamaica Ave. and no ‘L’.
    I live in Michigan now. A few years ago I went to a concert in Kalamazoo and was surprised to find a theater much like the Valencia. It’s the State Theater and was designed by the same architect who did the Valencia and, I think, 5 other theaters in the U.S.
    This photo tour is absolutely wonderful. You did a great job. Thanks for the memories.

  80. Dude, what a great tribute to a house that I grew up in the 1960s near and saw so many great R & B acts like The Main Ingredient (featuring Cuba Gooding, Sr), The Dells, Archie Bell & The Drells, The Delfonics, James Brown and so many more shows. It was across the street directly from another gone-but-not-forgotten house, The RKO Alden. Major Props.

  81. Thank you so much for all the great pictures! God Bless the people of this church for preserving such a wonderful place! Wish someone would Save the RKO!

  82. Ever seen The Landmark (formerly Loews State) in Syracuse, NY. ? Reminiscent

  83. Is this Church Tabernacle of Prayer still open /Having service there??…

  84. Thank you for this fabulous photo-journey. I love your site, and I have your magnet on my fridge.

  85. As a New York City native who grew up in Jamaica, Queens, I remember going to the Loew’s Valencia Theater many times as a kid. It was at the Valencia where I saw such blockbuster movies as “Mary Poppins,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Oliver!” and “The Ten Commandments.”

    That the Valencia is now a church — the Tabernacle of Prayer — is a far better fate architecturally speaking than that which befell the RKO Alden Theater across the street (The Alden, along with the nearby Merrick, Jamaica, Sutphin and Savoy theaters, were all torn down).

    The only thing that wasn’t preserved in the Valencia’s magnificent restoration was the night-sky ceiling — with its tiny twinkling lights that imitated stars — in what is now the the church’s main sanctuary. The ceiling now sports the look of a daytime sky.

  86. I went there several times in the 60’s. There was another theater about a block away, that was also quite grand. Took it all for granted back then.

  87. The black and white interior photos do not match the color photos and look more like Loews Paradise on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

    • Ha, they don’t match because I took a picture of the wrong side of the theater – I flipped it to match up, but the B/W shot is actually of the other side.

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