Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Demolitions Lower East Side

Two closed movie theatres, associated with pioneer exhibitor Charles Steiner, were demolished in 2019.

Operating until recently, the popular Sunshine drew the most attention in the local press and on social media.

Sunshine, 143 E. Houston Street, NYC (1940 tax photo)

Closed originally in 1945, it was used as a warehouse by a local hardware business, reopening as a cinema in 2001.  

New York Yimpy April 7, 2019:
"Facing an imminent rent hike, art-house theater Sunshine Cinema closed last year after failing to obtain a liquor license from the neighborhood in efforts to compete with the wave of full-service theaters. The 100-year-old building sold for $31.5 million to East End Capital  and K Property group."

American, 238-240 East Third Street, NYC (1940 tax photo)

Constructed in 1913, the American was designed by Louis Sheinart, an architect responsible for many of the movie theatres that dotted the Lower East Side in the early 20th century.

In the Jewish Daily Forward, April 11, 1914, Charles Steiner advertise his new cinema as "positively the most beautiful, richest on the East Side."

 In a note of safety he added "all seats are downstairs near an exit,"  a reference to an incident at his Houston Hippodrome on February 2, 1913 when a cry of "fire" created a panic leaving two persons crushed to death and eleven severely injured. The Hippodrome would eventually be demolished and replaced by the Sunshine in 1917.

The American acquired by La MaMa as a children's theatre in June 1971 with a seating capacity of 277. A decade later it had become an "adult physical culture establishment."

Theatre Week, Volume 8, 1995:
"The Cucaracha Theater, now settled in its new home (240 East 3rd Street)

The building finally purchased by Chris Wink and Philip Stanton, founders of Blue Man Group, for use as a practice facility.

The Real Deal, Christian Bautista, April 30, 2018:
"The Blue Man Group sold its production studio in the East Village to Craftwood Partners for $12 million. The property, at 238-240 East 3rd Street, offers 21,004 buildable square feet. Craftwood plans to demolish the vacant site and build a condominium tower with a mix of two-and-three bedroom units."

The American demolished May 2019.

Demolition of the Sunshine, July 2019 (Photo: Betty Sword)

Since 1997 theatre historian, Cezar Del Valle, has conducted a popular series of theatre talks and walks, available for historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.

Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres.

The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.

Editing and updating the third edition of the Brooklyn Theatre Index.




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