Once upon a time the neighborhood of Inwood had several massive movie palaces, the Loew’s Inwood Theater, located on 132 Dyckman Street, and the Loew’s Dyckman, located on 207th Street between Sherman and Academy. Another theater called the Alpine sat on the South side of Dyckman Street around the corner from Broadway.
All three theaters were huge one level structures lacking balconies. In a time before mega-theaters and Netflix these shrines to Hollywood ruled the day.
Our first stop on this magical history tour is the Loew’s Dyckman Theater on 207th Street. The date is November 12, 1926 and the Dyckman is featuring two new hits, Lost at Sea starring Richard Lane and Romance of a Million Dollars starring Glenn Hunter and Alyce Mills. Both were silent films geared towards adult audiences.
Of course if you are a young lad on a this winter day, blissfully unaware of the impending economic crash of 1929, it’s a sure bet you are hoping dad will take you along to the matinee showing of World Heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney headlining in The Fighting Marine.
Within a year’s time, Tunney would achieve boxing immortality after defeating Jack Dempsey not once, but twice. An early sports superstar, Tunney’s face even appeared on postage stamps; and the kids loved him.
In fact, the Loew’s Dyckman would become so popular with the children of Inwood that management would set up a makeshift outdoor theater on a nearby empty lot during renovations. The kids would roar with excitement as the projectionist would train his equipment on a nearby building and light up the wall with a swashbuckling adventure, or, perhaps, a comedy.
Inwood Theater Gallery
Now let’s walk a few blocks south to the Loew’s Inwood on Dyckman Street.
It’s still 1926 and the feature is a silent movie called Laddie starring John Bowers. Bowers was the reigning star of the silent screen during his prime. He starred in dozens of silent films, but like many early film actors, Bowers saw his career crash and later faded into oblivion when talkies attracted a different sort of leading man.
Now let’s spin forward the hands of time.
It’s now 1940. Several decades have passed since our trip to the theaters of Inwood. We’ve seen silent movies and actors evolve into talking features with bonafide Hollywood stars.
The young boy who stood cheering in his seat to the graceful movements of Gene Tunney is now taking his own son to the movies. And they’re in luck. The Lowe’s Inwood is running the newly released Gulliver’s Travels. This larger than life tale directed by Dave Fleischer is just what the doctor ordered. Maybe later dad will take the missus to catch The Amazing Mr. Williams, a romantic comedy about a police detective known for delivering such irreverent lines as, “I’d walk down Main Street in a Turkish towel before I’d let any woman control my life!”
Tickets in hand we step into the theater. We’ve arrived early to get a good seat, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
The auditorium is enormous. Built in the early 1920’s, the Loew’s Inwood seats nearly two-thousand patrons.
And while the snack bars of both theaters offer some sweet confections you would recognize today, other tastes of the times were a tad more simple.
Elsa Brady, born in Inwood in 1914, described to oral historian Jeff Kisselhoff her strategy for saving money while still being able to enjoy a crunchy snack.
“When we would go to the movies, I wouldn’t get a candy, I would go to the delicatessen and get a pickle. And I remember there was an elderly Jewish man there, he was very nice, very patient, because I would go ‘I don’t want that pickle, I want that one.’ I had an eye on the biggest one in there. I think most storekeepers were nice.”
Pickle in hand. Gulliver on the screen. How better to spend a Saturday of one’s youth?
We hope you enjoyed the show.