Movie Theaters of Yesteryear

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Dyckman Theater on West 207th Street in 1926, NYHS.
Dyckman Theater on West 207th Street in 1926, NYHS.

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.

Movie theater to open on 207th Street, New York Herald, December 25, 1916.
Movie theater to open on 207th Street, New York Herald, December 25, 1916.
Inwood Theater opens, Brooklyn Life, August 21, 1926
Inwood Theater opens, Brooklyn Life, August 21, 1926.

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.

Lowes Dyckman in undated photo

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.

Gene Tunney 1926 stamp.
Gene Tunney 1926 stamp.

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.

The Fighting Marine, movie poster, 1926.
The Fighting Marine, movie poster, 1926.

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.

"Laddie" star John Bowers.
“Laddie” star John Bowers.

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.

Gulliver's Travels, 1939.
Gulliver’s Travels, 1939.

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.

 Loews Inwood Theater on 207th, interior.
Loews Inwood Theater on 207th, interior.

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.

29 COMMENTS

  1. I remember going to the Alpine many times in the late 70’s. First time I went to the movies with my Pops was to see Saturday Night Fever there. Never got to see the other buildings. One of them is where later on they opened a Woolworth’s?

  2. I remember the building that housed the Dyckman on 207 and Sherman. It seemed so mysterious and ancient to my six year old mind.When the Caroline went up,the entire corner
    was leveled and a parking lot took it’s place.Now a Rite-Aid stands on the corner.My brother told me recently that he and a few other kids were able to get into the Dyckman Theater when he was about ten years old back in the late seventies,though the memories of what he saw or how they got in are a little foggy.The woolworth’s was actually a few doors west of the loew’s on Dyckman St.,but i believe they co-existed.The Alpine saw me sit through double features almost every saturday for three bucks(and of course i would watch each movie twice).Towards the end things got so bad that I got home one evening to find that my pops was watching the same movie that i just saw at the Alpine on network t.v.(channel 11,wpix to be exact)

  3. I grew up in the dyckman area 21 arden to be exact and then 240 Nagle and saw many flicks at the “Alpine” nice cheap and close to home for a grammer school kid from” Our Lady Queen of Martyrs”

  4. Wow I was on Vermilyea just near the Fire Dept. across from the fenced up little Apple pre-school garage.. I remember my mom taking my sis and I to see a spanish flick I believed was called “El Angel” and “E.T” at the Alpine Theatre , (now a Macdonalds) I loved it it was a hop, skip and a jump from my house…I’ll never forget it. How the small things in life leave a lasting impression…

  5. I loved the Alpine..get this, first movie I ever saw…”Dumbo”. “Pinocchi”o was suppose to be playing, but they changed it to “Dumbo”, my grandmom takes me to see it and when we come out the theatre, they were changing the sign to advertise the new feature presentation…”The Godfather”. Well, my grandmom was a Marlon Brando fanatic, so we go to this deli next door she gets me a grilled cheese and herself a corned beef sandwich and we go back into the theatre to see “The Godfather”. I’m 4 years old. I fell asleep, but awoke in time to see Sonny Corleone get massacred at the Long Island Causeway. Talk about traumatic!

    After the movie ends, she goes home and tells my mom, aunts and granddad how great movie is. And they all go back to the Alpine (I stay with a cousin) to see the movie again! Ahhh to relive 1972!

    Last movie I saw there was :Grease”. Great memories!

  6. Im only 23 of course i dont think those movie theaters were around anymore. But i did grew up in this neighborhood i currently live in vermilyea few buildings away from the post office. Looking at these pictures and reading its history i can imagine. I would like to meet somebody that actually been around those times. I would ask so many questions. I would love to learn more! and see more pictures of any other piece of history of my neighborhood. Big Thanks to who ever made this page.

  7. Spent many summers at my grandmother’s apartment at 1815 Riverside Drive between Ft. Tryon and Inwood Hill Parks. Her building was torn down and replaced by a Mormon Temple. Saw “Tom Sawyer” at the Alpine circa 1960. Can’t recall any others I saw there, but I do remember the theatre had a large billboard on the side of the theater which faced Broadway, while the entrance was on Dyckman Street. One of the big draws in summer was that the theater was air conditioned. Thanks for the memories. The entire Inwood area was and is fascinating.

  8. The years: 1955 – ’57…does anyone remember Addie? She was the gal who sold the tickets at the “New Dyckman Movie Theater”.

  9. I grew up at 103 Thayer St. Lived there in 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s. Later lived on Riverside Drive and Arden St. It is hard to think about Inwood without remembering the 3 movie theaters. The Alpine was right around the corner from our apartment and my father’s bar. On Saturdays my sisters and brother would be at one or sometimes all three and my parents might take in a show in the evening. As a kid I went to see the Flash Gordon series at the Alpine. The last movie I remember seeing at the Alpine was Rocky. Besides going to see the movies it was a gathering place for all the kids in the neighborhood and a great place to meet girls. Netflix will never take the place of growing up in Inwood and going to the movies on Saturday

  10. The Loews Dyckman was East of Woolworth’s and did co-exist during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, probably until Woolworth’s went out of business, in answer to one of the comments. The ice cream parlors that were next to all three theatres mentioned, deserve a story of their own. They were part of the movie experience. The hand-dipped chocolates were a delight and the ice creams were all made on the premises. The aroma when you entered the soda fountain was intoxicating. My Grandfather would take me on Saturdays to the one next to the Alpine theatre to have a “Dream Boat Float”, which after the first few spoonfuls he had to finish. I think he planned it that way.
    Dyckman Street was a culinary feast, with Nash’s Hungarian pastries and the golden chickens on a barbecue rotator in the window of the Jewish Delicatessen, the German Pork Store. What a wonderful diverse community in which to grow up.

  11. hi my name is tom and i lived at 112 sherman ave . and went to o.l.q.m. church and school. i lived on sherman avenue until 1962–my aunt and uncle lived accross the street at 109 sherman avemy aunt worked as a ticket taker at lowes on dyckman and she also worked at joe’s toy store right next to it .on sherman ave next to 112 there was a gas station then the a&p then chase manhattan bank,accross from 112 was the chinesse laundry , matlow’s soda fountain and pete and morris mom and pop type grocery =on dyckman there was a baracinni choclate store on the corner also down near post ave on dyckman was a bakery and on the corner of nagle ave was a sods fountain store =i miss going to palasades park and getting peanuts at the concession stand ant the end of dyckman by the park

  12. When my family and I first moved into the Dyckman area in 1975 I was 7 years old. We moved into 1 Arden St. My aunt took me to see my first movie at the Alpine Theater. Ode to Billy Joe 1976 staring Robby Benson. I don’t remember it being that great but for some reason I never forgot that movie. But I loved the theater. Later that year after a major fire in the apartment building we moved to 85 Ellwood St. I made lots of friends and together we watched many many movies at the Alpine. Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Star Wars, Friday the Thirteenth, Game of Death, And the multiple karate flicks, etc. We didn’t have ice cream after the movies but it was either pizza or Burger King that was found on the corner of Vermilia and Dyckman. I don’t remember the Lowes Inwood Theater. Not sure if it was still around at the time I started going to movies on my own.
    I pretty much lived in Woolworth. I would find everything I needed there. I used to love the look, the smells and holiday spirit of Dyckman St. during the Christmas season. It’s been 20 years since I’ve moved out of Washington HightsInwood and I miss it very much.
    Like Mr. Steven Richards said in his last comment… ” The entire Inwood area was and is fascinating.”

  13. Hi Inwood lovers,
    We lived at 3852-10th Ave. around the corner from 207th St. Right in front of the subway, it ran past our building. Sooo many memories. I am writing about some of them in a book I am currently working on. Couple of chapters called “10th Ave. days”….
    We were there in the late 40’s and 50’s. Try 8 people in a one bedroom apt! 5th floor. apt 57. Went to PS 98 and PS 52, the George Washington HS. that part of Inwood was unique, and I have many memories. Ha! Remember the super? Angelucci.. he yell at us! “Get offa the stoopa!” when he would mop the steps. I remember some guy singing opera in the alley, and we would throw down a few coins. Neighbors hollaring to one another. We lived above the E&G bar, and Josie DiDeminzeo would yell for her husband from the 3rd floor, knowing she’d be heard in thebar, thru the back door into the alley! “Vinny!”
    Oh man, the memories. Of course alot of that will be in the book. Remember Harry’s newstand on corner of 10th and 207th? Harry and his wife Sylvia. I would babysit for them, and also deliver papers on Sunday. My sisters swam at the Miramar pool, and we were usually too poor to get in. We went under 207th St bridge and dove into the Harlem river, as teenagers. What craziness! My sister married the postman, Tommie Lee , who delievered to our building. We all had a crush on him. For fun, we would hang out on the stoop and smoke. Then on the roof, and go make out!! HaHA. Much love to you all.
    write me. stillrejoicing@earthlink.net diana

  14. I grew up, for 22 years, at 1 Sickles Street and spent lots of time seeing movies at the Alpine and Loew’s Inwood. In those days you were in for two movies at a time! My high school graduation (Bronx Science HS) was at the Loew’s Paradisen on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx!

  15. I just discovered your wonderful website. I went to Manhattan College in the 50’s, so my neighborhood movie houses were the RKO Marble Hill & the Dale in the west Bronx. But it was always a joy to take the IRT to midtown to visit the Paramount, Roxy, Radio City MH, the State or any of the other Palaces. Ditto the Thalia. I still have a rock from the Roxy, taken when it was being demolished. I spent most of my life managing theatres for Walter Reade, General Cinema, Pacific and AMC. Love, love, love movie theatres and ozoners!!

  16. So happy I found this site. I visited the Alpine almost every Saturday back in the late 40’s and into the mid 50’s. My best memory is of the lady usher we called “The Matron”. She was an imposing figure and kept order there.

    Jack

  17. Alpine was the best remember seeing beat street and when they filmed scences from the movie crush groove with the fat boys awesome time until ctack destroyed inwood

  18. I am 68. I moved into 3784 10th ave. when the projects were new. (in the early ’50’s) I lived on the 14th floor (the top). I first attended PS 52 until it became a junior high school. Then I transferred to PS 98 for a short time. I had to then transfer to PS 152 because PS 98 was too far from the Hebrew school. I recall fondly the good times & friends at 152. Some of the names are Fred Rosen, Stuart Brooks, Bruce Drucker, Alan Heidt, Elaine Stern,. Georgette Keen and Diane Mendelson. I recall playing punch ball in the school yard and one very fond memory was “flipping” cards, either against the wall or just standing & flipping them down onto the sidewalk. My favorite memory from PS 152 is going to Ft. Tryon Park every spring for an Mr. Silver in the 6th grade. Then one day in early 1957 my mom told me we had to move away to New Rochelle in Westchester. I was sad to leave the friends I made but most of all I was unhappy not to be able to participate in FIELD DAY I moved away in March 1957. Is there anybody out there who can relate to me??? My email is hershy79@aol.com.

  19. For Ray Markey
    Hung out in Markeys in the late 50s. Best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted. I remember Glen Fenwick was the bartender and the cook was ???. I can see his face but can’t remember his name. Two very nice men.

  20. i remember the sign that said “Markey’s is air-conditioned.” most impressive in the 40’s and ’50’s.

  21. In the 1950s a bunch of us kids would go to the Alpine. The theater wanted to restrict kids to a small seating area in the back. Of course we wanted to sit closer to the screen. There was a nasty old female usher who would shine her flaslight in our faces to try to get us to move. So we decided one day to bring our own flashlights and blind her in retaliation.

  22. In the 1950s the Loew’s Inwood movie house at 132 Dyckman was near a F W Woolworth’s, always known than as a “five & ten” , or “five and dime”due to the moderate prices. This store had a long lunch counter which served food and sodas, such as malteds, and the famous New York egg cream, and of course Coca-Cola. Way back then the Cokes at the lunch counter were not served in bottes or cans, or directly from a fountain. The Coke was mixed upon order, Coke syup being placed in a glass and a mixer (seltzer, I guess) was added, and the drink was stirred in front of the customer. This was common practice way back then.

  23. I lived on 4500 broadway and went to ps 152 1951-1957 and jhs 52 1957-59. it took a while for me to understand why there were trolley tracks on broadway but no trolleys. i saved up my pennies for a salami sandwich in the local deli but i needed 45c and i only had 40c. they offered two hot dogs instead.

  24. I loved reading all of this—I didn’t live at Dyckman as long as many of you, but it’ll always have a tender spot in my heart. What a great place with wonderful people. I had just come from Fresno, California when I moved there and knew nothing much of anything. My 17-year-old world was a tiny one. I do remember being embarrassed, though, when I went into a Jewish deli–the one next to the Loews on Dyckman St. and asking for pork chops. When the butcher told me he didn’t have any I thought that was extremely odd. When I told my family about the weird butcher shop containing no pork chops they explained why! Dear Dyckman St. Thanks for the memories!

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