Paradise Theatre - The Bronx, NY
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Loew's Paradise Theatre

2413 Grand Concourse at 187th Street
The Bronx, N.Y. 10468
http://www.paradisetheaterevents.com/



Loew’s Paradise Theatre opened on September 7, 1929 with Warner Oland in "The Mysterious Dr. Fu-Manchu” on the screen, plus a Chester Hale stage presentation “Cameos” and British organist Harold Ramsey playing the 4-manual, 23-rank Robert Morton ‘Wonder Organ’.

The 23rd largest movie theatre ever to be built in the USA was commissioned by the Paramount/Publix chain and was to be named the Venetian Theatre. Paramount/Publix withdrew from the project shortly before construction began and it was taken over by New York’s largest movie theatre chain, Loew’s Inc. The design was adapted to become one of the five ‘Wonder Theatres’, named after the Robert Morton ‘Wonder Organ’ which was installed in each of them.

The first ‘Wonder Theatre’ had opened in January 1929, the Loew’s Valencia Theatre, in Jamaica, Queens. The Loew’s Paradise Theatre in the Bronx was joint-second to open, on the same day with Loew’s Kings Theatre, Brooklyn. These were followed by the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, NJ and finally the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

The Loew’s Paradise Theatre was one of the last ‘Atmospheric’ style theatres built towards the end of the movie palace building boom. John Eberson, the architect who designed this $4,000,000 deluxe picture palace, was famed for his ‘Atmospheric’ theatres and the Bronx Paradise, is perhaps the greatest example of his work to survive since the demolition of the Paradise Theatre in Chicago (1928-1956).

Paradise Theatre - The Bronx, NY  
Here on the Grand Concourse, where local ordinance forbids the use of large vertical signs, the facade is restrained and dignified. On top of the frontage, over the entrance, is the space originally occupied by a mechanical Seth Thomas clock, where hourly St. George slayed a fire-breathing dragon. As the Bronx Paradise fell foul to vandals in later years, the figure of St. George was stolen. A similar device, now renovated, was also installed at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, N.J.

The main lobby, reached through a set of bronze doors from the outer lobby, features three domes in the ceiling containing painted murals depicting ‘Sound, Story and Film’. In the center of the north wall, beneath a statue of ‘Winged Victory’, was a large Carrara marble fountain featuring the figure of a child on a dolphin. At the base of the Grand Stair hung an oil painting of ‘Marie Antoinette as Patron of the Arts’ and a copy of artist Holbein’s ‘Anne of Cleves’.

The auditorium was designed to represent a 16th century Italian Baroque garden, bathed in Mediterranean moonlight, with stars twinkling in the ceiling as clouds passed by. Hanging vines, cypress trees, stuffed birds and Classical statues and busts lined the walls. The safety curtain was painted with a gated Venetian garden scene, which continued the garden effect around the auditorium when it was lowered.

After the Great Depression, live acts were dropped from the program schedule and the Paradise became a regular first run movie theatre. In the late 1940’s a concrete slab was installed over the orchestra pit to create four extra rows of seats. It covered the orchestra pit and organ console. The slab was lifted only once, in the 1960’s, to enable the removal of the organ console, which with the rest of the organ pipes has now been installed at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, N.J., which had its original organ removed in 1949 (and that is now installed in the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, Calif.).

Over the years, many features and fittings in the Paradise ‘disappeared’ and by the late 1960s it was on the market for redevelopment, opening only for evening performances. The theatre was twinned in December 1973, then in 1975 it was triplexed, and in 1981 it was divided into four screens, hiding practically all the original auditorium interior behind drop ceilings and panel walls.

The Paradise Theatre closed in 1994 and lay empty for six years. By November 2000, work had begun on a restoration, but this was halted due to an ownership rights dispute with the restorer. A new owner took control and completed the renovation, re-opening in October 2005 as a live theatre and special events venue, now named Utopia’s Paradise Theater.

On April 16, 1997, both the theatre's facade and interior were designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
         
  Robert Morton "Wonder Morton" in Loew's Paradise Theatre - The Bronx, NY
Robert Morton Organ Co.
Van Nuys, Calif. (1929)
Electro-pneumatic action
4 manuals, 23 ranks



The Loew's chain purchased five identical (except for console ornamentation) "Wonder Mortons" for their deluxe New York area houses: the Valencia Theatre (1928) in Jamaica, Queens; the Paradise Theatre (1929) in the Bronx; the Kings Theatre (1929) in Brooklyn; the Jersey Theatre (1929) in Jersey City, N.J.; and the 175th Street Theatre (1930) in Manhattan.

At some point, the Loew's Paradise Wonder Organ was removed, first going to Nova Scotia for a time, then to Detroit, and then finally to Chicago where it was put into storage. A similar fate befell the identical Wonder Morton organ in the Loew's Jersey Theatre. However, as the Friends of the Loew's, a non profit group of volunteers, took over the shuttered Jersey Theatre and started the renovation of the building, Bob Balfour, a member of Garden State Theatre Organ Society, began to lobby the theatre group to install the Paradise organ. After a few years a deal was made and the organ society bought the Paradise organ and brought it to Jersey City; the organ was rebuilt and has been playable since July 2007.
             
Pedal – 32 notes
32
  Resultant Bass  
8
  Gamba
16
  Tuba Profunda  
8
  Viola Celeste
16
  Oboe Horn  
8
  Violin
16
  Diaphone  
8
  Celeste Violin
16
  Solo Tibia Clausa       Bass Drum
16
  Bourdon       Tympani
16
  Gamba       Cymbal
8
  Tuba Mirabilis       Snare Drums
8
  English Horn        
8
  Oboe Horn       Pedal 2nd Touch
8
  Saxophone       Chimes
8
  Diaphone Diapason       Bass Drum
8
  Horn Diapason       Tympani
8
  Tibia Plena       Cymbal
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa       Crash Cymbal
8
  Flute       Snare Drums
             
Accompaniment (Manual I) – 61 notes
16
  Violin [TC]  
2 2/3
  Twelfth
16
  Celeste Violin [TC]  
2
  Piccolo
8
  Tuba Mirabilis  
2
  Fifteenth
8
  English Horn       Harp Marimba
8
  Oboe Horn       Chrysoglott
8
  French Horn       Xylophone
8
  Saxophone       Snare Drums
8
  Diaphonic Diapason       Wood Drums
8
  Horn Diapason       Tom Tom
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa       Tambourine
8
  Foundation Tibia Clausa       Castanets
8
  Flute       Chinese Gong
8
  Gamba  
16
  Accompaniment
8
  Viola Celeste  
8
  Accompaniment
8
  Salicional  
8
  Great
8
  Concert Violin  
8
  Solo
8
  Celeste Violin        
8
  Kinura       Accomp. 2nd Touch
8
  Clarinet  
8
  Tuba Mirabilis
8
  Foundation Vox Humana  
8
  English Horn
4
  Tuba Mirabilis  
8
  Diaphonic Diapason
4
  Diaphonic Diapason  
8
  Horn Diapason
4
  Solo Tibia Clausa  
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa
4
  Flute  
8
  Foundation Tibia Clausa
4
  Gamba  
4
  Tibia Plena
4
  Viola Celeste       Chimes
4
  Concert Violin       Triangle
4
  Celeste Violin       Bird Whistle
4
  Foundation Vox Humana        
             
Great (Manual II) – 61 notes
16
  Tuba Profunda  
4
  Tuba Mirabilis
16
  Oboe Horn  
4
  Oboe Horn
16
  Saxophone [TC]  
4
  Diaphonic Diapason
16
  Diaphone  
4
  Horn Diapason
16
  Tibia Plena [TC]  
4
  Tibia Plena
16
  Solo Tibia Clausa  
4
  Solo Tibia Clausa
16
  Bourdon  
4
  Foundation Tibia Clausa
16
  Gamba  
4
  Flute
16
  Concert Viol [TC]  
4
  Gamba
16
  Celeste Violin [TC]  
4
  Viola Celeste
16
  Foundation Vox Humana [TC]  
4
  Concert Violin
8
  Tuba Mirabilis  
4
  Celeste Violin
8
  English Horn  
4
  Foundation Vox Humana
8
  Oboe Horn  
2 2/3
  Twelfth
8
  Trumpet  
2
  Piccolo
8
  French Horn  
2
  Fifteenth
8
  Saxophone  
1 3/5
  Tierce
8
  Diaphonic Diapason       Harp Marimba
8
  Horn Diapason       Chrysoglott
8
  Tibia Plena       Glockenspiel
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa       Orchestra Bells
8
  Foundation Tibia Clausa       Xylophone
8
  Flute       Chimes
8
  Gamba  
4
  Great
8
  Viola Celeste      
8
  Salicional       Great 2nd Touch
8
  Concert Violin  
16
  Tuba Profunda
8
  Celeste Violin  
16
  Oboe Horn
8
  Kinura  
16
  Diaphone
8
  Clarinet  
16
  Tibia Plena [TC]
8
  Krumet  
16
  Gamba
8
  Foundation Vox Humana        
             
Orchestral (Manual III) – 61 notes
8
  Tuba Mirabilis  
4
  Solo Tibia Clausa
8
  English Horn  
4
  Foundation Tibia Clausa
8
  Oboe Horn  
4
  Flute
8
  Trumpet  
4
  Concert Violin
8
  French Horn  
4
  Celeste Violin
8
  Saxophone  
2
  Piccolo
8
  Diaphonic Diapason  
2
  Violin
8
  Horn Diapason  
 
  Harp Marimba
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa  
 
  Chrysoglott
8
  Flute  
 
  Glockenspiel
8
  Salicional  
 
  Orchestra Bells
8
  Concert Violin  
 
  Xylophone
8
  Celeste Violin  
 
  Chimes
8
  Kinura  
16
  Orchestral
8
  Clarinet  
4
  Orchestral
8
  Krumet  
8
  Great
4
  Tuba Mirabilis        
             
Solo (Manual IV) – 61 notes
8
  Tuba Mirabilis  
8
  Kinura
8
  English Horn  
8
  Clarinet
8
  Oboe Horn  
8
  Krumet
8
  Trumpet  
8
  Solo Vox Humana
8
  French Horn  
4
  Tibia Plena
8
  Saxophone  
 
  Harp Marimba
8
  Diaphonic Diapason  
 
  Chrysoglott
8
  Horn Diapason  
 
  Glockenspiel
8
  Tibia Plena  
 
  Orchestra Bells
8
  Solo Tibia Clausa  
 
  Xylophone
8
  Foundation Tibia Clausa  
 
  Chimes
8
  Flute  
16
  Solo
8
  Gamba  
4
  Solo
8
  Viola Celeste  
16
  Great
8
  Concert Violin  
8
  Great
8
  Celeste Violin  
4
  Great
             
Tremolos
  Effect Buttons
    Left       Grand Crash
    Tibia Plena       Cymbal
    Foundation Tibia Clausa       Triangle
    Foundation Vox Humana       Bird
    Right       Sleigh Bells
    Right Reeds       Telephone
    Tuba Mirabilis       Door Bell
    English Horn       Steamboat
    Solo Tibia Clausa       Fire Gong
    Solo Vox Humana       Bell Low
            Bell High
             
Stop Key Colors
  Toe Levers
Reeds and diapasons: red  
Sforzando: 1st touch stops
  2nd touch percussions
Tibias, flutes, strings and couplers: white  
Tremolos: black   Surf
Traps: amber   Wind
Tuned percussions: brown   Thunder
      Aeroplane
      Horse Hoof
       
Stop Analysis
Foundation Chamber
16
  Tuba Mirabilis
73 pipes
16
  Flute
97 pipes
16
  Oboe Horn
85 pipes
8
  Gamba
73 pipes
8
  Salicional
73 pipes
8
  Viola Celeste
85 pipes
8
  Tibia Clausa
49 pipes
8
  Horn Diapason
61 pipes
8
  French Horn
61 pipes
8
  Clarinet
61 pipes
8
  Krumet
61 pipes
8
  Vox Humana
73 pipes
 
Solo Chamber
16
  Diaphonic Diapason
73 pipes
16
  Tibia Clausa
97 pipes
8
  Tibia Plena
73 pipes
8
  Concert Violin
85 pipes
8
  Violin Celeste
73 pipes
8
  Violin Celeste II
73 pipes
8
  English Horn
61 pipes
8
  Trumpet
61 pipes
8
  Saxophone
61 pipes
8
  Kinura
61 pipes
8
  Vox Humana
73 pipes
         
Sources:
     Cinema Treasures web site: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/900
     Dolkart, Andrew S. and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks (Third Edition). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.
     Garden State Theatre Organ Society web site: http://gstos.org/
     Junchen, David L. Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, Vol. II. Pasadena: Showcase Publications, 1985.

Illustrations:
     Cinema Treasures web site. Exterior color photo by "Jean"
     Garden State Theatre Organ Society web site: http://gstos.org/: Console of Robert-Morton organ for Loew's Paradise Theatre.
     Mann, George. Undated b&w exterior. Courtesy Brad Smith.