The Polk Theatre Jackson Heights NY
BY NICHOLAS HIRSHON
A Great Depression-era movie theater in Jackson Heights was recently torn down after a 70-year history that began with showings of star-studded classics and ended with a long run of X-rated flicks.
The Polk Theatre, at 37th Ave. and 93rd St., featured framework from its original 1938 marquee and numerous Art Deco-style elements before its demolition in February, preservationists said.
"It had the kind of style and character that you don't have today - and you'll never have again," said architectural historian Barry Lewis. "It's sad that this was torn down."
Architect Charles Sandblom designed the 599-seat movie house. A 1960s switch from feature films to adult movies helped business but led to a period when the theater wasn't maintained, said Warren Harris, a biographer of film stars.
While some preservationists seemed indifferent about the Polk's demise, pointing out it was never a movie palace, others disagreed.
"Theaters, like churches, are anchors for a community," said filmmaker Edward Summer, who is leading a statewide effort to put plaques on historic movie theaters. "When you lose that anchor, the community begins to drift."
The Polk's longtime owner, Harold Gussin, said he operated the theater from 1961 until he sold it in 2006. His wife, Eleanor, griped that business was undercut by DVD sales.
"I used to work night and day," said Gussin, 82, who lives in Valley Stream, L.I. "Rain, shine, snow, I was there."
The new owner, Henry Zheng, said he wasn't yet sure what he'd build at the site. But Eleanor Gussin said she heard Zheng wants to put up a mixed-use building with apartments and stores.
Lewis, meanwhile, found the Polk's descent in line with what's happened to other old theaters. "Unless they find new uses for them, the market says they're ready for the garbage," he said.
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