United Palace Theatre, New York
The United Palace Theatre (originally called The Leow’s 175th Street Theatre) is located in Washington Heights, Manhattan. It was built as a grand movie theatre in the 1930s by Architect Thomas W. Lamb and is one of five Loew’s “Wonder Theatres” (lavish movie palaces that opened around New York City in 1929 – 1930). It is the fourth largest theatre in Manhattan and was originally one of the region’s premier movie and vaudeville venues; it was even advertised as “Times-Square entertainment nearer your home” to those living in the diverse community of Washington Heights. The interior decoration was overseen by decorative specialist Harold Rambusch. This venue is famous for its eclectic architectural styles, classics motifs, painted ceiling, lavish wall details and international decorative touches. Much of the interior is filigreed and features ornate chandeliers and authentic Louis XV and XVI furnishings. The exterior is blocky in nature and reminiscent of Mayan architecture. Its first showings were on the 22nd of February, 1930 and included the films ‘Their Own Desire’ and ‘Pearls’, as well as a vaudeville performance starring Al Shaw and Sam Lee.
Unfortunately, in 1969 the theatre closed due to loss of popularity- ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was its final screening. It was spared from demolition when the United Palace Of Spiritual Arts (formerly known as United Christian Evangelistic Association, which was led by Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter at that time) purchased the building to house its congregation and renamed it The Palace Cathedral. Restoration work undertaken at this time included fixing the “Wonder Morton” pipe organ (a feature of all “Wonder Theatres” that had gone unused for 25 years) and the addition of a cupola topped with a ‘Miracle Star Of Faith’ (which you can see from New Jersey). In 2016, The United Palace Theatre was designated as a landmarked building.
Today, The United Palace Theatre is an interfaith spiritual centre, a nonprofit cultural centre, a music and entertainment venue and an artistic hub. Events include: concerts, multimedia productions, spiritual programming, weddings, fashion shows, film premieres and parties. It can seat up to 3,327 people for large-scale events. The pipe organ is no longer used due to water damage.