Late Summer Scene: A historic theater’s final days in Ridgewood

Ridgewood Theatre converted into apartments

A woman and her children walk past the Ridgewood Theatre in Ridgewood, Queens, on Aug. 22, 2014. The theatre has been shut for eight years and is being converted into an apartment complex. (Myra Iqbal/NY City Lens)


You can see it, tall and defiant, reflecting in the glass front of Crown Fried Chicken across the street; it’s red lettering is at odds with the fluorescent signage of the halal restaurant that reads Mashallah and Allah. Framed between a second-hand electronics store and a Chinese restaurant, the Ridgewood theatre rises into the blue summer sky.

The billboard announces “The Bushwick Twin-S” beneath the word Ridgewood with a cracked R, indicating perhaps the last show before the theatre brought its shutters down with no warning, little fuss. The glass cases that once advertised films are covered with posters endorsing young rap and reggae artists in slick suits and cowboy hats. Two women walk past, their black burqas rising and falling with the breeze. The boy in the yellow T-shirt behind the counter at Jade Palace looks out at the street with longing; a shrine of stock images of Chinese cuisine rises behind him.

With its entrance boarded up, a single plywood panel remains ajar to let some air into the stillness of the excavated theatre. Inside, everything is bathed in shadow, as elusive as the future of the once grand space, now on the market for conversion into a residential building. Everything has been torn down and a dim light bulb hangs in the spot where a chandelier once lit the Greek revivalist theatre golden. A lone figure shuffles within the shadows, almost as if it were a ghost, though the quite human figure reappears in the circular shaft of green light to lay a wire and affirm, perhaps, that time is not stationary.

A group of teenagers walk past the shuttered theatre, slowing their footsteps to peer inside. They do not stop or talk about what they see.

On a stroll with her daughter, Jahyra — who does not share her last name — recalls watching five-dollar-movies at the theatre as a child.  Though unsettled to learn that the building is being converted, she says she is resigned to the idea of an evolving landscape. The shops that wrap around the block are reminders of this.

“It used to remind me of a stage theatre,” she exclaims. “So grand!” Jahyra does not linger to reminisce. She has somewhere to be.