Discovering a special place close to home never ceases to delight me. I recently felt this way on a tour of the United Palace, the last single-screen theatre in Manhattan. The palace opened on Feb. 12, 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, one of five “wonder theatres” in New York and New Jersey. The year before, the stock market had crashed, plummeting the United States into the Great Depression. People flocked to the movies seeking an escape.
And what a wonderous escape they found. The United Palace was designed to wow. It’s a kitschy showstopper of 3,400 red velvet seats, a sweeping staircase, soaring ceilings, loges with lacy balconies, walls carved in a multitude of motifs from buddhas to seahorses, chandeliers twisted with snakes, statues of elephants, a smoking lounge with a fireplace, and more.
Today, the United Palace is owned by a church. You can come to the palace to attend Sunday Mass, go on a tour, enjoy concerts, screen films, and take dance classes. Production crews rent the space for filming TV shows and movies. Spoiler alert: Scenes from Woody Allen’s 2016 film Café Society were set at the palace (In the trailer below, you can glimpse the palace’s former smoking lounge for men at the 0:47 mark; actor Jesse Eisenberg is sitting at a table in a red-walled room with stained glass windows behind him.)
My spoilers stop here. See the palace for yourself. Tours take up to 30 people and cost $10 per person (plus a small service charge). They are offered a few times a month. The next photo shows the group from my tour. As you can see, we are all smiles standing on the palace’s stage.
For more information, visit the United Palace website.
In addition, the other Loew’s wonder theatres in New York City are Kings in Brooklyn; Paradise in the Bronx; and Valencia in Queens as well as Loew’s Jersey in Jersey City. Kings and Loew’s Jersey are performing arts venues. The Paradise and Valencia are also owned by churches but do not offer tours or public programming.