Built on the site of the demolished Firth Homestead and Fife Factory, The Maspeth Theater opened Thanksgiving weekend, 1924 on Grand Avenue at 69th Place. The massive one screen theater held 1,161 seats. The theater was designed by architects Straus and Strausberg. A copy of the 16-page opening day program was recently obtained by the Newtown Historical Society and provides a fascinating glimpse into entertainment during the Roaring Twenties. The opening line is “Abandon care, all ye who enter here!” The hand-colored postcard above shows the theater as it looked in 1925.
The venue was taken over by William Fox in 1927 but soon found itself bankrupt following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The successor company, Metropolitan Playhouse, created a subsidiary called Randforce Amusement Company which operated this and other local theaters. During the annual Gay Nineties Parade, wooden nickels would be passed out by local businesses that provided free admission to a movie. Besides showing the latest flicks, the theater on occasion hosted live appearances by The Three Stooges, Judy Garland, and others.
In 1965 the Maspeth Theater closed, a victim of lackluster marketing and the increasing popularity of television. In 1966, the theater was purchased by Maspeth Hall, Inc. and the auditorium was converted into a bingo hall, which it remains today. It has now been a bingo hall longer than it was a theater; the cinema lasted just over 40 years while the bingo hall has been in operation for 56 years – and counting.
The centerfold of the opening day program reads, “To the spreading of happiness and the radiation of cheer shall the Maspeth devote itself for all time!” and it seems to have lived up to that motto.