The Loew’s Paradise, designed by John Eberson, is one of the most important atmospheric motion picture theaters to survive in the United States. Completed in September 1929, it was one of five so-called “Wonder” theaters built by the New York-based Loew’s chain to serve major population centers outside midtown Manhattan. Located in the Bronx, on the west side of the Grand Concourse, just south of Fordham Road, the theater incorporates many richly-decorated interiors, including an auditorium that seats nearly four thousand. Eberson, who invented this type of theater in the mid-1920s, designed the Paradise to evoke the art and architecture of the late Renaissance or early Baroque period. Guests pass from the outer vestibule into the lobby, a double-height space with an elaborate coffered ceiling hung with a massive tiered chandelier. From here, one enters the foyer, and then, the grand lobby, a wood-paneled room with mirrored walls, decorative ironwork, and ceiling murals by painters Andrew Karoly and Lajos Szanto. A grand staircase leads to the promenade and upper foyer, which have iron balconies overlooking the grand lobby, as well as the men’s and women’s lounges. The auditorium is reached from four separate levels. Resembling the garden courtyard of an Italian palace, it is vast in scale and retains the remarkable ability to astonish those who enter. A wide proscenium, flanked by asymmetrical walls punctuated by archways and sculpture, is silhouetted against a dark blue sky. The studio of Caproni and Brother, Boston, Massachusetts, produced most, if not all of the sculptures in the theater, including plaster reproductions of works by Michelangelo and Peter Visher, among others. To enhance the feeling that patrons were seated outdoors, Eberson embellished the room with artificial trees, vines and birds, and installed a machine that produced simulated clouds. In combination with sound, which had recently been introduced to the movies, the atmospheric theater offered a multi-sensory experience that has rarely been equaled. In subsequent decades, however, the Paradise was victim to the growing popularity of television and suburbanization. Though converted to a multiplex in 1973, ticket sales continued to decline and the theater closed in 1994. Over the past decade, however, most alterations have been reversed and the extravagance of the original interior has been regained. Considered by many to be Eberson’s masterpiece, the Paradise reopened as an entertainment venue in October 2005
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
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Bronx Music Heritage Center, Co-Artistic Director
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