Day 1158

The Lane on the Lane

March 2nd, 2015

The Lane Theater on New Dorp Lane opened on February 10, 1938, playing One Hundred Men and a Girl as its first feature film. According to the theater's 1988 landmark designation report, its interior "is one of the last surviving pre-World War II movie theater interiors on Staten Island, and one of the few known largely intact examples of the Depression-era, Art Moderne style theater interior in New York City." Here's how the architectural historian Christopher Gray described the place in 1988:

A flowing serpentine corridor leads to a 550-seat auditorium in the Art Moderne style. There is stepped paneling on the ceiling and streamlined bands on the walls like those on a 1930's radio. The original carpet and stage curtain had zig-zag patterns.

The most striking element of the interior is the painted ceiling. Large areas of plum, green and blue are bounded by rainbows of color and decorated with random designs that seem patterned after stellar explosions but bear an abstract resemblance to the masks of comedy and tragedy often used in theater decoration.

Period photographs also show unusual painting schemes along the walls, including four large areas with more stellar designs set against black fields. According to the yearly Theater Catalogue for 1948, the Lane was one of the first theaters to introduce fluorescent murals using black light.

The walls were painted over in 1976, but the recessed black lighting still survives, as do other, exposed lighting fixtures. These range from unusual Buck Rogers-style aluminum affairs to Empire-moderne chandeliers, which mix classical metalwork with modernistic glass tubing.
You can check out some photos of the interior here.

The Lane showed its last film around 1989. As far as I can tell, it sat mostly vacant for the next two decades, except for brief stints as a performance venue and a nightclub between 1998 and 2001. In 2009, Uncle Vinnie's comedy club took over the building and fixed it up, but went out of business after less than a year and a half. Crossroads Church, the current occupant, moved into the old theater in 2012.

I learned from Forgotten New York that Eminem played the Lane in 1999, just as his career was blasting off. A writer for Rolling Stone was at the show and reported on it in a profile of the rapper that ran in the magazine a few weeks later: "Eminem is already a bona fide star, the type not likely to play a club this small again. The only reason he is here at all is that this date was booked before his [major label] debut album entered the charts at Number Two."

One Comment

  1. Karen Too says:

    Like the story about the guy buying the letters to restore them, and then return them to the city.

    It’s sad to see such places as this fall into disrepair.

    Let’s hope the church maintains it well, and does not make any more changes (as noted in the article).

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