The Kew Gardens Cinema was built in 1935, and opened as the Austin Theatre (named after an adjacent Street) The theatre was designed by architect Charles A. Sandblom in Art Deco style and has gone through many changes over the years. After spending time as The Austin and a Second Run House for Double Features, it was taken over by Rugoff Theatres, playing more "Art House" type fare to cater towards the then more upscale area and it's surrounding neighborhood.
At some point the theatre was taken over by United Artists, where it had had more mainstream fare, but was successful in running Midnight Shows on the weekends. Ultimately the Theatre wasn't as profitable for the company as it would have liked and sold it off. In typical New York fashion it became a Porn Theater in the mid to late 70's and managed to keep the tradition of Midnight Shows alive for awhile, until finally the bottom line demanded it exclusively show Adult Movies. As New York's eradication of the Adult Cinema houses took it's course, eventually the theatre closed.
Luckily the theatre was bought and renovated to restore some of it's old Art Deco glory. There are currently six screens, and although on the smaller side, they each are very comfortable while providing a better than usual audio and visual experience. The Cinema has returned to playing more "Art House" fare, while it's sister theatre, the much more local to me Cobble Hill Theatre in Brooklyn, plays similar films, though with the aim a bit towards families. Both awesome theatres are owned and operated by the same chap, Harvey Elgart, a fellow movie lover from Brooklyn.
preserved from the original marquee
Recently I've seen two films at the Kew Gardens, It's Kind Of A Funny Story and Catfish. And I had a really nice time watching both, though Catfish is clearly the much stronger film. The very least going to the Cinema is a good reason to hit the concession stand. I'm the kind of man who cannot resist Root Beer anywhere it's available. And this theater has better than usual concession.
Although for me going to Kew Gardens is a bit of out of the way, I keep going back to this theatre because it reminds me of going to similar movie houses of my youth. The theatre, especially during the day, seem to occupy a lot of the older people (as well as young) of the neighborhood and there's something comforting about that. They've been going to this place for many years, probably even going way back to it's Austin days, and yet they keep returning. There's a sense of history there and I really respect that. Isn't that what a neighborhood theatre should be like?
Plus the price is right... only 7 bucks all day and night on Tuesdays and Thursdays AND they have a bargain matinee of some kind every day. Gotta appreciate that in these days of nearly $14 and rising all-day ticket prices at most of the Multiplexes. Hopefully the Kew Gardens Cinemas and it's rich history stays alive forever!