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Trylon Theatre

A movie theater with a World's Fair flair.

On December 26, 1939, Forest Hills’ booming population  welcomed the Trylon Theater at 98-81 Queens Blvd. Designed by New York's own architect Joseph Unger, it attracted movie-goers for six decades, with lines occasionally around the block. The marquee boasted classics including The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind.

The small neighborhood theater conveyed great meaning for residents of Forest Hills and Queens, offering warmth, intimacy, and coziness. Charming architecture and “mom & pop” style service contributed to its grandeur.

The theater had cultural, architectural, and historical significance to the 1939 – 1940 World's Fair, which was held in Flushing Meadows Park, and categorized by the 700-ft spire Trylon (pyramid) and 180-ft Perisphere (globe) monuments. It was the “Theater of Tomorrow,” since the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair was the “World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits emphasized technological improvements. Social and cultural change led to new waves of immigrants.

The theater’s cost without ground was $100,000. The Trylon Theater epitomizes the Art Moderne style, featuring sleek and sophisticated lines and accents, and smooth curves to create images of “triumph with elegance.” Architects were more experimental, as they celebrated the victory of the machine age.

Patrons recognized a vertical glass block projection tower through a streamlined stone facade, with an elliptical marquee. This illuminated Queens Boulevard at night, symbolic to the Trylon and Perisphere monuments’ efficient use of light. Two reverse channel neon signs atop the marquee read “TRYLON.”

The entrance pavilion’s ticket booth memorialized the Trylon monument in black and white mosaics. The centerpiece of the entrance pavilion’s floor was terrazzo, bearing a 3D mirror image of the Trylon monument, complementary to that on the ticket booth.

Alongside was a colorful array of inlaid mosaic tiles in a classic chevron pattern. Streamlined mosaics with Deco accents were on the walls. Bulbs underneath the marquee contributed to a lighting spectacular, from the elliptical trim to its climatic angular halt at the ticket booth.

The standee area exhibited a mosaic Trylon fountain, with 4 Trylon monuments and back-lit glass block. Experimental architecture was the utilization of vertical lines in the auditorium, since the norm was horizontal lines aiding one’s eyes to the screen. Seating capacity was 600.

Alongside the proscenium, 2 under-lighted hand-painted cloth murals reflected the triumphant “World of Tomorrow” concept, depicting a projector on running nude figures, instruments, abstract shapes, and a cityscape. Grounded by Art Deco pilasters, it rejoiced motion picture technologies with freer themes.  

The Trylon was owned by B.K.R. Holding Corp, long-operated by Interboro Circuit, and later sold to Loews/Sony. With the advent of home theater and multiplexes, theaters have been either demolished or sometimes tastefully reused.

Sadly, after celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Trylon, one of the last single screen theaters, lost its lease in late December 1999. In 2006, the Trylon became a center for Russian Jewry, and despite a preservation movement, lost most significant architectural and historical features.

Richard Falk April 25, 2011 at 04:34 PM
I was an usher at the Trylon Theater in the early '60's and lived right around the corner in the Howard building next to the bank. My memories of the time I spent working at this theater are quite vivid; walking the long line of ticket holders on a Friday or Saturday night, taking tickets at the door, walking up and down the aisle looking for smokers, taking tickets from those looking for a seat in the balcony, cleaning up and locking up. It's a terrible shame that the Trylon could not have been spared such utter destruction (at least the marquee remains as a reminder to all). I'm thankful for the opportunity to view the old photos of the Trylon on the Rego-Forest Preservation Council web site (thank you, Michael Perlman); my only regret is that I didn't take any photos while I worked at the theater, but then again, I didn't take any photos of the 1964-65 World's Fair either and I worked there both years. Richie
Linda L May 04, 2011 at 09:20 PM
Thanks for posting this history Michael. As a child I lived in the apartment building directly across the street from the Trylon, The Carolina at 98-86 Queens Blvd. I viewed the theater every day out the living room window, and longed to be able to go there on my own. When I was nine my mother allowed me to cross Queens Blvd on my own and go to see Esther Williams in Neptune's Daughter. I will never forget that first time at the Trylon, watching one of my heros on the big screen. I went often after that, with my mother watching me cross the street from the living room window.
Jeff Raelson February 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
My dad was the manager of the Trylon during the 50's and 60's. His name was Leo Raelson and was known by everyone in the neighborhood by his waxed moustache, cigar, and flower in his lapel. I grew up going to the movies and even ushered there. Very fond memories indeed!
Curmudgeon July 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Melinda Katz handed that theatre to the Bukharians on a silver platter. And, from their perspective, there was no need to save it. It wasn't their history they were destroying. Lots of people, myself among them, went to meetings and tried to speak out for Landmarking. The LPC quite viciously shut us down at every turn and refused to listen. So, please, do not say that no one tried. Lots of people did.
Joe Kohn March 23, 2013 at 11:25 PM
I was trying to remember the name of the Trylon the other day. I went on Google Maps/Street View and found the remnants of the theater. I believe I saw "Dr. No" with Sean Connery (the first James Bond movie) there while on a date in 1963.

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