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.