If you’re at all familiar with famous music venues, you probably know about The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. The Capitol opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and movie theater before becoming a concert venue that hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Counting Crows. (Even though it’s true, I threw that last one in there just to fuck with you because they’re the worst but then I remembered that I spent many an angsty, adolescent evening listening to “A Long December” and having feelings, so joke’s on me.) After a brief period of abandonment, the Capitol was reopened in 2012 and currently operates as a music and entertainment venue. Unfortunately, its sister theater, The Embassy, did not fare as well.
The Embassy Theatre is less than half a mile away from the Capitol, but is easily missed due to its subdued exterior. Despite being abandoned for over 25 years, parts of the interior are surprisingly intact, such as the chandelier and nearly flawless curtains. BIg chunks of wall and flooring have fallen from the balcony areas and all the seats have been removed, but the projection booth (my favorite part) hasn’t been tampered with except for the usual, copious amount of bird droppings. It’s arguable that shitting on things might be the worst type of tampering, so its condition is subjective.
The Embassy opened around the same time as the Capitol in 1926, and showcased vaudeville acts before moving on to silent films and regular ole’ picture shows. For awhile it catered to the increasing Hispanic population of Port Chester, screening Spanish speaking films, some of which are still in the abandoned theatre today. There are also a number of film canisters containing Richard Pryor’s Some Kind of Hero.
The theater was owned and operated by the four Rogowsky brothers: Jack, Herbert, Sam and Maurice. I couldn’t find much about them online on account of not trying that hard, but with names like those, I’m going to imagine them as the luminaries of an exclusive underground gambling ring where only Gin Rummy was played, since that’s the only real card game I know how to play (Egyptian Rat Screw doesn’t count) because I just cannot pay attention when people are explaining new games to me. I can see their mouths moving and hear the words they’re saying but my brain is like, ‘BOOOOOORING!’ and then I get irrationally frustrated and we just end up playing Scrabble again.
The Embassy Theatre was designed by Thomas Lamb, who also designed the Capitol, as well as countless other infamous theaters. However, Wikipedia’s list of Lamb’s architectural accomplishments fails to note the Embassy, as it pales in comparison to the others. For some reason that reminds me of the time in second grade when I made the San Carlos Mission out of sugar cubes and then slowly, over the course of a week, I ate the entire mission, glue and all. I want that on my wikipedia page!
The Embassy Theatre was shut down on June 26th, 1986 when, according to Cinematreasures.org, “a group of entrepreneurs attempted to turn [it] into a video dance club for teenagers called Public Domain.” I don’t know what the hell a ‘video dance club’ is but it sounds like my nightmare. Flyers for the party are still scattered about the theater.
Unfortunately, that party was the theater’s obnoxious death rattle, as the cops busted it up and shut the place down. The Embassy never reopened. (Update 08/13: Supposedly it very recently sold to a private group who intends to restore it, but I’ll remain skeptical until that actually happens because so many of these old theaters have extensive records of restoration project failures.)
The concession stand in the lobby makes me want to wear bobby socks and hold hands with a boy named Ace at the movies and maybe kiss afterwards but no tongue. Or to join a rebel rollerskating gang and have sex in a parked car under the BQE. Either way, the only form of communication allowed in these scenarios is one delivered by song.
The friend who was with me said the chandelier was hard to photograph because there was a slight breeze in the room but I rarely take long exposures since it requires patience, a quality of which I am bereft. So I snapped a few quick ones and got busy poking around the projection booth and finding treasures, which is my favorite thing to do.
Animal shit is the bane of exploring, specifically that of birds and mostly that of pigeons because they get into every building and poop the whole place up. There was a lot of bird shit in the projector room, but there will never be as much of it anywhere ever in the history of all time as there is on the top floor of Creedmoor.
Projection booths tend to be painted with pleasing, muted colors, which can make for a very pleasant photograph until you look a little closer…
In this case, at the table on the left…
nnngggg they’re SPOONING:
This old rewinding reel was in a side closet off the projector room and still had a film in it.
I don’t recognize the film but of anyone does, please let me know! Here’s a closeup:
Stacks of moldy tickets for The Ten Commandments, released in 1956.
The arrangement of stuff around this fireplace was clearly set up for photographic purposes by someone there before us, which always annoys me, but I couldn’t be bothered to disassemble it just for one photo of the pristine fireplace. (Yeah, I know that’s not a real fireplace, there’s no flue.)
I’m endlessly fascinated by old trinkets and cans and bric-a-brak in the cupboards and I’m always like “guys look at this! look at that!” and they’re like “yeah, okay, cool,” in the way that a parent does when they want their kid to just fuck off already.
According to this scale, I weigh 10lbs, but it was only because I had a big breakfast that day!!
The old pulleys and lights and stuff that make things work still seem to have all their (nonworking) parts:
Under the stage is a small labyrinth of gutted dressing rooms and basements full of rusted electrical equipment, but photos of electrical equipment usually suck, and the Embassy’s were no exception.
Addendum: After I finished writing this post, I listened to “A Long December” for the first time in 15 years and I couldn’t tell if the song was good or if I was nostalgic, but when I heard the lyrics, “it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls,” I was like nope, no good, terrible. And then I downloaded the whole album but I don’t want to talk about it.
See more photos on the Embassy Theatre Flickr set.
Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me.