There Goes The Neighborhood: Death of The American

Old American

There used to be five movie theaters within walking distance of my place, six if you wanted to hoof it along a nearby highway for a spell to hit a former drive in turned multiplex. Now there are a mere two movie theaters total in the entire Bronx area, which is a shame and a sham simultaneously. When it abruptly shut down last year, The American (which was originally a Loews theater before passing in to a few hands over the years) wasn’t exactly a grand theater. Well, at least it wasn’t for the last decade or two. But it was close by, cheaper than going into Manhattan and even if the movie you saw stunk, at least the audience could be somewhat entertaining and annoying as they tend to be when all one desires is to hear what’s on screen without any peanut gallery antics.

New American (1)

At one point in the 80’s there were many stray cats running rampant in the theater, making going to a movie a somewhat creepy experience if one of those kitties brushed past your legs or took a liking to you and hopped up into your lap. But no one seemed to mind because many cats meant no rodents making things squeaky and squeamish. Still, it was enough of a problem that it was dealt with eventually (and yes, the rodents and occasional squirrel returned soon afterwards). I recall the theater being a double screen one for a while before it succumbed to the multi-screen madness that meant squeezing as many people as possible into a chopped up space with smallish screens and not exactly great noise-proofing between the newly created theaters. I didn’t frequent the theater once it went to all those screens. But when I did go, I always heard someone complaining about that big action blockbuster blasting away at their romantic comedy or vice versa.

New American (5) 

One of the funnier moments I can recall was seeing Paul Verhoeven’s absolutely not for the kiddies Starship Troopers on its opening day in 1997. A little while into the film, an entire class of pre-teens and about four teachers and aides came strolling into the theater and sat down right before a co-ed shower scene full of naked men and women. That group got right up and strolled right out and I laughed out loud because it seemed that whomever picked the film was thinking Star Wars and not what they walked into. Well, at least it wasn’t during one of the graphically violent battle scenes. The birds and the bees is safer than realistic looking gore and guts all over the place.

Anyway, as you can see above, that old American is now a new Marshalls but they kept the old Loews poster displays intact as well as the beautiful statues in front of and (not shown, but I’ll need to take a photo in case they’re removed) behind the location. During the renovation (which came as a huge surprise to everyone in the area), I was hoping that those displays would be tossed in a Dumpster just so I could salvage one and perhaps have it restored. That turned out not to be the case, which was probably a good thing at the end of the day. I really didn’t have room to store something like that, so I’d probably have posted an ad somewhere offering it to a collector who’d know what best to do with it.

With a ton of new destruction and construction coming right across the street from me as an entire square is block set to disappear, I’m not looking forward to the new building going up unless it somehow has a new theater in there somewhere. Going into NYC to see movies is neither cheap nor quick. So it would be extremely wonderful to have a new spot to catch films in that wasn’t a pain in the neck to get to and from. Of course, I’m not counting on anything other than something big, modern and ugly going up to replace all those small businesses somewhat abruptly booted from their spaces by the new landlord.


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