On May 14, the Midway Theatre at 108-22 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills will reopen its doors. Operator Regal Cinemas decided last fall to close 543 theaters due to the pandemic, and the Midway was one of them.
“I thought they were shutting their doors for good, so this is such wonderful news,” said local resident Christina Gennaro. “The history surrounding Forest Hills is what made me want to move here. Movie theaters like the Midway are living history.”
With a largely intact vertical beacon, curved façade, and whimsical circular lobby with a sweeping staircase, the Art Moderne theater is one of the borough’s oldest, operating since 1942.
The Midway was named after the Battle of Midway in World War II. Opening attractions were the U.S. Navy’s Technicolor short “The Battle of Midway,” as well as “The Pied Piper” and “Just Off Broadway.”
Among the celebrities who made appearances were Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, who conducted a meet and greet.
Over time, it transitioned from a single screen to a quad to nine screens. In more recent times, digital advances and recliners were introduced.
“It holds fond memories,” said Jennifer Vega of the theater. “I’ve went there with my parents and siblings in the 1980s, had dates there in the late 1990s and 2000s, and then watched movies with my son.”
The Midway was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Scotland native Thomas White Lamb, along with consulting architect S. Charles Lee. Today, Tom Andrew Lamb of White Plains is preserving his great-grandfather’s legacy.
“The most compelling reason that the Midway is worthy of preservation is the history that has taken place in this neighborhood theater,” he said. “For almost 80 years, this place has seen first dates, family outings, and solo trips on lonely nights. In our throwaway world, these spaces hold our collective experience and are repositories of memories.”
North Carolina resident Richard Delaney was six when the Midway opened.
“The opening was a big deal, it was like a black-tie event” he recalled. “It was modern Art Deco and completely different from the 1920s theaters.
“The Midway definitely needs to be preserved” Delaney added. “It’s an architectural treasure that was very ahead of its time.”
Over the years, the Midway hosted a range of events, including anniversary galas, benefits, and floor shows.
“My friends and I were the shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” said Joseph Pormigiano. “I played the criminologist in the floor show,”
Marco Zanaletti is an airline employee from Italy. He has had the opportunity to visit Forest Hills on several occasions.
“I noticed the Tudor-style residential buildings and the Art Deco presence in places like the Midway,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘wow I am in the U.S. and in a real community, not just as a tourist coming to New York shopping along 5th Avenue’ I started to feel a part of New York history around me.”
“The Midway is a landmark in my life,” added Thomas Duffy, whose Midway journey began in 1982 with E.T. “My first date with my longtime partner was at the Midway in 2000, when we saw Down to You. I hope to see a blockbuster or two this summer.”