To walk into the spectacular United Palace at Broadway and 175th Street in Washington Heights is to be transported to another time and place. The amazing architecture depicts Buddhas, lions, intricate hand-carved Moorish patterns, and elephants. Everything is gilded. Beyond the elaborate foyer lies the third largest theatre in Manhattan, with 3,400 seats. It opened as a vaudeville house and movie palace in 1930 but the silver screen went dark in 1969.
Now a dedicated group of community members, led by a nonprofit arts and culture center, is campaigning to raise $40,000 in 40 days to return film to the Palace after 40+ years.
The funds will allow us to purchase a digital projection system, clean the decades-old screen, host at least 6 screenings in 2013, and spread the word that film is back at the Palace.
When we are successful, the United Palace will be the only theatre in Manhattan north of 128th Street and the city’s largest theatre with a regular film program.
Who we are
The United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts and cultural center created at the Palace in June 2012. Over the last year UPCA has:
hosted community arts programs that provide classical music, theatre, and dance to children.
provided a home for local artists to create and present their work.
hosted numerous events in the world-class theatre, from the 5-year anniversary concert of the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” to a master workshop provided by the New York Philharmonic to elementary school students in the Harmony Program.
and in January UPCA rented projection equipment to premiere the locally shot and produced movie “Trouble in the Heights,” the first film shown on the Palace’s silver screen in over 40 years. Over 700 people from all over the city showed up for the screening, which told us everything we needed to know about why we needed to start this campaign.
We are not trying to create a first-run movie theatre. Rather our goal is to host special events that require projection. That includes movies, film festivals, live to projection performances, films in Spanish for our Latino community, live streaming, theatre productions that require digital scenery, and whatever this generation of filmmakers - and anyone with a video-equipped smartphone - can imagine projecting on our 50-foot-long silver screen.
While the nonprofit UPCA is leading the campaign, it wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of the community of artists, filmmakers and film lovers who make Northern Manhattan home. They are helping curate our first few screenings.
- June 6: “Sosúa: Make a Better World,” a documentary about a group of Washington Heights teenagers who wrote a musical about the town in the Dominican Republic that welcomed over 800 Jews fleeing Hitler in 1938. After the screening, the teens will perform the musical. Learn more.
- June 12: the world premiere of “200 Cartas,” starring hometown hero Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mexican telenovela superstar Jaime Camil, former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, and Puerto Rican icon Iris Chacón . Learn more.
June 22: “A Day of Film at the Palace with Northern Manhattan filmmakers and artists showcasing the myriad ways to use projection, from feature films, to shorts, to Internet videos, to live to projection performances. Learn more.
July: Audience choice night where we’ll thank our Indiegogo supporters by showing the movie they most want to see.
October: A live to projection performance of classical music to a classic film.
November: A selection from Kid Cinema Fest, the 5-year-old children’s film festival that has been homeless since the neighborhood’s last movie theatre closed in 2011.
December: A community sing-a-long with a holiday classic.
How to help and what you get for helping
To accomplish our goal we are reaching out to our biggest supporters - Northern Manhattanites who want a movie theater in their backyard, residents of the greater New York Metropolitan area who want to have great film experiences in a magnificent space, and everyone else who loves classic movie palaces.
Our supporters will receive some great perks:
- Vote for the movie you’d most like to see at our Audience Choice screening.
- You will be namechecked in a scrolling credits sequence about UPCA/Film at the Palace that runs before every UPCA screening at the Palace.
- Limited edition lobby card for the Return of Film to the Palace by illustrator and comic book artist Sandy Jimenez.
- Year’s pass to all UPCA screenings at the Palace.
- A personalized video thank you from the UPCA Film Crew.
- Your two-minute video shown during the previews before every UPCA screening.
- Private screening with 15 friends of any movie you want that is available on Blu Ray/DVD.
- Private dinner and wine tasting for 8 in the Palace followed by a screening of any movie you want that is available on Blu Ray/DVD.
Other ways to help
First please spread the word about this great opportunity to return film to a spectacular movie palace. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Call, email or text friends and family members. Stop strangers in the street and tell them about this amazing movie palace that has been hidden in Northern Manhattan for all these years.
Also let us know if you or anyone you know can donate a projector or Macbook that would meet the Palace’s specifications. That would allow us to devote more of the funding to programming.
And of course, when we are successful, join us at a palace built for cinema.
This campaign is a wonderful way for any film lover to feel like they are investing in a piece of history. In 1930 the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre opened as a vaudeville house and movie palace. It was designed by noted theatre architect Thomas Lamb in a style that has been described as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco style” by architecture critic David W. Dunlap.
In 1969, as the era of grand movie palaces was in its twilight, the theatre was purchased by Rev. Ike, who is considered the first black televangelist. He moved his church here and soon after renamed it the United Palace. As a very successful “prosperity preacher” Rev. Ike was able to maintain the theatre in all its glory as he built his congregation through radio and television. As the congregation began to shrink in the early 2000’s the theatre also became a rental hall, booking concerts by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Adele, the Allman Brothers, and countless top Latin acts.
Now the United Palace is entering its third act, which is really just a return to its roots.
There is so much more we want to do. Please help us meet our goal and breath new life into the historic United Palace.