Brooklyn Academy of Music

Exterior decorations, terra-cotta and cornice, 2017. Photos Betty Sword

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Since 1997 theatre historian,  Cezar Del Valle, has conducted a popular series of  theatre talks and walks, available for  historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.

Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres.

The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.

Editing and updating the third edition of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, Volume I.





Beware the Lumnious Man in Dallas!

Universal Weekly, February 8, 1936:


“Just take a look at the front on ‘The Invisible Ray’ designed by Louis Charninsky, Managing Director, Capitol Theatre, Dallas.

“There are no less than eight outstanding exploitation features represented, each would do any showman proud.

“At the extreme left is an electrical display, set up through the cooperation of the Dallas Light and Power Co. and the Southern Methodist University physics department. High voltage transformers, placed on a table behind plate glass for protection, produced jumping sparks.  Warning and explanatory signs added to the intrigue.

“The mechanical man, and ballyhoo man, dressed in metallic helmet and cloth cape similar to that worn by Karloff in picture, were used for an entire week around town and out front.

“The ‘invisible fish’ display followed  along the lines suggested in the pressbook, using clear water with a sign explaining the presence of invisible fish and asking the people to look for them.

“At the right side is a telescope focused on poster mounted on adjoining building. Behind Charninsky, looking through the telescope, is ‘The Luminous Man’ poster, available at all Universal Branches.

“Notice the 24-sheet poster cut-out above the front, and the six-sheet cut-outs on either side, in which red and green flashers were used behind the eyes.

“Charninsky, to interest the chemistry and physics students in the high schools and colleges, held a special invitation preview for the instructors who were asked to tell their students about the scientific angle of the picture.

“Newspaper ads and displays in windows around town played up the scientific angle.”

The Invisible Ray



Since 1997, legendary theatre historian,  Cezar Del Valle has been conducting a popular series of  theatre talks and walks. Currently accepting bookings for 2017:  historical societies, libraries , senior centers, etc.

He has also joined with Local Expeditions to present a series of walking tours.

Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.

Currently editing and updating the third edition of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, Volume I.





Theatre Talks and Walks 2013 

After a brief hiatus, I am once again available for theatre walks and talks.



“Your amount of historic knowledge was nothing short of  incredible.”

– Dana Schulz, Program and  Administrative Associate, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

“The tour, led by theatre historian Cezar Del Valle, was phenomenal! Cezar shared his encyclopedic knowledge of theatre lore, history, and gossip.”

– Richard Moses, President, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative

“Thank you so much last week for the informative lecture you provided at the GANYC*  meeting. I own New York Broadway Tours and I would love to create a tour based on some of the theatres you  suggested in Brooklyn. THANK YOU!”

– Amada Anderson


Top Photo: January 8, 2012 walking tour for the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation

Bottom: June 3, 2012 walk of the Yiddish Rialto for the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative

Photos: Betty Sword, all rights reserved

*GANYC is the Guides Association of New York City

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

The Brooklyn Theatre Index—One Year On

On August 29, 2010, I gave an illustrated talk at the Coney Island Museum as part of their Ask the Expert series. This was the official launching of the first volume of the Brooklyn Theatre Index.

Being introduced by museum director Aaron Beebe (photo: Betty Sword)

The Index received an excellent review from Brooklyn historian, John Manbeck in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper of September 16, 2010:

“Inside the book are 477 pages of information about Brooklyn’s love affair with theaters, both live action and movie. The sheer numbers are overwhelming. The table of contents runs according to street names but in the index, theaters are cross-referenced alphabetically by theater names, which makes the tome ideal for a future online transfer of production titles and names of individuals.”

“It sounds like a reference for theatre buffs and it is. But it is also fascinating information for the average Joe.”

The second volume followed in October with both receiving an excellent review by theatre historian Ken Roe on the Cinema Treasures website:

“The definite appraisal of all movie theatres to have operated in Brooklyn, a borough known to have had the most theatres operating out of the five NYC boroughs.”

The Brooklyn Theatre Index  chosen 2010 Outstanding Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society of America. The society’s president, Karen Colizzi Noonan, stated:

“Comprehensive, accurate and useful, The Brooklyn Theatre Index series is a valuable addition to any series theatre historian’s library.”

Nearing completion, the third volume on Coney Island, awaits funding for formatting and editing.


Theatre Talks LLC

Betty Sword

The Brooklyn Theatre Index copyediting, interior book design and layout by David Bow at Integrative Ink.

Pavilion Theatre with a Few Updates

The old Sanders Theatre was closing for the second time when I moved to the Slope in 1978.  The neighborhood had not yet been gentrified. There were bodegas, greasy fried chicken and soft ice cream on 7th Avenue. The Miami fruit market had been around since the 1940s. The Shirts, a “power pop band” rented a loft for $250 a month.  Harriet Hoffman had a pottery studio on 9th Street at 7th Avenue. She gave free lessons to school classes.

The Park Slope brownstone community begun to change, rents went up, many of the older places couldn’t afford to hold on and closed their doors. The Sanders stood decaying on the corner of Prospect Park West and 15th Street. Plans to multiplex the balcony, while converting the first floor to a hardware store, never came to fruition. One movie house remained in the neighborhood, the worn Plaza Theatre on Flatbush.

In September 1994 Manhattan theatre exhibitor, Norman Addie, purchased the Sanders, renaming it the Pavilion, converting it to a triplex and adding a café to the balcony level. Carl Giangrande served as architect. Addie also acquired the Plaza, the theatre’s ceiling collapsed as the workers were starting renovations.

Additional screens were added with the Pavilion seemingly popular with the local neighborhood. Eventually, however, Addie  failed. American Apparel took over the Plaza and Cinedign the Pavilion as its digital showcase theatre.

Recently the Pavilion has come under adverse criticism. It fell under the bed bug hysteria that  gripped so much of  New York. A woman claimed to have been bitten  while watching a film. However no solid evidence was forthcoming. The same could not be said for the deteriorating condition of the cinema.  The sorry state of the Pavilion became a topic with numerous blogs. The Brooklynian reported “seats with no backs, seats with no…seats,  seats with stains and random food particles and hair.” The article illustrated with five photos.

The beleaguered staff sent an email apology to Park Slope Parents about the state of the Pavilion, blaming ownership for the current state of the theatre. Finally Jill Calcaterra, Chief Marketing Officer for Cinedigm, came forward, stating that there would be “big changes” with the Pavilion undergoing a major renovation (Park Slope Patch).

Many remain cynical about the future of the Pavilion as movie house. A comment on one of the blogs stated that an “upscale neighborhood deserved better.”

The Pavilion had just opened when I gave my first Park Slope theatre tour for the Brooklyn Center of the Urban Environment.  The new multiplex had met with opposition. A person living on 15th Street demanded in the local press that a study be conducted on the impact of opening a  movie house in a residential community. Not realizing there had been cinema on that corner since 1908 (the original Sanders Marathon).

At the start of the walk, I quoted this person and posed the question what was the impact on the neighborhood when the Sanders opened in 1928 with eleven other theatres in the Slope.  What was it like on the streets of Park Slope when these places spilled out on a Saturday night? What was it like at the restaurants and the soda fountains?

Updates March 3, 2011:

The Brooklyn Paper, with a slight dig at the Park Slope Patch blog, states that the “Pavilion will be a movie palace again.” That it was never actually a movie palace doesn’t enter into the equation.

F in the Slope is wondering if  a battle is brewing between Park Slope Patch and the Brooklyn Paper? They also take time to explain why the “Pavilion movie theatre will so not be a palace again.” It seems that just about every movie house built in the 1920s and 30s was a palace. Anyway it is a rather amusing look at “fabric swatches-again.”

According to L Magazine the “”Pavilion’s absentee corporate overlords” are allowing 23-year-old theatre manager, Ross Brunetti, to “pick out  the new upholstery.”

Oh, by the way, there is no word from the Patch about the suppose feud with the Brooklyn Paper.


Brooklyn Stages

On Wednesday evening, February 24, I’ll be giving an illustrated talk for the Brooklyn Collection at the Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY.

This talk will cover the legitimate theater, vaudeville and other live venues in the borough’s three entertainment districts: Fulton Street, Eastern, and Coney Island . The movie house will have to wait till April.

The Collection tells me that things may get crowded with seating at a premium. So arrive early for the wine and cheese at 6:30pm. The presentation begins at 7pm. For more information call the Brooklyn Collection at 718-230-2762.

Above is the Broadway Theatre at 912 Broadway in Brooklyn. Built for Leo Teller, the architect was J. B. McElfatrick. It opened March 21, 1904 with “Babes in Toyland.” Drama critic Robert Grau, in 1909, referred to the Broadway as “the best suburban theatre in America.” You can catch a glimpse of it, as the Rio Piedras, in “The French Connection.”