The Bijou Theatre (later the Charles Theatre) opened in the fall of 1926. The Delancy-Clinton Realty Company commissioned architect Eugene DeRosa to build the Bijou at 12th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It had 600 seats, 502 on the main floor, and 98 on the balcony.
By 1937, they had sold the Bijou to the Bell Theater Company. The same year, the Motion Pictures Operators Union started a strike for higher wages from the Bell Theater Company; during the strike, two operators locked themselves in the projection booth in protest. Their demands were met 12 hours later and wages were increased to $27.00 a week.
Charles Steiner managed the theater until his death on June 29,1946. In 1949, the Bijou was renamed the Charles Theatre in his memory. Audubon Films ran the Charles in the 1960s, showing foreign and American films. Jonas Mekas, an experimental filmmaker, was hired to hold screenings of amateur films once a month. Many New York City filmmakers showed their early works at the Charles, including Vernon Zimmerman, Ron Rice, and Andy Warhol.
The amateur film screenings were very popular, inspiring audience members to make their own films. Because more amateur filmmakers were showing their work than were watching it, it was difficult for the management to decide who to charge, which led to a decline in ticket sales and the Charles’ closure in 1975. The Elim Pentecostal Church purchased the building and used it until October 2006, when a fire damaged the building, and forced the church to move. The Charles Theatre was demolished in the Summer of 2012.
Matt Lambros NY New York Jan 28, 2022 Architecture