The only parts of the Trylon's exterior still unblemished are its cupola-shaped glass tower and its circular box office, which features the theater's symbol of a marbleized trylon. A similar trylon icon can also be seen on its tiled lobby floor.
It was Dec. 26, 1939 when the theater first opened for business only eight months after the opening of the New York World's Fair on April 30, 1939 in Flushing Meadows Park. The Trylon got its name from the 610-foot-high Trylon, which along with the Perisphere was the fair's centerpiece just as the Unisphere was the 1964 fair's focal point.
"The Trylon theater was built after the Art Deco period of the 1920s and early 1930s so that it is considered to be an art-modern structure and a throwback to the typical neighborhood movie theater of that period," said John Jurayj, co-chairman of the Modern Architecture Working Group.
"The influence of the 1939-40 World's Fair affected surrounding areas in Queens to the extent that the fair's cultural artifacts could be found in several nearby areas and vestiges of the fair are, of course, seen in the Trylon's exterior," he said.
The theater was originally owned by the Interboro Movie Circuit until the late 1970s when it was sold to the Loews Corp. Loews held the property until the end of 1999, when it was shut down for good.
The Trylon's lease expired at the end of 1999 and the theater has been closed and neglected for the past 4 1/2 years. But that may be subject to change before this year is over.
According to a spokeswoman for Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), The Educational Center for Russian Jewryis planning to renovate and reopen the theater within the next six to eight months.
The group is headed by Queens resident Nahum Kaziev, who plans to implement a full set of programs there aimed at children, teenagers, and seniors in the rapidly expanding Russian community.
Everyone in the area will be able to share in the program, however.
Kaziev said he was not sure exactly when the center would be ready to operate and was unable to give out any information at this time.
Katz has allocated $4,000 so that the new community group can renovate the theater's indoor seating plan and $200,000 in capital funding in 2003 for major improvements at the site.
"This total package of $204,000 is less than half of the funds needed to complete this theater renovation project. The bulk of the money is being raised by Mr. Kaziev via fund-raising," Katz's spokeswoman added.
Planning for the educational program was begun three years ago, but the project could not get off the ground until recently because of the numerous violations within the theater that had to be remedied before the new owners could get a permit, the spokeswoman said.
In an attempt to save the Trylon's exterior and restore it, there is a movement afoot seeking to gain landmark status for the theater. Jurayj has recommended to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission that it evaluate the theater's exterior to determine its value.
"Landmark status would provide legal protection only for the building's exterior," said Jurayj. "A public hearing is necessary before a structure can attain landmark recognition and the building's interior can be converted into any type of establishment its new tenants wish to do with it."
He pointed out that landmark status restricts new tenants or owners from destroying the exterior of a building but does not hold them legally responsible for the maintenance of the exterior.
"They must retain the historical images of the structure because the original design increases the value of the building as an asset," he said. "Its original appearance must be maintained."
Diane Jackier, director of Community & Government Affairs for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said "a potential landmark must be a least 30 years old and must possess a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development of the city.
"The commission must approve in advance any alteration, reconstruction, or demolition that affects the designated building."
Now that the wheels of the community are turning for the Trylon's future, it is possible by the end of 2004 that the old structure will no longer be an eyesore for the residents of Rego Park and it can regain its once homey local movie theater appearance.
©2004 Community News Group
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