...is now up for rent. Two spaces are available: One at 1,000 square feet and the other at 1,220 square feet. This is a prime chunk of space ripe for something horrible. However. Given the store-bought sign, the lack of a broker and the fact that space is only for rent, and not for sale, we remain hopeful. We're curious about what kind of tenant Pastor Carlos seeks.
Meanwhile. This building is hallowed ground for many cinephiles. The space here at 193 Avenue B opened in 1926 as the Bijou, a 600-seat theater with a balcony. It later bacame the Charles Theatre. As Cinema Treasures notes: "In later years it was one of the early New York theatres to program off-beat and independent films. It showed early Warhol and had open film nights where young filmmakers could get an audience."
You can see the Charles here in this shot from 1949. We're looking north from 11th Street. (Via.)
Here's more info on the Charles via:
[T]he Charles "provided the underground with it's first, semi-permanent base of operations." While the theaters tenure was short-lived (a little over a year--- beginning in 1961) it's legacy was quite impressive. "...it became a landmark of sorts in the creation of an American counterculture."
Jonas Mekas was hired by the owners of the Charles to organize some additional screenings. "Mekas was then in the early stages of his passionate commitment to American experimental cinema" but "had an eye for new talent"...and began holding monthly open screenings which turned out to be great social events. Some audience members quickly made the transition to filmmakers, while others acted/participated as critics.
In light of the above the Charles emerges as a "Great Good Place" because "it was the spiritual home of a particular utopian ideology, a place where the audience was not just the passive recipient of mass-produced fantasies, but an active community, producing movies for itself. The Charles therefore incorporated films and film making into an alternative sense of family and community through freedom and equality.
Here's the Charles in 1966. (Via.)
There's a lot more, of course. (For example, in February 1962, the Arkestra — billed as Le Sun Ra and his Cosmic Space Jazz Group — made their New York debut at the Charles.) But you get the idea for now. I'll have more later. As far as I can find, the use of this space as a theater ended in 1975.
I'll leave you with this letter from the Metropolitan Diary from earlier this summer:
Growing up on 16th Street between Avenues B and C before Stuyvesant Town was built meant that respite from summer’s heat was available only if you went to the upscale movie theaters like the RKO Jefferson or the Academy of Music, both farther west on 14th Street. No such luxury could be found at the local movie house, the Bijou Theater, on Avenue B between 11th and 12th Streets.
This two-story theater was strictly a no-frills neighborhood flick house. But when the summer temperature inside became unbearable or cigarette smoke blurred the screen, the ceiling of the Bijou began to ever so slowly slide open from the center toward the edges to provide egress for both heat and Lucky Strike’s blue vapors.
For a 10-year-old like me it was magic — until a sudden thunderstorm came up and the rain began pelting the seats. The roof’s closing speed was also ever so slow, and people scrambled in all directions like it was a fire drill. When it finally closed, we all went back to our seats, gave them a swipe with a handkerchief and never took our eyes off the screen.
The Marx Brothers had their “Night at the Opera.” We had our nights at the Bijou.