THE RKO STRAND, FAR ROCKAWAY, NY
The RKO Strand Theater opened in 1919. Silent films and vaudeville were the featured attractions. Far Rockaway was on the prime Keith Albee circuit, especially in the summer, and star performers such as Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker appeared on the Strand's stage in those early days.
It is still located on Beach 20th Street (Central Ave.) near Cornaga Avenue and had around 2,000 seats with an abundance of leg room. One block north of the Strand was the RKO Columbia, a somewhat smaller and much less comfortable house that was demolished in the late 1970s or early 1980s to make room for a parking lot. Until it was razed, you could see, painted on the side of stage end of the building, "B.F. Keith Vaudeville." The Strand also had a balcony and many memories were made there. (If those walls could talk!)
It was one of a handful of theaters that once operated on the Queens peninsula. After it closed in the 1970s, RKO would reopen it during the summer to screen Disney fare. That soon ended and the theater never screened another movie.
The only other theater in Far Rockaway was The Pix (originally The Gem), a 600 seat "Art" house on Mott Avenue, also long gone.
Below are three photos of the Strand's long life. If you would like to send comments about your own experiences there, we'd love to put them on this page. Please send your comments to me at email@example.com and please indicate if it is okay to publish your name with your comments.
Grand Opening, 1919
The RKO Columbia is visible in the background.
The RKO Strand's Glory Days
The two photos above were sent to me by George Berger,
Class of 1960. They were taken between 1938 and 1941.
The bottom photo was taken from the balcony.
Entrance to the PAL (Police Athletic League)
next to the Strand. Photo taken in 1932.
Thanks again to George Berger for these.
The Remains, 2002