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Queens, New York

Valencia Movie House

The Vatican of the movie industry turned into an actual church. 

Sandwiched between unremarkable stores of Jamaica, Queens, the ornate facade of the movie theater turned church is impossible to miss.

Although the giant cross mounted on the exterior distracts from the aesthetic carvings, the facade has a somewhat aquatic theme. Seashell ornaments, a mermaid subtly placed in the center, and blue swirls are carved into the facade. Every inch of the palace, inside and out, is covered in intricate detail inspired by Spanish and Mexican style.

Everything from the ticket booth to the organ in the lobby give the place a glorious majestic aura. The Valencia Movie House opened on January 12, 1929, as the first of Loew’s five Wonder Theaters, but has served as the Tabernacle of Prayer since the theater’s close in 1977.

Although it now functions as a church, the details of the design have been carefully preserved. Wooden railings remain perfectly polished in the lobby and delicate chandeliers hang fully functional from the ceiling. The sections of wall carved for movie advertisements now present religious mottos. The 3,500 seat theater still gives the illusion of sitting in the center of a Spanish town, but the big screen has been replaced by a cross and an altar.

Regardless of its purpose, the old movie palace is a stunningly gorgeous piece of art and architecture.