Thespians have held curtain calls under the twinkling chandeliers and midnight blue ceiling of the Paradise Theater. Film stars have lit up its silver screen.
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Boxers have battered each other at the historic Grand Concourse venue. Rockers and rappers have made its stage shake.
Bronx power brokers staged a political coup at the city landmark, where a cornered gang banger once shot himself in the head.
The 83-year-old theater in Fordham has served many purposes and masters, and for its next act, the Paradise will play a mega-church.
The World Changers Church of New York, headed by controversial Georgia-based televangelist Creflo Dollar, has signed a lease to occupy the venue, as first reported by the Riverdale Review.
Built in 1929 to resemble a heavenly paradise, the theater will offer its new congregants just that. World Changers Church preaches "prosperity theology," a worldview that equates piety and wealth.
"This is the highest and best use for the theater," said Ruth Furst, a real estate broker who handled the deal for property owner Gerald Lieblich.
But some Fordham residents and longtime Paradise patrons believe the theater should remain an entertainment venue.
"There are plenty of other sites for churches," said Vic Peters, 65, a building superintendent who remembers watching movies at the Paradise decades ago.
Designed by architect John Eberson, an Austrian immigrant, the 45,000-square-foot Paradise was one of five New York "wonder palaces" operated by Loews Theater.
With an elegant facade, murals of cherubs, a cloud machine, a marble staircase and a sweeping balcony, the 3,855-seat movie and play house was a sight to behold when it first opened, and a favorite spot for young couples to canoodle. It cost $4 million to build and showed films such as "Gone With The Wind," said Lloyd Ultan, Bronx historian.
"It was very opulent," said Peters. "You walked into the Paradise and it took your breath away."
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SOURCE: New York Daily News