Park Theatre

214 Cookman Avenue,
Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Unfavorite 4 people favorited this theater

Showing 19 comments

marqueemaven4 on July 15, 2023 at 8:29 pm

I’m confused by the “until 1965” reference, unless they mean when it was called Lyric? As Park Cinema, it was open at least until 1995. I visited it from 1985 on. By then the balcony was closed off so I never got to see that, but murals were still visible since a small part of that balcony area was still accessible by the restroom upstairs (men’s room on one side, ladies' on the other, and the middle balcony area was walled off, though there was a door to that part that was always locked).

The large theater had been separated into three areas by the mid 80s. Most of the original auditorium was still there, but the back area had been turned into two small theaters, one left and one right, and a hallway leading in between the two small ones from the lobby to the main auditorium. Best way I can describe it is to picture a mushroom. The large cap was the main auditorium, and the small spaces under the cap on the left and right were the two small theaters, if you were looking at this from the air, with the stem being the hallway from the lobby to the main auditorium. The left small one showed gay male films, the right small one lesbian films, and the main auditorium regular porn. The two small ones had maybe six rows of ten seats each I think. When the original owner passed away in the 90s, his wife turned the wall sconces back on (they had been dark) and installed air conditioning.

rivest266 on September 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm

1912 grand opening ad uploaded in the photo section of this theatre.

DavidZornig on July 16, 2013 at 12:14 am

Just added a photo circa 1965 courtesy of Dorn’s Classic Images, Found on the Robert’s World Facebook page.

It also confirms the Lyric was open at least until 1965, beyond the 1951 date in the Overview.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on January 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

The Lyric is most definitely demolished.

nycnftm on May 1, 2010 at 2:12 am

Inside circa 1926 Lyric Theater
View link

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on September 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Just passed by this site yesterday. This site is a vacnt lot and the intro should be changed to demolished.

gjoynson on November 7, 2007 at 8:34 pm

While researching Vaughn’s murder in 1920, I found several advertisements for the Lyric Theatre and will try to post them to this websight. Vaughn showed silent movies to his audiences and the Lyric Theatre also offered matinees. Vaughn also worked for McDonough’s Cafeteria on the corner of Kingsley Street and Second Avenue in Asbury Park, which offered live musicals during the 1920s. There should be a separate listing for McDonough’s.

GilbertCarney on November 7, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I was working there as projectionist the night Willie Plummer was shot ?? mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Really???????

GaryCrawford on October 25, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Elmer Vaughn was killed on 9-14-1920 during a robbery, and died of knife wounds. Age 34 years, 6 months, 25 days. He is buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery in Neptune, Plot #477. (His grandson requested info in this website, and I was president of Mount Prospect for many years, and my wife catalogued some 12,000 burials there)

Hi George.

GaryCrawford on October 17, 2007 at 1:30 pm

I was working there as projectionist the night Willie Plummer was shot during a robbery. Although shot in the face, he got off lucky and recovered fully.

What a night that was.

gjoynson on October 7, 2007 at 9:53 am

“Murders in Monmouth: Capital Crimes from the Jersey Shore’s Past,” is a new book due in bookstores November 15, 2007, which mentions Elmer Vaughn, moving picture operator at Lyric Theatre before he was murdered in 1920. Vaughn also worked in the Ocean and Shubert Theatres in Asbury Park.

kencmcintyre on January 31, 2007 at 8:05 pm

Manager in the late 70s was Willie Plummer, according to this case:

teecee on September 14, 2005 at 12:42 pm

Here is a recent photo for the Park Cinema:

teecee on July 8, 2005 at 12:31 pm

Better history & pictures:

View link

Opening date was 1912.

teecee on July 8, 2005 at 11:59 am

I believe that this pile of rubble was the Lyric (Park) which stood behind the Palace amusement building.

teecee on July 5, 2005 at 6:08 am

A Marr & Colton organ was installed in the Lyric theater in 1926.

teecee on July 4, 2005 at 7:34 am

The Star Ledger
Farewell to Asbury Park … again
Sunday, July 03, 2005

“By the 1970s, nearby malls had all but suffocated Asbury’s once- thriving business district, leaving the town almost strictly an entertainment destination. Into the mid- ‘70s there were still six operating movie theaters in Asbury Park — 1920s-era movie palaces such as the Mayfair and the Paramount, and smaller venues like The St. James, the Lyric, the Savoy and the Baronet. With the rise of the multiplexes, these too soon vanished. The Lyric was the only one to survive, eventually rechristened the Park, an adults-only grindhouse adjoining Palace Amusements that proudly advertised "matinees daily.” The Park itself came down last year, along with the Palace."

teecee on June 13, 2005 at 7:53 pm

This was a Walter Reade theater and was DEMOLISHED in February 2005.
Theater had been renamed the Park Theater.

Now There are Three
Lyric Theater in Asbury Park is demolished"

The Coaster, February 10, 2005
By Helen Pike

Another one of Walter Reade’s movie houses came tumbling down this week, leaving only the memories of area residents who can recall such live performances as the Kiwanis Kapers, the mogul’s foray into television, and countless celluloid reels that flashed across its screen, including the 1941 Oscar winner, ‘How Green Was My Valley’, starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara and Roddy McDowall.

Although it ended its last decades following 1970 as a pornographic film house, the theater wore its XXX rating with flair: the last public role for the renamed Park Cinema was its appearance in ‘City by the Sea’ with Robert DeNiro and the HBO series ‘The Sopranos’ for which its once classical exterior sported a bordello red coat of paint.

An intimate performance space, the originally named Lyric Theatre was dwarfed by the presence of Reade’s more ornate and imposing Mayfair and St. James theaters a block west on Lake and Cookman avenues, respectively. With movies still a novelty in those years before World War II, patrons ordered their tickets in advance for their choice of seating on either the orchestra or mezzanine levels, the latter’s balcony festooned wtih plaster cherubs powdered with faux gold dust.

Eventually Reade sold the theater’s dressing rooms to Gus Williams, the second owner of the Palace Merry-Go-Round and Ferris wheel, and Williams replaced the rear of the building with a one-story dark ride. Until the Palace Amusements closed*, it was not uncommon to listen to a movie in the Lyric, but hear the shrieks of children riding the Ghost Ride (also called the Haunted Mansion) as they filtered through the back wall.

In the 1950s, Walter Reade** switched to billing the Lyric as an art theater. He hired city resident and local schoolteacher Jan Leon for the role of Princess Jan to host a children’s theater series, featuring Disney films and cartoons along with live puppet shows and clowns which he televised on WRTV.

In the next decade he hired illustrator Ida Libby Dengrove of West Allenhurst to paint murals on the mezzanine level. Soon after, Dengrove, who had trained in Philadelphia, went on to gain national recognition as the country’s first courtroom television artist, a NBC network strategy used to counter the then-ban of cameras in courtrooms. Last fall, the Asbury Park Historical Society was able to save a portion of Dengrove’s Parisian-themed murals prior to the building’s scheduled demolition.

This brings the total to three of Reade’s theaters now gone from Asbury Park. The Mayfair and the St. James, both designed by well-known New York City architect Thomas Lamb, were torn down in 1974. The remaining theaters that once carried the Reade marquee are the Baronet on Fourth Avenue (listed for sale with Better Homes NJ; the Savoy, inside the Kinmouth Building on Mattision (the office/theater building is listed for sale at $3 million), and the Paramount Theatre overlooking Ocean Avenue (which the city of Asbury Park sold last year to Asbury Partners, the master redeveloper of the residential resort’s oceanfront).