From the early 1960's until 1972, my grandfather owned the Music Palace Movie Theater, which was on the Bowery at the corner of Hester Street in Chinatown. Although I was too young to have been to the theater, my family foldly remembers many members of the family heading over to the theater around midnight to pre-screen new reels of film that had just come in from the studios. Most of the films were Chinese language films from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
There are many stories about the theater when the entire family would spend time behind the scenes and in the projection booth. There were also stories of run-ins with gangs and not a few mysterious stories about the old building.
There were rumors that a bum once got drunk on the top tier of the two-story theater, and fell to his death during a movie. My family frequently got complaints from women regarding the ladies room and an apparent peeping tom. However upon closer inspection, they found that there was nobody even near the restrooms when the incidents took place.
There were also incidents when people have been watching the movie and felt two hands grasp their ankles from under the chair. When the movie-goers would turn around, there would be no one behind them or anyone nearby capable of doing this.
Sadly, theaters in Chinatown are the thing of the past. The Music Theater, with its famous mural depicting the dangers and lure of gangs, gambling, and drinking, has been demolished. After a few delays, the site is now the site of a large multi-storied hotel.
When I pass by, I sometimes wonder if the hotel will have their own list of strange occurances.