42nd Street Theaters – Searching for Images/Booking Info – 50s-60s

posted by 42ndStreetMemories on February 1, 2005 at 8:28 am

Hi Gang,

I’m reliving my childhood and attempting to find images from the 1950s & 1960s of the 10 theaters that lined 42nd Street. I’d also like to know if there is any way to obtain booking information for the theaters in that time period. Most of them did not advertise in the local NYC newspapers.

Thanks,
Jerry K 42nd Street Memories

Comments (12)

larrythomas
larrythomas on February 1, 2005 at 9:39 am

There used to be a city guide magazine called “Cue.” It was later absorbed by another publication (can’t remember which one). Don’t know if they have an archive of these anywhere, but they listed most of the 42nd bookings. I read it all the time in the 60s, and was amazed by the bookings. The Times Square theatre would change double bills four times a week, and played lots of westerns.

Hope this is helpful.

LT

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on February 1, 2005 at 9:51 am

Even into the mid-late 1970’s, you’d find the strangest double-bills on that street. I cut school one day and went to 42nd street. I was shocked to see a marquee with Horror of Dracula/Curse of Frankenstein. These were two Hammer horror films from the late 50’s! I couldn’t wait to buy a ticket. The Dracula print was an original dye-transfer Technicolor print with fantastic color, but the Frankenstein was on Eastman stock and was totally faded.

It just knocked me out to find this double-bill mixed in with all the porn, kung fu and black exploitation. Man, I wish I had seen 42nd street in the 40’s and 50’s!

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on February 1, 2005 at 11:57 am

According to Worldcat, “Cue” is available at the following libraries:

CA LOS ANGELES PUB LIBR, CA UNIV OF CALIFORNIA, AR HENDERSON STATE UNIV, AZ NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIV, CT YALE UNIV LIBR, GA UNIV OF GEORGIA, IN CENTRAL INDIANA HEALTH SCI LIBR CONSOR, IN INDIANA UNIV, MO SOUTHWEST MISSOURI STATE UNIV, NC NORTH CAROLINA SCH OF THE ARTS, NC WAKE FOREST UNIV, NJ PRINCETON UNIV, NY BRIARCLIFF MANOR PUB LIBR, NY BUFFALO & ERIE CNTY PUB LIBR, NY COLUMBIA UNIV, NY COOPER UNION FOR THE ADVAN OF SCI & ART, NY CORNELL UNIV, NY EAST MEADOW PUB LIBR, NY NEW YORK CITY SCH LIBR SYST, NY NEW YORK HIST SOC ARCH, NY NEW YORK PUB LIBR RES LIBR, NY SUNY AT BUFFALO, NY WESTERN NEW YORK LIBR RES, OH MIAMI UNIV, PA UNIV OF PITTSBURGH, TX ALLIANCE FOR HIGHER EDUC, TX DALLAS PUB LIBR, TX UNIV OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, HARRY RANSOM, UT UNIV OF UTAH, VA COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY

Not all libraries carry the entire run from 1932 – 1978 so call ahead or look on the library’s online catalog.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on February 1, 2005 at 5:59 pm

I did subscribe to Cue back in the early 60s. If I recall, the Lyric & New Amsterdam were listed. Maybe, the Harris & Selwyn as well. They were showing the newer double features. (The Harris would follow the New A’s previous week’s fare; the Selwyn followed the Lyric). However, the revival houses were not listed. The Times Square showed nothing but westerns (usually the Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun variety); the Victory, Anco & Liberty were also action houses.

The Victory booked a lot of Republic action flics (since it was owned by Republic at one time; The Duke’s Wake of the Red Witch & Sands of Iwo Jima was a typical booking), they would also book Bowery Boys double features with a 3 Stooges-Joe Besser short. In the mid-60s they went “adult”: nudist films and soft porn.

The Anco was all action, or it would follow the Harris' booking if the billing had “legs” (Night of the Living Dead/Dr Who & the Daleks).

The Empire had the most eclectic programming (my first Chaplin silent with Francis the Talking Mule, for example).

Jerry 42nd Street Memories

Benjamin
Benjamin on February 3, 2005 at 10:50 am

This morning I was looking through a great book, “East Side, West Side” by Lawrence S. Riter (1998), about the old time sporting scene in New York City, and I saw a photo on page 3 of the south side of 42nd in the 1960s. (This chapter is about Hubert’s Museum [shown in the photo] where two great sporting figures, Grover Alexander and Jack Johnson, made a living after their sporting days were over.)

The photo is credited to UPI / Corbis – Bettman and seems kind of commonplace. (I think I’ve seen it elsewhere.) On the marquee of the Harris: “Murderer’s Row,” Ann Margaret, Dean Martin & “Desperado Trail.” On the Marquee of the Liberty: “Great Spy Mission,” George Peppard, Sophia Loren. On the marquee of the Empire: “The Professionals,” Burt Lancaster, and (partially obscured) “ … to Kill,” … & Lee Marvin. (Don’t remember if anything could be seen on the marquee of the Anco.)

A 1960s Ford Fairlane[?] is prominently seen in the foreground.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on February 3, 2005 at 2:47 pm

Benjamin,
I found that 1966 image in a book by Marc Eliot called Down 42nd Street. The partially obsured film is Attempt to Kill. The Anco is showing Long Ships & King Rat.

If you visit the cinema treasures pages for the New Amsterdam, Bryan Krefft posted a link to an image of the southside from 1969. His posting is dated 12/29/04. And if you look at the New Victory,you will see a great shot of the north side from 1970 posted by Bryan on Jan 13. Thanks.

Jerry 42nd Street Memories

Benjamin
Benjamin on February 3, 2005 at 6:05 pm

Jerry42nd Street Memories,

Looked at the photos that Bryan posted — very interesting!

I find it interesting to think about what such photos “communicate” about 42nd St. and what people (especially those who’ve never been to 42nd St.) actually think about 42nd St. because of them. Do people looking at such photos think the street is “exciting” or “just ugly” — and if they think it’s “just ugly,” why exactly?

(I happened to go to an interesting symposium, held at Columbia University, a few years ago which discussed the “semiology”(sp?) of Times Sq. and 42nd St. Many of the big players in the revitalization efforts were there at the symposium. However, in the end, these kinds of questions didn’t really get discussed — it wound up being more a debate about whether the revitalization efforts were a good or a bad thing.)

Looking back to my first recollections of 42nd St. from the late 1950s, to me the north side of 42nd St. had a startling, pleasantly bizarre look — it was hard to figure out how they could actually fit so many (regular-sized) theaters so close together. (Of course, it’s easy once you realize that half of the auditoriums are really on 43rd St.) But as a kid, the image of all those theaters (when theaters were “theaters!”), sitting cheek by jowl to each other, was almost as surreal as one of those puzzling drawings by M.C. Escher.

Plus, all the zipper lights around those closely spaced marquees made the street also seem still pretty exciting and glamorous. And while the north side of the street had obviously seen better days, I think its positive qualities outweighed the negative ones. As a result, it seemed to me to be something that was unusual â€" bizarre â€" but in a mostly positive way.

However, to me the south side of 42nd was depressing and ugly, and I think it was largely because of the blank facade of the Hubert’s Museum, the blank facade of the Anco theater and the big parking lot at the end of the block. (Which, now that I think about it, had an old bank on it until the late-1960s(?) or so â€" I think it can be seen in the photo on the New Amsterdam site. While the bank may have been a beautiful old classical one, I think it was also probably pretty dirty and poorly maintained — furthering the “depressing” quality of the street.) Plus the longstanding messages on those painted signs (e.g., “Save Free TV!”) probably also added to its drab, depressing quality.

As a young teenager in the early 1960s, I don’t think I saw 42nd St. as dangerous so much (although even then it probably did have a more modest version of its later reputation for danger) as much as cheap (e.g., Nedick’s stands) and run down (e.g., cheap, make shift alterations to buildings that were poorly maintained). I think my friends and I also though of it as somewhat “naughty,” although in actuality it was probably pretty restrained as compared to what is seen on streets all across America these days.

It would be interesting to look, as you are trying to do, at what actually played at the theaters on 42nd St. I suspect that it was a lot tamer (at least compared to later standards), for a lot longer, than what most people imagine.

Actually, when I was a young teenager in the early 1960s, I traveled in from Queens once to meet an aunt from New Jersey at the Port Authority Terminal and she took me one Saturday or Sunday afternoon to a family movie, “40 Pounds of Trouble,” at one of the theaters on the north side of the street. (The Selwyn?) I remember telling a friend of mine from junior high about this, and we were both somewhat scandalized (given the lower crime rates and tamer standards of that day) that my aunt would do this.

What added even more shock value to the story was that there was, indeed, an “incident” in the theater when I was there. Didn’t see the particulars (my aunt told me to stay in my seat, not that I would have had the nerve to take a closer look anyway), but we were sitting in the front of the balcony and we heard some rustling and then some running and someone hitting the floor. (My guess, these days, is that maybe someone was originally being pickpocketed and the victim realized it and chased him and knocked him down to the floor?)

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on February 4, 2005 at 9:39 am

Benjamin,

For those of us who were there, the street was definitely more exciting than ugly. Exhilarating. Coming up from the subway, not knowing what movies were showing, was my Disneyland, Neverland. The photos can not do it justice. Especially the glowing marquees at night.

The only reason the northside would be perceived to be more respectable was the Apollo showing foreign films. However, by the mid 60s, the Victory was showing nudist and softcore “adult”. The Anco & Empire on the southside were probably the most unkept but had some great creative programming.

Although the revitalization was definitely needed and it was great to see Lion King in the New Amsterdam, I wish they could have somehow managed to put a little of the Deuce’s charm (it was charming before the 70s) and electricity into the plans.

My cut is that 42nd (again this is 50s-60s) was more naughty than dangerous. I often went by myself as a 11-12 year old and never experienced any problems. The naughtiness was more in seeing coming attractions for a nudist film when you were there to see an Audie Murphy flic. (I was afraid to mention that at Confession on Saturday.)And the stills and posters outside the Victory had black tape covering “the good parts”.

Now, back to my quest to find the lost ark…..programming documentation from that time.

Jerry 42nd Street Memories

andythehammer
andythehammer on February 22, 2005 at 2:46 am

Hello everyone. What an amazing discussion you have going. I am designing a production of the musical “42nd street” and would love to strive for accuracy with all those light up signs from the grand theaters on that title street during the 20’s. Does anyone know of any book, website or other media form I might find pictures of the signs in those days, and a list of what theaters were around and what they were called in the 20’s? That would be most helpful. Thank you,

Andy H.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on February 22, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Andy,
Search on the theaters that were on 42nd Street. Folks have posted book titles that have the info you’re looking for. Search on: New Amsterdam, New Victory, Anco, Lyric (old name), Harris, Liberty for starters. Jerry 42nd Street Memories

jrobertclark
jrobertclark on February 11, 2008 at 7:55 am

I lived in New York City from 1982 to 1999, and during my last few months there I walked down then-ghostly 42nd Street. All of the movie theaters had been closed by then, and I was kind of melancholy about the state of the street. I plucked a 9X24" cardboard sign out of a vitrine (I believe it was the Times Square, and that’s what a yellowed piece of masking tape has scrawled across the back of it) that says: “Always (in blue) 2 (in red) Action (in blue) Hits (in red).” The sign was hand-painted with a yellow background.
Today I have that cherished piece of piece of old Times Square hanging in my studio apartment ($450/month) in Columbus, Ohio. And since then I have been trying to scour any photographs and even films for my little darling’s appearance. If someone has old photos in which it might appear I’d be thrilled.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on February 11, 2008 at 8:27 am

Could you send an image of your find? Or upload to photobucket or some site that we could visit.

Here is the closest image that I have from the 50s.

View link

Jerry

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