Urgent appeal & proposal to save NYC’s oldest extant vaudeville theatre

posted by NativeForestHiller on September 17, 2007 at 5:00 am

Committee To Save the Playpen Theater
For Immediate Release (Preservationists, please pitch in and share your thoughts on our proposal and any ideas. We’re seeking a savior!)

Contact:

Michael Perlman,
NYC Preservationist & theater enthusiast
(917) 446-7775

Orlando Lopes
Theater Historical Society of America, NYC Dir.
(631) 225-7071

Oldest Extant Vaudeville Theater Slated For Demolition:
Preservationists' Plea & Proposal

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 11, 2007) Citywide preservationists and theater historians are calling on developer Daniel Tishman of Tishman Realty & Construction, to halt the planned demolition of NYC’s Playpen Theater (693 8th Ave between 43rd & 44th St), an early 20th century architecturally & culturally significant theater. Demolition is expected as early as Thurs, Sept 13th, and a high-rise hotel or condo is proposed for the site.

The theater opened in 1916 as the Ideal Theatre, and was designed by architectural firm Eisendrath & Horwitz in the Beaux Arts style. It survived under a series of names, including the Squire Theatre, Cinecitta, Cameo, New Cameo, and Adonis, and staged Vaudeville acts, silent films, & foreign films in its early years, respectively. According to the Film Daily Yearbook of 1930, it seated 598 patrons. Rare & distinguishable facade attributes include ornate brasswork around the windows, a cameo depicting a woman unspooling a roll of film, a cornice interlocking with an arched pediment, a grand arch with medallions, triangular pediments, ornate pilasters, brickwork, and a marquee that has been renovated, but likely retains original materials underneath. The auditorium portrays goddesses in decorative plaster.

Preservationists consent 2 proposals:

  1. The facade & interior spaces could be incorporated into the proposed high-rise, granting a distinctive presence which merges the best of both worlds? (old world charm & modernism). This could be a great marketing strategy. The Hearst Tower, amongst others, serve as case studies.

  2. Transport the theater to a new site, as Tishman accomplished for the AMC Empire Theatre on 42nd St in 1998. The Playpen Theater could be donated to a theater/cultural non-profit in exchange for a tax write-off. It would be sold to new owners, and the developers and the non-profit could benefit financially. (For example, Michael Perlman, Chair of Committee To Save The Moondance Diner, was responsible for salvaging the Moondance by working with Extell Development & donating it to the American Diner Museum. It is now in Wyoming gaining a new lease on life).

Perlman states: Such craftsmanship is unmatchable today, and something quite significant as one of the oldest extant Vaudeville theaters shouldn’t be sacrificed at the sake of progress, but honored via preservation and adaptive reuse. Being that it was erected in 1916, it pre-dates most theaters in the Theatre District. With the recent loss of the Sutton, Beekman, & some Village theaters, and a lack of landmarking, theaters outside the immediate theater district are few & far between. The facade is mostly intact, underwent a restoration over a decade ago, and the interior retains several elements. We are hoping achieve a win-win for both preservationists & developers, by working closely with them, and preserve this gem for future generations.?

Photo courtesy of Broadway artist, Michael Minn:

http://www.michaelminn.net/newyork/broadway_theatres/2002-01-22_0022.jpg

http://www.michaelminn.net/newyork/broadway_theatres/2006-10-03_15-50-00.jpg

http://www.michaelminn.net/newyork/broadway_theatres/2006-10-03_15-50-07.jpg

Courtesy of David Dunlap, NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/09/06/nyregion/20070906_PLAYPEN_SLIDESHOW_index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/09/06/nyregion/20070906_PLAYPEN_SLIDESHOW_3.html

Courtesy of flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=73318458&context=set-1113147&size=o (interior goddess)

Courtesy of photobucket:

http://www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/133-3373_IMG.jpg (vintage auditorium photo)

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Comments (1)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 17, 2007 at 5:37 am

It’ll take a miracle…

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