Heights Theater

150 Wadsworth Avenue,
New York, NY 10033

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Showing 1 - 25 of 36 comments

ryan79 on October 25, 2017 at 10:35 pm

In its art house days in the sixties, saw my first gay themed film here, the Leather boys. I was a child. they still let me in. Later they barred me from seeing The Collector, another Brit film. So my mother took me. She didn’t see the problem. I also saw a soft core Jane Fonda film in French. They let me in to see that alone. capricious policy regarding children and adult themed films. great memories.

Joseph Angier
Joseph Angier on August 30, 2017 at 6:48 am

I lived near this theater in the early ‘60s. Wasn’t the Heights the local “arthouse” theater? I remember my father taking me there to see British films

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 5, 2015 at 3:23 am

The Wadsworth Theatre now has its own page.

robboehm on March 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Well, Jeff, since the Wadsworth isn’t on CT please do the honors.

JeffBradway on March 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Rider’s New York City (1916) has the following listing: “WADSWORTH THEATRE, Wadsworth avenue and 181st street. Vaudeville and Photoplay. Evening: Box seats, 50c. and 75c.; orchestra, 50c. and 35c.; balcony, 50, 35, and 25c. Matinees (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday): box seats, 35c.; orchestra, 25c.; balcony, 15c.” So apparently the Wadsworth did show movies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2014 at 7:23 pm

They usually are, guarina, but for some reason on Wadsworth Avenue it’s back-asswards.

guarina on July 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Joe, Thank you for the clarification. I was under the impression that on avenues the odd numbers were on the west side, even numbers on the east, judging from the RKO Coliseum, the Uptown, the Loew’s 175th Street, Theresa Pharmacy, Washington Heights Federal Savings.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Ed: I’ve held off submitting the Wadsworth Theatre because I’ve been unable to find any evidence that it operated as a movie house at any time during its brief existence. However, while trying to find such evidence I came across an item in the July 5, 1913, issue of The American Contractor that is probably about the Heights Theatre, which opened October 11, 1913:

“Store, Office & Moving Picture Bldg.: 2 sty. 102x150x100. $75,000. Broadway, 181st st. & Wadsworth av. Archts. Townsend, Steinle & Haskell, 1328 Broadway. Owner Robert E. Westcott estate, 33 Wall st. Bldrs. Fountain & Choate, 110 E. 23d st. Brick, stone. Work in progress. Plastering let to T. A. O'Rourke Co., 103 Park av.”
A couple of Townsend, Steinle & Haskell’s large apartment buildings made it into the AIA Guide to New York City, but the Heights didn’t.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

guarina: at 150 Wadsworth, the Heights Theatre building is on the west side of the street.

guarina on July 2, 2014 at 10:25 am

Ed, it took me a long time, but I’ve just realized now (I had surgery yesterday and now looked at it with fresh eyes) that the Heights Theater I remember was on the west side of the street, so the address would NOT have been 150. The building to the north of it is #145, so I guess it must have been 151. But there’s no trace of a second story left.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 3, 2014 at 9:55 am

Hey Guarina… The Wadsworth Theatre would be a completely different structure from the Heights Theatre. The location was across Wadsworth Avenue from the Heights, with its entrance around the corner on W. 181st Street. The Heights would have actually faced the auditorium side wall of the Wadsworth. Whichever year the Wadsworth was torn down, it was definitely demolished to make way for the single-story tax payers that now occupy the lot. More importantly, CT is in need of a listing for the Wadsworth Theatre. Calling Joe Vogel…

guarina on March 3, 2014 at 2:16 am

It looks as if the building were not torn down, more like rebuilt. It seems to me you can still see the original 3 windows.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for the information, keithyorkcity. This page from the Museum of the City of New York has a drawing of the Wadsworth Theatre by Anthony Dumas, and the notation says that it opened in 1910 and was torn down in 1916.

The building on the site now appears to be fairly old, the brickwork being characteristic of the 1910s, but the Wadsworth Theatre was a big, elaborate building, and I can’t fathom why it would have been demolished when it was only five years old, even if it was unprofitable as a theater. It seems that it could have been converted to some other use. That it would have been replaced by the single-story building on the lot now is very strange.

The Dumas drawing is dated 1939, so if the theater was demolished in 1916 he must have been working from old photos or the architects' own drawings. But it also makes me wonder if the museum’s claim of a 1916 demolition might be wrong.

keithyorkcity on September 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Responding (many months late) to Joe Vogel’s comment: looking at a 1916 insurance map of the intersection shows The Heights Theatre at the SW corner of 181/Wadsworth and the Wadsworth Theatre at the SE corner of 181/Wadsworth. Both building appear to still be standing, albeit gutted for retail.

davidplomin on September 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Even though the seats are long gone, it’s nice to see the building still standing. I love the fact that the upper half is still intact, including the twin brackets that must have held the original signage or cast iron canopy/awning. Would love to go in and see what’s been covered by drop ceilings and side paneling!

random on January 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I spent a lot of movie viewing time at the Heights as a young teenager. Regarding sexual content, an early French language risque Jane Fonda film, Leather Boys, a gay themed 1964 British film, and The Collector 1965. Usually double bill, so neither of the first two films was the reason I went to the theater. Nor was I denied entrance. Of all things, I was refused admission to The Collector,with Samantha Eggar, as a woman kidnapped by sex deviant Terence Stamp, so go figure. My mother went with me another day. Also saw the two Beatles films on a double bill at the Heights. A lot of good memories.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

A brief item from the July 1, 1916, issue of the entertainment industry journal The New York Clipper discussed two large new theaters proposed for the Washington Heights district, and added the editorial opinion that the neighborhood already had enough theaters to satisfy local demand. The final line said: “The Wadsworth, at One Hundred and Eighty-first Street and Wadsworth Avenue, could not pay with any policy, so a bit of advice, don’t be hasty and overdo it.”

As this house opened as the Heights Theatre in 1913, either there must have been another theater at or near this intersection, or the Heights used the name Wadsworth at some point in its early history. Advertisements or theater listings from the period 1913-1916 should reveal which of those was the case. If the Heights and the Wadsworth were the same house, it would have been closed for some time in the first half of 1916.

Here is the complete item (which I cited in a previous comment) about the opening of the Heights Theatre, as reported in the November 15, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Heights Theater.

“The L. & B. Amusement Company opened a new picture theater at Wadsworth Avenue and 181st Street, New York City, on Saturday evening, October 11, to a large patronage and is enjoying a steady patronage of the most satisfactory character. W. A. Landau, formerly proprietor of the Audubon Theater, in 181st Street, is president of the company, and S. G. Bock, who was connected with the St. Nicholas Theater, in the same neighborhood, is secretary and treasurer. The new house is of regular theater construction, seats 600 persons and has twelve exits. The construction is fireproof throughout. Two Standard projecting machines and a mercury arc rectifier have been installed, providing a fine picture at a throw of no feet. The chairs are from the American Seating Company. An indirect lighting system and large exhaust fans for ventilating complete an up-to-date equipment. Retiring rooms for men and women insure the comfort of the patrons. A Hope-Jones unit orchestra provides music for the pictures.”

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

guarina on April 25, 2012 at 1:49 am

I remember the Heights from 1951 and it was still there in 1957. I saw “Anna Karenina” with Greta Garbo there, and a documentary about Ireland.

sonia44 on March 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

Sonia Kutzin on March 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I recently saw “Children of Paradise” at the Film Forum. 60 years ago I saw it at the Heights Theatre. I was able to see the most marvelous foreign films there so many years ago, and am forever grateful for that experience.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 30, 2011 at 1:59 am

The November 15, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World gave the opening date of the Heights Theatre as October 11. The house was fitted with a Hope-Jones unit orchestra.

GaryZ7 on May 5, 2010 at 2:25 am

Al, most red-blooded American boys are pretty normal in that respect! On the other hand, even though there was unprecedented nudity in such films as the Czech film CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (in 1967 anyway), often the films, such as that one, were extraordinarily unforgettable. I saw that on TV last year and it holds up as effectively as it did—-lo those 43 years ago!—-in story, acting, direction and cinematography. A true cinema classic. Thank you, Heights Theatre.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for your honesty, Gary27. So many on this forum have denied the sex angle of fifties and sixties ‘art house’ success.

GaryZ7 on May 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm

My brother and friends would sometimes go to the Heights Theatre in the mid-late 1960s primarily BECAUSE it generally showed foreign films. That was a time when onscreen nudity was very scarce, unless you were old enough to see an “adult” film, but very often an “artistic” foreign film gave a young teenage boy an eyeful! Nowadays, of course, nudity in a PG film is no big deal, but let’s not forget what things were like 45 years ago!