New Amsterdam Theatre

214 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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teecee
teecee on May 19, 2005 at 2:53 pm

Restoration information & photos:

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Thomas
Thomas on May 8, 2005 at 8:31 pm

New Amsterdam Theatre circa 1980's
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42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 20, 2005 at 5:42 pm

saps,
I guess in order to get more 42nd St-ish type fare like Columbia’s 1966 Matt Helm flic, Murderer’s Row and The Professionals (seen in the front of Marc Eliot’s book Down 42nd Street), they had to book Columbia’s ‘Roz & Hayley as nuns’ tripe.

The programming of Out of the Past & Tension at Table Rock was what made 42nd special to me. And those double features were the ones not advertised in the papers, so it was a treat to come up from the subway and scan the marquees. Jerry

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 20, 2005 at 2:36 pm

Rosalind Russell (as a nun) Hayley Mills on 42nd Street! I guess the times did change after 1966.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 17, 2005 at 12:40 pm

Here is a 1966 shot of the New Amsterdam and a partial view of some of the other theaters on The Deuce. Note the COOLED BY REFRIGERATION sign under the marquee. And CONTINUOUS to 4 AM above it. Grant’s bar & Nedicks to the left.

I won the item on ebay and will be loaded it on to my website soon. Here’s the temporary link:
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For those interested, the films showing are:
HARPER & SWINGER’S PARADISE (Lyric), OUT OF THE PAST & TENSION AT TABLE ROCK (Times Square), TROUBLE WITH ANGELS & MYSTERY OF THUG ISLAND (Selwyn), WEEKEND AT DUNKIRK & THAT MAN IN ISTANBUL (New Amsterdam); Apollo appears to have a Gina Lollobrigida film.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 16, 2005 at 11:57 am

The Billy Rose Theatre collection at the Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, NYC, has bound volumes of Cue Magazine, but they are of the Manhattan edition only and do list movie theatres in the other boroughs. They also usually don’t list 42nd Street theatres except for the NA, Lyric and Apollo…Also, it’s possible that Cue is now stored “off-site” by the Library due to lack of demand. That means that if they don’t have it when you file your call slip, you will have to return several days later, after it has been shipped from one of their warehouses…If you go to www.nypl.org
you should be able to find the exact holdings of Cue in the periodicals index.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 16, 2005 at 11:02 am

Thanks, Gerald but as a kid I was given subscriptions to Cue as a Christmas gift by a neighbor. I still had to call each theater to get the programming. And with one phone line at the theater (before recorded messages), this took a while. The New Amsterdam, Lyric may have been listed but definitely not the Empire, Victory, Anco.

I still may try to hunt down Cue archives for other theaters. Thanks.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 13, 2005 at 11:52 am

Jerry Kovar: Perhaps Cue Magazine listed them if it was around then. You might be able to find copies from that era at a library. Just a suggestion.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on April 13, 2005 at 11:27 am

That’s funny, Warren. How did Jane Eyre ever make it to The Deuce? I’m surprised they didn’t pair the East Side Kids with Career Girl.

I’m still looking for booking information of the 42nd St theaters in the 50s-60s. Newspapers did list some of the New Amsterdam-Lyric-Harris-Selwyn programming but not the others. If anyone can help, please let me know.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 13, 2005 at 11:14 am

A tiny individual ad in the movie section of the NY Daily News of April 14, 1944 has the New Amsterdam showing “Jane Eyre” (Joan Fontaine & Orson Welles) and “Mr. Muggs Steps Out” (with The East Side Kids). The booking was simultaneous with first-run neighborhood theatres, though those of the RKO and Skouras circuits were presenting “Jane Eyre” with a different second-feature—“Career Girl” (Frances Langford-Edward Norris). Perhaps the New Amsterdam picked the other to attract the tough guys (and dolls) who resided in nearby “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 11, 2005 at 4:17 pm

Since its magnificent restoration, I’ve brought folks here three times to see “The Lion King.” It is truly a theatre of orgasmic beauty. I’m not from New York but I saw a movie here once upon a time and didn’t register any reaction then.

teecee
teecee on April 11, 2005 at 2:28 pm

sorry, corrected link:
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Darrel Wood
Darrel Wood on March 28, 2005 at 11:15 pm

Re: Benjamin’s comment of Jan 14 on the balcony support rods—your memory is correct. The Upper Balcony of the New Amsterdam has the support rods running up to the ceiling, but they do not actually support anything. Because no one had seen a cantilevered balcony back then, people were afraid it would collapse….so, the owner put the rods up to reassure people. They are still there, and supposedly cannot be removed because they are covered by the landmark ordinance. Under the main balcony there are some columns, so that would have reassured people back then that it had support.
As far as the upper theatre, the current line is still that they cannot meet code and have performances up there.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 16, 2005 at 11:54 am

In July, 1941, the New Amsterdam had a “Special Limited Engagement By Popular Demand of Thousands” of a double-feature of Rudolph Valentino’s “The Eagle” & “Son of the Sheik.” The silent films had been updated with musical soundtracks. The New Amsterdam operated continuously from 8AM until 2AM, and boasted of a “modern cooling plant now in operation.”

DonRosen
DonRosen on February 19, 2005 at 6:11 pm

I have an exterior photo of the New Amsterdam (circa early 90s). I’ll e-mail it to some if they want to post it.

GeorgeStrum
GeorgeStrum on January 29, 2005 at 11:51 pm

Not to spook anyone but the New Amsterdam is haunted by the spirit of one of the Follies girls. Her name is Olive Thomas and she died very young from an illness and over dosed on her medication. Former and some present maintanance people and performers have seen her. Mostly in the balcony and in the so called Garden Roof section. They say she looks so real and solid you’d think she was alive. Well, that’s the legend of the New.Am.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 14, 2005 at 3:29 pm

From my recollection, the rooftop theater atop the New Amsterdam was indoors — but with big windows. It may — or may not — also have had some kind of sliding roof that allowed you to see the sky in good weather.

I know this sounds modern, and I’m not sure about the New Amsterdam having such a roof, but Christopher Grey in the “Times” — a pretty reliable source — said that the original Lunt-Fontanne Theater had such a “moon roof.” And I believe the Waldorf-Astoria (the current one, from the 1930s) had some kind of retractable roof for it’s “Starlight Roof” nightclub. (I was in this space once for a function — it’s used for events and receptions — but I believe the retractable roof feature was removed long ago.)

The roof garden / restaurant on top of Hammerstein’s Victoria seems (from the one or two photos I’ve seen of it) to be mostly in the open air — but with some sort of covered area along the sides also. (From photos, it seems to be “multi-leveled” also, with the open air section up a few steps.)

Re: ambient noise

While I assume 42nd St. was not really quiet even then, in 1903 or so when some of these theaters were built, the area was built up differently than it is today. It was mostly low, rowhouses (“brownstones”), churches and horse and carriage manufacturing / trading facilities. So I suppose the kind of noises produced were different — for instance, no loud diesel truck and bus v-a-r-o-o-m noises, no garbage truck compactor whines and, obviously, no car alarms! Also maybe the height (six stories or so above the ground) might have helped distance people from some of the noise?

(Also, maybe the whole thing seemed like a better idea than it was, and the noise helped contribute to the demise of such places — along with the growing city around them!)

br91975
br91975 on January 14, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Caspers42: are you asking about what the side of the building itself facing east, or the side of the rooftop theatre facing east, looked like prior to the construction of 5 Times Square (a.k.a., the Ernst and Young Building)?

caspers42
caspers42 on January 14, 2005 at 3:04 pm

Ron, the theatre was enclosed with walls of windows.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 14, 2005 at 2:49 pm

This ‘rooftop’ theatre was outdoors? What did they do if a show was scheduled there, but it rained? Wasn’t there so much ambient noise aruond 42nd street that it would cause acoustical problems for the performers and audience?

caspers42
caspers42 on January 14, 2005 at 2:37 pm

100% percent ablsolutely their was a roof garden which was seperate from the roof top theatre. It was actually referred to as the aerial gardens and their is a double doorway in the rooftop theatre which leads to where this garden used to be. However behind the doors today is nothing but airconditioning systems, heatings units and a water tower. The aerial gardens were on the roof of the backstage area which is a roof I would aproximate at 35-45 feet, I am sure of this. The rooftop theatre indeed did have those windows to the east and i would love to be able to see what that side of the theatre looked liked before the earnst and young skyscraper.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 14, 2005 at 12:41 pm

P.S. — I think the New Amsterdam’s roof “garden” and roof “theater” are the same thing. I believe at the time the New Amsterdam was built, the word “garden” had more connotations than it has today. For example: Madison Sq. Garden (an arena); and the Winter Garden Theater (a name that was given to the theater, which I believe was at one time decorated with trellises, to evoke those places like the lobbies of grand hotels that created a “garden” of potted palms, etc.).

I believe in those pre-air-conditioned times, a number of restaurants and “night clubs” (or their equivalent) were built on roofs (especially the very large roofs of theaters that were otherwise economically useless) and that many of them had a garden-like theme. (Oscar Hammerstein’s “Victoria,” on 42nd and Seventh Ave., had a famous one with cows and milkmaids. There’s a photo of it, empty, in the exhibition catalog.)

Before the skyscraper to the east of the New Amsterdam was built, you could clearly see the very large windows of the rooftop theater. I believe they were “French door” type windows that, when opened wide, gave one the illusion of being outdoors. (Over the years, unfortunately, I think they were painted over in black.)

In the years around the time I took the tour, I think the roof garden/theater space was used as a rehearsal hall for Broadway plays and musicals.

While I don’t believe this is that easily visible these days, I think the jumble of firescapes needed for both the roof theater and the rest of the New Amsterdam are still visible on 41st St.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 14, 2005 at 11:53 am

I found the announcement and the exhibition catalog from the event. So in case people are interested, here is some additional info (and a correction):

The series of programs, the tour and an exhibit was called, “42nd St. — Theatre and the City.” It was indeed sponsored by the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and took place in the fall of 1977.

The Graduate School was then located on 42nd St., on the north side of 42nd St., between Fifth Ave. and the Ave. of the Americas. The building had an “arcade” almost the width of the building that was used as an exhibition space. It also had a fair-sized basement auditorium where the panel discussions were held. By the way, I believe the building was originally the Aeolian Building, and there was originally a theater/auditorium on the second floor that was used as a concert hall, Aeolian Hall, where Gershwin premiered “Rhapsody in Blue.” If I recall correctly, while the graduate school was there, this space was used as a large, casual auditorium/lecture hall. I think the building is used as a dental school these days.

There were five Tuesday evening panel discussions beginning on October 18th and ending on November 22nd. 1) History; 2) Problems; 3) Human and Economic Solutions; 4) Future Reconstruction; 5) Future Showcase. Participants included “names” from different walks of life: academics (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Mary Henderson); actors (Dorothy Stickney); producers (Herman Schulmin, Alfred de Liagre, Jr.); businessmen (Vincent Sardi); critics (Jack Kroll, Brendan Gill); etc.

There was a two film “film festival” (“Reunion in Vienna” and “Once in a Lifetime”) that showed films “… of the 1930’s, based on a play of the same period that opened in the 42nd St. area …” (Stanley Kauffmann is listed as the discussant [don’t ever recall seeing this word before]).

The exhibit was 85 photographs “… featuring interiors and exteriors of the area’s major theatre structures as they were in 1927 and as they are now …”

The walking tour was on Sunday, October 23rd. Here’s the blurb from the announcement: “Opportunity to view first-hand examples of the old playhouses, including the new Amsterdam (built 1903), a new off-off Broadway theatre center, a performing arts housing complex, among others.”

The announcement itself has some interesting photographs and a particularly interesting juxtaposition of photographs: the original facade of the New Amsterdam (without any advertising whatsoever) and the facade in the 1970s (with advertisements for “The Deep” plastered all over the place).

The facade, sans marquee, etc., is fascinating because it shows the entrance being only four doors wide (stone facing taking up the rest of this very, very narrow facade). Looking at the two photos side by side it’s hard to believe they are the same structure — it’s hard to imagine how the entry of four doors in the photograph on the left could be enlarged to the building wide entryway shown in the modern photo on the right.

(P.S. — I am somewhat new to the internet. If it is technologically possible, and legally permissible, to send in scanned copies of these photos (and others), I’d be delighted to give it a try. I can get access to a scanner and the appropriate software (I think), but I’d have to find out how I could get it to Cinema Treasures.)

The announcement also has great photos of the original facades of the Empire (with glass and iron canopy), the Liberty (with almost no advertising); the Belasco (now the Victory?); etc.

My favorite photo is a “wide-angled” one that shows the Lunt-Fontanne (which was a movie theater at one time, and is listed on this site, I believe) and the Helen Hayes. It gives a really nice feel for how well they worked together to create a nice “feel” to 46th St.

The exhibition catalog (text by Josephine Dakin, Megan Lawrence and Ray Ring) has nice pictures (interior, exterior, historical) and text on all the 42nd St. theaters and a few others off 42nd St.: New Amsterdam; Harris; Liberty; Empire; Anco; American Theatre (demolished in 1932); Times Sq. and Apollo; Lyric; Victoria (replaced by the Ra\ialto); Lunt-Fontanne (with a terrific photo of the way it looked when it opened); the Palace; the Astor; the Hudson (including a contemporary photo showing “For Rent” on the marquee); etc. (I’ve tried to list only those theaters that were also movie theaters. But a few other theaters are also included.)

Correction: The catalog mentions that the New Amsterdam “… is said to have been the first theatre built with a cantilevered balcony.” (Something I had thought I had heard about the Hudson.) So apparently the balcony I saw that was held with rods from the ceiling was in another theatre on the tour, not the New Amsterdam.

Fascinating fact: The Hudson, the New Amsterdam and the Lyceum (a landmarked “legit” theatre that was never, as far as I know, a movie theater) were all opened within weeks of each other — two of them even opened on the same night!: 10/19/03, the Hudson; 11/2/03, the New Amsterdam; 11/2/03, the Lyceum. WOW! New York, in those days, WAS really jumpin!


I also found a terrific Hagstrom “detail” map from the late 1950s that shows the approximate building lot outlines of the various theaters in the theater district, including the bunched up ones on 42nd St. On this map you can clearly see where the actual auditoriums for the various theaters on 42nd were located. Again, if it’s legally OK, and if someone tells me how, I’d love to be able to share this with Cinema Treasures.