Criterion Theatre

1514 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 351 - 375 of 403 comments

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on November 12, 2004 at 6:21 am

Marty,
The Criterion was a very elegant Art Deco theater with excellent sightlines. A spacious but not too large theater where the large screen was perfectly placed head on in front of the theater. It showed of its product as if they were jewels. Unless you were there during it’s heyday it’s hard to see in pictures what is more obvious in the old black and white photos of the Roccoco spectaculars built in the 20’s.
It was one of New York’s great movie theaters.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on November 12, 2004 at 5:18 am

I agree with an earlier post, Disney should purchase the Embassy 2,3,4 aka Demille and restore it like the El Capitan in CA. They could have also purchased the Times Square theater.

Vito
Vito on November 12, 2004 at 5:13 am

Marty, we are all in mourning for these magnificent theatres, the likes of which we will never see again.

broadwaymarty
broadwaymarty on November 12, 2004 at 4:42 am

The Criterion was better known for it’s 50’s and 60’s attractions rather than it’s interior beauty.Like the DeMille (previously the Mayfair, since devided and now left to rot)it was basically 3 walls and a screen. Where was everybody when they demolished the Roxy, the Rivoli, the Paramount,the Strand, (the backstage of which became a porno house in the 70’s!)and the State?!

sethbook
sethbook on November 2, 2004 at 9:40 am

UA certainly did run down the Criterion. The last films I saw there was “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Ten Things I Hate About You.” Here’s what I wrote about it in the late 90s.

The one and only time I was in this theatre, until last year, it was to see Presumed Innocent. That was a few years ago, and it was a rather abysmal experience. Times Square was a much different place, and at any hour, even the early afternoon, was an opportunity to be surrounded by teenage delinquents or worse. The one time I was there, the fire alarm went off during the climax of the film. Of course, there was no fire, and of course, there was no one getting up to leave the movie either.

All that has changed, although the theatres themselves do not seem so different. A recent trip (to see My Best Friend’s Wedding) shows a whole different sort of clientele. The couple in front of me where speaking Russian and the man behind me only spoke French. The seats are still old; not the newer more comfortable ones theatres are installing when they renovate or are built new.

There are six theatres and they are split into two levels with separate entrances. This helps reduce sneaking into extra screenings, although once inside, it seems rather easy to walk into a second movie after having just seen one.

sethbook
sethbook on November 2, 2004 at 9:40 am

UA certainly did run down the Criterion. The last films I saw there was “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Ten Things I Hate About You.” Here’s what I wrote about it in the late 90s.

The one and only time I was in this theatre, until last year, it was to see Presumed Innocent. That was a few years ago, and it was a rather abysmal experience. Times Square was a much different place, and at any hour, even the early afternoon, was an opportunity to be surrounded by teenage delinquents or worse. The one time I was there, the fire alarm went off during the climax of the film. Of course, there was no fire, and of course, there was no one getting up to leave the movie either.

All that has changed, although the theatres themselves do not seem so different. A recent trip (to see My Best Friend’s Wedding) shows a whole different sort of clientele. The couple in front of me where speaking Russian and the man behind me only spoke French. The seats are still old; not the newer more comfortable ones theatres are installing when they renovate or are built new.

There are six theatres and they are split into two levels with separate entrances. This helps reduce sneaking into extra screenings, although once inside, it seems rather easy to walk into a second movie after having just seen one.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on September 1, 2004 at 10:15 am

Its to bad that some of the historic movie palaces of Times Sqaure weren’t given air rights the way most of the historic Broadway Legit theatres were given. This encouraged the Legit theatre owners to restore/renovate many of there theatres.The Palace and the Broadway were encorporated in a build over of a new building,this may have saved the Rivoli and a few others.The Criterion and the Rivoli were the perfect houses for the big musicals,but they didn’t have stage houses.I think the master plan in NYC was to revive 42nd St and many of its theatres and rebuild Times Square with new buildings. The revival of the Times Square moved much faster than people imagined and I think it caught the City by surprise. The revival of Times Square was good for the Legit community which had been pushing for a cleaner Times Square for many years,but caused us to loose the last of our big movie palaces in Times Square. Los Angeles is now the only big city to retain most of its big time movie palaces both Downtown and in Hollywood.Downtown Hollywood has restored/renovated all of its movie palaces with the exception of the Hollywood Pacific(Warner).The restored movie palaces of Hollywood would include the Chinese,El Capitan,Pantages and ongoing work on the Music Box(Henry Fonda).The Egyptian had been renovated but not restored and the Cinerama Dome though not a movie palace has also been renovated.The Vogue,Fox,New View,Holly,Hollywood and Vine are not movie palaces and have either closed or are used for other purposes. The Holly has been gutted and only the Vine still show movies.brucec

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on September 1, 2004 at 8:27 am

It was very frustrating during the 70’s and 80’s seeing two beautiful NY buildings like the Criterion and the Rivoli being so badly utilized while the comparatively worthless Astor Plaza and Ziegfeld were treated like jewels. For some reason when the 60’s became the 70’s both these theaters became undesirable dumping grounds but they were exactly as they were in the 60’s when they were the most desirable bookings in NY. Is it simply location? The destruction of the Astor Hotel was the worst thing to happen to Times Square and it has never recovered(unless of course you consider a New Jersey by way of Tokyo shopping mall an improvement.)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on September 1, 2004 at 7:49 am

Thanks BR. I didn’t know they split the orchestra. I rememebr seeing Bette Midler in Divine Madness there in 70mm. I sat up in the balcony. I am glad I got to see it before they carved it up. I was also lucky enough to have been to the Rivoli many times before they carved that up.

br91975
br91975 on September 1, 2004 at 7:17 am

The Criterion couldn’t have survived after the AMC Empire 25 opened and had already begun to suffer (as did the other Times Square movie houses) after the opening of the Loews 42nd Street E-Walk in November of 1999. Two harsh realities helped contribute to the downfall of the Criterion: studios always want to book their product into the top available venues, and the best ones at that (i.e., ones with stadium seating, etc.), which means that older sites within or close to the same booking zone traditionally become little more than move-over houses or dumping spots for films that stand zero chance of doing bang-up business and of turning any sort of profit. Studios also, quite often, won’t book their product into two sites within the same zone (the E-Walk and Astor Plaza double-bookings being a unique circumstance because of their Times Square location, along with the movie-going crowds drawn to the area; the prestige house the Astor Plaza was – as opposed to the carve-up job the Criterion became; and Loews keeping the revenue the Astor Plaza strong, or at the least, solid, by limiting most of the films it ran in concurrence with the E-Walk to 2-3 week engagements).

(To answer your other question, Mike, the Criterion’s layout, at the end, was as follows: orchestra split left/right – auditoriums 1 and 2; balcony – auditorium 3; basement/former lounge area – auditoriums 4 through 7.)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on September 1, 2004 at 5:47 am

If the Moss family still owns the building, why did they allow the theater to be closed and a stupid toy store open? When they first divided the theater in the 80’s they just divided the original theater in 2. The orchestra was kept intact and the balcony was made theater 2. Did UA divide the orchestra after they took over?

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 31, 2004 at 10:12 pm

The block the Criterion sits on is waiting for a major high rise development.The Moss family still owns the building and is waiting for the right project.The Toys R Us was only temprorary,so the Criterion would have been lost anyway.The Criterion was a modern showcase for the roadshow attraction but the Rivoli was more of a movie palace.When the Criterion was plexed it would have been smarter of UA to have left the orchestra section alone along with the big screen. Then again UA was not very smart and was one of the worst operators of the large circuits.brucec

br91975
br91975 on August 31, 2004 at 5:04 pm

The final features shown at the Criterion, which closed one week after the AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street opened its doors to the public in April of 2002, were ‘Black and White’ (on 2 screens), ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘The Cider House Rules’, ‘High Fidelity’, ‘The Hurricane’, and ‘The Sixth Sense’, which, from the day it opened at the Criterion, wound up having a nine-month engagement. (The films I personally saw there were ‘Deep Blue Sea’, in the former balcony; the Jackie Chan flick ‘Twin Dragons’ in the right ochestra split; and ‘Cider House’ and ‘Lake Placid’ in two of the basement auditoriums. It was far from the best venue in the city after its many subdivisions, but the crowds it drew for action and horror films, especially on weekend nights, IMHO, made it a fun place to be.)

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 12, 2004 at 9:15 am

I remember those stairwells, one of the only ways to tell this used to be a theatre. I hate to say this, but this building probably will never be used for motion picture exibition again. It would take an investor with a big dream and even deeper pockets to make this happen.

William
William on August 12, 2004 at 7:57 am

Well last week they took off the side exit metal stairwells on the north side of the building that was for the balcony.

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 12, 2004 at 7:55 am

I think the Loew’s booking office was better at getting product for their theatres during this era, I remember Loew’s almost always having the top blockbusters of the day in the 70’s and 80’s.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on August 12, 2004 at 6:49 am

Seems like the glory days for the Criterion were from South Pacific to Funny Girl. Last time I was there when it was still intact was for Alien in ‘78. Went once again after it was cut in two and it broke my heart so I never went back.
Could never figure out why during the '70s it and the Rivoli got the exploitation junk and the twinned Loews State and Astor Plaza got the A Hollywood product especially when the former two in the '60s had been the top NY bookings.

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 12, 2004 at 6:29 am

Wasn’t most of this theatre totaly destroyed in the creation of that horrible Toys R Us store? Is there anything that remains inside?

I once read that most of this buildings revenue source comes from those huge billboards on top of the building.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on August 12, 2004 at 5:15 am

I find it really interesting that the Criterion was demolished to make way for Toys R Us which is now condiering closing all their stores after Christmas.A great theater was lost for nothing.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on August 7, 2004 at 7:54 pm

O, and I thought “The Ten Commandments” was great on its giant curved VistaVision screen. Who could forget the Criterion’s bright red traveller curtain?

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on August 7, 2004 at 9:47 am

Warrenâ€"
Thanks for the ’36 photos of the Criterion’s debut. I wondered how they could have twinned it upstairs/downstairs in the ‘80s, since the balcony was so shallow. The pics confirmed my memory of that shelf-like space. Loew’s had a share in ownership through the late ‘40s, no? The films through the mid-‘50s were mostly mediocre. I recall as a kid seeing there “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and William Bendix in “The Life of Riley.” Disney favored it in the early ‘50sâ€"I remember being brought to “Snow White” (’52 revival), “Robin Hood” (the live-action one), “Alice in Wonderland.” They also showed several 3-D schlockersâ€"“Fort Ti” and “I, the Jury” (parents wouldn’t take me to “The French Line,” ‘cause the Legion of Decency condemned it). As a high-school kid, I sought it out for mature fareâ€"I recall “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Advise and Consent.” My visit to “The Ten Commandments” in ’56 left me with wounds still borne today: To accommodate an extra reserved-seat showing, they ran an early-bird 9am screening that suited my teen-age wallet. I arrived at 8:59:99 and sprinted past the usher-women to find my seat (knowing where it was, thanks to Stubs). The lights were already down and Mr. DeMille’s prologue had begun. I crashed loudly into an industrial-size trash-can left in the far aisle after the previous night’s showing. A thousand eyes turned to me in the darkness, lit only by light shining from the screen. The can rolled toward the proscenium. Usher-women fanned out down the aisle on a witch-hunt. I darted into my seat, terror-stricken that I’d be ejected for causing a ruckus (not the least for being an unaccompanied 14-y.o.). I survived ejection, but limped for several weeks with what might have been a fractured shin. Shoudda sued ‘em.

Mark1
Mark1 on July 25, 2004 at 5:57 pm

The Criterion people were going to in the 1950’s was not the otiginal Criterion, but probably the New York theatre renamed. On the same block, but on the southern corner was where the original Criterion was — the one that showed the original The Ten Commandments back in the 1920’s. In the 20’s there were the two theatres on that same block.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 14, 2004 at 10:48 am

Sorry to go off-Criterion for a minute, but here are pictures of the inside of the Hollywood Pacific theater:

View link

To get back to the Criterion, I have good memories of seeing “Tora! Tora! Tora!” “Nicholas and Alexandra” and “Alien” there. And its marquee was always prominently featured on the annual TV coverage of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

William
William on May 19, 2004 at 7:30 am

But for right now it’s being used as a Digital Projection showcase. But some day it will happen.