Theatre 80 St. Marks

80 St. Marks Place,
New York, NY 10003

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Showing 26 - 50 of 69 comments

LorcanOtway on November 5, 2009 at 9:46 am

PS I hear that Jim (mentioned above)– from our coffee bar is alive and well… With any luck, we can bring him back as well… at least for a visit…

LorcanOtway on November 5, 2009 at 9:44 am

I expect it will be welcome news for the readers of this blog, we will be showing film once more. We are in the process of installing high def, digital (not rear projection) as well as presenting opera, ballet, concerts, and musicals. The screen will be set back much farther than in my father’s day, so the sight lines will be improved for film. THanks to all who have remembered us fondly or otherwise here, and we hope to see you all again soon.
Our web address is . All the best, Lorcan Otway

edblank on October 5, 2009 at 6:16 am

Lorcan, I met and spoke with you briefly a couple of times way back when. Talked with your dad almost every one of the many times I visited 80 St. Marks. (As it happens, my first visit was for the live smash, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”) I subscribed to your dad’s film schedules for – whatever – 20-some years.

I appreciate your candid, cogent and articulate explanation of the problems of simply ramping up again. We all remember fondly how it was, not how it could, or couldn’t, be resuscitated today. It was not just chance that all of the many repertory moviehouses in Manhattan died one by one in the video era, including the Regency, Thalia, Hollywood, et al.

Your difficulty getting equipment repaired and maintaining it is something we have all suffered with VCRs, laser disc players, 33 rpm phonographs and so on. It’s annoying and in some respects inexcusable that we’ve become such a disposable culture.

Thank you for your insights. Great success to you.

LorcanOtway on October 5, 2009 at 2:54 am

Dear skeeetz:
Thanks so much for the kind comments… as to a “better way” – I refer not to the audience, or content of the programming, but to the deficits of the combination of rear view projection and 16 mm projection. At the time my father died, we found that – even with three state of the art machines – running full time just put too much wear on them for the declining availability of tech support. Film projectors, next, even to video players, are very difficult machines to maintain. Often film companies coated film with “protective coatings” which would gum up the gate, and even with constant washing between showings, the coatings would bend and destroy the teeth in the gate. So, the quality of our projection declined as fewer and fewer technical repair people stayed with film, and most went into video, now they are into DVD repair…
If someday it were possible to project DVD directly to a storable screen, using a cable rather than through the air projection it is possible to show film here again… the problem with a world of high def and all, is that the expectations of most of the audience change, and the poor quality of an earlier time is much less quaint to most today, and I don’t think we could survive the judgment of a generation grown up on digital projection. Even the comments here show that we suffered from having to project from behind the screen in the eyes of many. But, I am still looking and listening, if a better projection option is found, do email me at, LorcanOtway at

skeeelz on October 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Lorcan, you don’t NEED a better way to project in a small house — the old way was fine! It added to the charm, and was a fantastic way to be introduced to a world of cinema I might otherwise would never have known. Perhaps you should put out feelers, see how many folks would be interested if the theater played movies on, say, one or two nights a week. I bet you’d get a strongly supportive response.
In any event, even if you don’t end up playing film there again, I’m very happy that the theater is still in the family and open for business.

LorcanOtway on September 16, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for the proof reading… It has been a month of three hours of sleep as we restored the old gem to her former glow…
All the best

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Howard was irascible but never erasable — he surely left an indelible mark.

LorcanOtway on September 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Theatre 80 is back under direct management by the Otway family. In keeping with my mother’s wishes, and my dedication to my father’s belief in small, professional theater, we are once again open to present a diverse program of live theater. “The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side” has been in previews here, and will open tomorrow night, after a successful run at PS 122. In order to keep small theater affordable, we are going to open a small café, to help subsidize theater here. Living on the proceeds of a small theater has been a challenge as early as 1968, when the Manhattan Festival Ballet closed. But, I believe that the best way to resist the Disneyfication of New York Theater is a vibrant and professional pool of small theaters.
I hope friends will stop by, often.
I would LOVE to have film some days, but, until a better way to project in a small house is found, we will continue to live in hopes. There are new wonders every day, so who knows?
But, I do not think I foresee a time when we would only present film. My father built the theater as a place to have an intimate live theatrical experience, and it is perfect for that use.
Today, assisted by the remarkably capable and talented Lori Singleton, we are booking into next year already.
My family and I extend our dearest thanks to all who came, and warmest regards to those who found Dad a wee bit erasable at times… he had a lot on his plate.
All the best,
Lorcan Otway
General Manager
Theatre 80 Saint Marks.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

One of my favorites.

bshapiro on June 8, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I went there just a few times before it closed, and remember the first time especially: “what the hell, this is 16mm rear projection!”

medormader on March 19, 2009 at 1:11 am

was a projectionist there 1982-83. I lived a block away, on 1rst and 10th.
Shifts were long and busy from the time you got there, assembled the 3 reels into one, loaded the film, then helped at the bar between the shows. You cleaned-up the theater after the last film, when everyone was gone. You mopped the floor, picked-up the left over trash… man, it was a 12 hour shift, from 12 noon til after midnite, for $5 an hour, cash, with a little bonus sometimes, when Howard was in a good mood.
Jim was tending the bar, invariably drunk by mid-afternoon, his old blue eyes glassy and his mouth foaming at the side. The old black man’s hair was all grey. His drink was vodka. He kept it at hand and poured it in a can of coke.
When everyone was in and sitted, I’d go behind the curtain and make the ‘fire compliance law…’ annoucement; then I rushed to the projector to start the film, and go back to pull the curtain open as the credits atarted to roll… Not a bad job, if for Howard chronically suspicious and caustic nature. I saw all the old Hollywood classics there, in series.
10 years later, funny to say, I became a film composer…

Champlin on June 29, 2008 at 5:21 am

I’m looking for first hand accounts of seeing The Night Porter at this theater in connection with film history research I am engaged in. Anyone with memories of The Night Porter, however vague, please feel free to get in touch with me.

edblank on May 22, 2008 at 6:54 pm

One more memory: It was a revelation to me, in my 20s and 30s, visiting a land of Oz called Manhattan for two or three weeks per year, that you folks not only had upwards of a dozen great (if sometimes dilapidated) revival houses but that the audiences embraced old movies with such passion that they sometimes applauded opening credits. That was especially true at Theatre 80 St. Marks.
I certainly had my own favorite stars, but I was surprised that some stars were in especially great favor (Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Roz Russell – mainly in “His Girl Friday”) and even more surprised that other stars might be booed. The main one I can remember that happening to once was June Allyson. I knew that girls next door had gone out of favor, but to this day I like her a lot – a lifelong crush – and was dismayed by the reaction her name drew.
Can anyone think of other stars who received an especially strong response one way or the other? – Ed Blank

edblank on May 22, 2008 at 6:46 pm

I have innumerable happy memories of this theater. And since I first ventured down there to see a live show, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” with its original cast, I have to admit mixed feelings that it’s a legitimate theater again. It certainly never was ideal for movies.
I’d seen dozens of double bills of classics there over the years before I arrived early enough once – and with no other patrons behind me in line – to get the gentleman in the box office (presumably Howard Otway) – to explain about the peculiar rear-screen projection process.
I was introduced to countless old movies there, always in imaginatively designed double bills.
My single fondest memory: I had seen “Sudden Fear” when it was new in 1952 and about eight years later on Pittsburgh TV. Then the picture disappeared – totally – even though it was never on those lists of films that had vanished from Planet Earth for decades back then (“Porgy & Bess,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” the 1956 version of “1984,” etc.)
Anyway, I phoned either Howard Otway or his son once to ask if he could send the next schedule a few days early to me in Pittsburgh because I feared missing it in transit as I headed for NYC. Somehow the subject of “Sudden Fear” came up (I no doubt was cataloging movies aloud), and Mr. Otway said, “But we’ve got it! We’re about to play it for the first time. It’s on the next schedule.” Turned out it was to play the day before I arrived with 100-some theatergoers I was shepherding to Broadway. I could not change my arrival date. Damned if he didn’t say, “Look, the schedules don’t go to the printer for a day or two. If you promise you’ll come to `Sudden Fear,‘ I’ll postpone it a couple of days for you.” He kept his word, and I got to see it for the first time in 30-some years. Not too long later, the film became available on laser disc and then DVD, both of which I bought. But what a kick that he made so kind a gesture for an out-of-towner. – Ed Blank

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 13, 2008 at 10:37 am

For the sake of consistency, this name should be changed to The Pearl Theatre Company.

andyzee on July 23, 2007 at 4:52 pm

What I remember most about the place were the gorgeous framed black and white shots of stars like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and others. I went for a double bill of Fellini Satyricon and La Roma. It was sensory overload! Fun memory.

blackie on April 7, 2007 at 1:40 pm

I was a projectionist at Theatre 80 for about a year. It was a great experience because I saw so many films I had never seen before.

The pay was awful, and Howard could be cantankerous as some have mentioned, but the experience of putting films together while trying not to lose frames (many prints had been spliced and damaged so many times that we often had to remove a frame here and there), watching the films with subtitles in a large mirror behind the screen (rear-projection the words appeared backwards to me), all the free snacks I could eat, and listening to the audience shout and moan when a splice broke or the projector lost a loop, all of that made it well worth the crappy pay.

It was also interesting to be buzzed by Howard (we had an intercom system between the ticket booth and the projection area) and told to chase people out of the restroom who would use it to shoot up their drugs. I usually let them pack up, then politely told them they needed to go elsewhere.

Glad to see others have some fond memories of that theatre.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 26, 2006 at 2:02 am

This from the New York Times August 21, 1971.


A refurbished playhouse in the East Village is about to offer something new in vintage screen fare. Starting tomorrow, Theatre 80 St. Marks will become what may be the only showcase ever devoted entirely to movie musicals.

The opening bill …is Jerome Kern’s SUNNY (1930)… and LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING (1949)…

The 199 seat theatre, whose longest previous tenant was the show YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, will charge $2.50 admission for the double bills…

At the theatre there will be some other reminders of the past- resplendently attired ushers, a lobby decorated with movie memorabilia and free penny candy.


DavidHurlbutt on July 25, 2006 at 5:56 am

Was LADY IN THE DARK the first feature to be shown at Theater 80 St. Mark’s? If so, what was the co-feature?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 25, 2006 at 4:12 am

A June 2006 photograph I took of the Theatre 80 St. Mark’s:

AlexNYC on March 4, 2006 at 3:12 am

Here’s a nice article from 1999 about Theater 80 St. Mark’s, with photos of the theater, and several of the cement blocks.

View link

AlexNYC on March 4, 2006 at 3:06 am

Here’s a nice article from March 13,2002 from Columbia News Service regarding the imprinted square blocks that are on the sidewalk of Theater 80 St. Mark’s, and other NYC locations.

View link

It’s not Hollywood on the Hudson
By James Dean

On a late summer night in the East Village, limousines pulled up to the curb outside Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place. Photographers snapped away as stars of stage and screen, including the cast of the Ziegfeld Follies, arrived while klieg lights swept the sky.

Some of the famous guests, such as Gloria Swanson and Lillian Roth, pressed their palms or feet into square trays of wet cement, then signed their names and the date, Aug. 26, 1971.

It was hardly in the league of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where nearly 200 stars, from John Wayne to Marilyn Monroe, have made impressions in the sidewalk. But the gimmick dreamed up by Florence and Howard Otway to celebrate the conversion of their theater into a revival film house produced one of New York’s few sidewalk tributes to entertainers. And perhaps its most enduring such tribute, despite imperfect cement, intervention by the city and Broadway’s occasional plans for a “walk of fame” to rival Hollywood Boulevard’s.

“We were imitating Hollywood,” Florence Otway said. “It was a spontaneous, tongue-in-cheek, fun thing to do.” Several of the Otways' friends, including the actresses Joan Crawford, Joan Blondell, Myrna Loy, Kitty Carlisle and later the comedian Dom DeLuise, added handprints and footprints to the pavement.

Not all the stars' squares survived opening night. A porter who drank too much fell and smeared several squares before the cement had dried. In later years, Otway said, street workers damaged others.

But the biggest threat came in 1998, about five years after Howard Otway’s death, when the city Department of Transportation decided that the sidewalk impressions posed a potential hazard to pedestrians and threatened to pave over them.

“It was nonsense,” Otway said. “No one ever tripped over them.”

She said that Paramount Studios, the owner of Grauman’s along with Warner Bros., offered to pay for shipping the squares to Hollywood and for repaving her sidewalk, but that she declined. The public outcry over the city’s threats made plain how much New Yorkers loved the sidewalk signatures, and Otway eventually won a reprieve when she paid to realign them.

A few other pockets of pavement stars have cropped up over the years. In 1985, the Second Avenue Deli began a series of 30 stars honoring Yiddish theater performers. In 1999, just as Theatre 80’s plot was preserved, the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street built a sidewalk studded with stars outlined in bronze, more closely approximating Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

“It was Lortel’s last project while she was alive,” said George Forbes, vice president of finance and administration at Lortel Theatre Foundation. “She felt a need for a monument to playwrights that was lasting.”

Just over half of the Lortel’s 72 stars are filled, including the names of Eugene O'Neil, David Mamet and Wendy Wasserstein. While the stars' creation was a triumph for Lortel, who died a few months after the stars were installed, Forbes said the project was costly and difficult.

“We had to jump through a lot of hoops,” he said about getting the required permits and assuring the transportation department that the stars wouldn’t cause pedestrians to slip. A Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed that obtaining a Distincive Sidewalk Special Treatment Permit can be a “lengthy process.”

Based on Lortel’s experience, Forbes said he was not surprised that Broadway had yet to realize its own walk of stars, though several have been proposed.

“This is certainly much easier for one private landlord to do,” he said, compared with the dozens that would be involved in any Times Square project.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea until you delved into the practicalities and the cost of it,” said Richard Basini, president of the Broadway Association, which comprises 100 local businesses.

With all the pedestrian traffic around Broadway, the sidewalk is barely visible anyway, not to mention the hazards caused if poeple stopped to look down. Besides, with Times Square’s dazzling neon lights overhead, almost everybody looks up.

“It’s a dead issue now,” Basini said.

As recently as October 2000, the Marriott Marquis had plans to turn its alley linking 45th and 46th Streets into a Walk of Stars honoring New York stage actors. A large photographic mural now lines the alley, but a spokeswoman said there were no concrete plans for further development.

Many Broadway theaters are named after actors, playwrights or composers (the O'Neil, the Gershwin and the Barrymore), but only a small independent theater, the Helen Hayes, has merged its name with sidewalk symbolism. Near the curb outside the theater on 44th Street lies a small bronze plaque. Hayes' neat signature runs above the outline of two shoes that are barely the length of a hot dog.

Susan Myerberg, the theater’s general manager, said the bronze was created about 10 years ago after the original blue cement impression began collecting dirt and the occasional piece of chewing gum. Hayes, who was no longer in good health, simply sent a pair of shoes to the engraver.

“It was done as a respectful thank you to a first lady of the theater,” Myerberg said. “We felt very privileged to be associated with her. And those tiny little shoes

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 16, 2006 at 6:32 am

Never been to this theater. Is this on St. Marks near 1st Avenue? Hardbop, is the bar you refer to the St. Marks Bar on the south east corner of that intersection? This is where the Stones filmed part of their “Waiting on a Freind” video. I’ve had a few drinks in there. Usually followed by a slice at Stromboli’s pizzeria diagonally across the way. Is that place still there?

hardbop on February 16, 2006 at 5:20 am

I walked by the theatre last Tuesday night on my way to catch a flick at Two Boots. It is absolutely amazing what is happening to the East Village in terms of the gentrification. It is like the East Village has been moved to Williamsburg.

Theatre 80 is still there and it is still being used for live theatre. The seedy bar across the street is still there, though. One of the few real places left in NYC it seems.

Meanwhile, I remember Howard Otway and how cantankerous he was. I asked him once if I could make a request and he told me he didn’t take requests, but I could make a suggestion for a film to show. It was clearly a labor of love for him because shortly after he passed, the family folded the tent. I remember they were criticized because they closed in the middle of a calendar. (Remember those Theatre 80 calendars!)

The last double bill I caught there was DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and RANCHO NOTORIOUS on 7/24/94. I was also there on 7/20/94 for a Billy Wilder double-bill of SOME LIKE IT HOT & THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH.

It is hard to believe it was over a decade ago that Theatre 80 stopped showing films. It was such an institution in the 80s and 90s and I assume in the 1970s, before I moved to NYC.