5th Avenue Cinema

66 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10011

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BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on September 16, 2004 at 11:39 am

Erwin— I visited the New School for a conference about twelve years ago and I believe I saw the mural there then (even though I didn’t recall its setting in the original theater). Among films I remember seeing there in the mid-late-‘50s was Ingmar Bergman’s “Magician.”

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on September 16, 2004 at 11:29 am

The mural that was created by Al Hirschfeld (not Abe, as mentioned above in error) for the 5th Avenue Cinema was done in 1954 and was called “The History of Hollywood”. Evidently, the old 5th Avenue Playhouse must have undergone a massive renovation around that time. As I recall, when I attended the revival series in the mid 50’s, the theater appeared to be new and modern.

Does anyone know if the mural has survived the theater being taken over by the New School for Social Research?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 6, 2004 at 8:21 pm

This sorely missed little cinema was programming art and specialty fare even in the 1920s, showing films like Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse,” “Madre” (“Cenere”) with Eleonora Duse, “The Legend of Gosta Berling” with Greta Garbo. Between 1958 and 1960 they premiered the three films of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, “Pather Panchali,” “Aparajito,” and “The World of Apu.” For some reason I particularly remember seeing Adolfas Mekas' zany “Hallelujah the Hills” here in 1963 and a revival of Herbert J. Biberman’s “Salt of the Earth” another time. I’d love to have complete list of everything that played here. The Fifth Avenue Playhouse/Cinema belongs in the pantheon of art houses. The only negative I can recall is that the sight-lines were not always the best because of minimal raking in the auditorum and a lower-than-optimal ceiling.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on June 6, 2004 at 5:22 pm

I recall this little gem of a theater from the mid 50’s, which was located on Fifth Avenue at 12th Street. At the time they ran two series of revivals of early talkies under the umbrella title of “OK For Sound”. It was there as a teenager that I was introduced to “Freaks”, “Imitation of Life” (1934), “The Lottery Bride” (an early Jeanette MacDonald vehicle, “The Great Gabbo”, “Seven Sinners"
and numerous other gems from that early era.
The most striking feature of the theater was a small cafe setting in the lobby with a b/w wall size mural in the background done by the late Abe Hirschfeld. It depicted charactertures of numerous Hollywood celebrities sitting at tables in an outdoor cafe. As I recall Chaplin was in the center holding a red rose, which was three dimensional and the only touch of color. Does anyone know if this mural still exists in the present space where the Fifth Avenue Cinema once existed?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 15, 2004 at 12:52 pm

The 273-seat theatre was located at 66 Fifth Avenue and originally known as the Fifth Avenue Playhouse. The change to “Cinema” was probably in the 1950s, when that became an “in” word.