Loew's State Theatre

1540 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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dave-bronx™ on December 11, 2004 at 2:04 pm

Born May 7, 1870 to immigrants from Germany and Austria, Loew’s childhood was mired in the same poverty that gripped most of the community around him in New York’s Lower East Side. His father’s income as a waiter could not adequately support the family so at the age of six years old, Marcus began working selling lemons and newspapers.

At the age of nine, he quit school and held various jobs until he opened his own company at the age of 18, buying and selling pelts. Unfortunately, Loew’s new business was destroyed in less than a year, with $1,800 left in outstanding debt. Loew paid back the debt by becoming a fur salesman, a position he later held with Herman Baehr. Under Baehr, Loew made frequent trips around the country, including several in the Midwest where he met two other furriers, Adolph Zukor and Morris Kohn. Loew and Zukor soon became lifelong friends.

In 1903, Zukor and Kohn joined forces with penny arcade operator Mitchell Mark and opened Automatic Vaudeville, a penny arcade on 14th Street in New York City near Loew and Zukor’s fur businesses. The venture was an immediate success and when Automatic Vaudeville decided to expand to other cities, Loew and his friend David Warfield purchased a single $20,000 share in the company.

Loew and Warfield sold their stake in Automatic Vaudeville in 1904 and founded the People’s Vaudeville Company. With $100,000 invested in the business, Loew opened his first arcade at 172 West 23rd Street near 8th Avenue.

Loew opened three more arcades in New York and another arcade in Cincinnati, Ohio. On a trip to visit his Cincinnati location, the Penny Hippodrome, Loew was invited to visit nearby Covington, Kentucky where he witnessed his first motion picture show in a converted arcade. Loew immediately decided to open up a similar venue on the second floor of his Penny Hippodrome and the 110-seat venue attracted 5,000 patrons in its first day alone. Following its success, Loew returned to New York and converted his arcades to nickelodeons.

In April 1907, Loew purchased a disreputable Brooklyn burlesque house, known as Watson’s Cosy Corner, and after refurbishing it, reopened it as the Royal Theatre for vaudeville and motion pictures, a combination exhibition policy that dominated the company’s venues through the 1920s. By mixing lower priced vaudeville with the growing popularity of the movies, Loew was able to attract a wider audience than either format could draw alone.

In 1910, Loew’s first newly built theater, Loew’s National in the Bronx, opened with a seating capacity of 2,397 patrons at a cost of roughly $400,000. Meanwhile his Marcus Loew Booking Agency, which booked vaudeville artists into theaters across the country, was also yielding a tremendous profit.

By the end of the decade, Loew formed a new corporation for all of his many companies, Loew’s, Inc., valued at $100 million. In 1920, 80 million patrons had visited Loew’s 150,000 seats in theaters across North America.

With the development of Paramount and First National as vertically integrated companies, Loew could see that access to product and talent was becoming more and more critical to his future success. In January 1920, Loew purchased the Metro Pictures Corporation and began his foray into the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was an early success and movies now became the primary source of amusement in his theaters, with vaudeville taking second place in importance.

By 1921, Loew’s unveiled the first of many movie palaces to be built around the country during the 1920s. Loew also ventured into radio, taking over WHN in New York, which broadcasted out of the newly opened Loew’s State building at 45th & Broadway.

As Loew continued to open more and more theaters, he quickly found himself needing more and more films to fill the screens of his theaters. In April 1924, Loew solved this last piece of the Loew’s puzzle when he created Metro-Goldwyn, a $65,000,000 merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and the Louis B. Mayer Company. The merger with Goldwyn Pictures not only brought with it the studio in Culver City, as well as the production company and its assets, but also a group of theaters including the 5,300-seat Capitol Theatre in New York City, and other theaters in the Midwest, the Rockies, and California.

At the peak of his power, just as MGM was in its formation and the Loew’s chain was expanding, Loew’s health began to fail him. In 1924, he gave up the day-to-day operations of Loew’s, Inc. to longtime general Nicholas Schenck and sought rest, primarily on his sprawling Pembroke Estate on Long Island.

On August 12, 1926, Loew was honored by the Consul General of France with France’s Legion of Honor for his contribution to film production and exhibition.

On September 5, 1927, Marcus Loew, after a long period of illness, had a heart attack and died in his Pembroke Estate. Variety wrote famously at the time, “Show business is prostrated, in sackcloth and ashes”.

Although Loew died at the age of 57, he had already been working for more than five decades and in that time had helped elevate movies from their early position as a crude form of entertainment to become both a respected art form and one of the most powerful industries in the country.

A position, thanks to 100 years in the movie business, Marcus Loew and the company he founded have helped maintain to this day.
—from the Loews website

irajoel on December 10, 2004 at 6:26 am

On Easter Sunday 1959, My uncle took me to the New Loew’s State for the opening day showing of Some Like It Hot, which as a 12 year old I loved. The theatre was beautiful, loved the display boxes, the signs, the seats etc. I had been to the state several times before the renovation (I remember Party Girl & I think Sign Of The Pagan.)But the new state was a beaut. As a teenager I also saw Ben-Hur, Mutiny On The Bounty,Hole in the Head, Career.The state was the height of late 50’s theatre design.

br91975 on October 12, 2004 at 5:20 pm

Some post-twinning exterior and interior shots of the Loew’s State can be found via the following URL: View link

RobertR on September 29, 2004 at 8:10 pm

Wednesday December 3, 1958 the State opened a show called “The Jewel Box Revue”, billed as starring the worlds greatest femme (thats the word) impersonators. It was 2 hours and used the words…..Beauty, Music, Spectacle, Laughs. On the screen (and advertised in much smaller print) was The First NY Showing of Victor Mature in “China Doll” a United Artists release.

jays on September 25, 2004 at 10:01 am

I saw the movie “Splash” the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie and there’s a scene and it’s quite brief where he and Darryl Hannah are walking through Times Sq and they pass a movie theatre now they didn’t show the marquee but they showed the entrance and ticket booth maybe a quick glimpse of the lobby, now in the movie by ticket booth stated that this was the Loew’s Astor Plaza I think it mentiond it was a twin. but this can only be the Loew’s State when the movie came out like 1984/85 that was the only Loew’s twin that I knew of in times sq. and I know that lobby even at a glimpse as this was one of my favorite Times Sq theatres. can anyone out there that saw the movie confirm this please, but I’m pretty sure that this is the Loew’s State that Hanks/Hannah are walking in front of. not the Astor Plz as featured in the movie.

VincentParisi on September 23, 2004 at 6:14 am

I have a question for William. State 1 opened with Oliver on hard ticket. In Vincent Canby’s review in the Times he notes that the screen was the same size as before it was twinned. I remember being dissappointed by the size of the screen in relation to a theater of 1,200 seats. Is this the case? Was it the same size as when the State was a single roadshow house? 48ft seems to me rather small when you think this was a 2,000 seat road show house showing movies like Ben Hur, King of Kings, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Bible.

YMike on September 23, 2004 at 5:22 am

The Colisuem orchestra was never used as a seperate theatre. They were also able to close the main entrance because the theatre had a seperate balcony entrance. I checked with some neighborhood people about that.

jays on September 22, 2004 at 9:07 pm

I forgot to mention the Kingsway and the Oceana in brooklyn that used this method also for adding auditorioms in an existing theatre building.

jays on September 22, 2004 at 9:01 pm

Your right Bill I remember those giant tassles when the curtains were closed I think they were brown. And Warren you are right about the false celings in theatres that are usually twinned or even quadded. vertically (up/down).The ceiling becomes a sort of stage for the upstairs auditoriumms, examples of which were the National, the former Orphuem, Rivoli,Strand(warner,cinerama), and the Waverly twins in Manhattan the Duffield and Commodore twins the Kenmore,Marboro,Metropolitan, Fortway, Quads and the Oriental triplex in Brooklyn the former Astoria six, the Elmwood triplex and the Plaza twin in Queens. the Colisuem former twin now Quad in upper manhattan uses the same method but the orchestra level is used for retail. This method was popular in the 70’s and 80’s giving birth to now saturated multiplexes. I wonder if the Colisuem orchestra level was ever used as a seperate auditorium before it was made retail would anyone know? .Also was the Loew’s State the first theatre in N.Y.C to make the conversion to a twin being twinned in 1968?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 22, 2004 at 12:10 pm

Maybe William would know for sure, but I remember giant tassels on the sides of the screen in the State 2 when the curtains were closed – unless I’m only imagining them. It was a long time ago. I saw “The Godfather” there in its opening week in 1972.

William on September 22, 2004 at 9:22 am

That was the color design back in 1969 when they remodeled the theatre. They might have redraped the theatre later. The State 1 had a traveler type curtain.

Mikeoaklandpark on September 22, 2004 at 8:36 am

I remember seeing a rerelease of Grease in 70mm and For Your Eyes Only in the downstairs and Enter The Dragon in the upstairs thetaer. The drapes upstairs opened up and down instead of across. I think the downstairs drapes were blue.

jays on September 22, 2004 at 7:40 am

Wow! facinating description William. I didn’t Know the upstairs theatre screen and auditorium was larger than the downstairs. I only saw like three films there and that was in the last weeks I thought the downstairs auditorium was draped in sky blue curtains maybe the changed it to that prior to closing where did you get your info it’s facinating thanks william.

William on September 20, 2004 at 5:04 pm

When the Loew’s State was twinned designer Ben Mayer featured two different designs to the twins. A Modern Regency for State 1 and the Highly Theatrical character of yesterday’s theatre in State 2.
The twin uses restrained forms and colors to create a new and modern look in State 1 and flamboyant color schemes to create the “yesterday’s theatre” decor in State 2. The decor for State 1 incorporates modern material, vinyls and vertical wood accents.
State 2, which is on the upper floor and reached by a high speed escalator, features a “Capitol Corner” a small area of the lobby devoted to nostalgia. Mementos from the old Capitol Theatre include
an ancient Carrara marble Roman well head, a French rock crystal chandelier, a bronze railing, a grandfather’s clock. State 2 occupies what once was the balcony of the original Loew’s State.
To visually connect the two lobbies, Muralist Patrick Casey painted 10 huge oval portraits of famous film stars, most of whom appeared at one time or another at Loew’s State. The paintings were in sepia monotones. The screen in State 1 was 20 feet high by 48 feet wide. In State 2 it is 22 feet high by 50 feet wide.
State 1’s seats were in an orange fabric, State 2’s seats were in a purple fabric. The pushback seats were by Griggs. In the State 1 a giant traveler curtain extends from floor to the ceiling. The curtain is striped and carries the orange, pumkin and gold from the wall decorations. State 2 has a giant Austrian curtain made of gold diamondette a metallic drapery fabric. The curtains were by I. Weiss and Sons. Projection equipment in State 1 were Norelco AA-II 70/35mm projectors and in State 2 Century JJ 70/35mm projectors.
The seating capacity after the twinning was State 1 (1,172 patrons) and State 2 (1,214 patrons)

naaaatt on September 17, 2004 at 8:33 pm

Did you know that the Loews State theater was in a building owned by Loews, and that the building was occupied by the president of Loews (at my time Nick Schenk) and at that time owners of MGM? The publicity office was on the second floor and Mr. Schenk, CC Moskowitz etc. were on the 7th floor. The Penthouse had a private screening room and a large resturant complete with 3 chefs, where visiting stars got to dine with the pres. And in 1949 I deposited Mr. Schenks weekly checks $7,000. from Loews and $7,000. for MGM. Although most people think that all movie making decisions were made in Hollywood I can tell you that the telegraph lines were allways busy and that NY made many of the decisions, and there was allways conflict between Mr.Mayer and Mr. S.

RobertR on September 14, 2004 at 8:33 pm

If I am remembering correctly, when they twinned the state cinema 1 was all of the area below the balcony. Cinema 2 was the whole balcony with the screen in the original place. I remember the upstairs theatre was still a true movie palace. I am not proud to admit it but saw “Friday The 13th #-D” there in addition to many first rate films.

theatrefan on August 13, 2004 at 4:46 pm

Yes the Alpine is a Loews Cineplex theatre, albeit with that upside down Cineplex Odeon logo on the Marquee, didn’t any one notice when that sign was installed it was wrong! I miss the old sunburst style Loew’s marquee the Alpine originally had, I wonder if its underneath the new one?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 13, 2004 at 3:58 pm

And the Alpine, which I’ve been to many times, is the only one still flying the Loew’s banner.

theatrefan on August 13, 2004 at 2:00 pm

I guess, the State, Orpheum & 72nd St. are just replacements in name only for the former Loew’s theatres that used to occupy the same site.

bruceanthony on August 13, 2004 at 1:12 pm

Warren the M-G-M Book states the following from 1959:
MGM-Loew’s,last of the holdouts against the government’s anti-trust action finally divided itself in March into two unconnected companies:Loew’s Theatres and Metro-Goldywn-Mayer.Six months later the latter announced its profit,$7,698,951,the highest since 1951’s total for the old company.I know Loew’s-MGM was the last major studio to comply with the consent decree due to the complicated relationship of Loew’s-MGM.brucec

theatrefan on August 13, 2004 at 12:20 pm

Of those 51 theatres in the Metro NY area, I wonder how many are still around today operating as motion picture theaters? I’m sure quite a few have been demolished, converted to retail or, are being used as houses of worship.

BoxOfficeBill on July 23, 2004 at 3:34 pm

During the ‘40s and ‘50s a family friend worked in the Loews’ business office above the lobby, and she provided us with passes for everything at the State and the Capitol as well as for all the MGM debuts on B’way. She was a very prim, church-going spinster lady, and she voiced a particular antipathy for the fleshy vulgarity of Marilyn Monroe. When “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” played at the Roxy, she proudly declared, “I’m glad I don’t work there!” and “I’m glad the State is showing a decent Jimmy Stewart picture [Thunder Bay] instead.” Barely two years later, the State played “Seven Year Itch,” with its famous billboard of MM in her wind-blown skirt covering the building’s tall façade. Our friend’s office window was just below the panties. She peremptorily took off for a three-week vacation during the film’s run.

VincentParisi on July 22, 2004 at 11:13 am

The very last hard ticket film as far as I know was Little Dorrit(I don’t remember the year) at the 57th St playhouse
The reserved seat box office windows at the State 1 and 2 and the Criterion remained closed from their last reserved seat films in ‘70 and '72 respectively until they were torn down . The reserved seat box office for the Rivoli was often used as the main box office after La Mancha closed there. You would see behind the ticket seller all the small cubby holes that used to hold advance tickets.
So Paint Your Wagon Was already gone by early February of '70. Only 3 months! Probably the last reserved seat movie I liked(though I didn’t see it until it played the Warner in '78.)

SethLewis on July 22, 2004 at 10:32 am

Young Winston and Godspell played at the UA Columbia as Advanced Ticket exclusives…The Great Gatsby was reserved seat at the Paramount daydating with Loews State, Tower East and possibly the Murray Hill

Ron3853 on July 22, 2004 at 10:29 am

I believe that the very last film to be shown in a roadshow “Reserved Seat” manner was “Last Tango in Paris” beginning in April 1973.