Henry Miller's Theatre

124 W. 43rd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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BoxOfficeBill on September 22, 2005 at 5:19 am

Here’s a program from “La dolce vita” at the Henry Miller’s Theatre in Spring, 1961:

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The film began a reserved-seats two-a-day run at this theater (noticeably spelled “Theatre”) on 19 April, 1961, and remained until Roger Vadim’s modernized “Les liaisons dangereuses” with Gérard Philipe and Jeanne Moreau (and soundtrack by Thelonius Monk and Art Blakey) displaced it with a similar roadshow policy on 18 December, 1961.

For “La dolce vita,” I sat in the cheap seats in the second balcony and could barely see the short, elongated TotalScope screen, much less read the subtitles. I kept waiting for an emotional experience of the kind that had thrilled me in “La strada” and “Nights of Cabiria,” but it didn’t happen this time. Over three hours later, I left the theater (er, “theatre”) with a horrible stiff neck.

Harold Warshavsky
Harold Warshavsky on September 19, 2005 at 2:09 pm

After the roadshow of La Dolce Vita, I believe Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Roger Vadim played this house as well; I believe it was 2 performances a day but I’m not sure if seats were reserved or it was reserved performances.

RobertR on August 21, 2005 at 12:04 pm

6 months into the roadshow of “La Dolce Vita” they were using this ad
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veyoung52 on August 18, 2005 at 5:14 am

“La Dolce Vita” also roadshowed – fairly successfully – at the Philly Boyd between Cinerama engagements.

Ian on August 18, 2005 at 4:56 am

I cannot now remember where but I am sure I read that the new Henry Millars will be a exact replica of the old, but with more extensive foyer space and facilities.

Generally when a theatre is “dismantled” prior to “re-erectition” (as in the Apollo/Lyric which became the Ford/Hilton) this involves hacking out bits of the plasterwork so that mouldings can be taken for the new theatre rather than piecing together the old plaster.

This can, execpt to devout historians, result in a better theatre as technological advances since the orginal design can be seemlessly incorporated into the new.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 18, 2005 at 12:18 am

To my knowledge, that was the only roadshow for La Dolce Vita anywhere. Although I am not sure about the west coast. It did, however, play major theatres in many cities, theatres that rarely showed subtitled foreign films.

RobertR on August 17, 2005 at 3:23 pm

The first ad for “La Dolce Vita” look at this one page there are ads for 5 roadshows on Broadway.
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Benjamin on August 2, 2005 at 7:36 am

I didn’t see BobT’s post while I was working on mine, and he makes an interesting point. Perhaps the LPC didn’t perserve the interior because it had already been heavily altered?

While, technically speaking, this might have been a legitimate reason for not landmarking the interior and allowing the construction of a replacement theater instead, I wonder if restoring the Henry Miller’s original interior would really have been all that difficult?

My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that the Durst Organization wanted the auditorium torn down because it was easier for them to contruct their large (almost block-sized) project on a blank slate, and then later tuck in a new theater behind the old preserved facade. (In other words, it was easier for them to build from scratch than to build around. But, again, this is only a guess.)

Benjamin on August 2, 2005 at 7:05 am

In my previous post, “throughout” should have been “thought out”:

For instance both discos had special effects that were stored in the fly space above the stage / dance floor and would descend on occasion to amuse the customers, but it seemed to me that Studio 54’s were more successfully thought out.

Benjamin on August 2, 2005 at 6:59 am

I have somewhat mixed — but mostly negative — feelings about the half-hearted preservation of the Henry Miller.

On the one hand, I think it’s important to be flexible and not overdo preservation — otherwise you’re going to have a stagnating city that is frozen in time. But on the other hand, I think a healthy city also needs to preserve its landmarks — landmarks are important too — and if you’re going to preserve landmarks in the first place, landmarking should be done right. And in this case, I’m not sure that anemic “facadism” (just saving the facade) was the correct approach.

I saw a play in this theater in 1968, and I remember thinking that for some reason (although I can’t remember the details) it was an especially nice Broadway theater. I think it struck me at the time, if I recall correctly, as an unusually comfortable, clean, neat and gracious little theater.

The over-riding impression I had, in my memories at least, is that it was handsome in a somewhat sparse and clean-cut way and, perhaps, a little more spacious and commodious than usual? My seat was in the second balcony and, if I recall correctly, the public spaces for balcony patrons included a modest, but pleasant, little lounge area with a skylight. I believe I felt I was stepping back in time, and not just because the decor was from a different era but because the theater itself seemed to reflect the best of a different era.

(But then again, the play I saw there [on “twofers] was an "arty” play about Queen Victoria, “Portrait of a Queen,” and the second balcony was pretty empty — so maybe this made the theater seem more spacious and comfortable than it would have seemed otherwise. On the other hand, an empty theater can also be seen as shabby, decrepit, desolate and gloomy — and that was not the case with the Henry Miller.)

So I’m saddened that the interior wasn’t also preserved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and I wonder if people may have been a little too quick to bend the rules or to be accommodating and flexible — perhaps negating the benefit of having a landmarks law in the first place?

P.S. — A friend of mine got invitations through his job to both Xenon (the Henry Miller transformed into a discotheque) and Studio 54 (the Gallo Opera House transformed into a discotheque) and took me along.

It seemed to me that as a “place,” Xenon was a very poor imitation of Studio 54. For instance both discos had special effects that were stored in the fly space above the stage / dance floor and would descend on occasion to amuse the customers, but it seemed to me that Studio 54’s were more successfully throughout. At Studio 54 they had some kind of witty cartoon-like cutouts that would descend into view, but stay suspended above the dancers. While at Xenon they had some big objects about the size of refrigerators or standup punching bags(?) (don’t remember what they were really supposed to be) that would descend all the way down to the stage instead. But this set-up was so potentially dangerous that they had to have attendants clearing the area and guiding them down — making the special effect seem more laborious than lighthearted and fun.

P.P.S. — Didn’t the Henry Miller become another disco / nightclub, “Shout,” in the mid- or late- 1980s?

BobT on August 2, 2005 at 5:56 am

Was there anything left to actualy restore NativeForestHiller? I saw “Urinetown” there and the place was a disater. It was a perfect setting for the show and “Cabaret” as well but by this time is was nothing more than a big black box. I think the so called $2 million restoration to become Xenon was just pulling everything out.

NativeForestHiller on August 1, 2005 at 8:06 pm

Bless the Landmarks Preservation Commission for prohibiting that naughty wrecking ball from demolishing the facade of the glorious Henry Miller’s Theater. Restoration of the Georgian facade is a great idea, but what good is a facade without its core…the Georgian-styled interior??? Passed by the former theater tonight, & what a heart-breaking sight!!!!! The interior of the theater could have been restored too, don’t you think?? Erasing years of Broadway history, & erecting a modern theater in a 1917 exterior is a case for the Guinness Book of World Records for shameful developers. Rebuilding the interior from scratch is a waste of time, effort, & disrespectful to its history. Anyone feel the same?

moviesmovies on July 18, 2005 at 6:01 am

Visited as ‘The Park-Miller and don’t recall the movie titles.
Again later as 'Xenon’ providing a very entertaining time as a ‘disco’.

RobertR on June 10, 2005 at 5:17 pm

This theatre did huge grosses in the early days of gay porn. Looking back now on those ads from the late 60’s into the 70’s they seem like Hollywood releases. I guess the film makers may have been trying to have those not in the know not be offended while still appealing to the target audience.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 27, 2004 at 11:45 pm

It’s strange to see one single wall standing on a big vacant lot. Check it out while you can!

bruceanthony on December 22, 2004 at 9:12 pm

Saw a photo in the New York Times showing the facade with the rest of theatre demolished. A new modern 1000 seat theatre will be built along side the new Bank of America building.brucec

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 26, 2004 at 1:27 pm

The theatre screened movies even before 1969 as stated in the description. In April, 1961 Federico Fellini’s then-sensational LA DOLCE VITA began its New York run at this theatre.

VincentParisi on January 26, 2004 at 10:36 am

What are you talking about paulb? “Bad Santa” would have been a perfect Christmas film for Radio City Music Hall 40 or even 50 years ago.

PAULB on January 25, 2004 at 2:07 am

Imagine having a building where the word URINETOWN is scribbled in piddle across the front. It is like in ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE when we get to see the world gone wrong. Like listening to Britney rap. Or seeing the Hilton sisters run amok while schools struggle to teach qualities. The world HAS gone to hell in a shopping trolley, and ridiculous and astonishing derailments are the norm. There is a great joke in the Simpsons: a man wakes after being in a coma for 30 years. He asks what happened to Sonny and Cher, the doctor says:“well, Cher won an Oscar and Sonny became a politician” The man prefers a re-lapse. Life now is like that, isn’t it. Did YOU pay $80 to see a play called URINETOWN? or $10 for KILL BILL or even 8 MILE? We are all now in the wrong reels of ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE aren’t we. URINETOWN? Yeesh!

edward on October 29, 2003 at 7:25 pm

Photo of Henry Miller theatre:
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