Loew's Victoria Theatre

233 West 125th Street,
New York, NY 10027

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 2, 2005 at 6:34 am

This photo from the Depression era (1938) reportedly shows a homeless person lodging in a side exit of Loew’s Victoria, but it looks more to me like someone who had passed out drunk. I suppose that he could have been both:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/lovic.jpg

RobertR
RobertR on November 1, 2005 at 1:40 am

This theatre was last known as Movie Center 5 so that should at least be the alternate name.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on October 31, 2005 at 10:08 pm

lostmemory: – could it be that in 1917 theatres were not specifically designated as motion picture theatres? It probably had a working stage and presented vaudville as well as movies. Modern NYC C of O’s indicate motion picture theatre when there is no stage, fly-loft, scenery, an abundance of draperies and high-voltage stage lighting boards, or performers using candles or cigarettes. The combination of those elements in the past have been the source of many disasterous theatre fires that resulted in large losses of life. A C of O for a motion picture theatre requires less in the way of fire supression equipment and slightly less restrictive regulation by the FDNY.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 29, 2005 at 10:52 am

There is another glaring error in the introduction. This was known from the start as Loew’s Victoria. It was never called Loew’s 125th Street.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 28, 2005 at 7:14 am

The introduction has some incorrect information. Loew’s Victoria first opened on the night of October 1, 1917, with stage luminary Elsie Ferguson’s debut film, Artcraft’s “Barbary Sheep,” and eight acts of vaudeville. Miss Ferguson, comedian Fatty Arbuckle, and composer Irving Berlin were among many celebrities attending as guests of Marcus Loew. The movie was second-run, having previously been shown at the Rialto Theatre in Times Square.

Ammaat
Ammaat on October 25, 2005 at 5:38 am

The theaters did not do well because the former owners and those who leased it did not conduct business intelligently. They were more for profit and let the theatre go, so the state got a hold of it and here we are.

Warren, thank u for that piece of info, I have been looking for that for a while now. Can u elaborate on where u got it?

Also, it is rumored that the theater is to be sold to the Apollo Group for development. They will destroy the theater and cut it up. Harlem needs this theater to be Landmarked and restored. Please log on the www.haarlemvictoria.com and sign the petition and write to the representives and HCDC. We can’t let them get away with this.

RobertR
RobertR on October 18, 2005 at 5:00 am

Those were pretty good size auditoriums as a five-plex. Anyone know why it did not do well? It closed quite a while before the Magic Johnson opened up.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 18, 2005 at 4:52 am

In April, 1940, “Buck Benny Rides Again” had its world premiere at Loew’s Victoria, one night prior to the film’s opening engagement at the Times Square Paramount. Jack Benny and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, two of the film’s stars, headed a contingent of celebrities that traveled to Harlem’s 125th Street Station via a charted train from Grand Central Terminal. “Rochester” wore an all-white cowboy outfit and rode horseback in a parade to the theatre.

GeorgeStrum
GeorgeStrum on September 23, 2005 at 2:34 am

An article about Vicotria 5 was featured in this day’s, 9/23/05, Daily News.Plans are being considered to convert the theatre into some combination of hotel or condos with a cultural component. The Victoria was built by the Loews theatre chain as a classical beauty, with a domed ceiling, large murals and a deep balcony. Silent screen star Elsie Ferguson was the guest of honor on opening night in 1917. Irving Berlin and Fatty Arbuckle were also there that night.

BobT
BobT on July 31, 2005 at 1:37 pm

Thanks KenRoe. It was suprising it was shot here. The theatre definitely fit in and looked like it would be in India. The gold, the carpets and huge carved doors. Kudos to the location scout. Gonna check out the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre posts.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 31, 2005 at 12:17 pm

BobT;
The location work done for “The Guru” (2002) UK/France/USA was filmed inside the Thomas Lamb designed Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, Manhattan.

Exterior shots and some scenes in the earlier part of the movie were filmed on location outside and around the RKO Keith’s Richmond Hill, Queens. The marquee was renovated on this theatre by the film production company.

Both theatres are listed on Cinema Treasures.

I love this movie, it’s fun and light hearted and it’s got great shots of the theatres too!

BobT
BobT on July 31, 2005 at 11:55 am

Does anyone know if this is the theatre used in the movie “The Guru”?In the film Jim Mistry and Heather Graham do a fanatasy paraody of Bollywood films to a song from “Grease” and it takes place in a huge gilded theatre. On the commentary tract Mistry says the theatre is in Harlem but doesn’t name it nor do the closing credits. It’s a huge place with a grand staircase.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 31, 2005 at 10:49 am

Here’s a May, 1948 image of the exterior. On the front of the marquee, the bottom line reads: MODERN COOLING SYSTEM NOW BEING INSTALLED. I wonder if the theatre had any air conditioning before this?:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/130-3069_IMG.jpg

RobertR
RobertR on July 8, 2005 at 2:26 pm

This was still Loew’s Victoria when “Williard” opened
View link

ASTANKH
ASTANKH on April 22, 2005 at 5:57 am

THANK YOU M_ACEVEDO & CHRISTABEL GOUGH for the information

Club Isis/ Haarlem Victoria

Christabel
Christabel on April 21, 2005 at 2:01 pm

An illustrated article about the history of the Victoria with comments by Michael Henry Adams is on line at www.villageviews.org Christabel Gough

MarcoAcevedo
MarcoAcevedo on March 29, 2005 at 2:53 pm

See Stanley Crouch’s column of March 27 in the NY Daily News regarding a proposed interactive Jazz Museum bidding for the use of the Victoria (against several hotel chains…. who, I’m guessing, would be much less likely to preserve the existing strucure in any meaningful way…)

View link

ASTANKH
ASTANKH on February 19, 2005 at 10:11 am

The Haarlem Victoria Restoration Group, Kingsdale LLC was founded by Ethel Bates. Our mission is to get NYC Land Mark Preservation Comm. to designate Loew’s Victoria aka Loew’s 125th Street as a historical land mark. We need your letters of support. Send your letters to
Haarlem Victoria Restoration Group
P. O. Box 462
New York, NY 10027
or contact us by phone: 212-749-7299 or our website
www.haarlemvictoria.com

Movieplace
Movieplace on February 2, 2005 at 8:04 am

I have spoken to the people at council member Bill Perkins office. The councilman is very supportive of historical preservation. He had a piece about landmark preservation in his latest newsletter which I coincidently received yesterday.
I asked the people at Mr. Perkins office if there was anything I could do, being a local business owner (Broadway & 105th street anyway), a member of Cinema Treasures.org, the THSOA as well as being the biggest Thomas W. Lamb fan (I took great umbrage when Jim Rankin refered to “the staid designs of Thomas Lamb”). The woman I spoke to was very receptive. We both agreed that Harlem has lost too many of it’s theatres and New York City has lost too much of Thomas Lamb’s work.
Maybe something can come of Mr. Perkins involvement.
Ms.Pogrebin is a customer of mine and our daughters are friends. She might be a help to this cause as well.

Ammaat
Ammaat on February 2, 2005 at 5:19 am

I pass by this theatre practically everyday and it looks like a porno spot. This article indicated that the seven proposers only want to preserve the facade. The theatre is not only the facade, craftsmanship of this kind should be preserved. In their own (ESDC)correspondence they indicate that it is eligible for landmark status (nylovesbiz.com), but no one is pushing for it. Developers tend to stay away from landmark buildings thus you have D. Phillpotts saying that preservation is all fine and good but money is the bottom line. For who? I don’t see any community involvement or consideration for the neighborhood and the structure that they want to place on top does not blend in with the facade or the neighborhood. There is no respect for the History in Harlem only lip service. The community needs to speak out against these proposals and demand landmark status as there a few in Harlem.

chconnol
chconnol on February 1, 2005 at 6:04 am

From today’s (February 1, 2005) New York Times:

February 1, 2005
Groups Vie to Reimagine Historic Theater in Harlem
By ROBIN POGREBIN

For years, the Loew’s Victoria Theater, a once-elegant vaudeville house and movie palace, has languished on West 125th Street in Harlem.

Just a few doors down from its famous neighbor the Apollo Theater, the Victoria went from being celebrated as one of the city’s largest and most beautiful theaters to failing as a five-screen multiplex that opened in 1987 and closed just two years later. Since then, the theater’s Ionic columns and terra-cotta rosettes have decayed and the stage has remained bare, except for occasional small theatrical productions or church services. The marquee recently advertised a lingerie sale across the street.

Now, seven teams of developers, hoteliers and cultural organizations are competing to reimagine the site as a major new entertainment-hotel-residential complex. New York State, which owns the property, is interviewing the applicants and expects to make a decision in March.

The Empire State Development Corporation, which is evaluating the proposals with the Harlem Community Development Corporation, its subsidiary, declined to identify the applicants or describe their proposals.

But documents obtained by The New York Times show that the state has narrowed the field to seven groups. Under terms set by the state, each team has enlisted an arts organization as part of its proposal, like the Bottom Line, the jazz club that recently closed in Greenwich Village; or the Jazz Museum in Harlem, which has yet to find a home. The development teams include hoteliers like Starwood and Ian Schrager; architects like Fox & Fowle, Davis Brody Bond and Lee Harris Pomeroy; and developers like Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisers, which together built the Time Warner Center.

“This is a great opportunity for Harlem and more specifically for 125th Street as it inches toward becoming an even grander destination,” said Derek Q. Johnson, chairman of Integrated Holdings, which has partnered with Related.

But development projects involving historic buildings are often magnets for controversy, and the Victoria is no exception. While the theater has been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not a designated landmark – and the state is not requiring that the neo-Classical theater, with its ornate moldings and ceilings, be preserved.

“That is effectively a smack in the face to the community,” said City Councilman Bill Perkins, who represents parts of Harlem. “There is going to be a little bit of a fight on this, I can guarantee you.”

“That’s a historic theater, and we’d like to see proposals recognize that,” he continued. “The preservation issue is compatible with the development issue.”

At a meeting on Friday of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, the issue of preservation was addressed. While all of the proposals would involve retaining the facade, only two specify restoring some interior features. Michael Henry Adams, the Harlem historian and author of “Harlem: Lost and Found” (Monacelli Press, 2002), said he found this troubling. “Whatever happens, I would like it to incorporate the beautiful interiors of this historic Harlem theater,” he said.

In particular, Mr. Adams cited the elliptical anteroom on the second floor, the bas-relief decoration on the theater’s saucer dome ceiling, the long mirrored lobby and the theater’s gilded bronze and crystal chandeliers.

The 2,394-seat Victoria was designed in 1917 by Thomas W. Lamb, who built dozens of Loew’s theaters around the world and several Broadway houses. “It should not be allowed to be destroyed,” Mr. Adams said. “Were it restored, it would be one of the most distinguished theaters in New York.”

Over the last few years, Harlem has seen an explosion of commercial development, from a new Marriott Hotel to Harlem U.S.A., a retail center, both on 125th Street. Developers say there is still a demand for more hotel rooms as well for apartments to accommodate professionals. But some people who live and work in Harlem are concerned that the influx in large-scale development will compromise the neighborhood’s character and displace longtime residents.

Mr. Perkins argues that the Victoria development project – indeed, the overall influx of commercial building in Harlem – should not be mistaken for a larger revival. “These days, ‘renaissance’ is defined by real estate,” he said. “It’s not a term to describe an intellectual, cultural, educational rebirth.”

“What these people want us to do is be grateful that deals are being made,” he said. “The easy way out is to tear something down and put something up.”

Tensions are also brewing between the two agencies responsible for choosing a development plan for the site. Keith L. T. Wright, chairman of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, said his organization had been excluded from decision-making by the Empire State Development Corporation. “There has been no consultation whatsoever,” said Mr. Wright, also a state assemblyman whose district includes Harlem. “It’s plantationism at its best.”

“This is the last big development piece on 125th Street,” he said. “I just want to make sure some of my community groups are taken care of. They want a piece of the action.”

But Deborah Wetzel, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, said that the Harlem Community Development Corporation had been fully consulted. “We’ve been working very closely with them,” she said. “We’re assisting them every step of the way; they sit in on every meeting and their board has final approval.” The Harlem Urban Development Corporation, a precursor of the community development corporation, acquired the Apollo and the Victoria in the mid-1980’s to save them from conversion to nontheater use.

Two of the proposals feature the Jazz Museum, which was founded four years ago to present exhibitions and further jazz education.

The proposal submitted by the RD Management Corporation, a real estate investment and development company, calls the Jazz Museum “the jewel in the crown” of its $116 million multi-use development. The proposal plans to retain the theater’s façade with a new marquee and overall design by Fox & Fowle Architects.

Taking a page from the new Jazz at Lincoln Center building at Columbus Circle, which – in addition to its main stage – includes a jazz club and a theater with a glass wall overlooking Central Park South, the proposal calls for a “jazz cafe” on the second floor for small ensembles. A bandstand would be framed by a large window on the 125th Street side of the building.

Now that Jazz at Lincoln Center is open in the Time Warner Center, the proposal says, momentum has been created for a Harlem-based jazz institution “whose aesthetic will be informed by the sensibilities of the uptown community.”

RD Management’s submission also includes a 150-room hotel that would house a gallery for African-American art and a Harlem-themed restaurant. “For example,” the proposal says, “the menu might offer a Zora Neale Hurston salad, a Romare Bearden pasta, a Miles Davis omelette and a Denzel burger.”

The Jazz Museum would also be the cultural centerpiece of a $123 million proposal by Integrated Holdings and Related for a 150-room boutique hotel – with Inter-Continental as a possible operator – and 90 residential condominium units.

Apollo Real Estate Advisers, along with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has proposed a $103 million W Hotel with 156 rooms, 58 residential condominiums and 4,000 square feet of office space for the Apollo Theater Foundation. The Apollo Theater space would include rehearsal and education areas, a black box theater and an Apollo cafe. The architect on the project is Davis Brody Bond.

A proposal by the Victoria Tower Development suggests a $150 million B. B. King Entertainment Center with a jazz dinner club; an art gallery run by the Studio Museum in Harlem; and a five-star, 304-room hotel. The other groups in the running are Full Spectrum, which has proposed a $111 million complex including 78 luxury condominiums and two clubs – Victoria Small’s Paradise and 930 Blues Cafe with programming that reflects black and Latino culture.

Thor Equities, which specializes in urban real estate projects, proposes a $70 million complex, including boutiques like Armani Exchange, Club Monaco and Kay Jewelers; a revived Bottom Line club, possibly with a recording studio; and a 238-room hotel.

Danforth Development Partners proposes creating a $113 million new Savoy Ballroom with banquet space for 300 people, a 90-room hotel designed by Mr. Schrager and two new theaters for Harlem-based performing arts companies like Classical Theater of Harlem, Bill T. Jones Dance Group and the Harlem School of the Arts.

At the meeting on Friday, it was clear that several Harlem Community Development Corporation board members were worried that a treasured neighborhood landmark would be erased. One board member asked, “Can this theater be demolished?”

Diane P. Phillpotts, president of the corporation, replied that substantial changes to the building would require consultation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

“I understand the importance of preservation,” she said. “We also have to balance that against the economic development potential of the property.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 15, 2004 at 6:54 am

A news brief in The New York Times of 11/14/04 (page 38) said that the theatre’s current owner, the Harlem Community Development Corporation, and its parent organization, the Empire State Development Corporation, are seeking ideas for the future of the property: “They invited developers to submit proposals that could involve preserving, incorporating or demolishing the theater. The deadline for submissions is December 13.”

futurebird
futurebird on July 25, 2004 at 4:51 pm

I just did a painting of this building. I’d love to do a painting of the inside… how do I get in?

(you can see the art here: View link )

ejarchitecture
ejarchitecture on May 26, 2004 at 9:32 am

Has there been any mention of historic preservation, or is the Harlem CDC not interested?