RKO 23rd Street Theatre

265 Eighth Avenue,
New York, NY 10011

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Showing 51 - 62 of 62 comments

42ndStreetMemories on July 9, 2005 at 2:50 am

What was the source for the bottom image. I’d like to see more shots of this great theater. Jerry K

BoxOfficeBill on July 8, 2005 at 8:55 am

Great photo, Warren— your post of 14 March ‘04 explains the modernization.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 8, 2005 at 8:49 am

Here are two views of the modern theatre that RKO built in the interior of the old Grand Opera House:

42ndStreetMemories on April 11, 2005 at 4:59 pm

Here you go, Gerald:

Court Jester & Rainmaker (Coliseum)….Paramount

A Place in the Sun & St Louis Blues (Alhambra)

Night Passage & Son of Ali Baba (Yonkers) U-I

All About Eve & 13th Letter (White Plains) Fox

Kings Go Forth & Horse Soldiers (Madison) UA?

Monkey Business & White Witch Doctor (Strand) Fox

Don’t Go Near the Water & The Badlanders (Chester) MGM

And on and on it goes. Interesting mix. As I said, those were the days. Jerry

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 11, 2005 at 4:16 pm

Both those films were distributed by United Artists. What were some of the films for the other 26 theatres? Were they all UA features? Might this have been a UA strategy to give a pile of their films some exposure for one day? Interesting.

42ndStreetMemories on April 11, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Looking at an interesting ad from 1959. All of the RKO theaters would book a different double feature for ONE DAY ONLY. Amazing. The ad reads :


My theater, the RKO 23rd St had PORK CHOP HILL & Brigitte Bardot in LA PARISIENNE. Now that’s programming.

Imagine the time & expense to pull this off at 27 theaters for 1 day. Those were the days!

Benjamin on December 16, 2004 at 4:59 pm

In the late 1950s, I used to walk by this theater when I was visiting a relative who lived in the neighborhood. As far as I know I never went inside this theater, but as a kid I found the outside of this theater really fascinating — and “funny” — because it had two entrances, each of which looked like it could have been a “main” entrance. For that reason, I kind of wished that I would be taken to see a movie in it, just to see what the inside of this “funny” theater looked like.

P.S. — I believe there was a supermarket or foodstore across the street (the south side of 23rd St.?) that that had what I’ll call a “sky railway” for deliveries. It was similar to those roller bearing “chutes” that you still see today — where the boxes are rolled into the basement of a store from a truck parked on the street — but these “chutes” were hung from the ceiling I think. It reminded me of something I had seen in, I believe, a Betty Boop cartoon, and as a kid I wanted to ride in this grocery store “roller coaster.”

Wonder if anyone more familiar with the neighborhood than I remembers this store?

If this store with the “roller coaster” delivery system was indeed across the street from the double-entrance movie theater, this was some delightfully bizarre part of town!

PaulLD1 on October 8, 2004 at 8:08 am

There is a picture on page 80 of the book “Lost New York”, of the Grand Opera House, what I affectionately call “The Painted Lady”. This is because the beautiful white marble building with her statues depicting acting and music (later removed by RKO) and relief portraits of Shakespear and Beethoven is flanked by a radio shop, a trouser shop, and a jeweler, while the theatre herself sports a garish art deco marquee. One can see workmen removing the corner sign, with PHOTOPLAYS clearly visible, but what obviuosly used to say VAUDEVILLE boarded up. The double-feature on the marquee offers patrons the brim and dregs of Hollywood studios: Top billed is the
MGM Robert Young starer “Married Before Breakfast”. At the bottom,
one time MGM star Conrad Nagel, now quitely soldiering on in “Bank
Alarm”, made for the newly-formed Grand National Pictures, an
ultimately short-lived “B”-studio with one of the sadddest histories
for just such a studio. During my many trips to Midnight Records, a
nearby record store, I often made pilgrimages to the site of the old
theatre. The bowling alley across the street was still there up to
the 1980’s, but the Ligget’s drug store had given way to a
Lamston’s, which would soon give way to Woolworth’s, which itself
would give entirely (at least in the US). The Cornish Arms Hotel,
where my father stayed on his first trip to New York (and yes he did
see a movie at what was now the RKO, and as he remembered, there was
also a donut shop nearby)had become the Broadmoor Apartments. An
anonymous-looking three story building now stands where the Opera
House/RKO Theare once stood, an indication that the ILGWU didn’t
touch the spot, and thus she may have gone down in vain. The movies on the marquee of the above-mentioned picture date the pic as 1937, the last full callendar year as the Grand Opera House. In my interest in old theatres, it may very well be that the Grand Opera House was the best theatre I never went to.

42ndStreetMemories on July 17, 2004 at 8:02 am

I feel as if I lived in the RKO on 23rd in the 1950s. My dad was an usher there in the 40s and met my mom there. My favorite memories were House on Haunted Hill with the skeleton flying over the RKO audience, Rodan was “on display” in a box in the large entrance way, the all-day Saturday kiddie-shows, camera-flashes going off when Elvis appeared in Love Me Tender. The theater itself was large and beautiful. My research shows that the theater opened in 1868 as Pike’s Opera House. It lost money and Jim Fisk bought it the next year for showgirl Josie Mansfield (the “Cleopatra of 23rd St”). RKO opened there on Aug 4, 1938 with “Having A Wonderful Time” with Ginger Rogers and “Sky Giant” with Richard Dix. The theater was slated for demolition due to the ILGWU Co-Op Housing currently there(lived there but always resented it).The old lady went out in style as it burned down before demolition. The last film, South Pacific (eegads!) played there on June 15 1960. I’ll post regarding the other Chelsea theaters, the new RKO and the Terrace on the appropriate pages. Thanks. Jerry the K

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 14, 2004 at 12:58 pm

Stepale, the third RKO 23rd Street Theatre has a separate listing here under its current name of Chelsea West Cinemas.

Stephen Paley
Stephen Paley on March 14, 2004 at 11:46 am

To the best of my knowledge,a new RKO 23rd Street Theater, specifically designed as a movie house, opened in 1962 with a showing of Orson Welles’s THE TRAIL. The theater was located on 23rd, between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhatttan’s Chelsea district. I believe the first film to be shown was Orson Welles’s THE TRIAL and there was an invited midnight screening for all the working actors on Broadway at the time, yours truely among them, and during that screening, someone had accidently screwed up order of the reels, hense the picture was not seen with its scenes in the proper order. The sad part of this story is that nobody seemed to notice! The good part was that neither Welles nor Anthony Perkins, the star of the movie, were in attenance. The theater functioned as a second run movie house for many years until it was converted into an off-broadway playhouse and housed a local repertory company, if my memory serves me correctly.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 14, 2004 at 10:23 am

This was actually the second RKO 23rd Street. The first one was the original Proctor’s 23rd Street, located at 139 West 23rd Street (between Sixth & Seventh Avenues) and built in 1888. By the mid-1930s, the RKO Proctor’s 23rd Street had become out-moded, so instead of renovating it, RKO purchased the even older but larger and better situated Grand Opera House (ex-Pike’s Opera House of 1868) and had Thomas Lamb Associates convert it into an ultra-modern theatre. This RKO 23rd Street was on the NW corner with Eighth Avenue and had the address of 265 Eighth Avenue. It was destroyed by a fire in 1960, after which RKO built what became the third RKO 23rd Street further west on 23rd Street, next to the Cornish Arms Hotel.