Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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RobertR
RobertR on December 23, 2004 at 10:51 am

Check out this picture of South Sea’s Adventure. Was this the Capitol when it was renamed the Cinerama or is it the RKO Cinerama?

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JimRankin
JimRankin on December 22, 2004 at 8:26 am

In the book “Four Aspects of Film” the author describes ‘Smell-O-Vision’ or ‘Odororama’ in detail, and mentions that one of the main reasons the films quickly failed (besides the considerable costs involved) is that by the time a scent was released in the balcony, the scene had changed and a new scent was drifting up from the orchestra seats, and the two scents often conflicted, as when a field of grass was replaced with a view of a wine cask being broken open. Also, many of the smells were not really true to life, and some patrons found themselves nauseated by the odor. He explained that the effect was accomplished by means of pellets in a dispenser underneath some seats that were electrically dropped by a cue on the film into a container of liquid with a small fan that wafted the ‘fragrance’ about. Later on, some theatres in the 70s experimented with a new gimmick where the patron was instructed to scratch a designated area on a card given them at entry, and it would release an odor that then represented some things the early guys had never thought of: vomit, hair spray, feces, etc.! Maybe the ‘ghost’ of the Capitol is still reeling from the heady experience, if not a few patrons!

dandalton
dandalton on December 21, 2004 at 4:05 pm

I don’t believe very few went to the Capitol in New York City before or while the theatre came up with a new gimic. While showing Cinerema, they, for a short time came up with smellavision. They actually put pipes under the seats and I remember in one scene some people were walking on the grass and the smell of grass came out of the pipes. They had numerous smells all thru the movie, but it never caught on.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on December 15, 2004 at 7:50 pm

I should add that in Nov. ‘48, Victor Fleming’s “Joan of Arc” with Ingrid Bergman opened at the Victoria (for this site, Embassy Five)day-dating on a two-a-day reserved-seat policy at the Fulton (latterly the Helen Hayes) around the corner. But the run at the Fulton folded quickly, leaving the Victoria to show it on a grind for several months. The Bijou, around the corner from the Astor, alternated between small live shows and reserved-seat films such as “The Red Shoes,” “Tales of Hoffmann,” “Cry the Beloved Country,” and “Outcast of the Islands.” The Ambassador on W. 49 served mostly as a radio- and telecast studio, but occasionally showed “B” films on grind. The Winter Garden on B'way showed films from time to time, notably Chaplin’s “Monsieur Verdoux” on two-a-day reserved seats in '47. The Broadway premiered Disney’s “Fantasia” on two-a-day in '40 and, I believe, “Dumbo” a year later. The most famous convert from theater to film to theater was of course the Mark Hellenger, across W. 51 Street from the Capitol, known as the “Hollywood” when it showed Warner Bros. product on grind in the late '30s and '40s. Distribution patterns were more adventurous in those days.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on December 15, 2004 at 7:27 pm

RobertR— In June ‘53, the Bard-of-Avon’s “Julius Caesar” (with Gielgud and Brando! and Mason and Calhern! and Garson and Kerr!) opened at the Booth on a cuirved wide screen with sterophonic sound (the prelude was the MGM orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio italien”)with two-a-day reserved-seat policy at a price scale of 90 cents to $1.50. My grandmother, who hadn’t seen a film in years, wanted to get box seats, until I advised her that the curved screen would invite distortion. We settled for the cheapest seats, which were in the first three orchestra rows per my eleven-year-older’s trick to get as close to the giant screen as possible. (On this site’s page for the Criterion, Vincent remarks that the latter charged its cheapest prices for the front row seats—so it was and should be for the misshapen images from that perspective.) In the early '60s, Fellini’s “La dolce vita” opened at the Henry Miller (now recently toppled after “Utinetown”) with the same policy. It was followed by Vadim’s “Les liaaisons dangereuses” (with Gerard Philippe!). Both these sub-titled European films then went into mass distribution on the RKO neighborhood circuit. Yes, as you imply, “Gigi” should have played at the Capitol. After its run at the Royale, it went to the Sutton with continuous performances, where I saw it on a chilly November evening. My biggest disappointment with “Julius Caesar” at the Booth was that it was filmed in black and white—I had expected a Technicolor spectacular. That the script was Gentle Will’s struck me as terrific: Classics Illustrated Comics had already introduced me to its sonorous verse.

RobertR
RobertR on December 14, 2004 at 3:53 pm

http://www.moviepalaces.net/

Check the pictures on this site of the Capitol. It shows how they could raise and lower the drapes in the balcony when they played Cinerama. I look at these pictures and cant believe they tore this magnificent place down.

RobertR
RobertR on December 13, 2004 at 2:16 pm

The Royal played Gigi roadshow. I dont know if that was a one time event that a movie opened in a legit Broadway house?

Broan
Broan on December 13, 2004 at 1:59 pm

It’s just unfortunate that there’s no place like this for such places. They certainly have the same kind of architectual merit, and the same sort of escapist quality. After all, the Schubert/Majestic is on here, and I really don’t think that it qualifies, i’m not even sure it’s ever played film. I agree that they don’t really qualify, but it seems a shame

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on December 13, 2004 at 8:58 am

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t think the Atlantic City Convention Hall could be classed as theatre for the purposes of Cinema Treasures. It is a conventional hall with a stage. The Chicago Auditorium is more of a concert hall, like the old Massey Hall in Toronto. But neither one of these buildings would qualify for inclusion on Cinema Treasures as classic movie theatres. I brought up the Shrine Auditorium as a gray-area case simply because it is a true theatre which has showed movies….but was never primarily a movie theatre.

PGlenat
PGlenat on December 12, 2004 at 4:50 pm

Then you’d be getting into an even greater grey area, since you’d have to add in the Atlantic City Convention Hall main auditorium (now called Boardwalk Hall) and the Atlantic City Convention Hall Ballroom, since it was originally intended that movies would be shown in that venue (the ballroom). The ACCH would win the size game hands down, as well as having the largest, albeit currently unplayable, organ in the world, which, if in full working order, would blow the roof off either RCMH or the Shrine.

Broan
Broan on December 12, 2004 at 1:47 pm

Yeah, I sort of wish we could list non-cinematic theatres on this site. It seems a shame to not have, say, the Chicago Auditorium on here. And there’s another gray area- the Auditorium did have the second largest theatre organ at one time.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on December 12, 2004 at 1:03 pm

I agree the Shrine Auditorium should be considered a theatre.It looks very much like a movie palace. I saw “Hello Dolly” with Pearl Baily with my friend Richard Oliver who told me the theatre was larger than Radio City Music Hall. The only difference I see is that Radio City and the Fox in Atlanta showed movies for most of its life during the movie palace era where the Shrine showed movies rarely. I love Radio City but I would have preferred the Roxy. I also prefer the Art Deco lobby of the Oakland Paramount over the ART Deco lobby of Radio City and would have loved to have stood in the lobby of the Roxy.brucec

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on December 10, 2004 at 8:06 am

We had a strip mall theater in Emerson NJ nearby where I grew up. It was the smallest theater in the area. They eventually turned it into a quad I think. Now some of those suburban strip mall theaters from the 60’s seem like movie palaces to me. Even the Bergen Mall cinema(now a Gap) which used to play foreign would seem palatial.

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on December 10, 2004 at 7:59 am

Jim:……you are a true gentleman sir.

JimRankin
JimRankin on December 10, 2004 at 5:34 am

I bow to your estimation, ‘mjc’ and will hereafter refer to the SHRINE AUDTORIUM as a “theatre” even if not quite a movie palace; oh, what the heck, I hereby dub it a MOVIE PALACE!! (for what my 2 cents is worth). It gets grayer and grayer, or “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice said in Wonderland. :)

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on December 9, 2004 at 10:42 am

Jim: with respect….. I would like to make the case that the Shrine Auditorium is definately a theatre, unlike the Atlantic City Convention Hall. The Shrine Auditorium, despite its name, is a conventional theatre with a large balcony, that has been used since 1920 for movies, opera, stage and TV shows, concerts etc. It may not have been solely a classic movie theatre but is still advertised as North America’s largest theatre. I think the name “auditorium” confuses the issue. Perhaps they should have called it the Shrine Theatre. The Shrine headquarters and convention hall are on the same site attached, but separate from, the Auditorium (theatre) even though they are all used for some functions. Check out their website for a great interior shot. Ironically, the Shrine Auditorium was originally used in the same way that the old restored movie palaces are being used now.
The Fox Theatre in Atlanta was built by the Shriners as part of their area headquarters the same as the Shrine Auditorium in LA but for financial reasons the theatre part was leased to William Fox and is classed as a movie palace today. Seems to me the Shrine Auditorium would also be in the movie palace category if it had been taken over by a theatre chain. Its still a regular theatre, no matter who owns it, which has been in continual use as a theatre since 1920. The Fox in Detroit is used for car shows occasionally and even the stage at the venerable old RCMH has been used for basketball games. I don’t see that as being any different than how the Shrine Auditorium has been used. Gray definately applies to these discussions on theatres!

Broan
Broan on December 9, 2004 at 10:13 am

The Oscar site indicates Kodak’s capacity as 3500

JimRankin
JimRankin on December 9, 2004 at 8:38 am

“mjc” is right about the huge SHRINE AUDITORIUM (where the Academy Awards were staged for many years) having possibly the largest INDOOR seating of a facility in the US with perhaps only the Atlantic City CONVENTION HALL where the Miss America Pageant was held being among those in its league, along with possibly the new KODAK auditorium. But, of course, these are not really theatres per se; they fall into the classification of Civic, Fraternal, and Scholastic Auditoria which is rather a different beast than a true theatre, showing movies or not. Like “mjc” I prefer to just enjoy the facility and its decor regardless of what classification it fall into, or the size it is, so long as it serves the purpose well.

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on December 9, 2004 at 7:52 am

If we are considering which North American theatre that showed movies was the largest in terms of seats, then that would surely go to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. At 6300 hundred (real) seats it is bigger than RCMH and the Roxy. Andy Stamatin, the present Operations Manager tells me the auditorium was used as a movie theatre many times in the past and still shows movies occasionally with a temporary projection room built in the first part of the balcony.
The Fox in Detroit does not show movies any more so is that still a movie palace or just a theatre?
So as Jim says, defining a movie palace is now a “gray area."
Personally it makes no difference to me. I am just glad there are still some grand old theatres left to enjoy.

JimRankin
JimRankin on December 9, 2004 at 4:41 am

When Vincent asks if the Radio City Music Hall should be classed as a movie palace, he here brings up the ‘gray’ area of definition, since chronology also enters the picture. Since “Roxy” Rothafel was called over from his ROXY theatre to help with the RCMH, one might assume that it became a ‘movie palace’ by simple association with him, but others might not accept that position in view of the fact that the place was intended as a live action venue primarily and was programed and marketed as such for most of its existance. Perhaps it waas the last of the palaces in view of the Great Depression ending that era. I believe that it is also a matter of being designed as distinctive themed decor that helps in the definition, to distinguish ‘palaces’ from merely any theatre with some ornament in its decor; the RCMH was/is ornamental, but does not use traditional ornament in its decor. In the end, I guess the definition boils down to a matter of personal perception.

vinceiuliano
vinceiuliano on December 8, 2004 at 5:51 pm

much thanks to both ant knee and stukgh for their great input!
can’t wait to add those two movies to my collection!
red skelton is from indiana and one of my greatest and first memories is seeing him in the yellow cab man ( the watch in the mailbox scene!) and then the NEXT day watching him in a parade atop my father’s shoulders. Red was standing up in an open limo and his wild red hair was blowing around and he had a HUGE cigar in his mouth as he waved and smiled to the crowd!
musta been around 1962. pretty cool.

PGlenat
PGlenat on December 8, 2004 at 2:55 pm

According to the official totals listed on their sites here, RCMH beat the Roxy by 20 seats….5940 for RCMH and 5920 for the Roxy.
By Roxy’s calculations, however, the Roxy had over 6200 seats, but he was notorious for counting every seat in the house, including the musicians chairs as well as the stools the box office cashiers sat on.

chconnol
chconnol on December 8, 2004 at 2:39 pm

Was the Roxy the largest movie theater ever built in terms of seating capacity? Or at least in the US? Or was that RCMH?

PGlenat
PGlenat on December 8, 2004 at 2:28 pm

According to RCMH’s site, movies were shown there just two weeks after the grand opening in 1932 which would, I suppose, indicate that projection facilities were in place from the beginning.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on December 8, 2004 at 2:21 pm

The Music Hall is the greatest theater in the world(I dare anyone out there to argue the point.) But was the Roxy perhaps the greatest of all?
The projection booth was there all along, I believe, but was meant for special stage effects.