Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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RobertR on February 15, 2005 at 8:52 am


Thats very interesting about the wide release of Duel in the Sun. Am I correct that for a major movie that was almost unheard of back then? What about “B” films, did they ever open saturated like would become the norm in the 60’s with Premiere Showcase?

BoxOfficeBill on February 15, 2005 at 7:45 am

“Show Boat” with Helen Morgan at the Capitol! And before the film version of ‘36 (which opened at RCMH). I guess the Capitol did court sophistication.

BoxOfficeBill on February 15, 2005 at 7:41 am

Among stage shows at the Capitol, one that I most remember featured Skitch Henderson. The film was “Every Girl Should Be Married” with Cary Grant, so it must have been in January ‘49. It came to mind the other day when I heard an NPR interview with Henderson commemorating Johnny Carson. (I had no idea that the young Henderson had studied with Arnold Schoenberg and played Mahler with Toscanini!) His performance at the Capitol combined jazzy piano playing and big-band conducting. I also recall being bored by a male commedian who told off-color jokes that I didn’t understand, but which the grown-ups laughed wickedly at. Perhaps the Capitol tried to court a mature audience.

A yet earlier memory of Capitol sophistication was the opening of “Duel in the Sun” there, a much bally-hooed event for which the theater had suspended its stage show policy. We waited on a long line, and upon reaching the box office were denied admission because I was deemed under-age for the adult presentation (June ‘47, I was five). My mom complained loudly, waving her friend’s employee pass and claiming to be part of management (she wasn’t), and then faulted the theater for dropping its stage show when we could have seen the same film at the Alpine in Brooklyn with much less trouble. From scouring old newspapers, I later learned that “Duel in the Sun” had indeed opened in NYC in a saturated booking, playing simultaneously at the Capitol, Metropolitan, and Loew’s nabes (including the Alpine), no doubt because Selznick had concluded that the film might flop and that it would be best to rush it out quick and greedy. Was it worth dropping the live stage show for a celluloid Jennifer Jones?

ian williams
ian williams on February 15, 2005 at 4:22 am

CConnolly hits the mark with his comment about today’s movies! Fo me too much C.B.W – Crash, bang, wallop!!! Also a good comparison is in telling the life story of Cole Porter. Warners ‘Night and Day’ was made for entertainment; his homosexuality kept quiet. Would the latest ‘version’ of his life, warts and all, in ‘De-lovely’ have been a big hit at perhaps the Capitol around the late forties??? OK, it would have gone to the Warner!!!

bruceanthony on February 14, 2005 at 7:26 pm

Warren Im surprised that “Quo Vadis” didn’t do as well as expected at the Capitol becuase this was a huge hit for MGM.“Quo Vadis” was MGM’s biggest hit since “Gone With The Wind” up to that point in time.brucec

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 14, 2005 at 7:11 pm

I actually enjoy classic movies much more than modern ones (I’m watching Howard Hughes' Hell’s Angels on DVD right now) and I’m sure I would enjoy Westward the Women if I ever see it…I had never even heard of it until just now. My point was to remark on nondescript forgotten movies and how they may have kept people at home watching the newfangled television. I can imagine the echoes in grand houses like the Capitol as the little box sounded their death knell.

chconnol on February 14, 2005 at 12:40 pm

Actually I find the entries for these lesser known classic films fascinating. “Westward the Women” in particular sounds very interesting. Here’s the entry from imdb:


It happens to be directed by one of the best of the Hollywood directors, William Wellman.

I’m 38 and I cannot stand the latest movies. Generally speaking, they’re pure garbage. I appreciate the input from people who remember when movies were made to truly please an audience not just to make a quick buck.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 14, 2005 at 12:14 pm

It’s amazing how many of the pictures mentioned here are long forgotten. Westward the Women? Ugh, I’m staying home and watching “I Love Lucy.”

BoxOfficeBill on February 14, 2005 at 12:08 pm

Warren- Thanks for the terrific account of the Capitol’s last days of stage shows. I remember them (those days and some of the shows) well. A family friend worked in the Loew’s office (at Loew’s State) and provided my parents with full passes for the Capitol. I would have thought that seven week of “Quo Vadis” had met b.o. expectations. I remember seeing it there early in its run, at a packed house. I also remember that it left without much warning— the newspapers suddenly announced that “Westward the Women” would open the next day, New Year’s Eve, and that the Astor would shift its policy from two-a-day Reserved Seats to continuous showings — I imagined that the decision had as much to do with the Astor looking to fill seats as much as it had to do with the Capitol wanting to feature a new show on the lucrative New Year’s holiday.

vinceiuliano on February 7, 2005 at 10:15 am

The Capitol was a beautiful theater – i guess its just another sign of the times. Like Nedicks, Penn Station, and Grand Central, nothing good lasts.

VincentParisi on February 7, 2005 at 9:32 am

But what about the stage show in 39 with Wizard of Oz? Was this a one time only before 43?

vinceiuliano on February 7, 2005 at 9:11 am

very interesting Warren. where did you find that out? that’s great

Myron on December 25, 2004 at 6:01 am

As a kid I saw “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “How the West Was Won” at the Loews Cinerama (Capitol). The effect was good but the 3 projectors weren’t properly aligned and the color shifted so I often got eye-strain, but the the river raft scene and buffalo stampede in “How The West Was Won” was fantastic. Somebody posted that “Ben-Hur” was shown at the Loew’s Capitol, but I remember seeing it at the Loew’s State.

RobertR on December 23, 2004 at 12:38 pm

Ok, then they had it mislabeled. I did not recognize the marquee.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on December 23, 2004 at 12:31 pm

Robert R: The theater in that picture isn’t the Capitol or the RKO/Warner Cinerama. It looks like the Warner Cinerama theater on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, also known as the Hollywood Pacific and the Pacific 1-2-3.

RobertR on December 23, 2004 at 10:53 am

There is a good story here on Cinerama here taken from Vanity Fair.


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?

View link

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 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 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 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 on December 14, 2004 at 3:53 pm


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 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 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 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.