Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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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 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 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 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 on December 10, 2004 at 7:59 am

Jim:……you are a true gentleman sir.

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 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 on December 9, 2004 at 10:13 am

The Oscar site indicates Kodak’s capacity as 3500

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Ziggy on December 8, 2004 at 1:43 pm

Hi Jim, then I misunderstood your previous comment. My mistake. In regards to Vincent’s comment above, I don’t consider RCMH to be a movie palace. It was not built for movies, and it lacks the escapist theme that almost all movie palaces have. What it IS, is the nation’s greatest theatre, and an extremely luxurious one at that.

VincentParisi on December 8, 2004 at 11:35 am

Then Jim does the Music Hall qualify as a movie palace as it was not built FOR movies but transformed itself into a presentation house out of depression desperation?

JimRankin on December 8, 2004 at 8:08 am

Ziggy: No, the PABST in Milwaukee was not by chronology nor design a Movie Palace; I was only trying to show that if mere ornamental elaborateness is the criterion, then it could be put in that category since it did show movies for a while. The true definition of a movie palace must include not only elaborateness (else the NYC NEW AMSTERDAM would qualify on that alone), but also large size, being built FOR movies, but also having a working stage to distinguish it from a mere cinema. Theatres this large, ornate and elaborate were really called “Presentation Houses” where Vaudeville, legit stage, choral and orchestral works, as well as movies could be presented. No, the PABST and a number of other large, ornate theatres across the nation could resemble ‘palaces’ but were technically not that.

stukgh on December 8, 2004 at 7:24 am

HEY VINCEIULIANO! We can give each other a memory boost. The movie you are thinking of is “The Big Circus”, 1959. The Niagara tightrope walk is about the only scene I still recall from the flick(It might have been Gilbert Roland who did the walk, but I’m not sure.). I remember that the summer day camp I attended that year bussed us kids into Manhattan to see this movie at a big impressive theater. I had no idea which theater it might have been, but now your Dec. 7 comment suggests that it was the old Warner’s. Thanks!

Ziggy on December 8, 2004 at 6:53 am

Hi Jim Rankin! As informative and fun as your comments at this site are, I’m afraid I have to say no, the Pabst was not the first movie palace. It is not even a movie palace at all. It is magnificent, and it is palatial, but I can’t bring myself to say that a legit theatre built in the 1890’s is a movie palace.

ANTKNEE on December 8, 2004 at 2:09 am

The Clown: http://imdb.com/title/tt0044503/
The Yellow Cab Man: http://imdb.com/title/tt0043150/

Both of which are available in VHS at Amazon.com (no, I don’t work for them!)

vinceiuliano on December 7, 2004 at 10:38 pm

Red made a movie called The Clown? Cool if he did. I wasn’t aware of it.
I vividly remember The Yellow Cab Man. That’s one I’d love to see on DVD..

BoxOfficeBill on December 7, 2004 at 10:02 pm

“Niagara” opened at the recently remodeled Roxy on 21 January 1953, where it ran for three weeks with the theater’s innovative flourescent ice-stage show, “Ice Colorama.” Its competition at the Capitol was Red Skelton in “The Clown” (quickly to be followed by “Moulin Rouge”)and at RCMH “The Bad and the Beautiful,” with a “Dancing Waters” stage show. The Capitol had given up its stage shows two years earlier, but the Paramount still offered them: in January, the feature there was Danny Thomas’s remake of “The Jazz Singer.”

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 7, 2004 at 9:08 pm

Also, Niagara was pre-Cinemascope, but with the twin wonders of the Falls and MM in blazing technicolor, who needed a wide screen! I’ve seen this movie on the big screen (not in its original release) more than once…va-va-va-voom! Where did Niagara open in New York, anyway?