Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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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.

Ziggy
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?

vinceiuliano
vinceiuliano on December 7, 2004 at 11:19 am

The Joker is Wild was a great first movie. Mine was At War with the Army! lol
I also remember a tight wire across Niagara Falls and someone walking across it, all in Cinemascope. I bought the MM film Niagara and it wasn’t THAT one. Any ideas?

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on November 29, 2004 at 10:13 am

Warren, I expect what ‘ij’ was referring to was ‘cushions’. It was often common practice in first rate movie theatres to provide cushions to small children to sit on. This was usually because the child was unable to see over the adult seated in front of them and often requested by the parent.

JimRankin
JimRankin on November 29, 2004 at 9:38 am

Whatever it is that defines a movie palace, the same general standards can often be used to define other such “palatial” theatres in the nation, if not also the world, even though they were not built for the purpose of movies. If you will forgive some local bias, I might nominate the palatial PABST in Milwaukee, which stands as a working National Historic Landmark to this day. It is well documented by its page on this site: /theaters/2753/
But it is best seen in this photo of the area above the proscenium: http://www.cinematour.com/tour.php?db=us&id=11592
Surely this is some of the finest and most elaborate ornamentation in a theatre in the nation, and thus the palatial experience there is among the best still to be had. Their web site at: http://www.pabsttheater.org/history.lasso features other photos.

Ziggy
Ziggy on November 29, 2004 at 9:00 am

Well, regenthr, you make my point. The rules defining what makes a movie palace are completely arbitrary. The THS says that it’s a theatre that was built for showing films, has a working stage, and seats at least 1000 people. You state that it needs to be 2000 seats with some “overwhelming” style of architecture. Whatever.

ian williams
ian williams on November 29, 2004 at 5:37 am

Thomas Lamb’s Regent Theatr, a movie palace? Hardly! Unless you are comparing it to the nickel odeons scattered around the city in the first part of the century. What is the definition of a movie palace anyway? Size or architecture? I would say that in size, at least 2000 seats. Architecture – something overwhelming – whatever style!!!

irajoel
irajoel on November 28, 2004 at 10:06 am

I recall one visit to the Capitol in 1957 to see the Joker is Wild. I was around 10. There was a huge staircase, and I have a memory of the ushers offering pillows if needed. Is that true? Did I dream that. There were large cutouts of Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak announcing the next attraction Pal Joey at the top of the stairs and over them. It was a very large theatre. I also went there at the end when all the changes were made to see How The West Was Won, Dr. Zhivago and 2001.

Ziggy
Ziggy on October 19, 2004 at 7:08 am

Regarding the July 1st comment that the Capitol was the first movie palace, I must say I totally disagree. Even given the standards set by the THSA (which are totally arbitrary in themselves), there is no way the Capitol is the first movie palace. I would think that the THSA would want to agree with their founder, Ben Hall, and say that it was New York’s Regent Theatre. But if you don’t agree with that, let’s go by the THSA rules. In that case Rochester’s Regent Theatre would be the first. It opened in 1914, it was built for movies, it had a working stage, and it seated 1400 people. Now, as proud as I am of my hometown, and as progressive as Rochester was at the turn of the last century, I doubt that they built the first movie palace. If one doesn’t wish to believe that the Regent in New York was first, then the title would have to go to the Mark Strand on Broadway. It seated over 3,000, had a stage, and was built for movies. At any rate, the first movie palace was definitely NOT the Capitol, and I’m amazed that the THSA would think that it was.

br91975
br91975 on October 12, 2004 at 5:25 pm

Some post-modernization shots of the Loew’s Capitol interior can be found at the following URL: View link

vinceiuliano
vinceiuliano on September 22, 2004 at 8:46 pm

My uncle Norman Herman was an usher at the Capitol too. Please write to me Elwyn? I’m preparing a book on my family and your memories of that time would be invaluable! ()

Standing there in his usher’s uniform, his sister and friends would sometimes tease him. Also they tell me they threw peanut shells over the balcony to hear them loudly crunch as people walked past in the dark.

I too saw 2001 there in 1968 (breathtaking, although the movie COULD drag in spots) and (I seem to recall) GWTW as well. The screen was HUGE. What a beautiful theater. Like the demolition of Penn Station and so many other landmark spots, another testament to the short sightedness of city planners.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 23, 2004 at 8:36 pm

Those photos are breathtaking. This is the first I’ve seen of the Capitol’s interior. Wow! And it kills me to know that I was alive when the theater closed (though still a youngster living in the suburbs.) Actually, maybe I should kill my parents instead for not realizing what we were about to lose and taking me to see it.