Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

William on July 23, 2004 at 4:40 pm

In 1965, United Artists held the largest outdoor barbecue ever held on Broadway in connection with the 24 hour world premiere of “The Halleljah Trail”.

JamesMannix on July 22, 2004 at 12:39 pm

As it seems many saw 2001at the Capital…I saw it a week after the grand opening but don’t remember if it was the print before the editing and new titles where inserted.
THe theatre as remembered was immense and even though the cinerama was faux the film was wonderful……

JimRankin on July 17, 2004 at 7:54 pm

The sad fact is that the drapery treatment (which happened in various forms to many movie palaces) was due to the advent of wide screen projection. The new super wide screens could usually not be contained behind the proscenium, so they usually hacked away the sides of the proscenium arch and sometimes the organ screens too, and then draped over the damage since they were too cheap to redesign the plaster ornament to accommodate the new ‘look.’ Usually, the draperies added nothing to the acoustics or the decor. At least in the CAPITOL they used more expensive and decorative contour draperies for both the screen and to divide the balcony when they were not expecting a full house — something rare after TV and the arrival of shopping center cinemas. Note how the drapery was not extended all the way across the ceiling else it would have blocked the projector’s throw from the booth ports seen in the back wall. The fourth comment from the top describes the situation for the CAPITOL. Who would have thought that after all that expense for the screens/cinerama/escalator/new draperies (which were no doubt motorized and quite costly!), that in only six years they would toss it all when the place was demolished?!

IanJudge on July 17, 2004 at 12:08 pm

Those photos of the Capitol are awesome and heartbreaking. It is especially interesting to see the before/after pictures of the proscenium when it was shrouded in drapery. Was this done for aesthetic reasons (the whole ‘modern’ look that Loew’s seemed to push in the late fifties) or for acoustical reasons? Or both? I notice the Loew’s State photos show great alterations and similar drapery. And yet, even when these ornate auditoriums were draped and modernized, they remained impressive spaces. It is truly a shame that not one of these old NY houses was saved.

umbaba on July 17, 2004 at 6:35 am

peter…great site. Are there any other theater pics on this site?

itinerama on July 16, 2004 at 11:33 pm

For about 30 photos of the Capitol go to
enter capitol theater in the search site for lots of cinerama screen photos etc

ANTKNEE on July 16, 2004 at 2:56 pm

I too saw 2001 here, as a nose picker of 9 years old (am now a nose picker of 46!) Scared the bejesus out of me when the apes smashed to bones and that spooky singing whenever the obeslisk appeared.

Funny thing is that I clearly recall the embyro sort of smirking and perhaps even giving short wave at the very end but have never seen this since (the original viewing). Could this perhaps have been deleted from the original 158 minute version? If so, then I guess I was lucky enough to have seen this! Didn’t this theater have a large (wide) escalator too? Thanks.

RobertR on July 11, 2004 at 4:40 pm

The ad for From Here to Eternity blows me away the doors opened at 7am and the first show was at 730 to accomidate the overflow crowds. Those were truely ther glory days.

bruceanthony on July 11, 2004 at 2:23 pm

I left out the most famous film from the New York Times movie adds to play the Capitol,1939’s “Gone With The Wind” which opened on
Tuesday December 19th at 8:30PM. The Astor Theatre also opened with “Gone With The Wind” with reserved seats but the Capitol no reserved seats. The Add also states “Gone With The Wind” will not be shown except at advanced prices at least until 1941.brucec

bruceanthony on July 11, 2004 at 10:53 am

Here are a few more films that have played the Capitol over the years.I have the New York Times movie Adds for the following films.
Aug 1934 Treasure Island
Dec 1935 A Night at the Opera
Jan 1937 Camille
Aug 1939 The Wizard of Oz
Oct 1940 The Great Dictator
Jul 1947 The Hucksters
Feb 1952 The African Queen
Aug 1953 From Here To Eternity
Jun 1954 The Caine Mutiny
Feb 1961 The Misfits
Mar 1962 Sweet Bird of Youth
Aug 1967 In The Heat of the Night
Feb 1968 The Planet of the Apes
Apr 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Capitol was one of the most important movie palaces in the United States. It was the flagship theatre of Metro-Goldywn-Mayer which was considered the Tiffany’s of the movie studios during this period of time.brucec

JimRankin on July 1, 2004 at 10:36 am

What was the very first movie palace? It turns out that it was the famous CAPITOL of New York City in 1919, and this is the story of how that was determined. Was the AL RINGLING theatre of the 8,000-resident Baraboo, Wis. in 1915 the very first movie palace? That was the question asked of the “History Detectives” TV show in the autumn of 2003, but an earlier TV program led one to believe that The NEW AMSTERDAM theatre of New York city of 1903 was the first. In the VHS video “America’s Castles: Movie Palaces” produced in the year 2000, detailed at Amazon.com: ( View link ), several theatres are shown as examples of the American movie palace, and the impression is given that it was the NEW AMSTERDAM of 1903 that was the first. Contrary to this idea (which suited the photographic aims of the producers of this originally cable-TV program), the idea of what was the very first Movie Palace will depend upon just how one defines that phenomenon. When the producers of the 2003 PBS TV series “History Detectives” (viewable as a PDF file at: View link ) were asked if the AL RINGLING THEATRE in Baraboo, Wis. was the very first movie palace, they turned to the nationally recognized authority on the subject for the answer: The Theatre Historical Soc. of America ( www.HistoricTheatres.org ) and asked their Ex. Dir. what the Society’s standard was. Ex. Dir. Richard Sklenar replied that for a theatre to have been a movie palace it had to have been (1) built as a movie theatre, (2) have a workable stage, and (3) have more than 1,000 seats. By that composite standard neither the NEW AMSTERDAM nor the AL RINGLING ( http://www.alringling.com/ )qualify, and they determined that the CAPITOL THEATRE of New York City in 1919 was the first. Therefore, while the NEW AMSTERDAM did show movies for part of its life, it could not be called a “movie palace” by the usual and customary definition of the term since it was NOT built to show movies, even if it is shown in a commercially produced video on the subject. Since the RINGLING’S seating is only 800, that would disqualify it on that basis alone, but its palatial decor was not lost on the Balaban&Katz theatre chain of Chicago when they were invited to see the RINGLING and were inspired by it to the extent of hiring its architects, Rapp&Rapp of Chicago, to do their forthcoming movie palaces, starting with the CHICAGO in 1921, followed by a great many others throughout the nation, but Thomas Lamb’s CAPITOL takes ‘first’ place.

reeder on June 30, 2004 at 5:39 pm

I worked as an usher at the Capitol in 1946. I remember being posted many times to stand at the base of the beautiful white marble staircase during the shows. While I was there they always played one movie and a stage show. For example, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” was paired with Guy Lombardo and his orchestra on stage, and “Two Sisters from Boston” ran along with The Ritz Brothers on stage. A special experience occured while “Two Sisters from Boston”, which had Jimmy Durante in its cast, was playing. Loews Inc. gave a party in a local night club to honor Jimmy Durante on his 20th Anniversay in show business. They asked several of us from the Capitol if we would work the party. I was assigned the front door to identify guests and keep out gate crashers. The guests included many of the greats of show business of that time. I visited Times Square a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t seem the same without that sign down the street reading “Capitol” which is so visible in the Times Square scenes of many old movies.

deleted user
[Deleted] on June 24, 2004 at 4:47 am

70mm 6-Channel Stereo [December 1959]
Solomon and Sheba [1959]
Cinerama 7-Channel Stereo [August 1962]
The Wonderful World of The Brothers Grimm [1962]
How The West Was Won [1963]
The Best of Cinerama [1963]
Windjammer (Cinerama) [1964]
Cinerama [70mm] 6-Channel Stereo [June 1964]
Circus World [1964]
Cheyenne Autumn [1964] [Exhibited in 70mm Cinerama process]
Doctor Zhivago [1965]
The Hallelujah Trail [1965]
2001 a space odyssey [1968]

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 15, 2004 at 10:36 am

36 years ago today at this very minute (1:30 PM show) I was about to experience the ultimate trip, “2001: A Space Odyssey” on the Capitol’s incredible Cinerama screen. Just wanted to commemmorate the life-changing event.

regenthr on May 28, 2004 at 7:42 am

I was in the Capitol during my first visit to NYC in 1962. Sadly it had been ‘Cineramarised’, and the original architecture covered up. I didn’t realize till years later that the auditorium of our Regent Theatre Melbourne was a copy of the Capitol! I have lived with the Regent for most of my life, helping to save it from demolition. When I can get a photo put up, you will see ‘the Capitol’! Only difference, after the 1945 fire, the proscenium was squared off. I am always happy to correspond with anybody re this theatre and more info or additional photos.