Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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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
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
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
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
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
umbaba on July 17, 2004 at 6:35 am

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

itinerama
itinerama on July 16, 2004 at 11:33 pm

For about 30 photos of the Capitol go to
http://memory.loc.gov
enter capitol theater in the search site for lots of cinerama screen photos etc

ANTKNEE
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
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
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
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
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
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

LOEW’S CAPITOL CINERAMA [1968]
BROADWAY AT 54TH ST
NEW YORK, NY
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
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.

regenthr
regenthr on May 28, 2004 at 7:40 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.

regenthr
regenthr on May 28, 2004 at 7:40 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.

regenthr
regenthr on May 28, 2004 at 7:39 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.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on May 28, 2004 at 6:46 am

I remember walking through Times Square with my parents in December at the time William describes being blown away by all the colorful marquees and signs(the Criterion had a couple of Funny Girl logos spinning aroung on the marquee.) There was a huge block long sign for Star above the Astor and Victoria. How I wanted to go into every theater!
However my parents went to get advance tickets for Promises Promises at the Shubert and I remember looking into the deep chasm where the Astor Plaza was about go up. Little did I know that what had been there was the great Astor Hotel and this was New York’s first step in the destruction of its greatest neighborhood.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 28, 2004 at 4:34 am

Thanks, William, for that brilliant vision back to the glory days of movies in Times Square. I was only 13 at the time and got to attend only one of those engagements, “2001”. If only I was the age I am now back in 1968 – I would’ve went to see ‘em all.

William
William on May 27, 2004 at 4:15 pm

The Capital Theatre was to come alive with one more stage show, a benefit all-star performance, on it’s last night and then quietly close. “2001: A Space Odyssey” would journey over to a new home at the Warner Cinerama. Around that time the Forum had a move-over of the “The Odd Couple”, which had played a number of weeks at the Music Hall. The New Embassy was playing “Targets”. The Rivoli Theatre had “Gone With The Wind” in 70MM. During the Fall season on Broadway, “Funny Girl” in 70MM was at the Criterion, “Star!” opened in 70MM at the Rivoli, “Finian’s Rainbow” was at the Penthouse in 70MM. “Oliver!” opened in 70MM at the newly reopened Loew’s State 1 and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was at the Loew’s State 2 in 70MM. Each of them will be playing within a maximum of six blocks of each other. Boy, was that a Great Time to be in Times Square.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on May 27, 2004 at 4:07 pm

Thank you brucec for expressing it all so well.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on May 27, 2004 at 3:00 pm

I believe “Dr Zhivago” also played the Capitol another MGM release. “Dr Zhivago” also was MGM’S biggest box-office hit 2nd only to “Gone With The Wind”. MGM big three were “Gone With The Wind”,“DR Zhivago” and “Ben Hur” in terms of Box Office. The Capitol was the flagship of Loews-MGM which controlled more talent than any studio in the history of motion pictures. I never had the pleasure of ever being in the Capitol but I did tour the MGM studio lot in 1967 when the lot was still intact. Lot 1 was where all the sound stages were, Lot 2 was across the street with all its backlot sets like the Andy Hardy Street, The New York Street,Esther Williams outdoor swimming pool,Meet Me in St Louis Street and Lot 3 which was down the street and contained jungle sets, western towns and WW11 European Street Sets. MGM had the best backlot in Hollywood and I have seen them all. If Sony purchased MGM it will be reunited with its historic Studio which consists only of Lot 1. IF Time Warner purchases MGM the studio will be reunited with its motion picture past. Time Warner owns the vast MGM pre 1986 film library. Its ironic because Sony wanted to purchase MGM back in the 1980’s and instead purchased Columbia Pictures.Many in the film industry will never forgive Kerkorian for detroying Hollywood’s greatest film studio.At least the Capitol died a grand lady showing MGM"s “2001:A Space Odyssey” an exclusive run reserved seat attraction.MGM the studio has been reduced from a roar to a meow and will never be the same.brucec

YMike
YMike on May 7, 2004 at 5:21 am

I saw How The West Was Won at this theatre. It was a great theatre. If you went to the top of the theatre and pulled the curtain you could see rows of the original seats still in place. Lobby was spectacular. If there was one NY theatre they could have kept it should have been this one. I never got to the Roxy so I can not compare them.