S.V.A. Theatre

333 W. 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011

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Showing 76 - 100 of 101 comments

exit on October 24, 2006 at 8:57 am

I worked for Roundabout briefly and frequented the place after the Cineplex redux.

It was built with a stadium style Loge that was over the lobby and restrooms. The main floor was separated by a cross aisle, which is how you entered. From the numbers quoted above it’s apparent that the main floor was 558 and the loge 358. This is the same layout as the Beekman, Sutton, Plaza, Coronet, and the Ziegfeld. I can’t remember any Manhattan movie theatre (after the 70s plex boom) that had a real overhanging balcony except the Regency.

In the 80s, Cineplex closed off the balcony, walled-off the other side of the cross aisle, and split the main level right down the middle. All three screens had working curtains and the nice curvy “old movie theatre” feel of the lobby was retained. After that I used to go on Sunday matinees, stopping at a nearby chicken place for fresh steak fries and corn on the cob. I sat in the last row quietly nibbling during the film. I was very careful not to make noise or a mess, and took everything back out with me, leaving nothing for anyone to clean up.

Anyone remember Cineplex’s debut in Manhattan, when all their directory ads had REAL BUTTER in huge letters at the top? It was the very same Odell’s Anhydrous Butterfat used back in the old “Buttercup” days, but they made it sound like an innovation. A couple years later they quietly switched to something cheaper that tasted like motor oil.

I had already moved to LA by the time they took down the divider downstairs, which must make a nice size theatre. I think the reason might be that they already had enough crackerboxes across the street in the 9-plex, and a larger capacity house would be good for more popular films. With today’s larger seats I imagine the breakdown might be something like 250-300 upstairs and 400-450 downstairs.

Could someone post pictures (maybe on CinemaTour) of the way it looks inside now? I’m really curious about the main foor and the lobby.

GWaterman on August 20, 2006 at 3:10 pm

“Lost Memory’s post of April 21, 2006 implies a true balcony level, but on April 22nd, GWaterman describes a raked stadium style "loge” section at the rear of the auditorium."

It was definately a raked stadium-style loge, but please understand that when I worked there it was 1977-78. Many things could have changed since that time.

HowardBHaas on August 18, 2006 at 4:49 pm

The above list of posters has no relevancy to the Chelsea West page.

What is relevant is that in about the same time period Cineplex Odeon was turning this 3 screener into a very nice 2 screener, they renovated the Beekman (since demolished) in New York, and in Washington D.C. the Cinema (since closed & gutted) and Uptown. They didn’t renovate the Avalon in D.C, which after Loews departed, was saved & renovated by neighbors. I miss Cineplex Odeon.

mikemorano on August 18, 2006 at 2:10 pm

anyone who conceals their identity behind a pseudonym has zero credibility with me; was a comment written by crank case Warren. Therefore the following people have no credibilty by Warren’s definition. Happy commenting fellas and ladies.

Life’s too short
Lost Memory
True Class
Ziegfeld Man
Bklyn Cinemas
Concerned Taxpayer 2
Movie Place NYC

William on August 18, 2006 at 10:14 am

Remember this is when Cineplex was remodeling and upgrading older theatres. A lot of their theatres were remodeled during this time.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 18, 2006 at 8:19 am

I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea that a movie chain would inherit a triplex in the 1980’s and convert it to a twin in the ‘90’s! I wonder what was behind that decision. They probably gained seats with the remodeling.

Just to get my facts straight, did RKO ever twin this? Or did it go directly from single screen to live theater, only to be triplexed when Walter Reade took over after Roundabout left? And what was the triplex configuration? Lost Memory’s post of April 21, 2006 implies a true balcony level, but on April 22nd, GWaterman describes a raked stadium style “loge” section at the rear of the auditorium.

DylanAsh on May 16, 2006 at 4:27 am

This is stiill one of my favorite theaters in New York. I grew up in north New Jersey, and in the 80’s my local theaters carded for R rated movies. When Halloween 5 came out, this theater let me in without asking if I was 17, which I wasn’t to be for a few months. Now that I live in New York City, I try to go here as much possible.

GWaterman on April 22, 2006 at 4:02 pm

I worked for the Roundabout Theatre in the 70’s in this building. The theatre originally had a lower seating section in the front, and a more steeply raked seating section that was raised behind it. One entered the theatre from the lobby into the aisle that separated these two seating sections. The theatre had built a stage floor over the entire front seating section, from scaffolding. Theatre patrons sat in the raked seating section, and the stage was huge, covering the entire lower seating section. A grid of pipes was suspended from the ceiling to hang stage lighting and other scenic effects. The large stage, and the flexibility of the production space made it a wonderful venue not only for theatre, but also for dance.

All the controls for the theatre’s lights and sound were located in the projection booth, which at that time no longer held any projection equipment. I do remember once during a show my co-workers and I were talking loudly and laughing in the booth, and a patron knocked on the booth door to tell us to shut up!

The Roundabout Theatre Company at that time was financially shaky, and when I worked there, my co-workers and I were asked to work several weeks without pay, and were promised payment in full once the theatre had sold it’s next year’s subscriptions. That proved to be a broken promise, but by that time, many of us were owed a large sum of money, and felt that we should hang on to recover it. Other workers cut their loses and quit.

At one point, the theatre company rented the theatre to a charity who wanted to stage a benefit performance. Jacqueline Onassis was the benefit chair. The performance night was a Friday, and coincided with a payday where we were —– yet again — not paid.

By that time, so many people had quit that I found myself in the position of Head Electrician. When management yet again failed to come up with our paychecks, I went to the office and told them that I would disconnect the stage lighting power, and since I was the only one who knew how to hook it up, the benefit would not go on.

They paid me in full, and the benefit went on. However, that was my last day working for the Roundabout Theatre Company!

Forrest136 on January 22, 2006 at 11:18 pm

Attended a screening of a film at this theatre yesterday! Quite an experience! There was alot of scratching on the walls, I asked the usher and was told not to worry it was not rats , just squrills in the walls! There were 3 people present at thye show! Also the seats are the mosrt uncomfortable in the city! No wonder people stay home and for 10.50! Also 25 MINUTES of ads and previews!

moviesmovies on December 1, 2005 at 3:03 pm

Ah yes, I recall seeing ‘Summer and Smoke’ here in the mid 70s.

frankie on November 3, 2005 at 9:59 am

During its Roundabout live theater days, I went to this theater to see a revival of an old play called “Clarence” starring the lovely and charming actress, Barbara Britton, with whom I was quite friendly for years before she passed away. I saw her several times on Broadway. You may remember her as Robert Stack’s co-star in the first 3-D movie, “Bwana Devil.”

Forrest136 on September 5, 2005 at 12:52 am

Whats up with the programming at this theatre! YUCK!

RobertR on July 9, 2005 at 6:42 pm

Here it is during it’s art period in 1964.
View link

42ndStreetMemories on July 9, 2005 at 3:18 am

This theater opened in 1963 and disappointed a community who had anxiously awaited the replacement to the old RKO on 23rd & 8th.

The theater opened….. searchlights, red carpet and the 3 Stooges (Joe DeRita vintage, in tuxes)getting out of a limo…. in early 1963 with Orson Welles' THE TRIAL, I believe. This crushed me, family and friends who were used to seeing weekly double features…. Rodan, House on Haunted Hill, Audie Murphy westerns, etc. at the old, majestic RKO. We still had to trek up the the RKO 58th St to see the “normal” RKO programming.

After about 6 months of protests, the theater switched to the “normal” fare in the summer of 1963. I remember being away in New Jersey when I saw the ad in the Daily News and I couldn’t wait to get home to AIP’s beach and horror flics. The classics.

In 1965 RKO reverted back to its original concept and THE PAWNBROKER played there for what seemed like years. Then the 1st run of CARRY ON CLEO (single feature) debuted while also playing at one other RKO theater…..you guessed it….the 58th St! By now, we would just go up to 42nd Street and find the RKO-Loew’s programming at cheaper prices.

The theater eventually returned to the normal RKO fare.

celluloid on April 14, 2005 at 11:13 pm

Prior to the introduction of CinemaScope in ‘53 just about every movie was shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. In order to show a film like that today properly you have to install a 1.33:1 lens. These lenses cost money and I don’t think any theatre manager is going to put up the dough to buy one. And besides, even if they had one in possession I doubt that any of the teenagers they’ve hired to run the equipment would know how to or care to install it.

hardbop on April 6, 2005 at 9:25 pm

I’ve been to some of the Thursday Night Classics and the prints are pretty good, but they don’t know how to project the films. The masking is off and you sit there watching the top of people’s heads cropped off. I’m not an expert on projection but from what I understand new cinemas have trouble dealing with some of the aspect ratios. The projection was off for both “Now Voyager” and “Niagara.”

I actually did submit a suggestion, the 1976 “A Star Is Born” with Barbra. I received two comp tickets for use at any Clearview Cinemas, good only Monday through Thursday. They did take up my suggestion and it was supposed to play this month. But I rechecked the web site and something else was substituted, so I assume they couldn’t get a print.

Getting back to the Chelsea West Cinemas, I remember when that opened it or reopened it in the mid 1980s. I think it was closed or being used for something else (live theatre) in the early-to-mid 1980s. I lived in the Village from ‘82 to '87 and vaguely remember when it opened and going there to see “The Color of Money,” “Hoosers,” and “At Close Range.”

andyc on March 14, 2005 at 1:17 pm

per the thursday night classic movies- are the prints any good? anone know?

br91975 on January 29, 2005 at 9:14 pm

You’re thinking of the Chelsea Cinemas (the nineplex on the southeast corner of 8th and 23rd), Divinity, not the Chelsea West, the twin almost diagonally across 23rd.

Divinity on January 29, 2005 at 12:23 pm

On Thursday nights at 7pm, the theatre runs classic movies hosted by drag queens Hedda Lettuce or Nedda Iceberg for only six dollars.
Some enthusiasts even dress up as their favorite characters in the movie playing. Theatre patrons are also encouraged to shout out any favorite lines or sing along to favorite songs in musicals. There are also up three chances to win Theatre tickets if your number is called. I also believe that the Rocky Horror Picture is sometimes shown at midnight. Overall it is a wonderful theatre to visit on a Thursday night.

br91975 on September 30, 2004 at 4:51 pm

A minor correction to the initial description above – the Chelsea Cinemas and Chelsea West Cinemas actually operate as an 11-plex… the nine screens @ the Chelsea, plus the two @ the Chelsea West.

HomegaMan on June 22, 2004 at 8:38 am

Great theater where I saw “The Mumnmy” in 1999 after attending my friends Dave and Joe’s Brooklyn College Art Show somewhere deep in Chelsea. Also saw “The truth about Cats and Dogs” there with my wife in 1997.

br91975 on April 23, 2004 at 7:31 pm

Cineplex Odeon reopened this house as the Chelsea West in December of 1996 (to answer your question, Robert, this was a Walter Reade house – that is, until they were bought out by Cineplex Odeon in 1987). One of the first features shown post-renovation in December of 1996 was ‘The People Vs. Larry Flynt’ and, as touted in an ad in the Times, management was serving free coffee to folks who attended the morning show during the first few days of its run. A fresh, hot cup of brew and a porn king/First Amendment martyr? Not a connection I’d automatically make, but hey… :–)

SethLewis on March 13, 2004 at 2:40 am

After the Roundabout days, Walter Reade triplexed it as the 23rd St West…Cineplex kept the name until they redid it and twinned it…It was a grotty but fun neigborhood house…saw The Fourth War with Roy Scheider in 1989 there

RobertR on March 12, 2004 at 11:03 am

This was originally RKO 23 ST, did Walter Reade also have it at one time? They might have been the ones to triplex it. I know Cineplex remodeled it and made it a twin shortly before the merger with Loews. They gave this theatre up to Clearview shortly after.