RKO Proctor's 58th Street Theatre

154 East 58th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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Showing 76 - 100 of 108 comments

BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 6:10 pm

To promote his new film “The Ladies Man,” Jerry Lewis appeared on stage at this theater on July 13, 1961.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 12, 2006 at 3:15 pm

The mall in the former Saks/Korvettes was Herald Center or something like that. Now that you mention it, I recall Toys ‘R’ Us being there a few years back. Which was the mall that had a glass front cafeteria or food court on the 3rd or 4th floor that faced Herald Square and looked across at the old Hotel Martinique (I think that was the name)?

Astyanax on February 10, 2006 at 2:43 pm

The former Gimbels site is now Manhattan Plaza, a vertical mall with a wide range of shops. The Sak’s site also has a number of tenants including a Daffy’s, and until recently a Toys ‘R Us.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 7, 2006 at 9:26 pm

Astyanax… I can recall making that very run (for gloves) one cold winter’s evening when I attended a film at the Cinema I & II across Third Ave from Alexanders! And I remember when Saks and Gimbels were on Herald Square. Didn’t Saks become a Korvette’s at some point? I seem to recall they both became malls – but I don’t think the one that was in the former Gimbels building is still in existence.

Astyanax on February 7, 2006 at 1:07 pm

There was a period in the 60’s when both Alexander’s and this theater fronted on Third Ave. The deparetment store had a small entrance on the avenue leading into the store. Originally the Alexanders’s lot was supposed to be a branch of Sak’s 34th St. department store, which was orginally at Herald’s Sq. between Macy’s and Gimbels. That Sak’s was the frumpy mid-price sibling of Sak’s Fifth Ave., and was soon closed in the face of stiff competition from other mid-range retailers.

Alexanders was a great place to stop if you were early for a movie. It had late hours and was a god-send when during a weather change you needed to run in for an umbrella or gloves.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 6, 2006 at 4:03 pm

AlexNYC, I believe Warren’s photos are of the theater that previously occupied the site of the RKO Proctor’s 58th. The latter Proctor was an atmospheric design, which the former clearly was not. Warren did post a photo of the atmospheric Proctor back on July 8th, which still very much validates your lamentation on its passing.

AlexNYC on February 6, 2006 at 3:35 pm

Wow, RKO Proctor’s 58th is indeed a lost treasure. I never had the opportunity to see it in time, I only recall the highrise in it’s place now. Thanks for sharing the photos Warren.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 18, 2006 at 12:29 pm

Here are several images of Proctor’s Pleasure Palace (1895-1927), which was totally demolished to make way for Proctor’s atmospheric 58th Street Theatre. The PPP showed movies along with vaudeville in its final years, but was reportedly in very shabby condition by the end. By that time, the intermission tea service was just a memory:

bazookadave on October 24, 2005 at 7:21 pm

Here is a pic of the block where the RKO Proctor’s once stood. Now it’s the site of a bland office tower. All the old structures along both sides of the street have been replaced.

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I think this pic is from the same angle as the second pic posted by Warren on July 18, 2005, which shows the marquee advertising Joan Crawford in “Humoresque.”

bazookadave on October 20, 2005 at 1:32 pm

Warren I admire your knowledge of the city’s history, it is awesome! I am not sure about Alexander’s, my mom used to take me there in the subway from uptown, way back in the 60s. One of my earliest memories is a floor in Alexander’s where there was a section I used to call the “Pretty Lights,” it was an island in the middle of one of the floors where there were mannequins displaying all the wildest 60s wear for women. However I have no recollection of the RKO Proctor’s and neither does my mom. She does recall the RKO on 86th and believes she and my dad saw “Rio Bravo” there around 1960, when they first moved to the area.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 19, 2005 at 8:45 pm

Alexander’s was a latecomer to that area, and might have been built after Proctor’s 58th Street was demolished. I’m not sure…That block where Alexander’s stood was once supposed to be home for the Roxy Mansion, which was to front on Lexington Avenue between 58th & 59th Streets. They even had a ground-breaking ceremony for it, but construction never actually started due to the bankruptcy of William Fox, who had planned a Roxy circuit after he bought control of the Roxy Theatre. Only one theatre got built, the Roxy Midway, which had become the Warner Beacon by the time it opened.

bazookadave on October 19, 2005 at 5:40 pm

This theatre must have been something to see!!! I recently walked past…all of 58th street between Third and Lexington is new post-1970 architecture. The bland office tower that replaced the RKO is flanked by equally bland glass box buildings. Across the street, the old Alexander’s is replaced by the new Bloomberg Building. Everything is glass and steel and modern, the street is like a futuristic starbase from one of the Star Trek movies. It would be fab if someone would build a replica of the original RKO Proctor’s or any other atmospheric, but I guess that kind of thing just doesn’t happen.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 15, 2005 at 11:56 am

My July 18, 2005 post above shows the stage. It was quite wide and deep, as were the stages of most large theatres built to present vaudeville as part of the programs.

BoxOfficeBill on September 14, 2005 at 7:13 pm

Yes, Warren, exactly: the Synchro-Screen at the RKO Albee in B'klyn looked like the one in the unidentified theater of the second photo. The photo of the Proctor’s 58th Street boggles the mind. Its screen appears to have pre-empted the traveler curtain. (The Albee, however, retained a functional curtain throughout the wide screen era.) The cited dimensions are also staggering. The largest screens of the pre-‘53 era barely exceeded 24’ in width (RCMH’s was 35'). The viewing area at Proctor’s 58th Street must then have measured 24' in height. With two 12' wings, admittedly set at angles, the theater’s proscenium must have measured 50' wide? In an issue of “Theatre Catalog” from the era, there’s a photo and description of the Albee’s Synchro-Screen. I’ll look it up some day, copy the photo, and post it on the Albee’s page for comparison. It’s quite a modest affair by comparison.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 14, 2005 at 6:30 pm

Some time ago, there was discussion of the RCA Synchro-Screen, which was installed in some of the top RKO theatres circa 1951-52 and later had to be removed when they proved incompatible with CinemaScope and other wide screen systems. The Synchro-Screen was regular-sized, but had exstensions on the sides, top, and bottom to reflect light from the center image. The Synchro-Screen at Proctor’s 58th Street was reported to be the largest one in the nation, with a center portion of nearly 31 feet wide and 12 foot “wings” on either side, and filled the entire proscenium. Unfortunately, the following photo is too bright and barely shows the divsions between screen and extensions, so I have added one from a trade ad. No ID was given for the theatre in the second photo:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 2, 2005 at 4:26 pm

Here’s an image of the new Third Avenue entrance that was part of John McNamara’s 1956 modernization of the theatre. The vertical spelling of RKO with flashing stars below was the front of a marquee that had white glass attraction boards with silhouette lettering on the south and north sides:

42ndStreetMemories on July 18, 2005 at 5:44 pm


Warren mentions above that the theater closed with a showing of The Viscount which imdb lists as a May ‘67 release date. I have an RKO ad from after the R&R show, on April 12,1967 with showings at the 58 St of ALFIE & CARRY ON CABBY & TIJUANA BRASS short. j

42ndStreetMemories on July 18, 2005 at 2:33 pm

Check out my post from March 16. Great shows.

Included in the ‘Blues Project Anthology’ CD is a copy of the advertisement for the show. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles are listed for Sat & Sun only. Then, Mitch Ryder took over. Others, I didn’t mention earlier….Jim & Jean, The Chicago Loop, Mandala, Hardly-Worthit Players.

The Who had the instrument destruction thing going at the time. Keith Moon walking around with a bass drum around his waist.

Continuous performances “morning ‘til night”. Must have gotten expensive for Keith over 9 days.

jerry the k

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 18, 2005 at 2:30 pm

It seems possible that some promoter leased the theatre for concerts after RKO closed it as a cinema, but I doubt if there were many, if any, beyond this booking in March, 1967, which was previously reported here by Jerry Kovar on 3/16/05.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 18, 2005 at 1:40 pm

Here are images of the two marquees. The first fronts on Third Avenue. Please note that the corner building to the right (north) is still standing. The second image shows the marquee and entrance on East 58th Street. I believe that this was the original and only entrance, and that the one on Third Avenue was added at a later date. After that, the 58th Street entrance was used only at peak times, simultaneously with the one on Third Avenue. The building to the left (east) of the 58th Street entrance is the same one seen in the Third Avenue view and still standing:

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 8, 2005 at 2:35 pm

Although The Naked and the Dead was a major 1958 release and based on an important literary work, it generally got tepid reviews, particularly for portrayals and performances. Pauline Kael, for one, said Raoul Walsh had turned it into a “third-rate action movie.” She praised the battle sequences but she found the characterizations poor and the acting lacklustre. A. H. Weiler of the Times similarly concluded, “Director Walsh and his associates have carefully drawn an impressively stark face of war from ‘The Naked and the Dead’ but only seldom do they deeply dissect the people involved in it.”
That doesn’t make it a B-movie, of course. That term is applied to low budgets, not low artistic results. But it is to some degree a failed A-film.

RobertR on July 8, 2005 at 2:00 pm

Aldo Rey and Lili St. Cyr ok :)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 8, 2005 at 1:48 pm

The ad including “The Naked and the Dead” was not for a “B” double bill. “The Naked and the Dead” was one of the MAJOR releases of 1958 and based on Norman Mailer’s highly-regarded and best-selling WWII novel.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 8, 2005 at 12:47 pm

Here’s an image of the atmospheric auditorium taken from midpoint in the huge balcony. Notice that the loge section at the front came very close to the stage:

RobertR on July 1, 2005 at 10:52 pm

Here is a “B” double bill playing at the 58th St.

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