RKO Proctor's 58th Street Theatre

154 East 58th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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Showing 76 - 100 of 118 comments

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 27, 2006 at 5:52 am

The showmanship was often for financial reasons. Most of those stars shared in the profits of their movies, so it was to their advantage to make personl appearances to attract as many ticket buyers as possible.

BobFurmanek on February 27, 2006 at 5:06 am

Indeed, like the grand theaters, an era that we will never see again. I have many photos from this tour. I’ll see if I can get some of them scanned and posted on the individual theater pages.

You can see that Jerry was having a great time. Murray the K was with him and, at one point, they got off the tour bus to play stickball with some kids on the street. You can see the kids were thrilled by the astonished looks on their faces!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 27, 2006 at 4:52 am

I think we all appreciate the postings, Bob. Thanks. The fact that there were so many tours like that by big stars like Lewis (and Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, etc) has always fascinated me. More evidence of an era of showmanship that is, sadly, long gone.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 27, 2006 at 4:08 am

I’ve been meaning to mention that the previous theatre on the site, Proctor’s Pleasure Palace, was re-named Proctor’s 58th Street when it started showing movies with the vaudeville. I guess that Pleasure Palace seemed inappropriate and old-fashioned. When the replacement theatre opened in December, 1928, it was known as Proctor’s New 58th Street for the short time until RKO took over and it became RKO Proctor’s 58th Street.

BobFurmanek on February 27, 2006 at 3:58 am

Thanks Jerry. I wasn’t trying to flood the forum with repetitive posts, but I thought fans of those individual theaters would find it interesting. Lewis wound up visiting 27 RKO theaters over the course of two days. What a schedule! He did this several times in his career, including the New York Loew’s tour for “The Bellboy” in 1960.

After the tour, Jerry wrote a letter to RKO thanking them, but also commenting on the overall run-down condition of the backstage areas. These were pretty old theaters, and those stages were no longer in active use.

It was interesting to follow his itinerary on these pages to see what happened to all these great showplaces. I don’t think anyone could do that tour today…

42ndStreetMemories on February 23, 2006 at 2:52 pm

Bryan, not to steal Bob’s thunder but I have the ad from that day. My dad took me for my birthday. Lewis was listed in the ad to visit these theaters on the previous day:
86th St…11:30am
Marble Hill…1:45pm
Yonkers… 2:15pm
White Plains…..3:15pm
New Rochelle….4:00pm
Mt Vernon…4:30pm
Castle Hill….7:15pm
86 St….10:15pm

This should total 15; the next day he “only” did 13 including the 58th St at 9:45pm. If I recall, they interrupted the 2nd feature, Love in a Goldfish Bowl with Fabian, when Jerry arrived. He did 5 minutes of schtick and took off. The ad features a signed letter from the RKO managers proclaiming their admiration of Jerry. No wonder, he sold a lot of popcorn for them. jerry

BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 10:10 am

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 7:15 am

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 6:43 am

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 1:26 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 5:07 am

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 8:03 am

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 7:35 am

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 4:29 am

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 11:21 am

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.

View link

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 5:32 am

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 12:45 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 9:40 am

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 3:56 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 11:13 am

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 10:30 am

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:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 2, 2005 at 9:26 am

A C/O for this building was issued on December 20, 1928. I can’t believe the date matches the opening date of the theater. No owner is listed. Instead, it reads “This certificate is issued to "Thomas W. Lamb, Architect 644 Eighth Ave”. Seating is given as Orchestra-1775 seats and Balcony-1329 seats for a total of 3104.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 2, 2005 at 8:26 am

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:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 18, 2005 at 10:09 am

Thanks Jerry. If its okay with Warren, the description above could be changed to “This theater closed sometime in 1967 and was demolished shortly afterwards”. Or would you prefer to word it another way.

42ndStreetMemories on July 18, 2005 at 9:44 am


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