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as always i thank my fellow posters for their
replies. while “42 Street” is one of my favorite
books about Manhattan theater history the opening
statement to the chapter on the American has
always perplexed me. now the Rialto of 1916 is the
movie theater which “replaced” Hammerstein’s
Victoria. since i’ve read the Rialto was the first
movie “palace” built in the Times Square area i
assumed it was a brand new from scratch building
but apparently not according to Henderson. so how
much of the Victoria existed in the Rialto? for
instance was the Rialto simply built within the
gutted frame of the Victoria so all that was left
were the four walls?
also considering Henderson’s thoughts on the
subject how much of a older structure would have
to still be present for the “new” theater not
to be considered a “new” theater as she does?
this was one of the most prominent quasi-art houses
in Manhattan in that it would occasionally play big
films as well. granted it was on 58 St. between Park
and Madison but to deem that it was “hard to find”
as the intro states it sooooo way off base. it was
a favorite theater of mine. i would have loved to
have the downstairs lounge as my apartment.
i have lived within walking distance of the
building my entire life. now i just turned 61
and never remember the building in operation as
a movie theater. the marquee was kept up long
after it closed. so when did it close as a
i have to respond to the comments made by
rivoli157 and GaryCohen. while the surrounding
area may have gotten “colorful” at one point
the theater itself never went down hill or got
seedy however you wish to phrase it. it fact
“The Towering Inferno” opened on an exclusive
Manhattan run Dec. 1974 that lasted till the end
of May 1975. in terms of –“then the twinning and
the real decline of Times Square-no one in their
right mind went to a movie theater on Broadway”.
that is of course simply not true. from the day
the it opened as a single screen theater
Dec. 1972 thru its closure as a twin in 1996 the
theater was a well run operation and always ran
1st run engagements. whether or not the films
were any good was a matter of opinion. during the
theater’s 24 year existence i went there many times
and no matter how “colorful” the area may have
gotten at one point the theater(s)were always well
run and the patrons were regular well dressed well
behaved folk and not the “colorful” denizens of the
area as has been implied in the comments.
while the body of the theater(the auditorium)had
been converted to the U.S.A. disco and subsequently
demolished to build the swanky W hotel the lobby
area stills stands as is still operates as the
i first became aware of this theater when i was
a delivery boy for a local supermarket in the early
70s at which point it was already showing porn.
i have always assumed it was a vaudeville house
which had seen better days. but from the intro
at the top am i to understand it was built from
the ground up as a movie theater in 1914 and was
not a conversion/renovation of an older structure
into a movie theater and that it was strictly a
movie theater its entire life?
while quite fascinating and beautifully designed
Mary C. Henderson’s book “42 Street” contains a
big factual error that i’m surprised the proof
reader didn’t catch. the book is a biography if
you will of the 12 theaters that were built on
42 St. between 7t hand 8th Avenue. the twelve
chapters are arranged chronologically by the date
the theater was built. therefore the American is
the 1st theater discussed and therein lies the
factual error. the chapter begins with i believe
this statement-“the American has the dubious
distinction of being the first theater built on
the block and the first theater torn down”. this
is not true. while it was the first theater built
it was not the first theater torn down. Hammerstein’s
Victoria right on the northwest corner of 7th
Avenue and 42 St. was torn down at the end of
1915. the American wasn’t torn down till 1931.
i remember the Walter Reade theaters serving coffee
so its nice to know the Rugoff theaters had a similar
policy. i’m guessing the primary reason they were
able to pull it off was because of the manageable
size of the theater’s audience.
i liked the Fine Arts. one thing that the theater
did in the 70s and maybe early 80s was offer free
coffee in the downstairs lounge from i think 5p.m till closing. i believe other Walter Reade theaters
did so as well. can you imagine that being done
as always i thank my fellow posters for replying
to my inquiries. so Al A. if i understand you reply
correctly the 55th St. Playhouse went from being
a top art house to a gay porn house in short order?
i suppose anything is possible in the big wide world of Manhattan real estate even the fall of 1971. its
just i can’t picture the theater going from being
a top art house than say two or weeks later becoming
the top hard-core gay porn house in Manhattan. i
naturally assumed there had to have been a significant closed up period.
Hello Again To Ed S.– i figured considering the building’s locale the original firehouse would havebeen build around 1890. so i wasn’t to far off.
two new notes.
1.i guess my memory is only 99% perfect. this
theater’s sister theater on 3rd Ave. was for many
years the Bijou one of the leading gay porn
houses in the city. i was quite familar with
the Bijou. yet a stone’s throw away on 11th St.
the Evergreen for a few years was known as the
Sobo a leading gay porn house. now i was in
college during the period the Evergreen operated
as the Sobo and was frequently in the Union
Square Easy Village area yet never remember
the Evergreen as the Sobo. even if it was a
leading gay porn house it had to have been so
for a short period. plus i’m guessing there
was no marquee to speak of which could be why
i didn’t take note of its gay porn period.
2.a question about the 55th St. Playhouse i ask
you here since that theater’s page hasn’t
been updated in a while. the theater opened
in the early 30s and for almost 40 years was
a leading venue for foreign and independent
films. now it started its almost 20 year
career as one of Manhattan’s top gay porn
houses when Wakefield Poole’s BOYS IN THE
SAND opened i believe the first week of
Dec. 1971 and therein lies my question. i doubt
one week it was a top art house for foreign
and independent film than the next week it
switches to gay porn. therefore i’m guessing
it must have been vacant, un-used whichever
the correct term is for a certain period of time
before it became a top gay porn house. am i
Hello To Ed S.–
i always remember this building beingthe Cinema Village and assumed it was builtas such. but i read somewhere else that thebuilding was originally a firehouse which isnot mentioned in the intro. so obviously theydid a gut renovation of the originalstructure. the question is- how old is thebasic structure?
i haven’t been out to L.A. since the spring of
2004 at which time the Pacific up on Hollywood
Blvd. was still boarded up and unused. now the last
time i was out when it was still a first run venue
abet a tri-plexed? one didn’t the downstairs main
auditorium have a deeply curved screen? if i am
not mistaken the Pacific along with the Cinerama
Dome was used for reserved seat runs of Cinerama
films both 3-strip and single lens 70mm ones. or
is it possible they removed the curved screen when
the Pacific was decommissioned as a movie theater.
would you happen to know if the print of VERTIGO
that was shown at the Hitchcock Festival was ever
released even on vhs? the reason i ask is simple.
the only home video verison i have watched is the
vhs and subsequently dvd of the 1996 Harris/Katz
restoration. so it would be interesting to see
what the film looked and sounded like before it was restored.
you seem quite knowledge so i have a question
for you. during the good old days of gay porn
two of the top gay theaters in midtown were the
Eros(8th. Ave.&46 St) and the Adonis(51 St.&8th Ave.)
they were both owned by a woman named Chelly Wilson(hopefully i spelled her first name right)
would you happen to know
she was either related to or was friends with
Denise the nice lady who owned and operated the
Gaiety on 46 St. they were both Greek so i figure
it doesn’t hurt to ask.
granted posting an old newspaper ad would be
proof positive but how about the fact i went
there to see a aptly titled porn film(gay)–
as reiterated by AL A. this theater was most
definitely a porn house for a short time in the
late 70s. as for the Carnegie Hall Corp. i bet
they realized $$$ is $$$.
Hello- the ad in the intro is not for this
theater was a sister theater on 3rd Avenue.
in fact previous to being taken over by the
Cinema Village the 3rd Avenue theater was
for a time one of the top gay porn houses
in the city.
Hello- shortly before it closed didn’t this theater
hold a festival of Hitchcock films that hadn’t
been show theatrically for some time because
of copyright issues? i remember two of films were
VERTIGO and THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY.
not mentioned as yet is that for a short period
in the late 70s i believe this theater was a gay
a mistake of sorts in the intro needs to be corrected. true the Capitol was running the
original roadshow engagement of 2001 in the
late spring of 1968 shortly before it closed
and was later demolished. but the roadshow
run of 2001 did not end at this point as well.
said engagement was switched to the Warner
Cinerama at Bway & 47 St. where it continued
to do good business for several more weeks.
Hello From NYC To My Fellow Moviegoers In L.A.–
two quick questions-
1.at the Archlight Cinemas attached to the
Cinerama Dome there is of course a surcharge
for 3-D, IMAX and 3-D IMAX films. but what
is the charge for a regular film? in NYC it
varies. some art houses charge $11 or $12 but
the big chain multipexes are obviously more.
for instance the Chelsea multipex run by
Clearview Cinemas charges $13.25 whereas the
Regal 42 St. and Union Square multiplexes
2.it is certainly worth a trip out to L.A.
to see “The Wonderful World of the Brothers
Grimm” in 3-Strip Cinerama at the Dome.
so is there any real news are the possibility?
i share Bill H.’s sentiment. Nov. of 1982 about
3 weeks before it opened the theater had a special
screening of “Gandhi”. after the film was over
director Richard Attenborough made an appearence
and did a some q & a. at the end when people were
leaving the theater i walked up to him thanked
him for a wonderful film and shook his hand. i
then said “i hope you have your Oscar speech for
winning Best Director ready. he humbly replied
"don’t you think that’s jumping the gun a bit?”.
then he thanked me for wishing him well with
you’ve been most helpful with my inquiries. so
hopeful indepth knowledge will be of assistance
this time as well.
1.in my searching for the oldest movie theater
in Manhattan built from scratch as a movie theater
i came across something quite fascinating. its
been said many times by many people that many
of the grand old movie theaters built in the
approx. 1913-1941 period were killed off either
by the almost effect of t.v. or by neighborhoods
“changing”. what i found interesting were the
decent number of movie theaters in Manhattan
that closed up shop long before anyone ever
heard of t.v. or any neighborhoods “changed”.
of course the stock market crash of Oct. 1929
didn’t help but a number of theaters closed up
shop even before Oct. 1929. and i’m not
necessarily talking about hole in the wall
theaters but decent theaters. so what’s your
take on this most interesting matter.
2.Thomas Lamb designed many grand old movie
theaters in the 1913-1941 period. i always said
“damn that man was prolific”. now about a
month ago i found out that after he made a name
for himself he started up an architectural
firm with many architects working under him.
the article therefore implied that some of the
grand old movie theaters attributed to Lamb
may actually have been designed by other
architects in the firm. now if this is true
how to we know which movie theaters that have
always been attributed to Lamb were actually
designed by him?
interesting discussion. as i said i saw the
theater’s debut film “Marooned” in its roadshow
run. i still have the souvenir program. therefore this theater has always held a special place in
my heart. to which a question- is there any real
danger of the theater closing anytime in the
near future? or is it just rumors/hearsay? in other
words are we perhaps being a bit on the pessimistic side about its future?