Loew's Capitol Theatre

1645 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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porterfaulkner on May 7, 2004 at 12:56 am

Although Edith Head designed the costumes for a couple of MGM films right at the end of both their careers she was not head designer at Metro but Paramount. That prize postion belonged over the years to Adrian,Irene,Helen Rose and finally Walter Plunkett who remained salaried but not working until Kerkorian closed the production wardrobe.

The old MGM lot(Sony) also has a spacious and well equipped theaterette for the employees just inside the studio gates…..

edward on May 6, 2004 at 8:08 pm

Loews Cineplex Entertainment is owned by Onex Corp. (Toronto). They may sell all or part of this theatre chain. Onex acquired the Galaxy Theatre chain in Canada in 2003, created Cineplex Galaxy LP in early 2004, and also operates Cineplex Odeon theatres.
Sony has expressed interest in MGM. They currently own the former MGM lot, from which Columbia/TriStar Pictures also operates. The union would join MGM’s corporate offices to its fomer movie lot in Culver City. 30 years after its destruction, a modified version of MGM studios would come back to life. (The rubby slippers, backlot and Edith Head are all long gone)

bruceanthony on May 6, 2004 at 7:20 pm

Its ironic that the Capitol showed its last film 2001 which was an MGM release in 1968. MGM which was controlled by Loews until 1959. With the destruction of the Capitol MGM also was never the same. 1968 was the last year MGM showed a profit on its movies as a major film studio. MGM went into a severe decline after this and has never recovered. MGM was purchased 3 times by KIRK Kerkorian starting in 1969. Under Kerkorian Hollywood’s greatest studio was reduced from a roar to a meow. Kerkorian has again placed MGM for sale but its a shadow of its former self. Its big asset is its huge film library of 4000 films which are mostly non MGM films. The real MGM is owned by Time Warner which owns all MGM films prior to 1986. Loews is also for sale. The destruction of the Capitol marked an end of an era the likes of which we will never see again.brucec

VincentParisi on May 6, 2004 at 1:31 pm

It was interesting that it turned out to be a surprise hit with the young as I assume the road show audience was an older one and in'68 when the middle-aged were going to see Funny Girl and Oliver on hardticket the young were going to Graduate and Rosemary’s Baby.
Now it seems the young into reserved seating. But I guess year long runs are a thing of the past.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 6, 2004 at 1:08 pm

I can remember Kate Cameron being the first string critic in the ‘60’s. She always gave four stars to all the big roadshow pictures. I believe Wanda Hale was second string, followed by Kathleen Carroll who did become head critic at the paper in the '70’s. Maybe she was assigned to “2001” because she was the youngest? Most of its audience turned out to be younger people (my dad was 39 at the time and he hated it).

VincentParisi on May 6, 2004 at 12:48 pm

Sorry Wanda. So why didn’t she review it ? I thought she was the first string critic at the time. Or did they both share the post?

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 6, 2004 at 12:07 pm

Vincent: It was Kathleen Carroll who panned “2001” in the Daily News. But even she felt, maybe subsconsciously, that it was something special. Her review began like this: “"2001” is not a movie. It’s an experience.“ Wanda Hale actually liked it. She called it a "grand spectacle” in her yearly wrap-up column in the World Almanac.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 15, 2004 at 4:28 am

The review of “2001” was my most anticipated review ever. I was sure it would be the first sci-fi film since “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” in 1962 to get four stars. Imagine how I felt when I saw the **½ under the headline “Kubrick Space Film is Way Out”, over a dismissive review that occupied less than one column of a page in the paper. I think this was the first time I realized that it doesn’t matter what a critic says about a movie – it’s my own opinion that really counted (I was 13). I knew the movie was going to be great, and when I finally saw it … hey, it’s 36 years later and we’re still talking about it!

VincentParisi on April 14, 2004 at 1:17 pm

Regarding the above erroneous legend of the photo. I saw 2001 in 70mm twice on the Rivoli’s curved screen in ‘76 and then a few years later. One of the three best cinema experiences(combining film and theater) of my life. The two others:My Fair Lady at the Criterion and Singing in the Rain at the Music Hall.

VincentParisi on April 14, 2004 at 1:03 pm

This was the lowest rating I believe ever given by the Daily News to a roadshow film which very often gave them four stars(Wanda Hale knew which side her bread was buttered on.)
Just the fact that Planet played also on the East Side first run was bad news for Times Square.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 14, 2004 at 12:19 pm

“Planet of the Apes” played the Capitol and the 72nd St. Playhouse at the same time starting in early February 1968. I can’t remember the exact date, though. The next movie to play the Capitol was “2001”. It was shown to the New York critics (who mostly tore it apart) on April 1st, and it opened to the public on April 3rd. I remember reading the **½ star review in the New York Daily News on the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, 4/4/68.

dennisczimmerman on April 5, 2004 at 3:22 pm

I saw “2001” for the first time at Loew’s Capitol on June 1, 1968. I saw it a second time at the Warner Cinerama on Oct. 4, 1968. When the Warner closed on Feb. 8, 1987, New York City no longer had a theatre capable of Cinerama projection.

VincentParisi on April 5, 2004 at 6:26 am

2001 was the Easter attraction in ‘68 at the Capitol and moved later to the Warner Cinerama when the Capitol was to be torn down.
Unfortunately this was the only time 2001 was presented in New York in Cinerama. All of us who didn’t get to see it then have never seen it in its original presentation. So when exactly did Planet play at the Capitol?

dennisczimmerman on April 4, 2004 at 9:30 pm

I am not a New York City resident. However, I had been in the Capitol Theatre twice in visits to the “Big Apple.” My last time was to see “2001”. What a marvelous theatre. Its demolition was a loss to NYC. I would have enjoyed seeing the theatre as it was originally designed. Years later, sitting in the nondescript, boring, and plain Gershwin Broadway Theatre I realized that is close to where the Capitol was located. Whatever developer, architect, designer came up with the idea to replace the Capitol with the Gershwin should have their license revoked!

Orlando on March 30, 2004 at 7:19 pm

The Capitol closed after the Roadshow engagement of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the fall/winter of 1968. “Planet Of The Apes” was the Easter attraction of 1968 on an exclusive run prior to its' first showcase run. It could have played an eastside house as well. The building didn’t close in 1967 as stated above.

ERD on March 30, 2004 at 6:10 pm

I vaguely remember seeing the stage shows at the beautiful Capitol when I was a very young. The last time I went there was to see “2001.” Among my theatre collection is the 1919(ca.)Brunswick recording of The Capitol Grand Orchestra, Erno Rapee conducting. (First conductor of the theatre’s orchestra) There are some excellent pictures of the Capital in Ben M. Hall’s great book about the movie palaces, “The Best Remaining Seats.”

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 19, 2004 at 1:14 pm

The following is forwarded to this website from a long time friend, SDH, formerly managing director of the Chicago Theater, q.v.

My one visit to the Loew’s Capitol was in the early 1960’s. It was located almost next door to the Warner Brothers Hollywood, which was almost next door to the Mark Strand. Loew’s had converted the Capitol to Cinerama and it was completely draped. I understand, though, that the original decor was still there behind the curtains. I remember it had one of those Loew’s new-style New York marquee: Stainless steel and shadow letters with the theatre name (Just like the Loew’s State two blocks down Broadway). Those new Times Square marquees had no changeable letter boards on them because every one of those theatres had immense electric false fronts from Artcraft-Strauss. The orchestra seats under the balcony had been removed (you couldn’t see Cinerama from under thebalcony), and a Japanese Garden was built at the back of the floor, a ridiculous sight indeed. Since the balcony was the best place to sit, they had put escalators in the center of the famous marble stairs. That was the only theatre I ever saw with escalators except for the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. Now, of course, all these new downtown Loew’s multiplexes have escalators galore: What better place to put a theatre auditorium than in the windowless center of a building?
I have seen pictures of the Capitol interior before Cinerama and it was Loew-Lamb Adam style. Very stately, very simple ornament.

The organ was an Estey which originally had the lighted cash register stop controls. It is an apocryphal story that G. D. Harrison, who was servicing the organ in the days before he reached the pinnacle of Aeolian-Skinner) set every piston to spell out dirty words which were clearly visible from the balcony. Later on, Loew’s did spring for a beautiful standard horseshoe console, but the organ was still an Estey which had a very bland residence-organ character with nothing really theatrical about it. It didn’t sound very good I’m told, but did any Estey ever sound very good? Very bland, and nothing which could possibly offend!

You know, of course, that Roxy was at the Capitol before the Roxy Theatre was built, in the capacity of grand high poobah of ridiculous stage shows, describing the stage show over WOR, the Loew’s-owned radio station in Secaucus. Major Bowes replaced him, very pleased to have Roxy out. Bowes, after the stage show era was gone, was the host of “Major Bowes' Amateur Hour” on CBS. This show was the direct predecessor of the “Ted Mack Amateur Hour.”

VincentParisi on January 22, 2004 at 8:56 am

Thank you Warren for your advice, I will check their archives. The really difficult thing is getting color photos of these theaters. As I said the color photo of the Capitol was pretty amazing. And the one of the Bronx Paradise in Time-Life’s This Fabulous Century is not to be missed. Does anyone know of color photos of the interiors of the Capitol, Paramount, Roxy, SF Fox, Grauman’s Million Dollar or Chi Paradise? One can recreate an architectural effect in the theaters that remain but how do you match the color and lighting of masters long dead who did not pass on their art? And this was an enormous part of their impact.

VincentParisi on January 21, 2004 at 3:01 pm

But the Loew’s State and Warner Cinerama were twinned in ‘68(the year the Capitol was closed) and were still used as road show houses. Also from what I gather that despite the twinning the screen sizes remained the same(Vincent Canby mentions it in is review of Oliver.) I was in the State 1 after it was twinned and found the size of the screen disappointing in relation to the house. The Warner Cinerama orchestra however was still an excellent 70mm house and it is sorely missed as NY does not have a single theater like it today. The Capitol is one theater I wish I could have seen. Pictures of its original untouched auditorium seem to be as rare as hens teeth.Though the Loew’s State 2 entrance had a partial color photo of it and that image fragment was very beautiful. They also had a large marble planter or pedestal that had been saved.

theatrefan on November 2, 2003 at 9:55 am

The Capitol Theatre opened on October 24, 1919, on Broadway in New York City. The central feature of the Capitols expansive lobby was a white marble staircase. Designed by Thomas Lamb, the lush auditorium seated 5,300. Crystal chandeliers, walnut paneling and elaborated gold ceilings created the illusion that this was indeed a palace. The Capitol was demolished in 1967.

richarddziadzio on June 11, 2002 at 1:43 pm

I was in this theatre first time in 1962 after they remodeled for 3 projector Cinerama. The original theatre had 5 sections of seats even in the balcony. They hung curtains blocking off the outer 2 sections leaving the middle 3 sections. They also draped off the rear third of the balcony. You could stand on the railing in the balcony, lift the curtain, and see the original theatre intact. They created an temporary huge theatre inside even a bigger one. This must have been a beautiful house.

SethLewis on April 24, 2002 at 10:25 pm

I saw Planet of the Apes and 2001 here…An awesome multi aisle theatre the likes of which we will never see again

Stannorton on December 8, 2001 at 2:43 pm

The Capitol was managed by Samuel"Roxy" Rothafel before he built his own Roxy. MgM opened many of its pictures here.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 30, 2001 at 8:04 pm

I was lucky enough to see 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY here in June 1968. I’ve never forgotten the movie, or the theater. New York sure could use another one like it right now.