Roxy Theatre

153 W. 50th Street,
New York, NY 10020

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scottfavareille
scottfavareille on August 10, 2004 at 3:10 pm

In reading these comments about movie palaces, I would like to add comments about San Francisco’s Market Street. Market Street was at one time a major street for movie theater going and you had all levels of theaters on that street, from first-run/roadshow(United Artists, St Francis, Fox, Paramount, Orpheum(a Cinerama house), RKO Golden Gate) to second-run (Fox Warfield, Esquire) to last run(grindhouses like Pix, Regal, and Hub). The early 1960’s saw major changes as Market Street started going into decline. Some theaters would close(Fox & Paramount in early 1960’s, Orpheum in the mid-1960’s which resulted in the Golden Gate becoming a Cinerama theater), some would turn to “adults only”(Hub, Centre, Pix), and the others would hang on. Around 1970, BART construction began, which tore up Market Street and claim some more theaters(most notably Esquire and Pix). The three first-run houses changed as well. Both the Golden Gate and St Francis had twinned. Golden Gate would largely show action and kung-fu films. The St Francis alternated between action and second-run product. United Artists changed its name to Market Street Cinema, and largely showed blaxploitation and some second-run. Several more theaters turned to hard porn(Centre, Guild became Pussycat, Regal became Mitchell Brothers Bijou—Even Market Street Cinema went porn in 1980). Second-run theaters like the Warfield and the Esquire had deteriorated and largely became havens for bums to get a cheap place to sleep. About 1 ½ yrs ago, the last theater to show movies on Market Street closed—The Strand. It was a theater that went from second run to grindhouse to revival house and ended as a seedy porn theater(showing video) and it was shut by the police due to open drug dealing that was rampant there.

Luckily, the Orpheum and the Golden Gate show Broadway shows there now.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 10, 2004 at 1:56 pm

Reading these posts here and for other showplaces makes me a litle nauseous over what we’ve lost.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 10, 2004 at 1:19 pm

Warren I agree with you, but I think most of the movie palaces may have lasted a little longer like in Canada and Britain.The Chicago loop was vital until the early 1970’s until exploitation became the norm. Hollywood Blvd did very well during the 1970’s day and date with Westwood on Exclusive Runs. The urban core in most of our downtowns were declining in the 1960’s some faster than others. I still think if more thought and imagination many of our great cinemas could have been incorporated within a megaplex like the Cinerama Dome,Gruaman’s Chinese,Odeon in London,and the Rex in Paris. I think in Times Sqaure the Criterion could have been incorporated into a megaplex. I think City planners in New York City should have pushed for a megaplex on Times Square as well as 42nt St. I loved the era of the exlusive run because these theatres were deluxe houses and put on a great show. I know Chicago didn’t want any new megaplex built in the Loop they wanted them off North Michigan Ave across the river.I think if the Roxy had lasted a little longer it would have made a great mid size concert hall the way Radio City became in the late 1970’s.brucec

William
William on August 10, 2004 at 8:43 am

As Warren put it.
Any Palaces that survived would have required being turned into multiplexes, performing arts centers, churches….

But if you look at the size of some of these palaces like the Roxy or Capital. With 5000+ seats they would have to gut most of the theatre to make those extra screens. Around the same time frame the parent company National Theatres (Fox Theatres) decided to drop the Fox Theatre in San Francisco. Ok the Fox lasted two more years, but they dropped many of their large sized palaces during that time. Many of them dating back 30-40 years. If you look at theatres that were built in the early 60’s, you will see what the theatre chains thought what was a modern movie theatre. Many of these theatres draped over their original auditoriums. In 1960 when the movie “Spartacus” opened at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Stanley Kubrick had the theatre reduce the seating area by draping far sides and upper balconys of theatres. When the Capital Theatre was turned in a Cinerama Theatre they draped over large areas in the upper balcony. The large palaces that once were the flag ships in cities were now big white barns to their chains. With what the exhibition and distribution of films were during this time. The large theatre near the Roxy were all first run / Roadshow houses. During Roadshow times you were running two – three performances a day, for sometime up to two years( with some pictures). You were contracted to run so many weeks. The start of the runs were great, but if something bigger was set to open soon after. You were stuck sometimes running to less than half in your houses. So if you look at which ones left first. The Roxy left in the early 60’s, the Paramount lasted the the mid 60’s, the Capital to the late 60’s. The Warner was twinned and had an extra screen in the rear. The Rivoli was twinned and UA damaged the front area so it could not be landmarked. The State was twinned and lasted till the late 80’s. The Palace Theatre went back to Broadway stage shows, after a return to 70MM Roadshow type reissues. Criterion last the longest for the Times Square area theatres. Remember we almost lost Radio City back in 1978. (At that time of the final benefit performance would have been “The Three Musketeers” on April 12th. 1978).

Vito
Vito on August 10, 2004 at 3:46 am

I wonder how different things might have been had the goverment kept out of the movie biz. Would some of the palaces still be around? Would we have lost MGM and RKO?

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 9, 2004 at 8:44 pm

Tivia: The Roxy (Cathedral of the Motion Picture) was demolished in 1960 and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer(The Tiffany’s of the major studios) was seperated from Loews Inc. the last major studio to comply with the government consent decree which forced the major studios to divest there theatres in the US. The greatest movie palace ever built was destroyed and Loew’s M-G-M was spit up with the help of the government, only survived until 1969 until Kerkorain got his hands on it.I regret that I never was able to attend a movie and a stage show at the Roxy.brucec

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 9, 2004 at 3:43 pm

>>The Walker made it to the 90’s and now a store sits inside…

Where this?

RobertR
RobertR on August 9, 2004 at 2:40 pm

I can only imagine how incredible the Roxy must have been. 44 years after it’s closing my mother still talks about seeing movies there with my grandmother and the elaborate stage shows. Yes the Astor was a great modern day single screen, but think The Walker made it to the 90’s and now a store sits inside and all the walls and ceiling are intact behind the plaster boards. It was no Roxy but it was damn beautiful. Thanks UA, another place you destroyed.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on August 9, 2004 at 12:24 pm

Vincent—
Another literary reference to the Roxy occurs in Thomas Merton’s autobiographical Seven Storey Mountain, with a terrific description of a show at that theater ca. 1940.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on August 2, 2004 at 8:37 am

Warren, when the Strand, the Criterion and the Rivoli all came down at about the same time there wasn’t even a murmur and I was so sick I’ve hardly been to Times Square since. Paul Goldberg(?)the architecture critic of the NY Times called it exhilarating and I can’t write what I wanted done to him.
There is in The Great Gatsby an afternoon when the characters decide to take their cars into the city and they talk about going to one of the air-conditioned theaters(unnamed) at around 50th street and it thrilled me to know at the time I read it that two of those theaters about which Fitzgerald wrote were still standing-the Strand and Rivoli. The Roxy hadn’t been built yet.

Vito
Vito on July 31, 2004 at 10:54 am

Yes, it happened rather quickly with little or no fanfare. Of course the Fox Fanfare will forever ring in memory of the great roxy
I can still hear it as the great curtains parted.

Vito
Vito on July 31, 2004 at 12:35 am

Thanks for the laugh Vincent, to see the threads on the Astor Plaza closing you would think it was the greatest ever. Please, I can only guess all those people crying over the loss of the Astor Plaza never saw a real movie palace like the Roxy.I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sad for the loss of the Astor, it represented one of the last single screen theatres in NY, but there is, of course, no comparison to the closing of the Roxy.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on July 30, 2004 at 2:54 pm

No Vincent, You were right first time – the Astor Plaza IS just a hole in the ground. The Roxy was and still is the Cathedral of the Motion Picture and demolition can’t take that away from us!

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 30, 2004 at 2:46 pm

I thought the greatest theater ever was the Astor Plaza.

bobbisox
bobbisox on July 29, 2004 at 5:57 pm

I have just met am 86 yr old woman at the local laundromat who says she was a dancer at the Roxy in 1931. After reading the comments and seeing a rendering of the interior, I’m going to have more questions to ask her when we return to vist and wash our clothes next week. She danced under the name Terry Carlton. She left the Roxy and moved to Berlin where she danced for one of the theaters there, which I’ll find out about next week.

Viv

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 24, 2004 at 9:58 am

Simon L— On the Radio City Music Hall page, you again bring up a terrific recall of the Roxy’s stage shows when you mention the NY Philharmonic’s appearance with “The Black Rose.” Another orchestra that filled the Roxy’s pit was Phil Spitalny’s all-woman philharmonic orchestra, appearing several times in the late 40’s and early 50’s. The Roxy offered some classical and modern ballet from time to time, but didn’t have a resident ballet company, right?
You also mention “Dancing Waters” at RCMH in January ’53 (yup, I saw it then too). I’d always thought that show was designed to out-rival the Roxy, which had remodelled its procenium and stage the previous December. At that time, Roxy introduced Ice Colorama, a full ice stage with blinking multi-colored flourescent lights embedded beneath its translucent surface. Its debut came with the Christmas show featuring the boom-ba-boom “Stars and Stripes Forever” with Clifton Webb, followed by the scarlet-and-black (what do you call a Technicolor film-noir?) of “Niagara” with Marilyn Monroe. To set down a gauntlet, RCMH brought on “Dancing Waters,” with the Minnelli-style Hollywood-noir, “Bad and the Beautiful.” The Roxy then responded with Disney’s “Peter Pan,” filling the house with thousands of kids and their parents.
I remember that the Ice Colorama stage show for the latter featured a clone of the Wizard-of-Oz narrative, concerning a Wicked Witch (performed by a male ice-skater) who hurtled across the stage at enormous speed, pursued by the good-guy Ice Blades and Roxyettes, with flashing flourescent lights in tempestuous neon hues, accompanied by off-stage thunder and a crashing orchestral score (it might have been “A Night on Bald Mountain,” no?). We stayed to see the stage show a second time, moving up to the vast balcony for a better view of the Colorama effects.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 23, 2004 at 11:14 am

On the Radio City Music Hall page, look at SimonL’s comments about the stage show with “Giant” at the Roxy—a twenty-minute quickie to complement the length of the three-and-a-half-hour movie. I recall the amazing show for “Giant”’s predecessor, “Bus Stop,” in which the Roxy hauled out its entire repertoire of sets for constantly shifting scene changes while the Ice Blades and Roxyettes skated on and on. At one point, the cyclorama rose to reveal the rear stage wall, disclosing the theater’s odd triangular ground plan— a stunning revelation to me at the time.
Box Office Bill

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 20, 2004 at 1:09 pm

Jim-In terms of the Roxy being immortalized how can you not include Frank Loesser’s wonderful opening for the song “Guys and Dolls” which begins “What’s playing at the Roxy? I’ll tell you what’s playing at the Roxy…” where he quite ably rhymes Roxy with Biloxi?
And what’s so funny is the fact that the mini summation sounds like the plot of a movie that might have played at the Roxy.

Also do people know that todays Broadway composer Steven Sondheim speaks with great nostalgia about seeing movies at the Roxy when he was young.
We can only envy him.

JimRankin
JimRankin on July 20, 2004 at 11:04 am

It is interesting to note that the Internet Movie Data Base (www.IMDB.com) also lists the 1952 movie “With A Song In My Heart” as being a filming location for the ROXY, though neither in this case nor that of the title “The Naked City” does it say ‘what’ is shown.

JimRankin
JimRankin on July 20, 2004 at 10:57 am

I believe that the only way you can post an image of the programmes is by using a virtual photo such as a ‘jpeg’ or ‘gif’ scan or digital photo, but you will notice that the ADD PHOTO feature is “off line” or not in operation at this time. You would have to contact the site owners to get any advice as to how to go about it now. Of course, one could simply copy the text of a programme and type it in here, but that would not give the flavor of the original document as I am sure that you wish to do. In any case, I am not sure that they will allow images in the comments section, but perhaps a link to your images that are elsewhere.

Movieplace
Movieplace on July 20, 2004 at 8:08 am

The lobby of the Roxy can be seen in Jules Dassin’s “Naked City” from 1946. The Beacon Theater’s lobby was finished before the unfinished theater was sold to Warner’s. It is a ¼ size version of the Roxy’s grand foyer. The Beacon’s layout is the same as the Roxy. The back wall of the stage is not paralel to the proscenium. The stage sort of looks like a lopsided triangle.
I have a program from the Roxy (as well as from THE Paramount) that I could post as soon as I figure out how to do it.

JimRankin
JimRankin on July 14, 2004 at 5:42 am

The late Ben M. Hall quotes these lyrics in his landmark book: “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” wherein he has many photos and much information about the ROXY. One thinks that Cole Porter was grasping for rhymes (or ‘near’ rhymes) for “Russia” in the previous line, but then their uniforms were indeed well tailored, and Mr. Porter’s well known predeliction for young men may have had a part in the wording. I guess that it is a strange way for the ROXY to be ‘immortalized’, but one takes what one can get.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 13, 2004 at 7:13 pm

I heard these lyrics to “You’re the Top” as sung by its composer Cole Porter and thought of this marvelous site:

You’re romance,
You’re the Steps of Russia.
You’re the pants
On a Roxy usher.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on July 11, 2004 at 11:50 am

Here are a few films that played the Roxy over the years from the New York Times movie adds.

Feb 1931 Dracula
Mar 1939 The Hounds of The Baskervilles
Feb 1940 Of Mice and Men
Mar 1940 My Little Chicadee
Oct 1950 All About Eve
Sep 1953 The Robe
Jun 1956 The King and I
Aug 1957 The Sun Also Rises

The Roxy was the flagship theatre of 20Th Century-Fox.brucec