Symphony Space/Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre

250 W. 95th Street,
New York, NY 10025

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 28, 2004 at 8:35 pm

The Symphony Theatre has a rather interesting history. Occupying land that once belonged to the super-rich Astor family, the building first opened as a food market in 1915. Two years later, it became the Crystal Ice Skating Palace, which soon went bust due to refrigeration problems. In 1918, architect William H. Gompert converted the rink into the 1,500-seat Symphony movie theatre by adding a shallow balcony that ran along three sides of the rectangular auditorium. Built underneath the Symphony Theatre, with an entrance around the corner on 95th Street, was a dance palace, which later would be converted into the Thalia Theatre.

br91975 on March 14, 2004 at 6:12 pm

Warren is correct; the Thalia was still operating as a cinema at the same time Symphony Space began hosting programs out of the old Symphony Theatre. The Thalia closed in May of 1987 (and was immortalized in a Newsweek article the next month, chronicling the struggles revival houses around the country were facing in the wake of the VCR boom at the time). It sat empty until a neighborhood businessman bought the lease to the Thalia, gave it a slight renovation (including the installation of a new marquee), and reopened it in July of 1993, offering double-feature changes, if I remember correctly, three times a week (unlike during the former run of the Thalia which Gerald makes reference to, where the bills changed six – and, occasionally, seven – times a week). The revival programming at the ‘new’ Thalia, however, failed to catch on, perhaps due to a lack of originality in comparison to what was booked at the Thalia during its heyday, and the booking policy changed sometime around the spring of 1994, focusing exclusively on releases distributed by Fine Line Features (the dependent offshoot of New Line Pictures). That, however, didn’t last long and the Thalia went through several fallow periods and a handful of different lease-holders, all whose efforts to keep the Thalia running failed (the programming during this time could probably be best said to have resembled that of the old Bleecker Street Cinemas – an odd fit for the UWS, but it may have worked if the Thalia was consistently open for business).

Finally, after all those up-and-down periods, Symphony Space renovated the Thalia, which, if the times I’ve attended programs within its walls are to be judged as the rule as opposed to the exception, is more than holding its own. Unfortunately, none of the original architectural elements – including that beloved-by-some, despised-by-others upwardly sloping floor in the auditorium – remain.

SethLewis on March 14, 2004 at 4:34 pm

The Symphony itself…a noble second run house was on Broadway…my best memories of it were in the mid 60s seeing unmemorable kid’s pictures from Universal Studios ie Tony Randall in Fluffy, Andy Griffith in Angel in My Pocket

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 14, 2004 at 11:30 am

For many decades the amazing Thalia on 95th Street had daily changes of double bills: they showed virtually everything: foreign films, recent American movies, classic revivals, silents, educational film programs, cartoon programs, films from private collections, films forgotten, films dumped, films rarely or never programmed. I submit that, from the viewpoint of programming alone, this paradise for film lovers was the greatest commercial movie theatre in the history of the United States, if not the world.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 15, 2004 at 9:27 pm

This listing seems a bit cockeyed. The Thalia may have opened in 1938, but it was beneath and around the corner from the Symphony Theatre, which dates back to the 1920s, if not before that. The Symphony had about 1,400 seats and was a subsequent-run movie house for much of its life. When it was first converted to Symphony Space, the Thalia was still operating as a cinema, if I recall correctly.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 12, 2003 at 4:28 am

The Thalia is now known as the Leonard Nimoy Thalia, as the former Mr. Spock was evidently a significant benefactor of the theaters renovations. It is located at Broadway and West 95th street. And the strange slope of the auditorium was that it sloped UP TOWARDS the screen!!! I do not know if this peculiarity survives the renovations.

Jean on August 23, 2002 at 5:32 am

The original Thalia was located around the corner. The interior of the theater was strangely sloped.It apparently followed the slope of the street outside.It was very small inside but no one seemed to mind because the revival films were great.

DougDouglass on August 5, 2002 at 12:53 am

NPR’s “Selected Shorts” originates here.