Center Theatre

1236 Sixth Avenue,
New York, NY 10020

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Showing 101 - 123 of 123 comments

chconnol on December 15, 2004 at 1:30 pm

RobertR: That link works nicely…I know I’ve seen that picture before…I think it’s in the book “Lost New York”. I was so curious about this that I actually took a quick walk to see what went up in its place and I have to say that it’s pathetic. A completely unremarkable black and glass building. Just take a look at the “lovely” building that took the place of the Roxy. If you stand on the southwest corner of 7th and 50th, you can clearly see where the Sports Illustrated building is nestled exactly where the Roxy once stood.

Can you imagine at the time this was done that the architects and builders thought this was progress?

From this site I’m learning so much about Rockefeller Center. So there were three theaters in the Center at one time. In addition to the Music Hall, there was The Guild and The Center. Amazing.

BoxOfficeBill on December 15, 2004 at 12:43 pm

My random memories of the Center include a couple of visits to the ice shows staged there in the late ‘40s (I estimate in and after Fall, 1946, when I was four years old). By that time, I had already seen a few shows at RCMH with which to compare those at the Center. My most vivid recollection is of one scene deploying a transparent skrim, a revelation to my childish imagination as I wondered how we were able to “see through” an apparently tangible curtain.
Like RCMH, the Center had a cream-tan velvet contour curtain, but with ten folds rather than the fourteen at the larger theater. The walls were of mahogany veneer. The proscenium opening was 60’ with a stage depth of 44’. Like the one at RCMH, its stage had three elevators and a revolving platform. And like RCMH, the Center had three shallow mezzanines, with respective seating capacities of 406, 655, and 559. The orchestra accommodated 1,890. Total capacity was 3,509. Like the Grand Foyer at RCMH, it had a wide staircase and elevators to the top mezzanine, and its basement had a Grand Lounge. Its lobby had three ticket offices.
The preceding statistics come from the American Memory web page at the Library of Congress, Digital ID: ppmsca 05843 (I’ll later supply a precise URL if I can find it). I’m certainly not recalling them from childhood memory, but I definitely do retain vivid images of the Center and its impressive ambience. In 1950 I saw a live telecast of the Milton Berle Show there, and remember the stage as being too cluttered with camera equipment to get a good view of the action. I also attended a few radio broadcasts of NBC’s “The Big Show” on Sunday evenings there, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. One took place in Spring ’51, with Ethel Merman and Edgar Bergen as guest stars.
The last time I remember seeing its façade was in December ’53 after seeing the Christmas show at RCMH; I took photographs of its lighted marquee. The theater was converted into office space and an indoor garage shortly after that.

chconnol on December 15, 2004 at 12:06 pm

RobertR: where on that page you sent as a link is the photograph?

RobertR on December 15, 2004 at 11:53 am

That circular auditorium was awesome, another NY treasure ground into dust :(

br91975 on December 15, 2004 at 11:29 am

Kind of remarkable how there’s been – and continues to be – so much talk about Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy, while the Center is largely forgotten…

RobertR on December 15, 2004 at 9:15 am

Look at the incredible picture of the Center auditorium here.

CharlesClutzNCARB on November 1, 2004 at 12:39 pm

The Center Theatre was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, chief designer for Hood and Foulihoux, one member of the architectural team for Rockefeller Center (Associated Architects). When the Metropolitan Opera could not occupy one of the theatres (designed by their chief designer at the time – Joseph Urban) it was taken out of the project.

The Center Theatre used the same stage machinery as the International Music Hall (RCMH’s orignal name) – an orchestra lift, 3 stage lifts with a turntable in the center. There wasa large pipe organ with twin consoles in niches on either side of the proscenium arch. the theatre also had the lighting control at the front of the orchestra pit (like Earl Carroll’s Theatre) and a contour curtain based upon the Ted Weidhas patents.

There are incorrect attributions to design for the Rockefeller Center Theatres – Donald Desky was brought into the Music Hall after it been designed and provided oversight primarily for furnishings, the Roxy apartment and lounges, not shape and design for the auditorium. His partner, Eugene Schoen worked on the Center Theatre and had a greater input, primarily because it was not as far into the design process.

MarkA on September 25, 2004 at 7:03 pm

For a fascinating book about the concept of, the design and the building of Rockefeller Center, including Radio City Music Hall (originally known as the International Music Hall), the RKO Roxy and Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothapfel, get Great Fortune written by Daniel Okrent. The original idea of a theater in Rockefeller Center was indeed the new Metropolitan Opera House. The book may be purchased at Border’s, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. For theater lovers as we are, it was truly fascinating to read about Rocketfeller Center’s history.

naaaathan on September 19, 2004 at 9:35 am

Warren: You'r right,I was wrong. The true answer can be found at

naaaatt on September 17, 2004 at 2:41 pm

Warren: My source was my dad who worked down the street and asked what they were building, and the answer was “the new Met” That’s the story I heard,and supposedly the prompters box was located in the middle of the cieling. But of course like all stories it could be wrong. Maybe Rockefeller center has an historian many corp. do.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 17, 2004 at 1:46 pm

H, what is your source for the claim that the Center was originally built to house the Metropolitan Opera House? I’ve never heard or read that before. I thought it was intended to be a smaller version of the Roxy Theatre, presenting a feature movie and a stage show. That was the Center’s policy at opening, but it had to be changed to just movies and then to musical plays or ice shows to avoid conflict with its larger sibling, Radio City Music Hall. RCMH was intended to be a “live” venue, but flopped at opening and was quickly switched to a movie/stage show policy.

naaaatt on September 17, 2004 at 11:46 am

The Center Theater was located at 48st.Regency Bruin Theatreth,and was originaly built by Rockerfeller to house the Metropolitan Opera House, but somewhre allong the line the deal fell through and they tried a few shows which floped, “The American Way” was one such show. Then they turned it into an Ice Show venu, then they showed Disney’s Pinnocio. Finally it became the Milton Berle TV studio. It was circular in design and had the signs of the zodiac embossed on the cieling along with twinkling lights.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 13, 2004 at 11:17 am

The Center’s address was 1236 Sixth Avenue.

ERD on April 13, 2004 at 10:10 am

The Grand Foyer of the the New Roxy was done in red and gold fabric wth mahogany walls. The 3,700 seat auditorium had 75 foot rich mahogany paneled high walls which supported a flat ceiling decorated with figures from Greek mysthology. Centered over the orchestra section was a 104,000-watt chandelier, 30 feet in diameter. Claimed as the largest of its kind, the fixture required its own fan cooling system. The theatre premeired on December 29,1932 (Two days after the Music Hall) with a stage show and the movie ANIMAL KINGDOOM starring Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy. After successful litigation by the owners of The Roxy Theatre on 7th Avenue & 50th street, the theatre was renamed the RKO Center in 1933 featuring less costly second-run double bill films. In 1934 the RKO was dropped from the Center’s name when it opened with its first legitimate production,THE GREAT WALTZ. When the show closed, it attempted showing films again. When that failed, it returned to presenting live shows until it became an NBC studio in 1950. The theatre was demolished four years later (1954).
we renamed The RKO Center in 1933. Less costly second-run double bill movies were featured. The RKO was dropped from its name in 1934 when it got ready for its first legitmate booking, THE GREAT WALTZ. The Center attempted showing movies after this show closed, but when that failed, it returned to presenting live shows until becoming an NBC studio in 1950. The theatre was demolished four years later (1954) In 1950 for four years, the theatre was then demolished.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 25, 2004 at 9:09 am

In March, 1933, while still known as the New Roxy (a name successfully challenged by the original Roxy), it shared the New York premiere engagement of “King Kong” with Radio City Music Hall. Incredible though it might seem, both theatres supported the movie with a stage show, “Jungle Rhythms,” though the version at the New Roxy was slightly less spectacular because it had a smaller resident company of performers and musicians than the Music Hall. But between them, about 400 people were employed as soloists, chorus, or orchestra players. The combined seating capacity of the two theatres was about 10,000, and each gave 5 complete (movie and stage) shows per day. Not surprisingly, with so many seats available, “King Kong” lasted only one week at the Music Hall, but continued (with stage show) for two more weeks at the New Roxy.

JP Foy
JP Foy on November 17, 2003 at 3:22 pm

My father(John Foy) Told Me that his Uncle “George Carroll” was the architect of the “Roxy Theatre” in New York City that was located near the Radio City Music Hall" this is 100% sure. George Carroll also designed “Kreske’s” across the states. Could someone do some research and confirm this. Thank You.

William on October 27, 2003 at 7:16 am

This theatre opened as the Roxy as stated above in the original post and in Stannorton’s comment. The picture is of when it was known as The Center Theatre after the lawsuit from the original Roxy Theatre forced them to change the name.

unknown on October 26, 2003 at 9:19 pm

I have in my possesion a full set of architectural drawings of the Roxy Theater of New York City. The drawing were done by my great uncle, Tom Moreford. Does anyone have anyone photos of the theater they could share?

John P Keating Jr
John P Keating Jr on October 8, 2003 at 6:35 am

This picture is not the Roxy Theater in New York City. It is the Center Theater which is part of Rockerfeller Center. It has since been gutted and turned into offices. In later years it became a TV studio for NBC. I once saw the last of the Milton Berle TV showes there.

Janie on February 4, 2002 at 6:52 am

I have an old mirror in the art deco style from RKO studios – It’s about 9feet by 4 ½ feet with RKO letters on top. It may have come from the old theater in New York. I’m looking for a photo of the original – any ideas?????

frenchjr25 on December 10, 2001 at 12:28 am

This Theater is discussed in the book “Lost Broadway” by Hoogstraten as well as “Lost New York” by Silver.

Stannorton on December 8, 2001 at 3:08 pm

This theatre was part of Roxy’s Radio City Complex and was to show movies with a stage show. If you will recall The Music Hall was to be just that with no movies. It is curious that Roxy (Rothafel) made such a critical mistake with the Music Hall and opened it w/o movies since his claim to fame was to introduce movies in every other theatre he managed. The Music Hall was a flop and closed several weeks later causing Roxy (who had a heart attack) to be removed as MANAGER. The Roxy Center Theatre was a very beautiful but simply designed theatre. A lawsuit from the original Roxy Theatre made them take off the name Roxy. The theatre had a lackluster performance and ended up with skating shows.