RKO Proctor's 58th Street Theatre

154 East 58th Street,
New York, NY 10022

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 6, 2005 at 7:54 am

The 1956 “modernization” was by architect John J. McNamara, who later did the same for the Capitol and Loew’s State. One of the new additions to the RKO 58th Street was a rather peculiar looking sign over the Third Avenue entrance, which was a marquee and vertical combined into one. It was semi-triangular, with the theatre name at the top and a changeable attraction board beneath that…McNamara started out as a staff architect with Thomas Lamb, and worked for him for ten years before staring his own company, which lasted for 35 years until his retirement. He died in 1985 at age 90.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 5, 2005 at 1:15 pm

The RKO Proctor’s 58th Street was demolished in the spring/summer of 1967 and replaced by a 39-story office building. The last program was a double feature of “The Viscount” & “The Cool Ones,” but I don’t have an exact closing date…The theatre had an irregular shape, with only a 25-foot wide entrance and lobby on the west side of Third Avenue that connected to the auditorium, which was 100 feet wide and 240 feet deep, with frontage on the south side of 58th Street. The 58th Street side once had an entrance with marquee and boxoffice.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 4, 2005 at 11:43 am

BoxOfficeBill,
“Juliet of the Spirits” had simultaneous runs at three N.Y.C. theatres beginning in November 1965: the New Embassy (Broadway at 46th Street), RKO 23rd Street Cinema, and the RKO 58th St. November 3rd, one day before the run at the other two theatres began, was the gala premiere at the RKO 58th. I saw it at the New Embassy. From your description of the RKO 58th Street, I wish I had gone there to see it instead. For the record, “Juliet” was not Fellini’s first film in color. That was “The Temptation(s) of Dr. Antonio,” a one-hour episode in the 1962 “Boccaccio ‘70.” It was, however, his first FEATURE in color.

Paul Noble
Paul Noble on April 4, 2005 at 9:56 am

Warren, I saw that Phantom episode, too, but probably a week later, at the then-RKO Midway. I did see “Juliet of the Spirits”, but on the first night of its run at the 58th Street, and it seemed to be a full house, and one of the most beautiful color prints I’ve ever seen. When the 58th Street was reduced in seating, there was more pitch between rows than any theater I had previously visited, extremely comfortable, but the auditorium was extremely long, and unless one sat down front, the screen seemed tiny. The 58th Street proscenium was narrow, and the balcony overhang didn’t permit much screen height, either.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on April 4, 2005 at 8:21 am

Toward the end of its life, the 58th Street offered some first-run fare. In November ‘65 I remember seeing Fellini’s “Juilet of the Spirits” in its NY premiere there. Fellini had become hugely popular in the US (“La strada” had played at Loew’s nabes in a dubbed version, and “La dolce vita” likewise at the RKO nabes), and “Juliet” marked his eagerly awaited debut in color. Still, the house was near-empty (I sat in the vast balcony, smoking cigarettes) and the lush Nino Rota score reverberated with an echo. That was a shame, because the house was stylistically perfect for the film. Fellini’s big canvas lost a lot on a small art-house screen.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 4, 2005 at 7:30 am

In the “good old days,” many people from western Queens attended the 58th Street because the movies played there a week earlier than the RKO theatres in Queens. The theatre was also very easy to reach by buses and trolleys that connected Queens and Manhattan via the 59th Street bridge. It was as luxurious as any of the Broadway first-run theatres, but had “cheap” neighborhood prices. My grandmother often took me there from Elmhurst on Saturday afternoons. I saw my first serial there, an episode of “The Phantom.” I still remember him being trapped in quicksand at the end. I never did find out how he survived, but I’m sure that he did.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on March 16, 2005 at 12:35 pm

March 25 – April 2,1967…. the theater hosted MURRAY the K’S MUSIC IN THE FIFTH DIMENSION with Mitch Ryder, Wilson Pickett, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Who, The Cream, Blues Project and the “K” girls. I had passes and saw 3 of the shows. Then it reverted back to feature films. Jerry the “K”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 9, 2004 at 5:41 am

Due to a typing error that omitted an ampersand, I garbled the name of the previous occupant of the site. It was Proctor’s Pleasure Palace & Palm Gardens. Designed by the architectural firm of J.B. McElfatrick & Sons, it was a massive Romanesque-Renaissance structure including a 2,100-seat auditorium, a large German-style beer garden with stage, a salon with barbers and bootblacks, and other facilities. Although it was only 30 years old when demolished, it was considered old-fashioned in comparison to the newfangled “movie palaces” that were all the rage.