Roxy Theatre

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

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Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

That’s an easy one as anyone who knows and loves the Roxy will know. Stage shows were dropped when the house converted to Cinemascope. “The Robe” opened in mid September 1953 and played 13 weeks. It was only exclusive, however, in the Metropolitan area as it also opening gradually throughout the country in select theaters. It was following by “Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef” as the Christmas attraction. “The Robe” grossed $264,000 in its first week, the largest gross for one theater in one week anywhere in the world (seven shows a day)beginning at 9 AM. with a midnight show. Prices were Weekday $1.00;1.50; 2.00 weekdays; 1.50; 2.00 and 2.50 weekends. At the time the top price at other mainstem houses were $1.80 with a top of $1.50 at RCMH.(Previous record holder was “Forever Amber” which grossed $163,00 opening week and had a five-week run in 1947)

bigjoe59 on July 12, 2012 at 11:36 am


the first Cinemascope film “The Robe” debuted at the Roxy. but how long did it run on what i assume was an exclusive engagement? the reason i ask is simple. in the approx. 50+ years it was a first run venue even the most successful films ran just so long at Radio City Music Hall.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Maybe they never played a B movie, but they sure played a lot of forgettable films.

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Bigjoe59, You’re question opens a can of worms as to what constitutes an A Level film. Among (of course debatable)the A level films that played the Roxy during its last year included “That Kind of Woman” (Loren and Hunter)“Lil Abner”, “This Earth is Mine” (Rock Hudson),“The Big Circus” (Victor Mature) and the last film “The Wind Cannot Read” with Dirk Bogarde….and to be factual as well as fair, the Roxy, except during the Depression Era, never played a B level film.

bigjoe59 on July 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

Hello- the Roxy was torn down if i remember correctly June/July of 1960. which prompts this question-

at that point Hollywood was still operating on the A level and B level movie system. so does anyone know what the last successful long run of an A level film was a the Roxy?

Simon L. Saltzman
Simon L. Saltzman on July 2, 2012 at 7:46 am

Adding to the great photo sent by Tinseltoes: “Ten Gentlemen from West Point” was a great hit for the Roxy beginning the post war boom of movie going along the stem. It ran an unprecedented four weeks in June beginning with an opening week gross of $55,000. The stage show featured the Stuart Morgan Dancers, ballet soloist Carol King, impressionist Cookie Bowers and the Gae Foster Roxyettes all of whom participated in a spectacular salute to the United Nations in which the entire company descended a huge stairway waving the flags of all nations. This, in the light of stiff competition from the Music Hall where “Mrs. Miniver” also opened ($100,000 opening)and was destined to run a record-breaking 11 weeks. That same week, “In This Our Life” broke the house record at the Strand. What a week! Wish I was there.

bigjoe59 on June 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm


i thank my fellow posters for their replies to all of my questions. its been most helpful.

as you know for the past several weeks i have been browsing a neat list this site complied of all the movie theaters that ever existed in New York State. the purpose being to find the oldest built from the ground up or to use the more proper term purpose built built movie theater in Manhattan. to which on the list i just looked up the theaters listed under New York,New York. now for some time the furthest back i could go
using my criteria was the Regent and the Bunny both of 1913. then i found out the late Apollo of 42 St. was built in 1910 to exhibit both movies and vaudeville. well i found an even older theater that was built to exhibit both films and vaudeville. the Cresent later known as the Gem was built at 36 West 135 St. it opened on Dec. 16, 1909 with a program of both movies and vaudeville. now whether in the design and construction stages the builder intended to show films well who knows. it may only have been a thought after the construction was finished. but the important fact remains that on the opening night the program consisted of movies as well vaudeville. the theater ceased operation in 1937 and for many years the building was used by a community organization. the building is now demolished.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

As Joseph mentioned, the Roxy had some first rate product. They just weren’t big hits.

bigjoe59 on June 4, 2012 at 11:35 am

Hello Again-

in the last say year and a half of the Roxy’s life i was under the assumption that in the movie industry at the time it was quite clear what was considered an A film or a B film. for instance both the Loew’s Capitol and the Paramount went out playing A films. so it would have been nice if the Roxy’s final film had been a big A film.

Joseph on June 4, 2012 at 9:21 am


“The Roxy closed in March 1960, but its fate was probably sealed much earlier when it was purchased by Rockefeller Center in 1956.”

Very true. If the Capitol and the Roxy switched places, the Capitol would have been the first to go. Rockefeller Center was certainly thinking future expansion when the Roxy property was purchased in 1956.

Joseph on June 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

To bigjoe 59 –

I am not sure what you mean,consider or understand what are “A, B or C” films. But the last several movies to play the NYC ROXY include DAMN YANKEES, RIO BRAVO, IMITATION OF LIFE, LIL ABNER, and others, all major product. Covers of several of the programs are in the photo section.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 4, 2012 at 7:43 am

The last film was “THE WIND CANNOT READ”.

I am not sure what qualifies as ‘A’ level but the “THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE” played in late 1959.

bigjoe59 on June 4, 2012 at 7:21 am


as i said in my previous post in its last days the Roxy was playing many B if not C films. in fact the last film to play the Roxy was what a friend of my parents referred to as a C film. i forget the title but in had “Wind” in it. to which what was the last first run A level film that the Roxy played?

MarkDHite on June 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm

The Paramount and the Capitol were operated by large theater chains with much greater booking clout than the Roxy, which in its last few years was basically an independent operation. It had its share of blockbuster hits but in between it had to scramble for decent titles. That’s partly why it continued to combine its films with stage shows long after the other Times Square palaces had dropped theirs.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm

The theatres were contracted to the studios. The Roxy was aligned to 20th Century Fox who produced flop after flop during this period.

bigjoe59 on June 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Hello- thanks for the info. there were many large grand old movie theaters that continued to operate as single screen first run movie theater for several years after the Roxy was torn down. the Criterion, Loew’s State, Loew’s Capitol, the Rivoli, the Warner the Demille and the Paramount. i guess they were able to survive as single screen movie theaters long after the Roxy was torn down because they were manageably large whereas the Roxy which had like twice the seating capacity of the Paramount was just to frigging big for its own good.

also what are your thoughts on the fact that till the day they closed down both the Loew’s Capitol and the Paramount were still playing first run A level movies. respectively PLANET OF THE APES and 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY for the Capitol and THUNDERBALL for the Paramount. a friend of my parents said that in its last 2 years or so the Roxy at times played B or even C movies. now this was long before mutliplexes when studios opened a film in 2000 to 3000 theaters on the same day. so if the Capitol and the Paramount were able to book first run A level films till the day they closed why wasn’t the Roxy?

MarkDHite on June 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm

The Roxy was demolished in the autumn of 1960. The famous Life Magazine photo of Gloria Swanson standing in the ruins of the rotunda dates from October 24, 1960.

MarkDHite on June 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I don’t think the Roxy was any less viable financially than the Paramount, Capitol or other large ornate movie palaces. It remained a popular theater. All of them suffered from the precipitous decline in movie attendance in the post WWII era that all film theaters did nationwide. The Roxy may have been the first to go, but the writing was on the wall for all of them, at least in terms of continuing on as they had done. If the Roxy had survived another 10 years, no doubt it would have been subdivided and whatnot as all of the other Times Square movie palaces eventually were before they disappeared altogether.

The Roxy closed in March 1960, but its fate was probably sealed much earlier when it was purchased by Rockefeller Center in 1956. They plan well into the future and I imagine their interest in owning the Roxy wasn’t for its future as a film showcase. The Roxy not only had valuable air rights that were coveted by Rockefeller Ctr, but it was also located on very valuable real estate that was adjacent to the site of the new construction that they were developing on the west side of 6th Ave.

bigjoe59 on June 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm


i was able to attend many of the great old movie houses in the Times Square area when they were still more or less in their original condition and they before were twined or torn down. the Roxy wasn’t one of them. to which i have what i hope is a simple question. the decision to tear down the Roxy was made i believe in June of 1960. so as well loved as the theater was and had ornate as it was by June 1960 wasn’t a movie theater as HUGE as the Roxy just plain economically unviable?

Amber J. Michaud
Amber J. Michaud on May 12, 2012 at 6:50 am

It’s sad how urban renewal and the city can destroy the past.

KimW on May 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm

My grandfather Frank White played the lead organ in the early years.

GDellaFa on April 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Sorry I missed the Roxy Theatre, being born in 1961. Guess there is absolutely no chance it could ever be rebuilt? Let’s see: $150 million for the building alone (given inflation since 1927), plus the cost of demolition of the crappy office building that replaced it, plus the cost of the land and existing crappy building. I suppose not. “You don’t appreciate what you’ve got till its gone…” Great Roxy Theatre, you are dearly missed. Can we at least have a plaque on TGI Fridays? Perhaps on 50th Street in an inconspicuous place? Just a thought.

MarkDHite on April 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

Every theater’s status is either “Open” or “Closed” (green for open, red for closed). Then next to that is a description: “1 screen”, etc. So the Roxy’s status is correct. It says “Closed, Demolished”.

I agree that having three status categories: Closed, Open, or Demolished would be more helpful and accurate. But that’s not how the database is set up.

BillSavoy on April 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

moviebear1 Just figured out how to post a photo of my model! I have more, but this website tells me they’re too big to post! I’ll keep trying (I’m computer-challenged … wish me luck) Thanks for your request! Bill

Joseph on March 24, 2012 at 6:22 am

A new book about SL “Roxy” Rothafel is about to be published:

Members of the Rothafel family were interviewed by the Author