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This was a most Beautiful theatre! I worked there when it was managed by Rugoff Theatres (c. 1966 –‘67) and again later when it was managed by Cinema V (1970s). There was a long run of the film “The Blue Max”. We had a great crew of young people. As an Usher I spoke with Zal from the Lovin’ Spoonful and the artist who did the Archie Comic in the newspaper. There is no permanence in the United States. The only value is MONEY. Not Tradition. Not History. Not beauty. I guess if they could tear down beautiful and awe inspiring Penn Station why not the Sutton? It was an intregral part of the East Side with a select clientelle. What a SHAME!!!!!!!!
There are 11 million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them. I do have, maybe not 10 million more, but many more stories about the Rugoff -Cinema V theatres.
Did you work there at one time too? Did Polly work the candy cart? I think I knew her. Robbie, was he the doorman? All of the names you mention sound mighty familiar. We are talking about the Plaza no? I don't remember many staff from Theatres other than the Plaza and Sutton because I worked the others as a fill-in or substitute, but the Plaza and Sutton were my permanent assignments. Unfortunately I do not know what became of anyone. I knew "Tack" the handiman who worked all the theatres; Mr.McMahon, the area manager;
Ivy, the woman who replaced Poly on the candy cart; an Egypian Usher named Hassain; A Dooman named Kevin who was an actor; Mr. Blonje, the Assistant manager of the Plaza; the manager and asst manager of the Sutton, Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Davis, and on and on. There was a Greek-American Usherette from Queens; an Italian-American Box office young woman; Two gay black ushers who were trouble makers; and so many more. There were really nice people in the home office too. The home office was at 595 Madison Ave, around the corner from the Plaza.I don’t know what happened to any of them. A lot of people confuse the Plaza and the Paris. They were both on 58th St. The Plaza was between Madison and Park and the Paris was just off the west side of 5th, across the street from the Plaza Hotel, off the edge of the big circle in front. I forgot to mention that I worked the Sutton in 1966 while I worked the Plaza in the early to mid seventies and the home office at that same time. There was a myth or rumor that bad things followed the filming and showing of the exorcist. When it first screened there were a lot of severe fear reactions (including me, although now I find it amusing). One of the ushers who worked a lot of back to back overtime to handle the massive audiences, went home late one night and fell in front of the subway, losing an arm! Got a quarter for an old alter boy fadder?
I worked there in the 70s. It was a Rugoff Theatre then. Rugoff Theatres became Cinema V. I met Mr. Rugoff. The Plaza was a very comfortable theatre as were all of the theatres in the Rugoff – Cinema V chain. Many celebrities saw films at the Plaza. There were sometimes also gala film openings. The Plaza was where Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn opened in N.Y. with a gala film opening. Believe it or not there was still paraphanalia from that event in the theatre when I worked there.I met many stars through working for Rugoff Theatres. I worked in all of the Theatres and in the home office. The Plaza and the Sutton were two of my permanent assignments but I also worked in the Cinema I & II; The Paris; The Grammacy; The Art; Either the Murray Hill or the Kips Bay, I forgot which it was. All great theatres with good crowds. I met Darin McGavin; Patricia Neal; Henny Youngman; Dustin Hoffman & more to speak to and Sylvia Sydney; Yoko Ono; Eli Wallach; Ann Jackson & many more just to be in the room with. I enjoyed working in the Plaza and other theatres of the chain. It was one of my jobs that was the most fun. I wound up knowing every scene and move of Milos Forman’s Visions of 8; Alfredo, Alfredo; The Exorcist; Bang the Drum Slowly; Gimmee Shelter; and many more AND I wound up knowing ALL the Dialogue of The Blue Max. It was a happy family in those days and everyone who worked there was tight with each other. A Sunday Shift was like special duty and everyone cooperated to get some food in and to sympathize with each one’s Sunday morning and afternoon feelings (by evening everyone was back to normal).
Hector, Thanks for your comments; missing a beautiful theatre; valuing meaningful / beautiful buildings & adding to the list of unusual films. I agree, all the Rugoff-Cinema 5 theatres were comfortable, classy and beautiful. I forget the ones downtown. I only worked the upper East Side. I think the Kips Bay, Murray Hill and Grammacy were Cinema 5. I think there was one in the Village too (The Art?). Oh, “The man with one red shoe” & “Gimme Shelter” played at the Plaza. Someone should write a book about this; ie: the history of the Plaza; the history of Rugoff-Cinema 5; The society that first builds and then throws away magnificent structures, etc. OR a book called: “The Theatre Moguls”. Cinema 5 was also a film distributer, ie: “released by Cinema 5”. I have some memoribilia from the Plaza. I saw about a dozen really famous people while I was there. Plus two or three in the neighborhood; Plus more when I worked in a health club on 59th St. It was really fun working there in those days.
I have only just discovered (1/10) that the Plaza is no more. I am very dismayed. This was a beautiful, comfortable theatre with an illustrious past. It should have been saved or declared a landmark. It was one of the elite theatres of the Cinema 5 chain. Situated on the posh upper east side of Manhattan, along with the Cinema I & II; Sutton; and Paris Theatres; it was one of the creme d'la creme. Cinema 5 aquired the chain of theatres that were owned by Rugoff Theatres including the Plaza. Before that the Plaza was owned by Ilya Lopert, who I believe was the original owner. I worked at the Plaza as an usher and doorman in the 1970s. I worked in all the other threatres mentioned above and also in the home office of Rugoff Theatres and later Cinema 5. The original Film “Robin Hood” (with Flynn, DeHaviland & Rathbone) premiered at the Plaza and was a gala event. While I worked there, another gala opening was held for “Happy Mother’s Day, Love George”. Many stars appeared and there were searchlights outside and a red carpet. Situated in that neighborhood, many celebrities passed by or came in to see a film. I met many famous people there. Some of the films I remember while I worked for Cinema 5 theatres were: The Blue Max – 1966 or 67, Sutton; Happy Mother’s Day – Plaza; Alfredo, Alfredo (a riot! see it if you can) – Plaza; The Exorcist – Cinema I & II; Visions of 8 – Cinema I or II; Garden of the Finzi Continis – Plaza; Hell in the Pacific – Sutton; White Dawn; A Tear in the Ocean; Yellow Submarine; so many more!!! As for the staff, I remember Mr. Blonje, the asst. mgr; Mr. Geller, the Mgr; Kevin, the doorman – an aspiring actor; Ivy who staffed the refeshment cart and was later replaced by a cute girl of Greek heritage; The cute Italian box office ticket seller; Hassain, my co-worker & friend; Tac the handiman and Mr. McMahon the area manager. I am sorry and angry to see this theatre being misused as a restaurant. This is one problem in our culture, money overrides all other concerns including beauty, meaning, nostalgia, history, etc. That’s why we lost the original Penn Station, 100 times grander than Grand Central. Horrible!!!