City Cinemas Cinema 1, 2, and 3

1001 Third Avenue,
New York, NY 10021

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Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on August 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

The similarity of facade design between the Cinema I/II building and Lincoln Center is obvious, and the fact they were built around the same time makes it seem more than a coincidence. So the question is, was there an actual plan to have these Cinemas be the East Side film showcase for Lincoln Center, or was it simply an attempt to capitalize on the publicity around Lincoln Center’s opening?

wmjp
wmjp on August 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

dave-bronx: Thanks for the info. Columbia U has the Geller papers, so I can look for more there. You might be interested to know that the initial announcement of Cinema I/II in the Times listed Schlanger as the sole architect. I suspect that Geller was brought in later to attract attention to the distinctness of the building as architecture — it did end up getting covered in a number of architecture journals. My guess is that Geller worked on the exterior (although the marquees recall the Murray Hill) while the auditoria are recognizably Schlanger.

I was struck by the Lincoln Center resemblance because of the arcaded window with visible second floor lobby, which was mandated as a common design feature for the three central buildings to give the impression of architectural unity. But even if Geller was entirely responsible for the exterior, oddly it was Schlanger who worked on Lincoln Center.

By the 1950s, Schlanger had achieved an international reputation for his work on sight lines, and so did the seating arrangements for the U.N. General Assembly as well as a number of prominent arts centers in the U.S. and abroad — at the least, the seating at the Met and the New York State Theatre was designed by him.

I’m very familiar with his NYC theaters because they were generally my first choice for seeing a movie if it was playing at more than one theater. I also had the good fortune of growing up in a small New England city with three Schlanger theaters, inevitably my preferred theaters as well. That’s why I’m sure he did the auditoria for Cinema I/II — pretty recognizable to anyone who knows his work. And that’s why I see the later “renovation” as more desecration and was sorry to see Geller involved. Getting rid of the Syncho Screen and replacing it with a conventional screen placed too close to the seating area destroyed Schlanger’s carefully worked out sight lines. And it encased the screen in conventional black masking, something Schlanger campaigned against for his entire career. I went to the new Cinema I once and never went back.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on August 19, 2014 at 7:12 am

wmjp: The materials I have are the photographs posted in the photos section here, a project manual and a set of architectural and mechanical drawings for the alterations of 1988. I do not have the drawings for the original construction in 1961, Mr. Geller had them as reference for “as built” conditions and would bring both sets [1961 and 1988] when we had owner/architect/contractor meetings, and when he visited the site several times a week while the project was underway and I looked at them several times when the original conditions differed from the 1988 drawings. The project manual and drawings I have are labeled: Abraham W. Geller & Associates 24 West 25th St. NY NY 10010 To the best of my recollection the 1961 drawings were labelled in a similar manner, and had the NYC Dept. Of Buildings approval seal affixed, making Geller the architect of record. I dont recall seeing Mr. Schlanger listed, but then I never had those drawings in my possession to study as I did the 1988 drawings. Mr. Geller did speak of him, though.

I’m sure Mr. Geller has gone to the big drafting table in the sky, as he was quite elderly in 1988, and I never heard if there was a successor firm that would have his files.

Mr. Schlanger was involved in many theaters including the Murray Hill, Sutton and Beekman for Rugoff, the original Framingham Cinema in Boston for GCC and ‘The Cinema’ in D.C. to name a few.

Regarding the Lincoln Center connection, I read something about that here too, but I did not post that info. I was unaware of it until I read it here.

wmjp
wmjp on August 19, 2014 at 3:08 am

For Dave-Bronx — I’m finishing a book that deals in part with Ben Schlanger, so I was interested in a post you did years ago about architectural drawings. Plus you also wrote there was an intentional connection to Lincoln Center, something I recently concluded, but have no evidence for other than the fact that Schlanger did work on a number of bldgs. in Lincoln Center. Is there any way I could possibly see the materials you have. Thanks!

mhvbear
mhvbear on August 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

The films for next week are up on Fandango.

mhvbear
mhvbear on August 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

It isn’t unusual for City Cinemas to show next weeks show times until Thursday. And Jobs is at the Beekman starting today along with the wider release of The Spectacular Now according to Fandango. So either Fandango or the Beekman website is wrong.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on August 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

The last permit issued by the DoB was for conversion from a theater to retail store, dated 11/05/2004. I don’t know if the permit expires at some point if work has not commenced, but it would be uncharacteristic of the city to leave something like this open-ended.

SethLewis
SethLewis on August 28, 2013 at 8:31 am

Any knowledge of what is happening here…the website shows no films after this Thursday with Jobs and The Butler moving over to the Beekman…refurbishment or God forbid closing

Garth
Garth on August 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I also saw the Woody Allen film here at a screening today. It was my first time here in 39 years. I had seen “The Parallax View” in ‘74 and “The Exorcist” in '73 , both in Cinema 1. Today was a positive experience. The staff was friendly and courteous and the popcorn was very good. They have “wake up” matinees with showings before 12pm being $7.50.My screening was in Cinema 2 and I admit if you prefer the back row as I do the screen is a bit small , but I can live with that. The seat was old school but comfortable.Before leaving I checked out the rest of the theatre. Cinema 1 has a very good size screen and a balcony, and Cinema 3 is much smaller. Surprisingly for the newest of the 3 it seemed the most shopworn, with flat seats and an entrance door that creaked loudly every time it was opened.

ErikH
ErikH on August 2, 2013 at 2:03 am

I attended a screening of “Blue Jasmine” during its opening weekend here. The film was showing in Cinemas I and II, and my screening was in Cinema I. I hadn’t been here in at least a decade, and was sorry to see how far one of the premier theaters in NYC had fallen. Old and uncomfortable seats and threadbare carpeting (held together in numerous areas by duct tape). The audience in the nearly sold out house (at an early afternoon screening,no less) appeared to love the film, and it was fun to see the proverbial line around the block when leaving the theater. “Blue Jasmine” will be shown on all three screens beginning tomorrow, which might be a first in the history of this venerable theater.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on July 24, 2013 at 5:21 am

I worked there before the 1988 renovation, during the renovation through to the re-opening. Before the renovation Cinema I had 700 seats, Cinema II had 291. During the renovation, once the new seats were installed I counted them to compare with the purchase order and invoice and to have the DoB occupancy signs made up. C1 was 532; C2 was 290; C3 was 165; an additional 49 seats (5%) in spare parts, for a total of 1036 seats. Those were the accurate counts at that time. In the 25 years since then, the place could have been re-seated once or twice with different size seats. If they are the same seats, and I hope they are not, they are probably canibalizing seats up front or against the walls for parts to repair broken seats in prime areas. I haven’t been in there in almost 20 years so anything is possible.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on July 24, 2013 at 4:06 am

Once when I was in City Cinema # 1, in 1999, I recorded 519 seats in my notes. That figure likely came from a Fire sign or from my counting the seats (yep).

zoetmb
zoetmb on July 24, 2013 at 3:42 am

@dave-bronx: I think your seat counts may be a bit off. The original was 700/300. I believe it’s now approximately 570, 300 and 165. I’ve walked out of the third screen. I went back to the boxoffice and told them if I wanted to watch TV, I would have stayed home.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on July 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm

The third cinema was created by removing the front six rows of seats in Cinema I and moving the screen forward, then squeezing some seats, projector and screen into the resulting space. Prior to the reconfiguration Cinema I had 700 seats; afterwards there were 532, and 165 in the added cinema, a loss of only three seats from the original capacity. The addition of that third cinema and combining the street level lobbies destroyed whatever prestige (real or perceived) that the place had. All it really needed was sprucing up with new seats, carpet and wall covering.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on April 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm

They took the upper level of theater 1 and make the 3rd theater.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm

It was carved out of the existing space by the original architect for Christmas 1988.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on April 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Garth.Cinema 3 was added around 1982. Since there already was a Cinema 3 at the Plzaz hotel it was oringially called Cinema 1,2 3rd Ave. After cinema 3 closed they renamed this theater.

Garth
Garth on April 17, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Thanks to milanp for confirming “The Conversation” played the Coronet, wasn’t sure which theatre I saw it in. I recall seeing “The Parallax View” in either Cinema 1 or 2. When did Cinema 3 come along? Was it an addition to the existing theatres or were renovations made?

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on August 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm

The Cinema I Cinema II has made it to the 50 year mark. Considering who has been running the place for the last 18 years I’d say that is quite an accomplishment. It’s too bad such a milestone has gone unnoticed.

Coate
Coate on November 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm

“Rocky” opened its world premiere engagement here (Cinema II) thirty-five years ago today.

Cinema II had an NYC area exclusive on “Rocky” for the first three weeks of its release.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on April 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

This intro needs to be should be corrected.

“City Cinemas' Cinema 1, 2, and 3 was just two doors down from the now vanished Baronet & Coronet”

It is still there. Only the Baronet/Coronet is gone.

milanp
milanp on December 27, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Some corrections:
“Nashville” opened—and this was unprecedented at the time—at Cinema 11 AND The Baronet in June 1975. Apparently both the Rugoff and W. Reade chains wanted the film badly enough that they were willing to share. That never happened again.
And Harvey Weinstein’s memory failed him. “Raging Bull” opened at the Sutton, not Cinema 1; “Midnight Cowboy” played the Coronet (from May 1969 until late January/early February 1970 when it was replaced by Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point”); and “Rocky” played Cinema 11, not I (I remember seeing “Rocky” at a weekday sneak preview at Cinema 11 in mid-November 1976).
I can still remember the first time I went to Cinema 1. It was Xmas week 1975 to see Truffaut’s “Story of Adele H.” As a kid growing up in Ohio, I used to gaze longingly at the movie ads in the Sunday NYT, and developed a weird kind of relationships with all of those great old theaters. Each of them seemed to have their own particular identity/personality, and you could sometimes predict which movie would open where. (The Coronet played “The Conversation,” “The Graduate,” “Chinatown” and “Paper Moon;” the Sutton premiered “American Graffiti,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore;” and Cinema 1 had exclusive first-run engagements of “A Clockwork Orange,” “Mean Streets,” “The
Exorcist” and “Days of Heaven,” among countless others.) By the time I finally got to go to some of those theaters myself, it was almost a religious experience. After “Adele H.,” I walked next door and
saw Bergmans' “Magic Flute” at the Coronet (another dizzying, momentous occasion for me!)
Sony Lincoln Square and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas are OK, but nothing compares to the “Bloomingdales Belt” jewel boxes of my adolescence.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 31, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Good old WEST TOWN THEATRE.I worked for ABC THEATRES in Augusta,and later Plitt.then GCC. You guys worked out of Atlanta didn’t you.and our homeoffice was Charlotte. was mainly a Assistant for several years with all three chains.

jbailey212
jbailey212 on April 28, 2010 at 5:20 am

Hi tlsloews, I was born and raised in Kingsport. I worked for ABC Southeastern Theaters during my teenage years in Kingsport and then moved to Knoxville as manager of the West Town Theater (mostly Disney fare, we were really just babysitters and we made a killing at the concession stand). I don’t remember if there were any Loews theaters in Knoxville at the time. All this was many moons ago, as well, haha…late 70’s. I ended up moving to NYC in 1982 where I worked as a graphic designer. Moved back to TN about 5 years ago and miss NYC something awful.