Apollo Theatre

223 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

Unfavorite 18 people favorited this theater

1966 Apollo marquee

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally opened in 1910 as the Bryant Theatre, a vaudeville and movie house, this theater was acquired ten years later by the Selwyn brothers. The theater was rebuilt, renamed the Apollo Theatre, and given a new Neo-Classical/Neo-Georgian style colonnaded facade on 42nd Street, which it would share with the Selwyn’s Times Square Theatre next door. The theaters were both designed by architect Eugene DeRosa. The Apollo Theatre could seat 1,197 and was designed in Adam style, with 675 seats on the orchestra level, 495 in the balcony, and 27 in the boxes.

The legitimate era of the Apollo Theatre lasted until 1933, and after being forced into bankruptcy during the Depression, the Apollo Theatre became home to Minsky’s Burlesque in late-1934. By the late-1930’s, films made a return to the Apollo Theatre, and the theater would remain a grind house for decades until the Brandt Organization made an attempt to bring back live theater to the Apollo Theatre in 1979, cleaning it up and giving it a new marquee, heralding the New Apollo Theatre. Legitimate theater would be short-lived, since in 1983, the Apollo Theatre returned to screening movies.

The Apollo’s last incarnation would be as the Academy, a concert hall. For this, the theater’s orchestra level seats were removed and the floor leveled, though the balcony seating remained intact. The original decor was uniformly covered in a dull white paint.

In 1996, after its days as the Academy ended, most of the Apollo’s architectural elements were removed, including the spectacular dome from the auditorium ceiling, to be reused in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (later renamed the Hilton Theatre, and in 2011 the Foxwoods Theatre), which would be constructed on the site of the Apollo Theatre and neighboring Lyric Theatre upon their demolition.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 125 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Posted today by bigjoe59 on the Embassy 1,2,3 page:

My original post was about whether the ornate B.F. Moss Regent and the moderate-sized Bunny, both from 1913, were the first theaters built brick-by-brick from the ground up specifically to show to photoplays or flickers as they were called at the time. I asked this because since movies exploded like fire works after their debut at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in April of 1896 i simply couldn’t believe that no theater built expressly to show movies were built until the Regent and Bunny in 1913.

Well, they say if you search long enough you’ll find what you’re looking for. I had always assumed that the Apollo on 42 St.(which was torn down with its neighbor the Lyric to built the theater now known as the Foxwoods Theater) was built from the get-go as a “legit” house to use an old term. Guess what? It was built from the get-go to be a combo movie and vaudeville theater.

So, since the Apollo bests the Regent and the Bunny by 3 years, it takes the crown as the oldest theater I’ve found to date that was built from the get-go to show movies.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I wonder to what extent the original Bryant Theatre was remodeled (if at all) when the Selwyns purchased the site and built the Times Square Theatre around and adjacent to the original entrance. Perhaps the auditorium was preserved and only the lobby foyer reconstructed with the new colonnaded structure? The foyer still exists, seemingly intact from its Apollo days, at least. It serves as an alternative exit from the Foxwoods.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 7, 2014 at 11:42 pm

I am happy to report that the rebuilt theater at this site has new owners and since the contract with Foxwoods is over, they are re-naming this house —wait for it — the Lyric.

(Article is in the New York Times 3/7/14.)

I would have preferred it being called the Lyric Apollo, but the Lyric is the best name this theater has had in years!

robboehm on March 8, 2014 at 7:04 am

Well, the 43rd street side of the Lyric facade is more impressive than that of the Apollo. Of course they could really have come up with some amalgams: Ricollo, Apric, Lyap. As you may recall the ANCO was for Ann Cohen.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm

In an effort to brag about the changes they have brought to The Deuce, the New 42nd Street Redevelopment group have actually recreated the old sleaze with almost lifesize photo fronts. You decide.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 24, 2016 at 6:46 am

So they destroy in the interiors as much as possible and then claim they are not worth preserving any more, rewarding the vandal owners. Good grief

oknazevad on September 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Fortunately the entire Theatre District (or “Theater Subdistrict” in city planning documents) is subject to all sorts of requirements when it comes to theatre preservation. That’s part of the reason they were removed, because they are already subject to preservation. So the alarmism isn’t necessary.

Of course, the one thing not mentioned in the wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding these theatres is that one screen movie theatres are totally out of the question these days (see the fate of the Ziegfeld), so the only possible use is legit theatre. And the existing Broadway producers and landlords (the Shuberts, Nederlanders and Jujamcyn) were afraid to over saturate the inventory of theatres, so that’s why it took new landlords to even bring back the three that did return to Broadway use, and even then one is Disney’s own (not rented out), one is used just by Roundabout (again, not rented out) and one is a total barn that is only for mega-musicals (and is currently rented to Cirque du Soleil). That inventory issue is a valid concern.

robboehm on September 8, 2016 at 1:26 pm

You’re forgetting the New Victory, which is intimate and used for family faire. The current owners of the Lyric (the combined space of the Apollo and Lyric) are now working to retrofit the Hudson a bit further uptown and on the other side of Broadway. There is talk of the Shubert’s building a new theater on Eight Avenue between 45 and 46. There is also the matter of the Times Square on 42nd which is still idle despite plans to develop it and the Liberty, whose auditorium is still in tact and used for various events.

oknazevad on October 13, 2016 at 6:39 am

True. But a big reason for the ShubertShubert dragging their feet on the new theatre on the 45th–46th plot they own (the site of the former Klaw Theatre) is the aforementioned concerns with oversaturation.

The return of the Hudson to legit use is being spearheaded by the Ambassador Theatre Group (the new owners of the Lyric, and the largest owner of West End theatres), not one of the existing big 3. It’s those companies that have resisted adding more theatres, as it would dilute the value of their existing inventory. Apparently, according to the scuttlebutt, ATG looked at the Times Square as well, but the concerns regarding a lack of off 42nd loading area have made them reluctant, as has been the case with prior interested parties as well. The Liberty (which is in far better shape, and has a loading dock on 41st) looks more likely if they were to try to add a third Broadway theatre.

DavidZornig on November 9, 2016 at 6:19 am

Late `50’s photo added courtesy of Al Ponte’s Time Machine – New York Facebook page.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater