Apollo Theatre

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

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1966 Apollo marquee

Originally opened in 1910 as the Bryant Theatre, a vaudeville and movie house, this theatre was acquired ten years later by the Selwyn brothers. The theatre 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 theatres 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 a burlesque theatre in late-1934, operated by Max Wilner. This lasted until 1938 when films made a return to the Apollo Theatre, and the theatre would remain a grind house for decades until the Brandt Organization made an attempt to bring back live theatre to the Apollo Theatre in 1979, cleaning it up and giving it a new marquee, heralding the New Apollo Theatre. Legitimate theatre 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 theatre’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 131 comments)

oknazevad on September 8, 2016 at 3:43 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 4:26 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 9:39 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 9:19 am

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

rszab0 on August 19, 2018 at 9:39 pm

The Apollo theatre was never a Minsky Burlesque. The Minsky’s ran the Republic (New Victory today)The Apollo was operated as a burlesque under Max Wilner and was a burlesque theatre from 1934-1938 Then it was renamed the New Apollo and featured On Golden Pond.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 19, 2018 at 11:44 pm

Yeah, and a few pictures played there between its burlesque days and legit incarnations.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on August 20, 2018 at 8:12 am

The Apollo ran movies for decades, most notably under Brandt management as a showcase for foreign imports after their first-run engagements elsewhere.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

I was being sarcastic…

DavidZornig on February 21, 2019 at 3:27 pm

1959 Apollo and Time Square Theatre photos in below link, celebrating Sidney Poitier’s 92nd birthday.


DavidZornig on February 22, 2019 at 3:20 pm

$100 million redevelopment to neighboring Times Square Theatre, article with photos.


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