Apollo Theatre

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

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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 121 comments)

robboehm on August 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Seems as tho' theatres change names as often as banks.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 1, 2010 at 8:54 am

The female lead is accosted by a masher while looking at Brigitte Bardot displays at the entrance to the Apollo in the John Cassavetes film “SHADOWS”. The scene is a magical snapshot of 42nd street, circa 1959.

rivoli157 on November 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

This pic is actually a picture of the Times Square Theatre, -the actual building with the columns. The marquee for the Apollo is the only thing Apollo about it.

Other shows that played the Apollo after a return to legit, “5th of July” with Richard Thomas and “Bent” with Richard Gere and I believe Michael York

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Yeah… Well, I suppose it is rather difficult to take a photo of the Apollo’s 42nd Street entrance without including the Times Square, since the Apollo’s entrance foyer ran right through the Times Square building. To get a shot of the Apollo alone, I believe one would have to go around to 43rd Street and photograph the auditorium side wall and old exit doors. Rivoli157, you should browse the images in the photo tab above, where you’ll find a few shots that focus solely (at least as much as possible) on the Apollo itself.

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

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