Heights Theater

150 Wadsworth Avenue,
New York, NY 10033

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Showing 1 - 25 of 31 comments

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 3, 2014 at 3:23 am

They usually are, guarina, but for some reason on Wadsworth Avenue it’s back-asswards.

guarina
guarina on July 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Joe, Thank you for the clarification. I was under the impression that on avenues the odd numbers were on the west side, even numbers on the east, judging from the RKO Coliseum, the Uptown, the Loew’s 175th Street, Theresa Pharmacy, Washington Heights Federal Savings.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Ed: I’ve held off submitting the Wadsworth Theatre because I’ve been unable to find any evidence that it operated as a movie house at any time during its brief existence. However, while trying to find such evidence I came across an item in the July 5, 1913, issue of The American Contractor that is probably about the Heights Theatre, which opened October 11, 1913:

“Store, Office & Moving Picture Bldg.: 2 sty. 102x150x100. $75,000. Broadway, 181st st. & Wadsworth av. Archts. Townsend, Steinle & Haskell, 1328 Broadway. Owner Robert E. Westcott estate, 33 Wall st. Bldrs. Fountain & Choate, 110 E. 23d st. Brick, stone. Work in progress. Plastering let to T. A. O'Rourke Co., 103 Park av.”
A couple of Townsend, Steinle & Haskell’s large apartment buildings made it into the AIA Guide to New York City, but the Heights didn’t.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

guarina: at 150 Wadsworth, the Heights Theatre building is on the west side of the street.

guarina
guarina on July 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Ed, it took me a long time, but I’ve just realized now (I had surgery yesterday and now looked at it with fresh eyes) that the Heights Theater I remember was on the west side of the street, so the address would NOT have been 150. The building to the north of it is #145, so I guess it must have been 151. But there’s no trace of a second story left.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Hey Guarina… The Wadsworth Theatre would be a completely different structure from the Heights Theatre. The location was across Wadsworth Avenue from the Heights, with its entrance around the corner on W. 181st Street. The Heights would have actually faced the auditorium side wall of the Wadsworth. Whichever year the Wadsworth was torn down, it was definitely demolished to make way for the single-story tax payers that now occupy the lot. More importantly, CT is in need of a listing for the Wadsworth Theatre. Calling Joe Vogel…

guarina
guarina on March 3, 2014 at 10:16 am

It looks as if the building were not torn down, more like rebuilt. It seems to me you can still see the original 3 windows.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Thanks for the information, keithyorkcity. This page from the Museum of the City of New York has a drawing of the Wadsworth Theatre by Anthony Dumas, and the notation says that it opened in 1910 and was torn down in 1916.

The building on the site now appears to be fairly old, the brickwork being characteristic of the 1910s, but the Wadsworth Theatre was a big, elaborate building, and I can’t fathom why it would have been demolished when it was only five years old, even if it was unprofitable as a theater. It seems that it could have been converted to some other use. That it would have been replaced by the single-story building on the lot now is very strange.

The Dumas drawing is dated 1939, so if the theater was demolished in 1916 he must have been working from old photos or the architects' own drawings. But it also makes me wonder if the museum’s claim of a 1916 demolition might be wrong.

keithyorkcity
keithyorkcity on September 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Responding (many months late) to Joe Vogel’s comment: looking at a 1916 insurance map of the intersection shows The Heights Theatre at the SW corner of 181/Wadsworth and the Wadsworth Theatre at the SE corner of 181/Wadsworth. Both building appear to still be standing, albeit gutted for retail.

davidplomin
davidplomin on September 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Even though the seats are long gone, it’s nice to see the building still standing. I love the fact that the upper half is still intact, including the twin brackets that must have held the original signage or cast iron canopy/awning. Would love to go in and see what’s been covered by drop ceilings and side paneling!

random
random on January 13, 2013 at 6:25 am

I spent a lot of movie viewing time at the Heights as a young teenager. Regarding sexual content, an early French language risque Jane Fonda film, Leather Boys, a gay themed 1964 British film, and The Collector 1965. Usually double bill, so neither of the first two films was the reason I went to the theater. Nor was I denied entrance. Of all things, I was refused admission to The Collector,with Samantha Eggar, as a woman kidnapped by sex deviant Terence Stamp, so go figure. My mother went with me another day. Also saw the two Beatles films on a double bill at the Heights. A lot of good memories.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

A brief item from the July 1, 1916, issue of the entertainment industry journal The New York Clipper discussed two large new theaters proposed for the Washington Heights district, and added the editorial opinion that the neighborhood already had enough theaters to satisfy local demand. The final line said: “The Wadsworth, at One Hundred and Eighty-first Street and Wadsworth Avenue, could not pay with any policy, so a bit of advice, don’t be hasty and overdo it.”

As this house opened as the Heights Theatre in 1913, either there must have been another theater at or near this intersection, or the Heights used the name Wadsworth at some point in its early history. Advertisements or theater listings from the period 1913-1916 should reveal which of those was the case. If the Heights and the Wadsworth were the same house, it would have been closed for some time in the first half of 1916.

Here is the complete item (which I cited in a previous comment) about the opening of the Heights Theatre, as reported in the November 15, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Heights Theater.

“The L. & B. Amusement Company opened a new picture theater at Wadsworth Avenue and 181st Street, New York City, on Saturday evening, October 11, to a large patronage and is enjoying a steady patronage of the most satisfactory character. W. A. Landau, formerly proprietor of the Audubon Theater, in 181st Street, is president of the company, and S. G. Bock, who was connected with the St. Nicholas Theater, in the same neighborhood, is secretary and treasurer. The new house is of regular theater construction, seats 600 persons and has twelve exits. The construction is fireproof throughout. Two Standard projecting machines and a mercury arc rectifier have been installed, providing a fine picture at a throw of no feet. The chairs are from the American Seating Company. An indirect lighting system and large exhaust fans for ventilating complete an up-to-date equipment. Retiring rooms for men and women insure the comfort of the patrons. A Hope-Jones unit orchestra provides music for the pictures.”

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 17, 2012 at 2:17 am

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

guarina
guarina on April 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

I remember the Heights from 1951 and it was still there in 1957. I saw “Anna Karenina” with Greta Garbo there, and a documentary about Ireland.

sonia44
sonia44 on March 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Sonia Kutzin on March 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I recently saw “Children of Paradise” at the Film Forum. 60 years ago I saw it at the Heights Theatre. I was able to see the most marvelous foreign films there so many years ago, and am forever grateful for that experience.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 30, 2011 at 9:59 am

The November 15, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World gave the opening date of the Heights Theatre as October 11. The house was fitted with a Hope-Jones unit orchestra.

GaryZ7
GaryZ7 on May 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

Al, most red-blooded American boys are pretty normal in that respect! On the other hand, even though there was unprecedented nudity in such films as the Czech film CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (in 1967 anyway), often the films, such as that one, were extraordinarily unforgettable. I saw that on TV last year and it holds up as effectively as it did—-lo those 43 years ago!—-in story, acting, direction and cinematography. A true cinema classic. Thank you, Heights Theatre.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on May 5, 2010 at 1:07 am

Thanks for your honesty, Gary27. So many on this forum have denied the sex angle of fifties and sixties ‘art house’ success.

GaryZ7
GaryZ7 on May 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm

My brother and friends would sometimes go to the Heights Theatre in the mid-late 1960s primarily BECAUSE it generally showed foreign films. That was a time when onscreen nudity was very scarce, unless you were old enough to see an “adult” film, but very often an “artistic” foreign film gave a young teenage boy an eyeful! Nowadays, of course, nudity in a PG film is no big deal, but let’s not forget what things were like 45 years ago!

faberfranz
faberfranz on April 15, 2007 at 12:35 am

Luis—

I recalled this theater during a discussion of another theater which was in the midst of a change from “ethnic” movies to “XXX” movies (or vice versa, or worse vice):

/theaters/4030/

Reminds me of an ambiguous message on a marquee on a theater in what used to be a Greek neighborhood, just east of the GW bridge or maybe up near 181st street (not the theater at 181st & Broadway). It had begun to show porn movies, but still catered to remnants of the ethnic community, so the sign said:

“Only on Sundays, Greek movies”

Knowing the way different populations might interpret “Greek”, I imagined disparate people lining up at the box office, eyeing each other suspiciously. A wholesome, conservative family group alongside a furtive guy in a raincoat, each wondering what the other was doing there.

Maybe the Fair will show Indian porn. Men and women kissing each other openly, on the mouth?

posted by faberfranz on Mar 31, 2007 at 3:48pm

I subsequently posted a link to photo (a view from above as it is now):

/theaters/4030/

Regarding my earlier reference (March 31) to “only on Sunday: Greek movies”: happened to pass by that area and think I spotted that long-lost theater. Anybody know its name and history (it’s a low-scale women’s clothing store now).

Visible if one knows what to look for on Live Search:

2nd building south of SW corner, Wadsworth Avenue and 181st
street. One bus parallel to it, the other almost aimed at
its front entrance.

View link

Identifiable by a frieze of Tragedy & Comedy masques near
top, a mask at each side of wall beneath, and what appear
to be supports for now-missing marquee.

posted by faberfranz on Apr 14, 2007 at 12:58pm

And somebody responded by sending me here, for exterior photos you’ve probably already seen:

faberfranz….There was a Heights Theater located at 150 Wadsworth Avenue (near West 181st St.) That might be the building that you saw. The Heights Theater is listed on Cinema Treasures here.

posted by Lost Memory on Apr 14, 2007 at 4:12pm
Yeah, that’s it! Just the way it looks today. Or three days ago, anyway.

From Lost Memory’s link (/theaters/11135/),
posted by KenRoe on Jul 18, 2006 at 12:39pm:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/192797148/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/192797605/

posted by faberfranz on Apr 14, 2007 at 7:22pm

But I guess you want photos of how it was ‘way back THEN, when it was still a movie theater…

lacamacho559
lacamacho559 on January 3, 2007 at 5:06 pm

please does any body have pics of heights

OnslowKUA
OnslowKUA on October 20, 2006 at 10:54 pm

I lived in the area from the mid 1950’s through the 1960’s. During that time I would describe the Heights as being an “art” theater. Most of the pictures shown there were foreign films. This is probably why it could compete with nearby theaters like the RKO Colisuem, Loews 175th Street, Lane and Empress (aka Astral).

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 18, 2006 at 6:02 pm

Here’s a 1980 listing for the theater in the Post’s Neighborhood Movie Guide:
NY Post 12/11/80

Still grinding the triple X triple bills in 1982:
NY Post 3/10/82