Lincoln Theatre

58 W. 135th Street,
New York, NY 10037

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Lincoln Theatre

The Lincoln Theatre served as a cinema in the 1940’s and 1950’s, operating by 1950 by Liggett-Florin Booking Service. It may have had a larger seating capacity when originally presenting vaudeville and plays. The 850 comes from Film Daily Year Books. According to a recent article in the weekly New York Press, the Lincoln Theatre first opened in 1915 and was the first theatre in Harlem (then a predominantly white neighborhood) to cater exclusively to a black clientele.

The Lincoln Theatre had its own stock company of black actors, but earned its greatest fame in the 1920’s, when it presented black vaudeville, including such headliners as Bessie Smith, Florence Mills, and Ethel Waters. For a time, the very young Fats Waller was its resident organist.

Since the 1960’s, the Lincoln Theatre has been home for the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Although there have been decorative changes, “much of the structure remains intact, notwithstanding the tiled, 1960’s-era facade and dropped ceilings”, David Freeland reports in the NYP story. “A sturdy rectangular proscenium, richly brocaded in lovely floral patterns, dominates the front interior, while the original sloping floor is steep enough to make first-timers wobble. Best of all, the theater’s boxes were never removed, and their gentle, curving lines add delicacy to a space that appears larger than it really is”.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 19, 2006 at 6:16 pm

The Lincoln Theatre is listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 so I would imagine that it had some movie theatre use from opening. It is listed in the Film Daily Yearbook;1926 edition as having a seating capacity of 1,370. It has gone from F.D.Y. listings in the 1930 edition (live show use?). In the 1941 edition of F.D.Y. it is listed with 830 seats(Closed). It is listed as ‘Open’ again in the 1947 F.D.Y. with 830 seats.

A plaque on the front of the building states that the current Metropolitan AME Church have operated in the building since 1952.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 27, 2006 at 11:08 am

The 1948 comedy/musical movie “Killer Diller” (made for Black audiences) staring Dusty Fletcher, Butterfly McQueen, Nat ‘King’ Cole and the King Cole Trio, The Clark Brothers and Moms Mabley was filmed inside and on stage of the Lincoln Theatre.

Here are three photographs I took of the Lincoln Theatre in June 2006:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/199808019/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/199808231/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/199808512/

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on April 8, 2009 at 9:32 pm

I went by here today on the bus to NYC and as I passed by, it’s quite small and the retro 60s facade looks like those old Cinerama colors.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Still listed as open in the 1947 Film Daily Yearbook.

jflundy
jflundy on January 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

View link

Excellent Large format Photo from 1938 of Lincoln Theatre and street scene on W.135th Street, Manhattan by clicking on above link.

ratkat
ratkat on June 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

I have a few good interior photos (RECENTLY TAKEN)of this theater and I am unable to post them as the link is not active when posted.When you move backward not farward is is called retarding.The site functioned so well before it was retarded.I enjoy these old theaters please return to functioning cinemetreasures!!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Ratkat… If you are still following this page, you can upload your photos from the “Photos” tab near the top of this page. You simply need to have them saved on your computer, then you can use the “Add New Photo” function to browse your hard drive for the photo files and upload them. I hope you take advantage of that feature and share your images with us!

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 17, 2020 at 11:14 am

Hello-

with an address of 58 W.135th St. this theater would have been close by the Crescent which was at 36 W. 135th St. and opened on the night of Dec. 16th 1909. using the Manhattan or New York,NY listing the Crescent might very well be the 1st theater built in Manhattan with the intent of showing films.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 18, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Bigjoe, “The intent of showing film” implies that feature length films would be the prime subject. That did not occur until 1906 in Australia. In the United States film showings were not continously a main subject until 1915 when the “THE BIRTH OF A NATION” made it popular.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 20, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Hello-

to Al A. its always nice to read one of replies. as I have said in the past your font of knowledge makes me look like an amateur. now to my use of the statement “with the intent of showing films” in a recent post about the Crescent which was a stone’s throw from this theater. in Dec. 1909 when the Crescent opened the use of the word “films” in the phrase “with the intent of showing films” would have of course referred to 1 reelers. granted the Crescent was built as a combo vaudville/film theater the fact it was built with the intent of showing films as part of the program I should think it can be referred to as the 1st movie theater built as such.

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