Irving Place Theatre

118 E. 15th Street,
New York, NY 10003

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jedidiah
jedidiah on December 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

To claify some confusion, Irving Plaza, the former punk rock emporium, was across the street, on the north side of 15th street. The Irving Place Theatre was on the south side, between 14th and 15th Streets along Irving Place across the street from the Con Ed building. At some point the entrance to the theatre evidently was transferred to 14th street. I think in its last incarnation it was a warehouse for S. Klein’s department store on Union Square. I remember when I lived on 17th and Irving, I used to walk to the subway on 14th Street and wonder why on the facade of the building were the masks on drama and tragedy. That was all the basically was left on Irving Place to indicate that the building was once a theatre. It was finally torn down in the 1980s and replaced with Zeckendorf Towers which one poster above summed up accurately as “miserable.” It still is.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on February 3, 2010 at 2:10 am

This German/Yiddish/Russian/Burlesque house also attempted to be the first Italian film cinema in NYC in 1939.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 16, 2010 at 2:09 am

The Irving Place is often crediting for starting the first domestic Film Festival in 1942, a tribute to films from our allies.

MDchanic
MDchanic on December 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Bob Marshall -
“I recently walked passed this building, which now bills itself as ‘The Fillmore at Irving Place…’”

Not in 2007, you didn’t.

This theater was between 14th and 15th streets, at the southwest corner of 15th and Irving, across the street from the Con Ed building. It was demolished years ago to build the miserable Zeckendorf Towers, which now stands on the spot (and also blocks the former “3 towers view” you used to be able to see from the East Village, of the Con Ed, Met Life, and Empire State buildings).

The theater you saw was Irving Plaza, on the northwest corner, which has been a punk rock venue since the seventies (at the start of that time, it was essentially a Ukrainian wedding reception hall that hosted an occasional concert).
I would be interested in knowing the original name of the Irving Plaza, as I’d like to look it up here…

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on May 18, 2008 at 10:50 pm

The Irving Place was a double features subrun arthouse from 1941 to 1950 with a heavy emphasis on Russian films during the war years.

SPearce
SPearce on January 10, 2008 at 5:37 am

I happen to have a copy of the NYC edition of the (Communist) Daily Worker of May 10, 1946. Showing at the Irving Place on that date at East 14th St. GR 5-6975 was:

Waltz Time – Story of Old Vienna when the waltz was naughty – (Gay and lilting – N.Y. Post) and The Marx Bros. in “Monkey Business”, then it reads, Held Over “The Liberation of Vienna.”

Historically speaking, perhaps all, or especially “The Liberation…” might have been deemed attractive fare for those who would have read the Daily Worker then. The border of the ad is of a musical score with a dancing couple; clearly the main attraction over “Monkey Business.”

bobmarshall
bobmarshall on August 2, 2007 at 1:20 am

I recently walked passed this building, which now bills itself as “The Fillmore at Irving Place,” and lists upcoming concerts (rock acts mostly). I attended one about a dozen or so years ago, and the main floor was for standees or dancers—no seats. Several bagettes and sofas were arranged at the sides. It appeared to have a horse-shoe mezzanine or balcony with boxes & seats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 28, 2006 at 3:25 pm

In the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide, the Irving Place Theatre is described as “…the most prominent German theatre that the city boasts of, where the best German company in the United States can be seen.” The admission prices ranged from 35 cents to $1.50, with boxes selling for $10 and $15. The capacity was 1,528 (1,128 seats plus 400 standing spaces, or “admissions” as the Guide calls them.) The breakdown was: Orchestra: 540, Balcony: 251, Gallery: 279, Boxes: 58. The proscenium opening was 42 feet wide x 29 feet high. The stage was 36 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor and there were 14 to 28 members in the house orchestra.

Vetteman
Vetteman on July 31, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Does anyone know what time period Burlesque was featured at the Irving Place Theater? I recently puchased a season pass issued by the theater, and I am trying to estimate a time line for it. Originally I would have guessed that this pass dated back to the 1930’s, but the signate is in ball point pen, which was not really prevelant until after World War II

gstegger
gstegger on June 1, 2006 at 1:31 am

The famous artist John Sloan painted a picture of this theater.

Dorothy
Dorothy on March 3, 2006 at 10:39 pm

A picture and information about the theater can also be found in the book
Striptease: the Untold History of the Girlie Show by Rachel Shteir

Dorothy
Dorothy on March 3, 2006 at 10:33 pm

The Museum of the City of New York has a picture of this theater from 1938

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 12, 2005 at 12:20 pm

This theatre had brief periods as a cinema, but was primarly a playhouse and most famous (and notorious) for its burlesque/striptease shows. As a cinema, it had problems getting product due to competition from the Academy of Music, Jefferson, City, Metropolitan, and others in the 14th Street area.

bamtino
bamtino on September 10, 2005 at 5:47 pm

From the New York Times of December 1, 1888, the day of the theatre’s opening:
“Entrance to the outer lobby is had through two large double doors. The lobby is handsomely decorated in the Romanesque style with Celtic bands. The floor is of Italian white marble tiles. The work on the walls is mainly in bronze and gold. The wainscoting is entirely of Italian mosaic marble, and the ceiling is of panels of cherry. The minor lobby is reached through three wide swinging doors, heavily carved. Here the decorations are of a greenish bronze, bordered with friezes of deep red. The ceiling is composed of numerous little disks, partially concealed by a network of leaves. It is tinted so as to present an arched appearance. Two stairways of Italian marble lead to the balcony. The auditorium entrance will be hung with heavy amber-hued portieres.
The seating capacity of the orchestra and two balconies is upward of 1,100. There are five boxes on either side, draped with sashes of rose draperies, lined with old gold. The decorations of the auditorium throughout suggest warmth, the main walls, seats, and carpets being of red. The walls begin in a deep red, over which is a pattern in lighter shades of red and gold, ending in a deep frieze under a cornice of Romanesque style. Above this is a cornice decorated richly, on which are shields bearing the names of the great musical composers and dramatic authors. The fronts of the balconies are decorated with friezes in white and gilt.
The curtain, painted by Carl Geiger for the Karl Theatre in Vienna at a cost of about $2,300, represents the triumphal entry of the muses. The house will be lighted by electricity. The ceiling is more richly decorated than any other part of the house. It is divided up into panels connected by bands and streamers. The prevailing colors are yellow, red, and greenish bronze. The proscenium arch is decorated in a similar manner. The stage is 40 feet wide and 70 feet deep, and the proscenium opening is 34 by 38 feet.”

Originally known as the Amberg German Theatre and later just Amberg’s Theatre, the theatre was located at 118 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003 (alternate address: 11 Irving Place). The style was Spanish-Moorish. Home to German-language legitimate productions, the names was changed to Irving Place Theatre on May 1, 1893.

From May 1918 until 1921, the theatre was home to Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theatre Players. A 1920s burlesque house, the theatre was showing motion pictures in the 1930s. It was allegedly the first U.S. theatre to host a film festival when, in 1942, the operator programmed a series of films originating in the Allied nations of Russia and France. Still showing film at least as late as 1952, the theatre was converted to a warehouse in 1962 before finally being demolished and replaced by the Zeckendorf Tower in 1985.