Acme Theatre

50 E. 14th Street,
New York, NY 10003

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Tinseltoes on March 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Sorry! The year of the ad was 1933, not 1932. The movie was originally released in Germany in 1929 as “Frau im Mond” (“Woman in the Moon”).

Tinseltoes on March 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

On this day in 1932, the Acme Theatre had a small ad in The New York Times for its current engagement of Fritz Lang’s German-made “By Rocket to the Moon,” described as even more fantastic and futuristic than the director’s “Metropolis.” All seats were 15 cents from 9:00am opening until 1:00pm on weekdays. Midnight performances were held on Saturdays.

CSWalczak on February 9, 2010 at 1:24 am

There are some old pictures of the theater as the Union Square here on this web page well as some history: View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 10, 2009 at 7:12 am

Here’s a new link to an aerial view of the remains of the Acme before demolition. 14th Street is at left, and Fourth Avenue above. Property to the west of the Acme had already been demolished: View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 10, 2009 at 5:55 am

This site will soon be vacant again due to the closures of Circuit City (last weekend) and Virgin Music (May 31st). Perhaps Regal will expand its adjacent multiplex, whose entrance could easily be moved to the corner of 14th Street and Broadway.

wstmark on March 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Here is a New York Times article on the theatre in the 1980’s:

View link

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I seem to recall there being a really nice Marquee Magazine article on the Union Square back in the 80’s.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 10, 2008 at 6:04 am

The 14th Street side of this theatre site is now part of the parcel that includes Circuit City and Virgin Music. Directly behind it, with entrance on Broadway near the corner with 13th Street, is the Regal Union Square multiplex.

jflundy on November 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm

View link
This link is for 1905 story of fire at theater.

AlAlvarez on May 16, 2008 at 5:00 pm

A 1908 NYT article names the Keith & Proctor on 23rd Street as being renamed Bijou Dream, not this one.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 29, 2005 at 8:44 am

A Robert-Morton organ was installed in the Acme Theater in 1921.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 13, 2005 at 7:30 am

The Acme’s status is no longer “closed.” It was totally demolished to make way for the store that currently houses a branch of Virgin Music.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 10, 2005 at 8:24 am

These rather fuzzy images taken in the 1980s are the only pix I could find of the Acme site. But you can see from the overhead views that the 14th Street entrance and foyer were converted to stores, and closed off from the auditorium and stage housing to the rear:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 5, 2005 at 1:02 pm

The theatre was immortalized in a painting, “Keith’s Union Square,” by Everett Shinn (1876-1953), a leading member of the so-called “American Ashcan School.” But it’s simply of a woman dancing on stage, with nothing else of the surroundings shown.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 5, 2005 at 11:20 am

Thanks Warren. The original seating that I found for the Union Square Theater varied from 1080 to 1300. We can change the description above to read “The Acme Theater closed in 1936”. Also add an aka Bijou Dream. This link has a drawing of the interior of the Union Square Theater:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 5, 2005 at 10:47 am

The Acme merely closed in 1936. Portions of the 14th Street entrance were converted to stores and eateries, with office space above, but the auditorium, which originally had about 1,200 seats, remained in increasingly derelict condition until demolition in 1992, when portions of the proscenium arch became plainly visible after the peaked roof was removed. A photo can be seen on page 16 of the New York Post of November 28, 1992…In May, 1964, the site made headlines when fire insurance investigators found a human skull and portions of a skeleton in one of the theatre’s dressing rooms. The police determined that the remains had been there for about 20 years, and might have been those of a tramp seeking shelter for the night…In 1908, the Union Square became a cinema known as the Bijou Dream, but reverted to its original name in 1911 with vaudeville and burlesque. In the autumn of 1921, it was closed for renovations and re-opened in March, 1922, as the Acme, with its seating reduced to about 600 by closing down the balcony. The Acme showed sub-run movies only, with seven shows a day from 9AM to 11PM. The first feature was Mary Pickford’s version of “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” In 1932, it became NYC’s only “American-Soviet Kino” and showed Russian films exclusively until the theatre closed forever in the summer of 1936. During that period, the Acme became notorious for its sidewalk “barkers,” who stood beside the boxoffice and not only extolled the movies but also urged passers-by to join the Communist party.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 4, 2005 at 3:29 am

The first “moving pictures” were shown at Keith’s Union Square Theater in 1896.

“The Lumiere Brothers faced fierce competition, especially in America. The Cinematographe made its debut in the United States before a packed house at the Keith’s Union Square Theater in New York City on June 29, 1896. It was advertised in The New York Times as "The Sensation of Europe—Exhibited before all the Crowned Heads and hailed universally as the Greatest Marvel of the 19th Century.” Within weeks the machine, now billed as “America’s greatest sensation,” was playing in vaudeville theaters across the country. “Never in all our experience have we seen an attraction draw such crowds as the Cinematographe,” wrote one journalist. American-made devices intended to rival the French machine were swept aside, among them the Vitascope, a projection system the rights to which Edison had acquired from an inventor called Thomas Armat".

Here is a photo of the Union Square Theater before it was purchased by Keith and Albee:
View link

br91975 on July 3, 2005 at 9:58 am

The entire block bordered by 4th Avenue, Broadway, 13th, and 14th Streets had been cleared by the summer of ‘95; I remember passing by the then-boarded-off site at the time.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 3, 2005 at 7:53 am

Are you saying that this theater stood until the Virgin Megastore at 52 E 14th St was built? That building is listed as being designed by Davis Brody Bond architects in 1999. Prior to that the City gives a build date of 1971 for a commercial building at this address. The Union Square Stadium 14 multiplex is located at 850 Broadway which is supposed to be the former site of Wallack’s Theater.

I did some further research on this theater and found the following:

A NY Clipper article states that this theater was located at 58 E. 14th Street and opened in 1871. So, the build date of 1870 is reasonable. Two error’s that I did find are, Keith and Albee purchased the theater in 1893 and not 1883. They renovated the theater in 1893 right after purchasing it. Also, it became a film theater in 1908 and not 1914. Those two items need to be changed in the description above.

New York Herald, Sept. 18, 1893
Union Square Theatre

“A most radical and elaborate reconstruction of the house has been made, at an outlay of over $50, 000. This central location is easily reached from any direction by numerous elevated, cable, and horse car routes. The Third Avenue elevated, and the Sixth Avenue elevated have stations at Fourteenth Street, the former being within one block, while a line of horse cars through Fourteenth Street crosses Sixth Avenue and has at its terminus opposite the entrance to the theatre. It may therefore be said that the entire elevated system of New York, with its connections, will take passengers from any point on its lines to Keith’s New Union Square Theatre. The Broadway cable cars stop at the corner, within a few steps of the door, and the Fourth Avenue cable car stops at the other corner, also within a few steps. The complete system of transfers established by the cable roads with all cross-town lines make it possible to go almost anywhere for a single fare, and the New Union Square Theatre is so close to the central line that, like Rome, all roads lead to it. The green cars which run from the Forty-second Street ferry on the Hudson river to the Grand Street ferry on the East river pass the entrance to Keith’s, and there is not a line of public conveyance in New York which cannot be used in getting there.

The new division of the old lobby features a new foyer and a smaller lobby. At right in lobby is a “a new cloak room and ladies reception room with "rich furniture, mirrors, toilet conveniences, etc. At left in lobby is "a picturesque nook, which has been filled in with plants, draperies, etc. In the auditorium, the entire proscenium arch and frame is richly finished in cream and gold and the carving is more elaborate than in any theatre in New York. The ceilings [of the lobby] are in delicate colors, cupids, roses and clouds being artistically painted and stereo relief work forming a rich moulding. Gold and cream are used throughout the interior. All the side walls, dados, baseboards, etc., are in pale blue and correspondent tints. Bright nickel rails and box furnishings are noticed throughout. Reception and toilet rooms on each floor. New drop curtain with allegorical Italian figures. New machinery backstage and "40 new sets of drop scenes have been painted. New electric lighting. Keith came from Boston for the opening and "a number of prominent New York workers occupied boxes during the evening”.

Here are two old photos of the Union Square Theater when it was still owned by BF Keith:
View link

View link

If the Acme wasn’t demolished in 1936, would you know if it stopped being a movie theater that year?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 3, 2005 at 6:29 am

I don’t have my files handy at the moment, but I believe that some of the history of this theatre is incorrect. The building was partially converted into retail (fronting on 14th Street) and survived until demolition for the complex that includes Virgin Music, Circuit City, residential apartments, and the Union Square Stadium 14 multiplex. At the time of demolition, some of the auditorium’s original decor was found to be still intact. There were stories about it in the New York newpapers, and an article in Marquee Magazine.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 3, 2005 at 3:09 am

Thanks Ken. I saw a drawing of the interior of this theater when it was the Union Square Theater. It had a large balcony at that time and the seating was listed at 1080. Maybe the balcony was closed when it began showing movies. Either that or it might have ben remodeled and the seating was reduced. If what I read about this theater is true, the Four Cohans made their Manhattan debut at this theater.

“A New York engagement was arranged on the Keith & Albee Circuit. The four of them worked hard on polishing "The Goggles Dollhouse” a sketch that Jerry had honed for years. The Union Square Theater on 14th street was at the heart of the New York Theater district in 1893. That night would be one that George M. Cohan would remember for the rest of his life. Surprise upon surprise was thrust on the Cohans. First, it was decided by Keith & Albee, that the Four Cohans should perform separately. This threw George into a panic. Then, they informed him that he was to open the vaudeville show (the worst possible spot in a vaudeville show), this insulted him. Then, after performing his dancing number he received absolutely no applause from the audience, this infuriated him. The results were work for the family, but George was discontent. However, this was a scene that would be repeated for him another 51 times (the run of the contract)“.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 3, 2005 at 12:27 am

The Acme Theater was advertised in its later years as the only ‘American-Soviet Kino’, playing Russian movies. The address was 50 East 14th Street and the Film Daily Yearbook for 1926 give a seating capacity of 600. In the 1930 edition of F.D.Y. it is listed as having 597 seats.