44th Street Theatre

216 West 44th Street,
New York, NY 10036

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44th Street Theatre

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Opened as Weber & Fields Music Hall (named after two popular comedians of the day) on 21st November 1912, it was operated by the Shuberts ‘ who re-named it the 44th Street Theatre from 29th December 1913. The theatre was decorated in 18th Century Georgian style and above the main auditorium was a large enclosed roof theatre. In the basement, the original rathskeller, became the Little Club during Prohibition and the Stage Door Canteen during World War II.

Big hits on the main theatre stage were Marx Brothers “Animal Crackers” (1929), “Rosalinda” (1942), “Winged Victory” (1943) and “Follow the Girls” (1944).

The Film Daily Yearbook, 1930 edition, has the 44th Street Theatre listed as a movie theatre and this lasted for a few years before returning to legit stage productions. In 1931 the German lesbian film “Maedchen in Uniform” (1931) played for a season here twice daily 2:50 and 8:50 pm and Sundays and holidays 2:50, 6:00 and 8:50 (‘Lower prices than any other two-a-day movie on Broadway’ — ‘All Seats Reserved’).

In 1940 the New York Times bought the theatre and it closed in 1945 and was demolished that year to provide space for a postwar expansion of its headquarters and printing plant, which still stands there today.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on July 27, 2008 at 2:23 pm

The 44th Street roof showed movies in 1920 as the NORA BAYES.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on February 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

The last movie shown here was “Maedchen in Uniform” in 1933.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 22, 2011 at 1:56 am

Internet Broadway Database has three photos from the Shubert Archive depicting the 44th Street Theatre.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 22, 2011 at 6:34 am

There is a plaque at the eastern edge of the building that commemorates the site of the “American Theater Wing Stage Door Canteen,” which occupied the theater’s renovated basement level from 1942-1945. It reads, in part, “This tablet is dedicated to the men and women of the entertainment world who brought cheer and comfort to the soldiers, sailors and marines of America and her allies.” As best as I can determine from internet sources, the plaque was dedicated around 1950.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on September 23, 2011 at 7:17 am

This showed mostly movies from 1913 to 1924. It was the premiere road show house for RAMONA (1916), JOAN THE WOMAN (1916), HEARTS OF THE WORLD (1918), WAY DOWN EAST (1920), MONTE CRISTO (1921), SCARAMOUCHE (1923), AMERICA (1924), ALIBI (1929), and SONG O MY HEART (1930), all showing for long runs before that MAEDCHEN move-over.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 23, 2011 at 10:37 am

The more venues in this database, the better! – Even if the 44th St. Theatre exhibited only one movie on one day during its entire existence.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Agreed, Ron Salters. In fact, I believe that is one of the guiding principles of this website – regardless of dissenting opinions.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on September 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

While I agree with Ron and Ed on this point – and believe that this theater has easily passed the eilgibility bar – I also believe that SOME cinematic history needs to be shown before a site can be added to this list. Recently, I added a couple of theaters in Williamsburg, NY, but only after receiving documentary evidence that movies had actually been presented there. In both instances, the cinematic history was scant – but it did exist. If such an inquiry is not made, many – in some cases wonderful – theaters would be added as Cinema Treasures that had nothing cinematic about them. But, as long as this finding is made, we should be more than willing to be as inclusive as possible. 

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Agreed John. The only question that remains is just exactly what constitutes “some cinematic history.” I know that there was an argument about this very matter on one of the theater pages several years ago. In the end, either Patrick or Ross (I forget which) chimed in that even if the theater had but a single verified cinematic engagement, it should be considered for inclusion. Then we have to decide if a “single cinematic engagement” means a one-night only showing or an actual booked engagement, such as the lengthy road show run of “Gigi” at the Royale Theatre – an otherwise legitimate stage facility.

I, for one, think the Royale should be included on this site. However, I would not be as enthusiastic about including every playhouse that has held a single special event screening.

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