Loew's 72nd Street Theatre

180 E. 72nd Street,
New York, NY 10021

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Loew's 72nd Street

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The Loew’s 72nd Street Theatre was one of the few Atmospheric style theatres architect Thomas Lamb ever designed (in collaboration with John Eberson). Coming at the end of the picture palace boom, the Loew’s 72nd Street Theatre shared some similar touches with other Loew’s palaces but its style and heart were all its own. It was opened on February 20, 1932 with Marie Dressler in “Emma”.

Sadly, the 72nd Street Theatre only lasted 29 years and closed on December 31, 1960 with “The World of Suzie Wong”. In early-1961 the theatre was razed to build an uninspiring apartment building. This jewel of the Upper East Side was gone forever and in its place, Loews built one of many basement theatres in New York City.

An unadorned and much smaller descendent of the intricately designed, palatial 72nd Street Theatre, the newer theater is also a single screen house.

Today, there’s no hint that on this block one of the great movie palace treasures of all time once sat here.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 35 comments)

LuisV on June 14, 2008 at 9:58 am

Warren, thanks so much for the images. What an incredibly beautiful theater. Another tragic loss. I’m truly amazed at how many spectacular theaters existed at the same time in the New York of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Long demolished theaters like Proctor’s 58th St, The Center, The Roxy, The Capitol, Loews State, The Triboro, RKO 23rd St, Loew’s Sheridan Square,Loew’s Orpheum, The Academy of Music, The Forum, RKO Keiths, Brooklyn Paramount, Brooklyn Fox, and of course Loews 72nd Street. I could go on and on. They all existed as movie venues. What a choice! I started my movie going in the 70’s and I didn’t have the appreciation for architecture in general and movie palaces in particular that I have today. I regret not having ever seen many of these theaters let alone seeing a film in one.

In the past, banks built very elaborate structures that no longer work economically. Very few still serve their original purpose though others survive as “event” spaces.

I wonder if there are any buildings that are in common use today that we will look back on 30 years from now with fond nostalgia because they became “obsolete”?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 30, 2009 at 8:32 am

To test audience reaction, MGM held a “sneak preview” of “Show Boat” at Loew’s 72nd Street on May 21, 1951, according to “That’s Entertainment,” Hugh Fordin’s book about the musicals produced by Arthur Freed. A research survey company handed out 400 reaction cards, dividing them equally between men and women. Two thirds were given to people under thirty (considered the core audience) and the rest to those over thirty. The study revealed that 51% of the cards rated “Show Boat” as “excellent,” 39% “very good,” and 10% “good.” To the question of whether they would recommend “Show Boat” to others, 100% answered “Yes.” Attending the screening were officials of Radio City Music Hall, who were delighted by the reactions and booked “Show Boat” for that summer. With stage show, the Technicolor musical opened at RCMH on July 19th and ran for a highly successful eight weeks. “Show Boat” finally reached Loew’s 72nd Street and other Loew’s neighborhood theatres in October, with MGM’s Lassie feature, “The Painted Hills,” in support.

TLSLOEWS on February 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Warrens photbuckets do not work anymore.

Tinseltoes on December 31, 2010 at 9:34 am

Sadly, tonight marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of Loew’s 72nd Theatre, one of the most magnificent atmospherics ever built, which survived for not even 29 years. The final program, part of a Loew’s circuit run, was “The World of Suzie Wong” and short subjects, which moved the next day to the RKO 58th Street. Loew’s now had no theatres on the East Side between the Orpheum on 86th Street and the Commodore and Delancey below 14th Street.

Tinseltoes on December 31, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Sorry, but my first sentence of today gave the name incorrectly and omitted “Street” (or “St.”). The number by itself implies that it was the 72nd Loew’s theatre, which I’m sure would be untrue…Would be great if the introductory photo could be changed to one that actually shows Loew’s 72nd Street in its prime, instead of the architectural zero that replaced it.

bigjoe59 on February 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

i just became aware of this website like a month ago. so i have
3 quick questions for devotees of the late Tower East.
none of the photo links for the old Loews 72 St. work. how
can i see photos of it?
the Tower East was built as a movie theater with no freight
entrance so how in God’s name will convert it into a super-
*also while we all lament the passing of a grand old movie theater
like the Loews 72 Street we must not forget that these grand old
theaters simply became economically unfeasible. :–(

rivest266 on September 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

This opened on February 20th, 1932. Grand opening ad uploaded.

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