New Cinema Playhouse

120 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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This was a small cinema within the Wurlitzer Building that opened around 1966-67 and specialized in “experimental” films. Some of the first Andy Warhol features were shown there, as well as Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait of Jason”. The entrance was originally at 125 West 41st Street, but moved to 120 West 42nd Street where it was easier to find. I don’t think it survived for too many years.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

RobertR on September 22, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Here is the ad for “Winter Kept Us Warm”

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Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 22, 2006 at 4:28 pm

Thanks RobertR. The film opened in the U.S. on 2/8/68 per and was released by Mekas' Filmmakers' Cooperative. If Gerald’s note’s (posted 6/27/05 above) are correct about seeing the film here in April, that’s a pretty long run for the Cinematheque and would verify they were still in the Wurlitzer Building through Spring of ‘68. Also supports the idea that the New Cinema Playhouse name came with the theater’s new 42nd Street address.

For my next research, I’ll try to figure out why I’ve been so preoccupied with this theater!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 22, 2006 at 5:03 pm

Ed, according to my diary and film log, I definitely saw Winter Kept Us Warm there on April 16, 1968.

AlAlvarez on September 22, 2006 at 11:56 pm

The Cinema Playhouse repeated films for some reason. Hence, WINTER KEPT US WARM played for two weeks in February, then came back for four weeks in April. The Warhol films had similar patchwork runs.

PORTRAIT OF JASON ran for over seven weeks, skipped a week, then came back for two more in 1967.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 23, 2006 at 1:38 pm

Al… Can you ascertain when it was that the Filmmakers' Cooperative stopped operating out of this theater? I assume, based on your comments above, that you’ve found no porn listings here, so there’s nothing else to corroborate the mention in the Times article I posted above that the theater was ever used thus.

AlAlvarez on September 24, 2006 at 12:30 am

Ed, they seem to have moved to the Elgin full time by 1969 and the Anthology Film Archives on Wooster Street by 1970. The last sign of operating at the New Cinema Playhouse was in July 1968.

It appears that in 1970 they were also booking the Elgin, Garrick and Orpheum (Lower East Side) as well as they ran block ads for all three.

By 1970, 120 W. 42nd Street had live sex shows where you could see 8mm porn films being made. I have found no sign of it actually showing porn films.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 24, 2006 at 3:51 am

Thanks Al. I’ve seen an article in the Times from 1970 that reports the same story of folks being able to pay to witness the filming of a live sex act in a 2nd floor space at 120 W. 42nd – as well as a couple of other places around town. Admission was going anywhere from $5 to $25 for this privelege. Anyway, if it was in fact the 2nd floor of the building, it was definitely not the New Cinema Playhouse space, which was in the basement. I’ll bet that when – and if – the landlords of the already condemned Wurlitzer Bldg started using the auditorium for porn, they probably just advertised on the marquee without bothering to place notices in the newspapers. Then again, with the kind of ire that tactic to chase tenants away might have drawn and with police raids still being conducted against such indecency, would the landlords have gone to such drastic measures to clear the building for demolition? The story may be apocryphal.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 5, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Just to polish off an thread that’s been dormant nearly a full year, I pulled [url=]this vidcap from a short video on YouTube about Times Square porn in the 1970’s. Apparently, the video clip itself is credited as being part of a longer A&E documentary on Times Square.

In any event, I thought the image fit the discussion here (even if it’s a year late) as it shows the highly visible advertisement hung from the old Wurlitzer Bldg inviting the public to watch the filming of a pornographic peep-show within! Seems like a completely different world out there today, eh? Particularly in this part of NYC!

AlAlvarez on February 15, 2010 at 6:22 am

Once the Filmmakers' Cinematheque had to vacate these premises they apparently went into ‘exile’ at other venues.

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