Symphony Space/Peter Jay Sharp Theatre

2537 Broadway,
New York, NY 10025

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Symphony Space

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The building was erected in the early 1900s as the indoor Crystal Carnival Skating Rink, which had mezzanine seats for spectators. In 1919, architect William G. Massarene converted it into a cinema called the Symphony Theatre, with most of the seats on the main floor. The mezzanine was reduced in size to accommodate a projection booth at one end and the stage/screen at the other. Due to nearby competition from the larger and better connected Loew’s 83rd Street Theatre, Riverside Theatre and Riviera Theatre, the Symphony Theatre had to settle for subsequent-run movies for much of its existence.

In January, 1978, its future was changed when a “live” concert, “Wall to Wall Bach”, proved a surprise success. New owners took over and transformed it into a performing arts center that now includes the former Thalia Theatre, which occupies adjacent space around the corner on 95th Street.

More information about the Symphony’s history can be found at the listing on Cinema Treasures for the Thalia Theatre. I believe that the Symphony’s original seating capacity of 1,411 has been reduced to about 900 for Symphony Space.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 27, 2007 at 3:34 am

A major article by Daniel J. Wakin about Symphony Space and its upcoming 30th anniversary can be found on the front page of today’s Weekend Arts section of The New York Times, and can also be read at this website: www.nytimes.com

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 10, 2007 at 6:29 pm

I don’t know if this article is about this Symphony Theater since no specific address is given.

SYMPHONY THEATRE OPENS.; Latest Uptown Moving-Picture House Is Attractive in Design.

NY Times Jun 15, 1918

The Symphony Theatre, at Broadway and Ninety-fifth Street, the latest moving picture house in town, opened its doors last night to invited spectators and will begin its regular public exhibition of feature films, with musical and other numbers at today’s matinee. The feature film last night, which will continue through next week was a screen version of Louis K. Anspacher’s “The Unchastened Woman”.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2007 at 6:45 am

The NYT article said “Broadway and Ninety-fifth Street.” Isn’t that specific enough? I sincerely doubt that there was another Symphony Theatre at that location.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 11, 2007 at 9:12 am

Well, “Broadway and Ninety-fifth Street” is a location. 2537 Broadway would be a specific address. If a specific address was given, there would be no confusion. I also doubt that there was another Symphony Theater at that location, but there is always a remote possibility that there was and without a specific address, I might be posting information for the wrong theater.

As many people have discovered on this website, if you post incorrect information to a theater page, you run the risk of being attacked or ridiculed by some personality challenged individual. I try to avoid that situation by stating up front that I’m not sure if the information applies to this theater. Thanks for confirming that the NY Times story does apply to this Symphony Theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 14, 2009 at 1:26 am

See this page from Boxoffice, January 11, 1936, for photos of the Symphony Theatre after it was remodeled that year. The project was designed by architect William I. Hohauser, who also wrote the article the photos illustrate.

There are two additional photos on the following page, showing the auditorium.

WHohauser
WHohauser on December 29, 2010 at 6:17 am

The new link for the page about my grandfather’s renovation of the theater:

View link

I never knew about this until now. Unlike the theaters that he built from scratch, records about the work he did here did not survive in my family’s archives. Thank you everyone for bringing out this information.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on May 23, 2012 at 8:31 am

Here’s a 1980s tax photo of the Symphony Theatre: lunaimaging

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

The original architect of the Symphony Theatre was William G. Massarene, according to an item in the April 26, 1919, issue of The Film Daily. The conversion of the existing building into a theater had cost $44,000.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

Here’s a new link to a three-page trade article by architect William L. Hohauser about the major 1935 renovation that was accomplished without having to close the theatre: boxofficemagazine

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