Symphony Space/Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
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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.
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