Symphony Space/Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
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Symphony Space (Official)
Architects: William I. Hohauser, William G. Massarene
Functions: Movies (Classic), Movies (Film Festivals), Movies (Independent), Performing Arts
Previous Names: Symphony Theatre
The building was erected in the early 1900’s as the indoor Crystal Carnival Skating Rink, which had mezzanine seats for spectators. In 1918, architect William G. Massarene converted it into a cinema called the Symphony Theatre, with most of the seats on the main floor. It opened June 14, 1918. 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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Recent comments (view all 10 comments)
A reissue of “South Pacific” in 1960
I think this theater was re-named for Peter Jay SHARP, (not “Tharp” as written above. Mr. Sharp was the son of Evelyn Sharp, who at one time owned the Carlyle Hotel along with the old Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway. Mr. Sharp was also in real estate and was the final owner of the Astor Theatre before it was demolished. I think I am right but whoever runs this site might want to check and make the corrections, if I am.
Four photographs I took in July 2003:
I believe that the structure that was the Symphony was originally an open air market called “The Astor Market”. Eventually the storefronts filled in the market and the Symphony was built. I do know that it was a dance hall at one point.
I never liked the Symphony as a movie house, there was no decline towards the screen. I always prefered the Riverside, Riviera and Loew’s 83rd. Those I miss.
I forgot this detail – I remember the original box office. It was an oval booth out side under the marquee. I do remember buying tickets there.
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.
The new link for the page about my grandfather’s renovation of the theater:
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.
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.
The June 29, 1918, issue of Dramatic Mirror said that Aubrey M. Kennedy’s new Symphony Theatre had opened on June 14. The opening night feature film was The Unchastened Woman, starring Grace Valentine.