86th Street Grande Theatre

160 East 86th Street,
New York, NY 10128

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86th Street Grande Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

History is difficult to find about this theatre, but its original name seems to have been the 86th Street Winter Garden, and it might have started out as part of an entertainment complex that also included a restaurant, ballroom, etcetera.

By 1936, the name had changed to 86th Street Garden Theatre. In September of that year, it became a showcase for German imports, starting with UFA’s “Schlussakkord”, a musical starring Willy Birgel, Lil Dagover and Maria Tasnady. German films continued into the 1950’s, and were even shown during WWII (revivals approved by the U.S. government).

After that, the theatre switched to subsequent-run Hollywood movies under the name of 86th Street Grande (the letters of “Garden” re-arranged) into the 1960’s, until demolition for new buildings.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 10, 2005 at 5:14 am

Listed as the Winter Garden Theatre in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914 – 1915. In the Film Daily Yearbook 1926 edition it is still the Winter Garden Theatre with a seating capacity of 450 and by the 1941 edition of F.D.Y. it is the 86th Street Gar. with 492 seats. Listed as the 86th Street Gardens Theatre with 525 seats in the 1943 edition of F.D.Y.

RobertR on October 10, 2005 at 9:46 am

The co-feature translates to “Promise Me Nothing”

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 10, 2005 at 10:56 am

The American Motion Picture Directory 1914 – 1915 listed the address of the Winter Garden Theatre as 158-160 East 86th Street. The 86th Street Theatre is listed in the same publication as having an address at 162 East 86th Street.

granddaughter on May 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm

My grandfather, J. Louis Geller, operated this theatre from around 1917 when he took it over from his father. (When my great-grandfather owned it, it was a caberet, the Schwarzer Adler, which had Viennese Operetta.) There were several theatres on the street, but I’m told it was the first one with a marquee. The theatre was owned by my grandfather and his siblings, but he ran it. I found an obituary from the publication “Boxoffice” of May 26, 1958 which calls it the 86th Street Garden Theatre.

TonyV on June 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Lived right up the block from the Grande at 150 E 86th St which was torn down in 2007. if you missed a movie at “Big Loew’s”, the (Orpheum) and at Little Loew’s (Loews 86th St). you could catch it some months later at the Grande. One thing I noticed as a kid, the Grande was not cooled by an air-conditioning unit, instead a big ice truck (was it Consolidated Ice??)would show up in the AM on summer days and they would unload and slide big blocks of ice down into the theatre’s basement. Tons of it actually. Must have blown the air over the ice to cool the house. It was something to grow up on a block with three movie houses on it, plus another on the next block west (RKO 86th) or still another 1 block east (the Schwartze Adler: spelling). I could sleep through all the traffic noises, the Salvation Army singing outside Martin’s Bar across the street but when they turned off the big Howard Clothes sign outside my window, it would wake me up. Go figure.

TLSLOEWS on December 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Big low Little low, how low can you go?Cool history.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm

In 1942 it went from Garden to Grande.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm

In August 1963 it was still open.

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