86th Street Grande Theatre

160 East 86th Street,
New York, NY 10128

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Showing 24 comments

AlAlvarez on February 25, 2010 at 5:46 am

In August 1963 it was still open.

AlAlvarez on February 25, 2010 at 5:15 am

In 1942 it went from Garden to Grande.

TLSLOEWS on December 15, 2009 at 2:52 am

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

TonyV on June 12, 2009 at 6:12 am

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.

granddaughter on May 5, 2009 at 3:02 am

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.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 26, 2008 at 2:23 am

Here is a different link to the same photo posted on Jun 20, 2007. See how long this link lasts.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 20, 2007 at 8:05 pm

Speaking of “Salt of the Earth”, there is a photo of the 86th Street Grande on Ebay with that movie title on the marquee. Click here for photo.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 12, 2006 at 11:11 pm

Still operating in 1954.

“March 14, 1954-The low-budget, pro-labor film "Salt of the Earth” premieres at New York’s 86 St. Grande theater, the only one that will show it.

The movie is based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers".

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2005 at 6:58 pm

I think that the 86th Street Garden name should stick, as the theatre was famous throughout the city as a showcase for German-lanugage films, many in their American premieres. When it switched to conventional late-run movies under a different name, the theatre quickly faded into insignificance.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 11, 2005 at 5:50 pm

Then this theater should be listed as the 86th Street Grande and use the 86th Street Garden as one of the aka names.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2005 at 5:31 pm

On October 18, 1948, the theatre was known as the 86th Street Grande and showing a revival double bill of “Drums” and “Four Feathers,” according to the Movie Guide of PM Newspaper of that date. Loew’s 86th Street is absent from the listings, which might be just an oversight. But Loew’s Orpheum had “Dream Girl” & “So Evil My Love,” while the RK0 86th Street was showing “The Velvet Touch” & “Race Street.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2005 at 1:18 pm

I think it might be in the 1914 photo, but without a marquee. It could have started as a penny arcade/peep show, and then expanded into a small theatre. But that’s only a guess.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 11, 2005 at 12:49 pm

The German movie title on the marquee “Versprich mir nichts” is dated by Imdb at 1937. So, that photo should be from the late 1930’s.

An earlier message from Ken Roe shows the Garden Theater (Winter Garden Theater) is listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915. But it is missing from the 1914 photo which would lead me to believe that it opened in 1915.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2005 at 12:20 pm

The 1929 alteration might have been for the installation of sound equipment and any renovations required. Loew’s must have taken over the theatre somewhere between that 1914 photo and 1920, as it’s listed as Loew’s 86th Street in the 1920 FDYB, which is the earliest volume that I have of that series. Loew’s Orpheum is also listed, but not the Yorkville, which must have been closed or sold by that time.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 11, 2005 at 11:31 am

The 1929 record was an alteration to an existing building at 163-169 East 86th Street. The theater was there before 1929 but no prior documents are available.

Using two of your photos as a guide, this is what I figured out. In the older photo, the theater on the right side with the vertical “Theatre” sign should be 162 East 86th Street. It is a single width lot with a single address. That is this photo:

View link

Notice in that same photo where the fire escape is. Now look at the next photo and notice where the fire escape is:

View link

The building in the old photo with the fire escape should be the Garden Theater at 158-160 East 86th Street. I don’t know the date of the old photo but it appears that the Garden Theater isn’t there yet. Either that or it has no sign.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 11, 2005 at 11:02 am

Yes, that address seems possible. As I said earlier, the Winter Garden may have originally been part of a leisure-time complex that also included the theatre that became known as Loew’s 86th Street. What is the 1929 “record?” Just that a theatre existed there, or that one had just been built or renovated?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 10, 2005 at 9:03 pm

I don’t know if this will help you or not but NYC lists a three story building in 1926 at 162 East 86th Street. No address span, just 162. The building contained the following: first floor was a theater (no seat count given), second floor was a restaurant, and the third floor was a dance hall. The owners name appears to be Maurice Goodman.

In 1929, there is a record for a 1296 seat theater w/balcony located at 163-169 East 86th Street. The owner of this building is Arthur J. Benline.

There is a building listed at 158-160 but the record for that address is “unavailable”. That address should be the Winter Garden Theater as Ken already posted, which is this theater. The theater located at 162 East 86th Street should be the Loew’s 86th Street.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 10, 2005 at 6:56 pm

It’s an optical illusion. The vertical sign is over a marquee of another theatre just to the east of the Garden. The address of 163 East 86th Street was for Loew’s Yorkville, which was apparently never called Loew’s 86th Street. They were two different theatres. Loew’s 86th Street was next to the Garden, but at present, exact building number is unknown, but it would be just slightly higher than 160.

KenRoe on October 10, 2005 at 6:56 pm

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.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 10, 2005 at 6:40 pm

The vertical Loew’s sign doesn’t appear to me to be next to the Garden Theater, it appears to be above the Garden Theater marquee. It could be an illusion but thats how I see it. One other thing. If the address for this theater is 160 East 86th Street and the address for the Loew’s 86th Street Theater is 163 East 86th Street, the Loew’s Theater wouldn’t be in the photo because its address would place it across the street. Something doesn’t compute.

RobertR on October 10, 2005 at 5:46 pm

The co-feature translates to “Promise Me Nothing”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 10, 2005 at 4:41 pm

This photo seems to prove that the theatre was next door to Loew’s 86th Street. However, where is the Garden in the photo of the 86th Street that I posted today at the listing for Loew’s 86th Street? Perhaps the Garden did not yet exist and was converted from commercial space to the west of the 86th Street Theatre?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 10, 2005 at 2:51 pm

The 1943 FDYB listing is probably a typo. I’m pretty sure that it was always Garden (singular, not plural). Photographs of the marquee show Garden, and I’ve read many newspaper reviews of German movies the opened there that also said Garden.

KenRoe on October 10, 2005 at 1:14 pm

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.