RKO Proctor's Twenty-Third Street Theatre
139 West 23rd Street,
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Its opening delayed by the discovery during excavation of flowing springs with water of such “remarkable purity” (according to The New York Times) that it would be used both to fill the rooftop water tanks and for drinking purposes, Proctor and Turner’s Twenty-Third Street Theatre presented the stage production “A County Fair” on March 6, 1889.
Frederick Francis Proctor’s intention, upon entering the New York City market, was to present legitimate theatre at prevailing Broadway prices. For this venture, his theatre design included electric lighting throughout (with gas fixtures installed in case of equipment failure), a gray-blue ceiling supported by walls of reddish gold, rails and a proscenium arch of gilded gold, and draperies of stamped velvet. Within a few short years, Proctor was exclusively presenting vaudeville at this 1,500-seat venue and the later additions to his NYC empire.
By 1896, this theatre was presenting projected moving pictures via Edison’s Vitascope. In the early-1900’s it was operated as the Keith & Proctor’s Twenty-Third Street Theatre until the partnership was dissolved in 1911. It continued to feature motion pictures, as part of a vaudeville program in the first decades of the 20th century, until March 7, 1937, when the damage caused by a fire forced its closure.
The following year, the RKO circuit, which had acquired Proctor’s holdings a decade earlier, opened the RKO 23rd Street Theatre, listed elsewhere on this site.
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