RKO Proctor's Twenty-Third Street Theatre

139 West 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011

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Original entrance to Proctor's 23rd Street Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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.

Contributed by Damien Farley

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 22, 2008 at 7:42 am

“Bijou Dream” seems to have been more of a concept than an actual re-naming of theatres. Its arrival at the 23rd Street Theatre turns up at the bottom of this January 1908 ad. “Bijou Dream” proved so popular that by summer, it had also been installed at Keith & Proctor’s Union Square, 58th Street, and Harlem Opera House. Programs changed three times per week, and included movies as well as “illustrated songs.” When “Bijou Dream” no longer proved a lure, the name was dropped, but movies continued to be shown, along with a resumption of vaudeville: View link

AndyD on January 16, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Here’s an interesting souvenir from this theater from 1891:
View link

robboehm on March 6, 2009 at 7:31 am

For many years into the seventies and eighties, the brass letter “Proctors” remainded imbedded in the sidewalk delineating the width of the original entrance.

AlAlvarez on November 12, 2009 at 7:50 am

Listed in the 1941 Film daily Yearbook as the BARCLAY.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 12, 2009 at 9:15 am

The Bijou Dream theatre mentioned in comments above, was located at 145 W. 23rd Street in in American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915.

AlAlvarez on February 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

The address for this theatre covered from 139 to 145 so Bijou Dream should be added as an aka name.

CSWalczak on February 9, 2010 at 2:09 am

An old picture of the theater as Proctor’s Twenty-third Street:
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Proctor’s 58th Street Theatre, opened in 1895 as Proctor’s Pleasure Palace, was also called the Bijou Dream, according to Our Theatres To-day and Yesterday, by Ruth Crosby Dimmick, published in 1913.

hdtv267 on April 19, 2013 at 2:27 am

Thanks Joe, but I think you’re about 30 blocks off!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hdtv267: I do know that Proctor’s 23rd Street was not the same theater as Proctor’s Pleasure Palace/58th Street Theatre. I was just adding a gloss to Warren’s comment of May 22, 2008, noting that this was not the only Proctor house that was called the Bijou Dream for a while. Proctor’s 58th Street was still operating as the Bijou Dream as late as 1913.

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