Loew's New York Theatre and Roof
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In 1895, showman Oscar Hammerstein opened his colossal Olympia, a block-wide complex on the east side of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets that included two theatres, a concert hall, a roof garden, billiards and bowling facilities, and other attractions. The project proved a quick failure and bankrupted Hammerstein. New owners took over and remodeled the Olympia into three theatres.
The 2,800-seat Olympia Music Hall, which had six tiers of boxes and five balconies, was reduced to a 1,675-seat playhouse called the New York Theatre. The Olympia’s other playhouse, the Lyrio, was re-named Criterion. The roof garden was enclosed into a conventional 925-seat heatre and re-named Jardin de Paris, becoming home for the first editions of Florenz Ziegfeld’s “Follies”.
In 1915, Marcus Loew, still years away from becoming a mogul, took over the New York Theatre and Roof and converted them into cinemas. Both theatres showed the same movies, but on staggered schedules. The films were subsequent-run, and the programs changed frequently, initially on a daily basis and later three times a week. Admission prices were the lowest on Broadway, from 10 to 15 cents depending on time of day.
The policy continued until 1935, when the buildings were demolished to make way for a new cinema called the Criterion and retail/restaurant space. In its twenty years of operation, Loew’s New York and Roof reportedly sold 50 million tickets. Many of its patrons were regulars who never missed a show. It was also a favorite of people who worked in the “legit” theatres and went there to kill time between matinee and evening performances or afterwards. The New York’s last complete show started at 11PM and the Roof’s at midnight.
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