215 W. 49th Street,
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Previously operated by: Shubert Brothers Theater Company
Architects: Herbert J. Krapp
Functions: Live Theater
Previous Names: Cine Roma
The Ambassador Theatre was built for the Shubert Brother’s as a playhouse, which opened on February 11, 1921 with an operetta “The Rose Girl” which played for 99 performances. It was designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp. The second production to be staged was “Blossom Time” which played for 516 performances, a record which the theatre held for almost 50-years. (It was considered to be not a successful theatre). The Shubert Brothers sold the theatre in 1935. A production of “The Straw Hat Revue” which opened on September 29, 1939 was notable for its cast of newcomers which included Imogene Coca, Alfred Drake and Danny Kaye, with Jerome Robbins appearing as a dancer. It played for 75 performances. The Ambassador Theatre was an intermittent movie theatre from 1923 to 1940 and a full time cinema from 1945-1950.
It was known as the Cine Roma (a name moved from the Broadway Theatre on 52nd Street) during 1940-1941. The Ambassador Theater also served at times as a radio and television studio before returning to the Shubert organization in 1956 and to legitimate theatrical use. The biggest hit at the Ambassador Theatre was the comedy “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running” starring Eileen Heckart & Martin Balsam which opened on March 13, 1967 and ran for 755 performances.
During it’s short movie life, the Ambassador Theater managed to premiere some of the most enduring classics in film history: Lillian Gish in “The White Sister” (1923), Molly Picon in “Yiddle with his Fiddle” (1937), Hedy Lamaar in “Ecstacy” (1940), Arletty in “Children of Paradise” (1947), Harry Baur in “Volpone” (1947) and Edmund Moeschke in “Germany Year Zero” (1949).
In 1985 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Landmarked the interior of the theatre, but refused to designate the exterior. This was corrected in 1987 when both interior and exterior were given Landmark status.
The musical “Chicago” transferred from the Richard Rogers Theatre in 2003 and is still playing in 2020.
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