Visual Arts Theatre

333 West 23rd Street,
New York, NY 10011

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Logan5
Logan5 on September 24, 2014 at 7:37 pm

“The Rocketeer” showed at the [Cineplex Odeon] 23rd Street West Triplex in 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo SR beginning on Friday June 21, 1991 (the film’s nationwide release date).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 17, 2013 at 7:29 am

A brief article with photos of the last RKO 23rd Street Theatre appears on this page of the March, 1964, issue of International Projectionist. The house was designed by architect John J. McNamara, in collaboration with Herman J. Jessor, architect of the Penn Station South development, in which the theater was located.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on July 21, 2012 at 5:14 am

Totally disagree.

Lovely lobby with a 60’s style sunken seating area and a sprawling candy counter. Stadium seating in the main house thirty years before it became the industry norm. Woody Allen even made it his premiere house after the Beekman closed. A wonderful theatre!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 21, 2012 at 4:19 am

I always thought this theater was a bit of a pain in the neck, and that BoxOffice article reminded me why — short lobby, steps down into lounge, entrance in the back, frosted white glass here and there — I never got its supposed charm.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Inside the Visual Arts.

View link

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on September 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm

If you are still wondering Bob T., that movie you described was called Ronja: The Robber’s Daughter. It played for a week or two in May 1986.

jwells
jwells on January 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Gene Stavis told me the revised seating was going to be 480 for the main theater and 280 for theater 2. That was last year while they were still under construction.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on May 20, 2008 at 9:00 pm

The intro should be corrected to reflect that Walter Reade, not Cineplex Odeon, tripled this theatre.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 13, 2008 at 7:35 am

Just let me know when! Glad to hear you’re in New York.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on April 13, 2008 at 2:45 am

saps, if I go to work there, are you coming over to visit? ;)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 10, 2008 at 7:58 am

Text of Variety article (by Dade Hayes) posted April 2, 2008:

One of the boldest moves in Gotham exhibition this decade is taking shape along a quiet stretch of West 23rd Street.

The Clearview Chelsea West Cinemas, a somewhat unlikely center of gravity for the film biz in recent years, has been acquired by the School of Visual Arts. The school, which signed a 26-year lease to operate the site, is renaming it the Visual Arts Theater and renovating inside and out under the guidance of noted designer Milton Glaser.

Tonight’s premiere of “Cook County” in the Gen Art Film Festival, will mark the end of the 1963 theater’s days as a commercial house. After several months of rehab, a new repertory/special event venue will hope to satiate the screen-starved Manhattan industry.

“It’s great. There’s nowhere to go but up in terms of repertory cinema in New York,” said Kent Jones, a contributing editor at Film Comment and assistant programmer at the Film Society at Lincoln Center. “When I got to town (a generation ago) there were dozens of them.”

SVA’s goals are different from those of IFC, which turned the old Waverly into a largely firstrun site that opened in 2005. But they are also notably more ambitious than those of NYU, which bought the former Art Theater on Eighth Street and turned it into classrooms and smaller screening rooms that seldom offer public shows.

“Some people were disappointed when we didn’t close a deal for the Gramercy Theater, which is now the Blender Theater at Gramercy, because that’s closer to the core of our campus” on the eastern end of 23rd Street, said SVA spokesman Michael Grant. “But in terms of the physical space it seems to me that it works out even better.”

The 20,000-square-foot Visual Arts will maintain two auditoriums that currently seat 350 and 550. They will be upgraded with digital and 3-D projection gear as well as 35mm and even 70mm projectors.

Though it may not have quite the national profile of NYU or Columbia, SVA has spent aggressively in recent years to advertise itself, boosting undergrad enrollment this decade by 25% and the graduate ranks by 45%. Notable film alums include “Zodiac” DP Harris Savides, thesp Jared Leto and animator Bill Plympton.

The new theater gives SVA a presence in a fashionable downtown nabe favored by party planners and film bizzers largely due to logistics.

“I always liked doing red carpets there because there’s not a lot of foot traffic and the two screens are on one level,” said Donna Dickman, VP of publicity for Focus Features, which has preemed star-studded films such as “Evening” and “Broken Flowers” at the site. “In L.A., everyone drives, so there are a lot of feasible places to have big premieres. But here, you need subway access and easy logistics, which that place definitely has.”

Industry screenings will still definitely happen at the Visual Arts. SVA has also been in talks with the major guilds as well as Women in Film, the Cinematheque Francaise, the Museum of the Moving Image and the National Board of Review about partnerships.

For Clearview, a Cablevision subsid since 1998, the loss of the Chelsea West is minimal given the continuation of ops across Eighth Avenue of the Chelsea, a sister multiplex. The two sites had always been booked as a unit, so distribs often didn’t know where on 23rd Street they would be playing until opening day.

The Chelsea West has the 60s aesthetic of Clearview’s flagship Ziegfeld uptown, and indeed began its life as a single-screen house with a balcony and a large capacity.

Grant wasn’t able to speculate about the exact nature of programming, noting only that tie-ins were set with the Museum of the Moving Image. Gene Stavis, an SVA faculty member and onetime American rep for French film biggie Henri Langlois, will be the director of the theater.

International fests and series will definitely be a possibility, with spotlights on Iran, Turkey, Canada, Israel and France already under consideration.

filmgene
filmgene on March 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I have just heard from an unimpeachable real estate source that the rumor about the Chelsea 9 being replaced by a hotel is absolutely false. Not only did The Real Deal get the main story wrong, but several facts quoted therein were bogus as well. No guarantee that this will never happen, but it is certainly not happening now.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 19, 2008 at 2:39 pm

I think Clearview was ready to shut it down altogether but IFC took it as a much needed outlet for their smaller films. There was some talk of that whole corner coming down at one point.

LuisV
LuisV on March 19, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Thanks for your comment Al. I just googled the below:

“The IFC Center is owned by the IFC network, (IFC Films), which is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media (AMC channel, MSG), which is a subsidiary of Cablevisionâ€"which owns the Knicks and the Clearview Cinemas chain that let the Waverly lapse into disrepair in the first place. Cablevision held on to the lease.”

So yes, the Waverly has not just been saved, but actually vastly improved. This is a rarity! It happens to be one of my favorite Manhattan Cinemas, but it is no longer part of The Clearview chain and that’s my point. A sale here, a transfer there. Soon, no Clearview.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 19, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Since Cablevision saved my beloved Waverly, albeit in a new mutation, I have some respect for them. Clearview started out with many older theatres they thought they could salvage as specialty houses. Unfortunately, that audience has embraced DVDs even more than others.

LuisV
LuisV on March 19, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Hi Howard, yes I did mean their Manhattan operations, I was not aware that they owned any historic theaters elsewhere. Second, I should have been clearer. When I think of a cinema treasure, I think of a true movie palace, not the bland boxy multiplexes. It is about the building, the architecture, the attention to detail, the atmosphere in which you saw a film. By that measure, with the exception of the Ziegfeld, Clearview in Manhattan falls short and that is why I wouldn’t miss them. Of course, I would miss the convenience, but a “Cinema Treasure” is about a lot more than convenience (for me).

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 19, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Luis, Perhaps you mean YOU won’t miss those in Manhattan other than the Ziegfeld. Most of Clearview theaters are not in Manhattan and many are historic theaters. Many of those theaters would be missed by their communities. For that matter, in Manhattan, many people will miss the Chelsea and the others. They are not devoid of repeat customers.

LuisV
LuisV on March 19, 2008 at 1:37 pm

I agree Al. Clearview Cinemas is not really a going concern. Cablevision has a lot more pressing issues and businesses to take of and they are defintiely not “growing” this business. As a result, I believe that they will in fact continue to find a buyer for Clearview or slowly close individual theaters as opportunities arise. Again, my only concern is for The Ziegfeld. None of the other theaters will be missed.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 18, 2008 at 11:47 pm

That is worrisome.

It is possible that Clearview, failing to find a buyer for the chain, is willing to drop individual sites no matter how strategic. Although I never expect any new building to last 99 years (or many theatres to survive rent reviews under current prices), I did think Chelsea 9 had a few more profitable years left.

LuisV
LuisV on March 18, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Howard, you’re absolutely right! I meant Cablevision which is run by the Dolts, er, I mean Dolans. All of the other comments remain the same. I have no beef with Comcast.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 18, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Louis, Clearview’s parent is Cablevision which owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City, etc. Comcast owns no theaters.

LuisV
LuisV on March 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Yes, just because Clearview had a 99 year lease, it doesn’t mean that that lease can’t be bought out for the right price. It appears that they got that “right” price. Besides, as has been evident for a several, the theater business is not on an upward trend and Clearview (being owned by Comcast) is probably not well run. The only Clearview theater that I worry about is The Ziegfeld. None of the others really rate.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 18, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Al, it sure sounds like from the news (repeated below) posted on the Chelsea 9 page by Luis, that Clearview must have sold their interest, too:
Chelsea Cinema Shocker…….

According to this weeks issue of The Real Deal, the real estate industry’s bible, Chelsea Cinemas is in contract to be sold and will most likely be torn down for a hotel leaving Chelsea without a nabe theater.


The quote is as follows: “Chelsea Cinemas could close soon. A hotelier is in contract to buy the nine-screen cinema, according to Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail leasing and sales division at Prudential Douglas Elliman, who is working with the hotelier.

Consolo would not reveal the identity of the developer or the asking price for the space, which is owned by Mutual Redevelopment Houses Inc. She said her client is interested in building a boutique hotel of up to 10 stories, hoping to capitalize on the gallery-going crowd.