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The Broadway Theatre began life as the Colony Theatre, opening December 25, 1924, with “The Thief of Baghdad” starring Douglas Fairbanks and accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Edwin Franko Goldman. B.S. Moss built the theater for movies, and with stage facilities for vaudeville. Architect Eugene DeRosa designed the Colony Theatre. Because of its size, stage presentations were smaller than at the Paramount Theatre(1926) and Roxy Theatre(1927), but continued until December 1930. In that month, Moss changed the Colony Theatre’s name to Broadway Theatre and turned the theater ‘legitimate’. The first booking was a musical comedy, “The New Yorkers” starring Jimmy Durante and with a score by Cole Porter, but it only ran for twenty weeks.
Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” opened in New York on November 13, 1940, at the Broadway Theatre and played as a roadshow for over a year, with a special sound system, ‘Fantasound’. The world premiere of Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” was held at the Broadway Theatre on October 23, 1941.
The Broadway Theatre is best known by movie historians as the first place Cinerama and its inaugural film “This Is Cinerama” played anywhere in the world. After its September 30, 1952 World Premiere at the Broadway Theatre, “This Is Cinerama” ran for 35 weeks and was then transferred to the Warner Theatre, where it was shown for another 88 weeks. The Broadway Theatre returned as a ‘legit’ showcase.
The Shubert Organisation restored the Broadway Theatre in 1985-86, employing the architectural firm of Fox & Fowle. Little of the interior existed when they started. The Broadway Theatre reopened April 10, 1986 with Bob Fosse’s “Big Deal” which was a flop, but the following year struck gold with “Les Miserables”, followed by “Miss Saigon”. Several years ago, the Broadway Theatre received a new entrance and marquee, due to construction of an adjacent skyscraper hotel that cantelevers over it. Tucked away from the razzle dazzle of Times Square, the Broadway Theatre’s deco sign hints at its glory days.
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