Broadway Theatre

1681 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019

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Broadway Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the B.S. Moss Colony Theatre on 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 theatre for movies, and with stage facilities for vaudeville. Architect Eugene DeRosa designed the Colony Theatre. It was taken over by Universal Pictures chain in 1927. Because of its size, stage presentations were smaller than at the Paramount Theatre(1926) and Roxy Theatre(1927), but continued until December 1930 when it was taken back by B.S. Moss. In that month, Moss changed the Colony Theatre’s name to Broadway Theatre and turned the theatre ‘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 Art Deco style sign hints at its glory days.

Contributed by William Gabel, Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 49 comments)

CSWalczak on April 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm

The page for the Broadway Theatre in Roland Lataille’s database of Cinerama theaters has a picture of the ground floor booths for Cinerama at the Broadway. Considering that the center booth shows only a single projection port, my guess would be that the high booth was used for the prologue. See

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Great photos on that site! Thanks for sharing, CWalczak! I love the surreptitious shots of the screen during the film… Really gives an idea as to how overwhelming the image must have been, particularly to those who had until that time been used to standard Academy ratio for so long!

robboehm on September 19, 2011 at 8:50 am

In addition to the renovations mentioned in the opening the Broadway “suffered” a major modification when Candide played there. Basically it was converted to an arena with a large portion of the orchestra seating replaced by the stage.

jeffg718 on January 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I’ve found some websites that say that “Steamboat Willie” premiered at the Broadway Theatre in 1928 when it was the Colony and other websites that say it premiered at the 79th Street Theatre which later was renamed the Colony. I am curious to know which is correct.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm

“Steamboat Willie” opened at this Colony. The 79th Street was not named Colony until 1937.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 22, 2012 at 10:25 am

Note the CINE ROMA verticle sign at the far near corner of the marquee. This name and concept moved around between the Ambassador, Piccadilly and Broadway in the late thirties.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Wow… 1931! I wonder how big that “giant” television screen was – not to mention how grainy or fuzzy the image was, at that size!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Coincidentally, this pic, also from October, 1931, and posted back in May of 2012, shows the marquee advertising what appears to be essentially the same bill. Barto & Mann seem to be listed on the marquee in place of Al Trahan?

edlambert on July 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Does anyone know the size of the screen installed at the Broadway for the premiere of “This Is Cinerama”?

DavidZornig on May 19, 2015 at 10:24 am

Incredible December 1928 photo as the Colony added courtesy of the Eyes Of A Facebook page.

Hammerstein Theatre, now the Ed Sullivan Theatre in the background. Below copy/history of the Hammerstein also courtesy of the Eyes Of A Facebook page.

Tomorrow is David Letterman’s last day in this grand theater that was built in 1927. This photo shows “Good Boy” playing at what was then The Hammerstein Theater in December of 1928. The famous song at this link was first performed here and was the first “hit” event in the theater’s history.

The song is “I Want To Be Loved By You.” and is sung by Helen Kane, who’s voice and style was the inspiration for the famous cartoon character Betty Boop. In 1931, bankruptcy forced the sale, and the theater was bought by Billy Rose. After a few more years of legitimate theater ventures, Rose entered a long term lease with CBS in 1936. The debut radio show from here was “The Major Bowes Amateur Hour,” and the venue was known as CBS Radio Playhouse.

In 1950, the theater was converted to television and became CBS Studio 50. The first big production from Studio 50 was “The Jackie Gleason Show” in the fall of 1950. In ‘52, Ed Sullivan’s “Toast Of The Town” show was moved from The Maxine Elliot Theater to Studio 50, and joined Gleason there. Tomorrow night, another chapter ends, and a new one will begin again soon at 1697 Broadway.

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