96th Street Theatre

1703 Third Avenue,
New York, NY 10128

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The New Third Avenue Theatre is listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition. It is also listed in the 1926 Film Daily Year Book as the New Third Avenue Theatre, with 600 seats. The New Third Avenue Theatre fell victim to the Depression and closed in 1931.

Two years later, it re-opened as the Yorkville Theatre, with 494 seats reported and showing "only foreign-made pictures." In 1936, the name changed again to National Theatre.

In 1940, the National became a showcase for German films exclusively, and was re-named the 96th Street Theatre. By that time, World War II had started in Europe, and the 96th Street Theatre became notorious for being more pro-Nazi than other NYC cinemas showing German films.

Anti-Nazi pickets chose the 96th Street Theatre as their favorite target. The largest demonstration came in May, 1941, when the 96th Street presented "Sieg im Westen" ("Victory in the West"), a documentary feature depicting Nazi Germany’s conquests of Holland, Belgium and France, as well as defeats and captures of British troops. Pickets from the German-American Congress for Democracy and the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League paced the sidewalk in front of the entrance, waving placards such as "Down With All Dictators" and "Going to Nazi Theatres Helps to Undermine the American Defense System."

The local police station assigned five patrolmen to regular duty outside the theatre to keep order. Later that year, when the USA finally entered the war, the 96th Street Theatre closed for the duration.

It re-opened in 1946 with late-run domestic and foreign product, but closed permanently around 1949-50. The site is now occupied by an apartment building.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 17, 2008 at 8:05 am

This grainy newspaper photo shows anti-Nazi pickets protesting the showing of “Victory in the West” at the 96th Street Theatre in 1941. The sign at far right says “Holders of Nazi Theatre Ticket Stubs Are Entitled to Ride on Trojan Horse. Must Know Horse Whistle.” The latter is a pun on “Horst Wessel,” the official Nazi anthem. Note the Third Avenue elevated subway structure in the background: www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/96pickets.jpg

yorkvillehistorian on February 15, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I am the Yorkville/Kleindeutschland Historian. Have built a large exhibit now in the Congressional Record in Washington. Am writing a book on the history of 86th Street and have been all your wonderful postings. However, none of your photobucket photos from your 2005 postings are found on photobucket.
Would love seeing your photos so I can be accurate in my descriptions.
I am born in Yorkville and my parents came over in the 30s from Germany in the 30s. I would love to be able to visualize the wonderful stories they told me when they were among the pioneers in building Kleindeutschland.
I would be most grateful if you could help me see those photos no longer available.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 16, 2008 at 7:00 am

If the photos are any of mine, please let me know and I’ll try to return them to my scrapbook. Please give me the name of the theatre and the date that the photo was posted at that theatre’s listing.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 8, 2008 at 8:26 am

As the Yorkville Theatre, this was the subject of a revealing report signed by “Kauf” in the October 17, 1933 issue of weekly Variety: “Newest theatre in the foreign film field is this 550-seater run by two Jewish boys in an Irish neighborhood and showing straight German films. Idea is to charge 15 cents for matinees and a quarter at night and show first-run German pictures. House has been completely done over, decorated, new seats put in, a new screen, new acoutstics and even a new booth. All that is needed is customers.

“Joe Scheinman and Al Schleber are the operators. They’ve been fighting with another little German house, the Tobis, for over a year now. Claim they’re making a living out of the Tobis now, thouh they’ve had a tough struggle. They’re double-featuring the German product down there on split weeks for 10 cemts and 20 cents. In the heart of the German quarter at 78th Street, the small prices and the 290 seats have made it possible for them to get a break, even though in order to hold up that policy they’ve had to bring in a lot of oldies and repeats.

“Now they’re spreading out in this second house. Reason for it is a curious one. Somebody who owned the theatre when it was little more than a stable reneged on the rent. An insurance company took it over. The company offered it to Scheinman and Schleber. They offered to do all the decorating and renovating; they offered to give three months free rent; they wanted only $225 a month rental after that. Boys figured it was so cheap they’d better grab it.

“House cannot be run on a straight German policy. It’s too far out of Yorkville, despite its name. And tough enough to sell German pictures right in the thick of the German nabes these days, without trying to peddle them in spot that’s composed of about 60% Irish and almost all the rest of Jews.
"When the three months of free rent are up and the operators are paying their own money out (although they’ve put up half-a-year in advance). they can switch to regular American films on fifth or sixt-run nabe grind policy. That way they do do well, the house being a pretty and comfy little one.”

AlAlvarez on January 26, 2009 at 10:32 am

The New Third was already operating as that in 1923.

AlAlvarez on January 26, 2009 at 11:19 am

The earliest date mentioned above was 1926.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 26, 2009 at 11:55 am

I have amendend the introduction text with details from the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition.

AlAlvarez on February 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

This was turned into a supermarket during the war from late 1942 to 1944. By 1945 it was a theatre again.

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