Cedarhurst Playhouse

155 Spruce Street,
Cedarhurst, NY 11516

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The Cedarhurst Playhouse used that name for advertising and publicity purposes, but was known locally as simply the Playhouse. The elegant Mission Revival style theatre operated as a cinema for nine months of the year, but enjoyed its greatest success with summer seasons of stage plays during the 1920’s, 1930’s and early-1940’s.

Many top stars, including Ethel Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, and Ina Claire, appeared there, but ever escalating salaries and the Playhouse’s small seating capacity eventually brought an end to the summer stage policy.

In 1946, the Playhouse became a full-time cinema, alternating between mainstream releases and foreign imports. With stiff competition from the larger Central Theatre, the Playhouse finally closed, and was demolished to make way for an entrance to a municipal parking lot.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2010 at 3:00 am

Here is another photo of the Cedarhurst Airdome, this from the August 2, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture Age. The operator of the Airdome, C.H. Pyatt, ran an indoor theater called the Lawrence during the winter months.

This book, The Five Towns, by Millicent Vollano, features the photo of the Airdome Warren linked to in an earlier comment, and its caption says that it opened in May, 1899, and featured vaudeville as well as movies.

The book also has a photo of the Playhouse (probably from around 1924, the year the theater opened) and says that it was located on Spruce Street. While the building does resemble the central section of the building that La Viola Restaurant now occupies, I’m sure they are not the same structure.

Both were designed in what I would consider a vaguely Mission Revival style (the book mistakenly calls the Playhouse building Art Deco, which for many people has apparently become a catch-all descriptive phrase for any theater architecture from before about 1960) and though the two buildings are similar, there are differences that could not have been remodeled away. The belief that the restaurant was formerly the Playhouse must be an erroneous local legend.

I think we can also lay to rest the idea that the Playhouse was built on the same site that the Airdome had occupied. The photo in Five Cities shows the building next door to the right of the theater and it had no resemblance to the structure adjacent to the Airdome in the Moving Picture Age photo. The building next to the Playhouse was small and flat-roofed, and looks like it was a frame structure. It also looked old enough that it would not have been a replacement for the more substantial masonry structure seen next to the Airdome in the 1913 photo.

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