Crown Gotham Theatre

969 Third Avenue,
New York, NY 10022

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Opening

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened by the Trans-Lux circuit in April 1963 and built at a cost of $500,000, this cinema was a popular East Side mainstay from its opening when it screened Marlon Brando in “The Ugly American”, to its closing in 2001 after screening “All the Pretty Horses”.

Located in a modern, white brick post-war high rise between 57th and 58th on Third Avenue, the Trans-Lux East Theatre (its original name) was a sophisticated 570-seat movie house with a balcony.

Very much a United Artists or Warner Bros programmed house through the 1960’s and 1970’s, the theatre showed “A Hard Days Night”, “Help”, “The Hallelujah Trail”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “A Shot in the Dark” and more in the mid-1960’s but relatively little after that.

It was distinctive enough as a decent sized single screen theater for United Artists to launch a road show engagement of “Last Tango in Paris” at a then unheard of price of $5.00 per ticket.

Bob Guccione then leased the house for a couple of years and renamed it the Penthouse East for “Caligula” (there never was a Penthouse West).

Trans Lux then renamed it the Gotham programming mostly with Fox pictures but it never had the same prestige as the Baronet & Coronet or Cinema I-II up the block.

Owned in its last years by the Crown family as it rolled out its brand in Connecticut over the last bits of the TL estate there and some new builds, it was programmed by City Cinemas with a mix of Disney and Miramax fodder largely sub-runs.

There was a rumor that Miramax was going to take it over, redo it and rename it the Paradiso (after Cinema Paradiso), which would have made a superb competitor for the Paris Theatre, but alas another East side single screen bit the dust.

The theater closed in 2001 and was gutted for retail space.

Contributed by SethLewis

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on September 21, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Penthouse East should be an aka name here.

The “East” was most likely used to avoid any confusion with the Penthouse in Times Square which changed its name in 1975 to the Cinerama-2 and had no affiliation to Guccione.

ThePhotoplayer
ThePhotoplayer on May 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Architect was Drew Eberson. The Greek sculpture were copies from the ruins of various Greek buildings of the fifth century. They were executed by Mr. Shirley W. E. Simmons, a noted sculptor at the time. The 600-seat house actually cost $350,000 by one report. Other credits were:

Air cond: Carrier
Carpet: Alexander Smith
Decorator: Peggy Eberson
Draperies, curtain track: Novelty Scenic
Marquee: Adler, Artkraft Strauss
Lamphouses: Strong
Projector/soundhead: Century
Rectifiers: Ashcraft
Screen: Trans-Lux (of course)
Seats: Heywood-Wakefield

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 27, 2011 at 10:47 am

Opening ad;

“…and by all means bring the ladies.”

View link

Astyanax
Astyanax on January 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

The TransLux East was singular for its intimate sense of luxury with its posh red and gold appointments and classical architectural details. When it reopened as the Gotham this was lost and was replaced with a sleek, yet cold ambiance. Other than Last Tango In Paris, the TLE could never compete with Cinema 1 or the Coronet for the exclusive mainstream bookings. The fourwalling of Caligula, and subsequent distribution patterns probably reuined it as a prime first run venue.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Idealized sketch of the auditorium was featured on the front cover of this trade journal in February, 1962: Boxoffice

Ian
Ian on March 9, 2013 at 10:24 am

A photo shortly before closure here:–

GOTHAM CINEMA

Garth
Garth on August 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I know I saw “Zardoz” here in 1974, because according to the NY Times it was the only Manhattan theatre showing the film upon its premiere. I also saw “Caligula” on its debut in 1980, when it was called The Penthouse.

NYer
NYer on August 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm

How do you access past NY Times? Are they digital copies of the edition or only articles? Can you see the past movie ads?

Garth
Garth on August 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Google NY Times Archive and you get a selection screen.I have only looked up movie reviews, not sure if the old ads are there. Check it out, there is a wealth of info.

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