Nova Theatre

3589 Broadway,
New York, NY 10031

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Nova Theatre

Opened in around December 1913 as the Bunny Theatre. The name ‘Bunny’ has over the years been incorrectly attributed to early film star John Bunny, but this is not the case. The Bunny Theatre was built for Carl E. Schultze, an artist and creator of the popular ‘Foxy Grandpa’ comic strip, which he signed with his pen name ‘Bunny’ and a drawing of a rabbit. Across the top of the facade, a stone inscription read the name ‘Bunny’, and on each side of the name was a rabbit head. By 1930, there was also a 702-seat Bunny Roof Theatre operating here. Schultze died in 1939, and by 1941 it had been renamed Dorset Theatre when it was operated by Harris Theatrical Enterprises. It retained the Dorset Theatre name until at least 1958. It was later renamed Tapia Theatre

The Tapia Theatre was purchased in 1978 by Adriana & Ramon Nova and was renamed Nova Theatre following a refurbishment. In 1983 it was being operared by Lesser Theatre Services. The Nova’s would later pass it over to their son Jesus Nova and the theatre was triplexed. Although the Bunny Theatre’s sign is gone, remnants of the original exterior and interior remained. The very top of the building’s facade remained as originally built.

Sadly, the Nova Theatre closed in August 2002 and was gutted. Jesus Nova went on to operate the Coliseum Theatre (former RKO Coliseum Theatre) at W. 181st Street & Broadway. A 99 cent store has opened in the former Bunny Theatre building. In the Summer of 2009, the decorative facade was taken down.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Cezar Del Valle

Recent comments (view all 90 comments)

jrock on January 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

great stuff. having worked on a photo project in early 2000’s I have a nice continuation of photos that show: the old nova marquee (with an announcement of a wyclef concert and its last movie posters…Undisputed and fear dot com); the marquees removal revealing more bunny ornamentation; then the removal of that stone ornamentation and finally the whitewashing of the exterior and placement of 99cent sign; and eventual removal of the uppermost bunnies and bunny name. made barely recognizable in less than ten years after standing so many.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Jrock, if you ever decide to upload those images here, I’m sure they would be greatly appreciated!

jrock on March 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

Ed….i will try to get permission to upload some of the photos, they are now part of the collection of the Film Study Center at MoMA. Good news is that right now they are projecting many of them in the Titus galleries at MoMA which are outside the Titus 1 theatre. They opened this on Thursday and it should run for a while….

Gonzo on July 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Recent Jim Kelly obit published @ Roger talks about The Tapia.

dallasmovietheaters on January 23, 2016 at 2:00 pm

When Bradberry and Brandon opened the Bunny Theatre in 1913, the seating capacity was 1,300 but also housed a roof garden fanned by the Hudson River where patrons could also watch features using the very same Powers projectors 88' away from the screen as in the indoor theater. An 88 note Photoplayer was in the orchestra pit to entertain the gathering crowds. And in less than a year, the Bunny Program Guide had 1,500 subscribers to keep potential patrons up to date on forthcoming shows

jordanlage on June 21, 2016 at 7:38 am

This theater was apparently known as the Tapia for a while, at least in the 1970s. Anyone know why it was named that and then changed to the Nova? Simply new management renaming it?

StevenOtero on July 2, 2017 at 3:48 am

Article about The Tapia Theater.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 5, 2018 at 8:50 am

By late 1996 this theatre was clearly listing four titles with full schedules in the NYT Weekend Movie Clock. Does anyone know if it was really ever a quad or were the show times simply a smoke screen for double-booked screens?

Ace on April 5, 2019 at 3:02 pm

@ Al Alvarez: The Nova topped out as a three-screen theater; your theories may be right.

On another note, have been doing some research on Upper Manhattan theaters and stumbled upon a February 19, 1979 issue of New York Magazine. They wrote a one-page article on what was then NYC’s longest-standing movie theaters, one of which was the Nova. They mentioned the Nova family taking over the (former Tapia) theater the previous year (1978) and spending eight months and thousands of dollars refurbishing it. Should the overview be updated?

Ace on July 16, 2019 at 5:55 pm

As of July 2019, the 99-cent store that has occupied the former Nova Theater’s space has closed. This entire side of 147th/Broadway has been extensively leveled and re-developed at the behest of Columbia University (which owns the real estate), with the former theater space being the only remnant of what once were a collection of low-rise buildings.

Wonder if the space will get a new tenant or face the wrecking ball?

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